Chapter five: In which we look at shrines, consider tomatoes, ponder the relationship between art and reality, think about marauders and close the forest gate.
Llandudno still holds an air of a Victorian seaside resort. Whilst many coastal towns have fallen on hard times here there are the signs of affluence and traces of the older holiday maker – a Vyella dress shop, Hotter Shoes, a stationery shop with doilies and another with a 1930’s sign advertising ‘gowns’ and a display of scarves featuring every imaginable breed of dog. In the coffee shop a couple in their seventies talk of concerts (reduced from six to five this season) and the difficulty of getting ‘really sensibly sized tomatoes’. The tomato conversation lasts for some time and it’s both comforting and surreal. They then go on to talk about the bed routine of ‘Queen May of Teck’, apparently a relative had been in royal service and…..I know you are fascinated by we had to leave.
We walk along the pier. Each bench has a metal plate commemorating long dead holidaymakers.
‘For Doris and Fred who loved it here from their family in Rotherham. 30 September 1972’.
Some have artificial blooms attached to the back and so we pass along the benches, as do others, reading the plates and pondering happiness rooted in location and the inevitability of death. As a holiday experience it’s not that joyous and we are glad when back on the promenade we set off at pace to walk along the bay. We pass a concert hall with bunting made from miniature jumpers which cheers us up again as do our homemade bread and Welsh cheese sandwiches.
Many years ago we bought for pennies a roll of damaged prints. Some were signed by the Artist Richard Bawden and we have seen in a museum the same print so we know they are genuine but unfortunately due to rips and small stains ours are valueless. One print, framed in our living room, is of Conwy Suspension Bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1826 and Robert Stephenson’s railway bridge of 1848. Having parked the campervan we went to see if we could recreate the picture.
Conwy we loved. A 1930’s cinema which takes architectural inspiration from the castle was a finely detailed delight, there was a small national trust house which had been a temperance hotel, galleries and bookshops, a quay with shellfish for sale and the smallest house in Great Britain. A small Welsh town with so many of the gentle pleasures we love. We then walked the town walls – intact and with views over the castle, bridge and out across the water. High up on the walls the strategic position of the castle is clear and we were glad our thoughts were, ‘where can we get a cup of tea’ rather than ‘gosh! Look at all those marauding soldiers below the walls’!
As we drove back to the cottage through hills, mountains and the brutal beauty of the old slate mines of Blaenau Ffestiniog we planned the route for our long drive back home the next day. I would happily spend my time travelling and exploring – Benjamin likes the routine and familiarity of home and getting the mix right is the key to creative happiness.
We packed up the cottage – we hadn’t bought anything new except second-hand books and local flour but there were pieces of bark, our sloes, a dried branch with pine cones and filled sketch and note books to tuck in amongst the rucksacks and walking boots.
The next day we woke early to bright sunshine, ate our muesli and were away at 7.30, before, we hoped, the foresters arrived with their trucks transporting logs. When we had almost reached the road we turned a corner and a huge truck blocked the narrow track. We had spoken to the forester before and he asked if we would mind waiting for five minutes whilst his truck was loaded. We turned off the engine and watched the crane lift the huge trunks up above the trees and pack them with precision on to the narrow truck frame. This part of the forest is owned by the Woodland Trust and we had read how the logging and management helps rejuvenate the forest leaving space for native species to flourish and the forest floor – too dark for growth when there are only pines – to regenerate.
There is much more to tell – of long forest hikes, grand stately homes, local food and more bookshops but for now we will have to leave Wales as the blog posts are backing up and we will be writing about September in December which won’t do at all. Anyway as soon as we got back one half of TheBigForest started new travels you might like to share?