Nicole Duncan


Nicole Duncan
 "Once again Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs, Which on a wild secluded scene impress Thoughts of more deep seclusion"

Wordsworth perfectly captured the spirit of a trip to Wales in this "Lines Written from a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey". I'm not convinced there are ever days that are warm and sunny in Wales but I love it anyway. As a visitor, it feels as if your cares vanish as you cross the river. My first trip was during a school break in February too many years ago to count. We rented a car and drove to Wolverhampton and then into Gwenydd and Snowdonia the next morning. What followed was a weekend of long walks, exploring castles like little known Dolbadarn , and even skinny dipping in the Irish Sea during a brief moment when the sun did come out (though it wasn't warm).

There followed another trip that involved a lot of screaming with a friend who had never driven on the "wrong" side of the road and who was convinced the roads were entirely too small. But eventually the beautiful mountains roads, picnics in castle ruins overlooking the valleys overcame his resistance. He still tells people about my endless history lectures on Llywelyn ap Iorwerth and his wife Joan. I even squeezed a side trip to Beaumaris to see her sarcophagus (it was emptied out during the desecration of the monasteries by Henry VII and was used as a horse trough for a time). It is a great love story for the Middle Ages. I also took one of my favourite black and white photos on this trip when we visited Tintern Abbey near Cardiff.

Climbing Mt Snowdon remains on the to do list.

In June, Iain and his Year 8 classmates, took a road trip to Wales and spent a week sailing, wind-surfing, climbing, biking, and river rafting. It was one of the highlights of his school career. Even with a broken arm he managed to participate and have fun. He skipped the gorge walk and biking but somehow managed everything else. He also made a killer playlist (though I am told by the girls on the bus he should not be allowed to sing along, especially while he has his Beats on).

More recently there have been golf trips to Celtic Manor and the Wales National Course.  We were fortunate to book one of the new Hunter lodges at Celtic Manor this summer for a trip with two other families. It made a great base. The house was spacious and well equipped. The view over the valley (and 2010 course) was breathtaking and I spent every evening trying to capture the perfect sunset picture before retiring to the hot tub on the deck. Those who wanted to played a lot of golf. The kids did the ropes course some archery as well as had some down time to relax and just wander around. One of the great draws for one of our party was Dewstow Gardens . Imagine discovering a lost garden with tunnels and underground grottoes buried under thousands of tonnes of soil for over 50 years. That’s what happened at Dewstow gardens. Built around 1895 the gardens were buried just after World War Two and rediscovered in 2000. The gardens contain many ponds and rills but interestingly a labyrinth of underground grottoes, tunnels and sunken ferneries. The rock gardens are made up of a mixture of real stone and faced stone using various types of Pulhamite. 

The scenery is stunning. The people are welcoming. But yeah the driving is scary.

My book to read for Wales will always be Sharon K Penman's "Here be Dragons" though Barbara Erskine's "Lady of Hay" deserves a mention for the Marches.