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Happy New Year!

I spent a pleasant 48 hours over Christmas with relatives in Berkshire. I failed to take any photos, though this one was taken of me by my cousin, Teresa,

Post-box hat one of many crocheted by the Barkham Hookers – think about it – and dress knitted by me. A rare moment during our Christmas Day dog-walk when it wasn’t raining.

she of the boutique Wokingham estate agency, Quarters, for which I am very happy to give a plug, was taken during a rare moment when it wasn’t raining.

I was originally meant to be making music with ten others in South Wales from 27th to 30th December but, concerned about Covid, I withdrew. I was worried that I might have been a party pooper, but was pleased to see from a Facebook post that it had gone ahead with everyone else.

Instead I took up a couple of opportunities (my first) to be a vaccine steward, for a pharmacy in Wedmore, where there were six vaccinators and a couple of volunteers. Fortunately I was indoors, on the damp, though warm, days, and for the most part was kept well and satisfyingly occupied.

The music-making in was only 40 minutes or so from a hotel I had visited back in 1975, in a town which I had first visited in 1961. Both visits had been pony-trekking holidays. The first had been as a mid-teens schoolgirl, with my friend Diane, (when we stayed in a guest house), a trip no doubt cooked up by our respective mothers.

As a total novice on a pony, I was given a very small mount, called Boswell. I felt that I could have touched the ground with my feet!
Diane, a good few inches less tall than I, had a mount, Patsy, much more in proportion.

The second was as a woman in her late 20s, accompanied by her then eleven-year-old cousin, Mary G, (not the same person as my friend Mary H who appears in these posts from time to time).

So in October last year I had planned to go on from the music-making to spend three nights at that same hotel, especially knowing that there was to be a Mari Lwyd procession in ‘the smallest town in Britain’ to see the New Year in. With Omicron and all that I did wonder whether my stay would be cancelled by the Welsh government, or should be by me, but in fact, because of the greater eventual restrictions in Wales than those pertaining in England, I felt reassured, and a few days beforehand I confirmed that I would be turning up.

It was a soggy, soggy drive on 30th December. I stopped in Abergavenny for a coffee at the Angel Hotel, the first place I came to, and where service appeared to reflect the problem that all of ‘hospitality’ is reported to be suffering at present. But I was pleased to sit down quietly, and then spend a few minutes exploring the charming high street. (I had left my camera – and my phone – in the car. Grrr.)

It was nearly dark when I arrived at the Neuadd Arms Hotel in Llanwrtyd Wells. Apart from its exterior, and one view of the bar, I could remember nothing of it from 1975. It is a somewhat quirky, comfortable three-star hotel, grade II listed, also apparently suffering from staff shortages. Agreeable enough for three unhurried days.

The following morning, Christmas Eve, I went out for a short walk to get my bearings. LLanwrtyd Wells grew as a spa town in the 19th century but, to quote Wikipedia, “the area is now better known for recreations such as pony trekking, mountain biking, walking and birdwatching, and for its annual Man versus Horse Marathon, Beer Festival and World Bog Snorkeling Championship”. It took very little time to explore each of the radial roads.

The Neuadd Arms is listed Grade II, and I learned later is for sale. The present owners have been there for 20 years.

It’s not a quirk caused by the camera. The two halves really are very slightly at an angle.
The view from the front of the hotel. The main road through town enters from bottom left and leaves, crossing the River Irfon, middle left.

I had tried in advance to book my departing Sunday lunch here at the Drover’s Arms, as it had excellent reviews, but it was going to be shut until 22nd January. I learned in due course that this business also is for sale, and has been for some years.

The River Irfon was very, very high, and fast flowing.
Was this the chapel which Diane and I sought to attend in 1961, but from which we were gently turned away because the service was going to be in Welsh? It’s a sad picture now.
A modern sculpture celebrating the recent return of the red kite to this part of Wales.
Dol-y-Coed Road

An elegant…

… multi-purpose building…

…. next door to which was a coffee place which I had been intending to patronise.

But it was shut for the holidays.

This 19th century Congregational Chapel, which closed in 2009, is now…

the Llanwrtyd and District Heritage and Arts Centre, reopened by voluntary effort in 2016.

Sadly this also was closed, being open only between April and October, though I did notice a poster for a special exhibition which had been held one day early in December.

Back to the hotel, I saw this board on its side. I tried one of the brewery’s products with my New Year’s Day dinner, the Aur Cymru. It was excellent!

Back in my room I checked out where I had been on my short explore.

And planned a longer one.