A week in Wales: part one – getting there

After four updates in a little over a week we are back to the self-imposed fortnight hiatus.  However, the two week gap has not be idle and there has been a lot happening to the Bagnall clan, not necessarily in the Bagnall home though so this, once again, will be the first of a trilogy of updates that I will delight you with this week.

I have worked for my company for nigh on 19 years and as such I sit on the top tier of holiday entitlement (28 days plus the usual public holidays). My holiday entitlement runs with the calendar year so we are nearly halfway through and as yet I have not taken any days from the this year’s quota.  This is not down to idleness just not had the opportunity and with the biggest technical move in IMG’s history reaching its conclusion in the next few months I probably will not have another opportunity until the autumn.  Hence the Whitsun half-term break seemed like a logical time to use some of that entitlement.  This was not a happy coincidence that just happened, this was something that we had identified at the beginning of the year and booked accordingly.

The main decision had been where to go.  With three kids everything starts becoming very expensive.  You can’t guarantee the weather in the UK at the end of May (or at any point in the year) and we felt that Ezra was a little too young to take on an aeroplane, mainly because of the paraphernalia that you have to take added to the fact that Éowyn and Amélie are a little too young to take responsibility for their own things so you end up carrying a truckload of gear while shepherding kids while trying to negotiate airport security before you even manage to get to the resort!

Lucinda was interested in taking a ferry to Brittany and staying in France for a week, which is definitely a possibility for the near future but in the end we decided to stay in the UK but head to foreign climes:  Tenby (or Dinbych-y-pysgod – the little town of the fishes in Welsh) in Pembrokeshire in South West Wales and the Kiln Park Caravan site.  Taking advantage of the two inset days that Éowyn’s school had tagged to the end of the half-term break we booked the caravan Monday to Monday as it was cheaper than going weekend to weekend.

I am unsure if this is a phenomenon in other countries but in the UK the holiday companies completely rip off families.  Knowing that it is increasingly difficult to take children out of school during term time (in principal I agree although I completely disagree with the local education authority imposing fines on parents that do!) the holiday companies increase the price of holidays as much as three fold.  It is outrageous that if we had taken Éowyn out of school the week before or indeed the week after the half-term break we would have saved over £700!  Although you can see the supply and demand argument from the holiday companies point of view and the argument for the local education department to try and ensure that children have a fair chance at education but as fair as I can see it is profiteering on both sides.  A week’s missed education at the age of five is not going to adversely affect a child, I missed nearly three months of education at the age of nine due to open heart surgery has that had a detrimental affect on my cerebral ability?  This is going to become more of an issue for us as a family as the kids get older as my job means that my busy times are Christmas, Easter and July-September, all the major school holiday times.  Watch this space to find out what happens.

However, before we headed into the principality we had a weekend off and so we decided to fire up the barbecue for the first time and invite a couple of our new neighbours around.  Emma and Martin and Clair and David may be new neighbours but they are not new friends we met them nearly six years ago on our NCT course and thus both have children the same age as Éowyn.  Emma and Martin live a couple of doors down from us and that is how we knew our new home was up for sale.  Unfortunately the British summer wasn’t exactly barbecue friendly (heavy rain) but that is where a few strategically placed umbrellas held in the scaffolding that still adorns our home kept the worst of it off me while I cooked the meat.  Despite the weather fun and food was had by all and it was a rather successful first barbecue.

Not really giving ourselves much time for relaxation the next morning both girls had been invited to separate birthday parties, so Lucinda took Amélie and I took Éowyn.  We had managed to complete the packing so Lucinda’s car was full to the rafters (do cars have rafters?) ready for the afternoon drive to Nanny Fran’s.

Yes, after driving the girls to their parties we reconvened back at Chez Bagnall and headed up the M40 to West Bromwich.  We hadn’t seen Nanny Fran for a while and so we thought we would pop up and see Nanny Fran and Auntie Liz and drive to Tenby from there.  Although West Bromwich is a lot closer to Wales than Staines Upon Thames, it is only about 30 miles closer to Tenby however it did mean that we could head into Wales on the M50 and miss the toll on the Severn bridge (not really worth the extra diesel on its own though!).

The girls we as excited as ever to see Nanny Fran and while there we charged Nanny Fran with a challenge.  You may recall that for various achievements both girls had been promised items from the Disney store and both had chosen Frozen related items.  Frozen is the by far one of the biggest Disney films in recent history.  For some reason it has captured children’s imaginations and the song ‘Let it go’ has become the bane of most parents life’s with constant non-stop renditions from their little ones and countless you-tube covers invading social media.  However the success of the film seems to have caught Disney on the hop and dolls and costumes are incredibly difficult to get hold of, with some people paying up to £1000 off auction sites for the correct outfit.  Éowyn bares a passing resemblance to Elsa and Amélie to Anna and with those characters being sisters in the movie then those are the two that the girls have identified with respectively.  So with the demand so high we have been unable to source an Elsa dress and doll for Éowyn and an Anna dress and doll for Amélie, so we charged Nanny Fran with the one week challenge while we were on holiday.

We left Nanny Fran’s on Monday morning and headed to Tenby in glorious sunshine.  The long term weather forecast had not been promising and so we thought that this was just another example of the Bagnall luck with the only beautiful day being our travel day.

The DVDs in the S-Max earn their money with the girls kept quiet with two films during the journey.  The countryside was beautiful (except for the proliferation of mobile speed camera traps) however there was the odd countryside smell (if you know what I mean?).  Indeed as we crossed the border into Monmouthshire and thus Wales, I asked Éowyn was she thought of the Welsh Countryside.  ‘It smells like horse poo!‘  Although truthful was not exactly the ideal start for Anglo-Welsh relations.

We arrived mid-afternoon and the weather was still glorious and so, with half an eye on the long range weather forecast, after checking in and dropping the bags off at the caravan (5 Caldey View – although there was no view – unless you count the back end of another caravan – and you certainly couldn’t see Caldey Island!) we decided to take full advantage and follow the signs for the short (although longer than we expected) walk to the beach.  Pembrokeshire is famous for some of the most beautiful sandy beaches, indeed the best beach in Europe, according to a recent tourist organisation, is the harbour beach in Tenby.  So we were blessed that it was a short walk to the 2.5 miles of golden sand; sand, perfect for sandcastles.  However, the sun was going down and we had three tired and hungry children so we headed into the leisure complex to investigate the pool and the food outlets.

The caravan park was blessed with a nice pool and with Éowyn’s (and to a lesser extent, Amélie’s) growing confidence in the water we decided that we would have to take advantage this week especially when we saw a notice for beginners lessons for the over fours.  After a brief conversation we signed Éowyn up (Amélie still too young) for a 0900 lesson each morning.

A warm meal in the Mash and Barrel and a quick trip to the onsite supermarket for essentials (like toilet paper!) and it was back to the caravan for our first holiday sleep and the start of the holiday proper.

Tune into ‘A week in Wales: part two’ to read about the holiday but feel free to peruse the photos below as a taster of what is to come.

Peace and Love