Today I was almost dragged kicking and screaming out of the house and bundled into a car to go for a drive. Let me say that the last time I ventured “out for a drive” it was April, there was still snow on the ground and it was a struggle for the temperature to climb above 1 degree Celsius. Today was different. The trees had managed to shake off their winter torpor and had burgeoned into greenery and blossom. The may (hawthorn) blossom is out, so according to an old saying (Ne’er cast a clout til ‘may is out) you can change into your summer clothing now!
There were bluebells and bracken with tightly coiled fiddleheads, orchids, cowslips and of course, as I am in Wales there are daffodils everywhere. Nature was displaying herself to advantage in the summer sun (16.5 º C). Yes, I know that’s not hot, it was 18º C when I left Athens in mid-March – when I got to Wales it was snowing!
I had forgotten how beautiful the Welsh valleys are in spring, so off we went to explore the Sirhowy Valley Country Park, close to Wattsville Gwent (or perhaps I mean Caerphilly) as local authorities have changed names since I was last in Wales thirteen years ago. It was idyllic, and great for walks and bicycle rides. There are a few scattered benches to sit on and picnic tables, but I didn’t think it was THAT warm!
If you go just a little further down the Ebbw Valley (through Wattsville and follow the signs to Risca) you can go up the Cwmcarn Scenic Drive, where the Welsh Rally has been held (probably still is). This affords great views and you drive through a pine forest. Many years ago I was having a picnic there when a host of tiny, baby frogs leaped across the cloth on their way to the canal below, I guess, clearly having just changed into proper frogs from their tadpole stage.
On the way back home, for some reason, we went via Manmoel, a hamlet and then up over Manmoel Common. The road over this common actually no more than a dirt track, although it is very pretty and you will see lots of sheep and mountain ponies. There were even a few cows with horns which looked a little menacing as we drove through them – they were on either side of the track. After wishing we had a 4×4 we eventually found a slightly better road which took us down into Ebbw Vale. The views across the valleys from the common were spectacular and I wouldn’t have missed them. I was cursing the fact that neither of us had taken our mobiles so no authentic pictures I’m afraid!
I am slowly coming to the conclusion that south Wales and its valleys are not so bad after all – especially when the sun is shining and it’s spring.