A week in Wales: part two – the holiday proper

A second update in a day! And the second of the trilogy for this week.

Hopefully you have all read ‘A week in Wales: part one’ if not please click on the link to refresh how we go to where we are.

So, with the girls in the twin room, Lucinda and I in the double room with Ezra’s travel cot half in the wardrobe to maximise the floor space we spent our first night in Kiln Park.

With small children you never get a lie in but at least it was a little reasonable when we got up allowing us plenty of time to get Éowyn ready for her first swimming lesson.  Lucinda took her while I looked after the other two.  Éowyn thoroughly enjoyed herself and with only one other child in the lesson it was well worth the money.  Éowyn was very good, taking instruction well and even ducking her head under the water.  Somehow, I think listening to a teacher rather than her Mum or Dad was better for her.

The big bonus with the lesson starting at 0900 is that it was over by 0930 so by 1000 we were out of the caravan and exploring.  We decided that the first day should just be spent in Tenby (or Dinbych-y-pysgod to called it by its native name – the little town of the fishes or little fortress of the fish).  Tenby is a very old walled seaside town on a natural sheltered harbour.  It is a very pretty town, with its mediaeval town walls (which include the five arches barbican gatehouse), a 15th century church, colourful Victorian houses (nearly every house is painted a shade of pastel blue, green, pink or purple giving a very continental feel to the town) and a one way system.  The latter is fun negotiating while looking for a car park and you get to see the majority of the town.  Nevertheless we soon found the right path to the multi story car park and headed to the beach.

As I mentioned in the previous update Tenby has a large flat sandy beach that is close to 4km long and that was where we spend the morning until rumbling tummies forced us off the beach and in search of lunch.  While heading off to lunch we saw a number of boat trips, we decided on the Seal Safari, nearly one hour on a small boat that circumscribes the nearby Caldey Island looking for Grey Seals.  Caldey Island is a small island just off the coast at Tenby and is one of Britain’s Holy Islands.  It is famous for its Trappist Monastery, the monks of which make up the majority of the population of the island.  They raise dairy cattle and make cheese, perfumes and chocolate.  Indeed the island has its own postage stamps and currency.  However that is a different trip, we didn’t step foot on the island merely circled it.

Our trip was geared at looking at the wildlife and seeing the island from a more unusual point of view.  The main draw of the trip was to see grey seals and as  such the trip did not disappoint.  We saw a number of seals and they must be so used to the incursion into their territory that they didn’t bat an eye indeed some of them didn’t even rouse from their slumber as we approached quite closely.  In addition to the seals we saw a number of seabirds that are not regularly seen on shore.  Highlights would be in no particular order:  cormorants, shags, kittiwakes, guillemots and razorbills.  The only slight downside was that we didn’t see any puffins but that’s a trip for another day hopefully in the not too distant future.

Éowyn loved the boat trip and was really excited to see the seals.  The same could not be said of the other two.  Amélie got a little agitated before the boat trip asking us not to die.  Damn that Frozen film!  For those of you without small children, or a love of Disney movies and for any other reason haven’t seen the film Frozen, the protagonists’ parents die when the ship that they are travelling in sinks in a storm.  We explained to Amélie that we wouldn’t die, which she excepted and then as soon as she boarded the boat promptly fell asleep and missed the entire trip.  Ezra, on the other hand was asleep when we boarded the boat and stayed that way until we were getting off the boat!

On our return to the caravan a little girl was playing in the next caravan so Éowyn went out and introduced herself.  Emmy was 7 years old and although did play with Éowyn you could see it was more Éowyn looking up to (although not literally, Éowyn, though 2 years her junior, was a couple of inches taller than Emmy!) her older friend.  Emmy has younger sisters who happily played with Amélie so it was nice for them to play with others.

The next morning was Éowyn’s second swimming lesson but we joined her as a family in the pool afterwards.  The pool was not as warm as you would expect (maybe it warms up during the day) but you soon get used to it.  Unless that is if you are Ezra.  He did not like it one iota and let everyone know, so Lucinda took him out and I stayed with the girls for a bit longer.

After swimming we headed to the nearby town of Saundersfoot.  We had looked at Saundersfoot when looking at possible holiday destinations but somehow it missed the final cut.  Again Saundersfoot has a large level sandy beach and this time armed with sandwiches and snacks we stayed on the beach the entire day making sandcastles and, in the case of Amélie, digging large holes and trying to fill them with seawater.  Never quite understanding why the water kept draining away!  Kept her busy!

The long term weather forecast had been pretty horrendous but the first part of the week it had been nice, not hot but dry.  Thursday, however,dawned with grey clouds and so we decided that we would head out for adventure.  On the way into Tenby and again on our trip to Saundersfoot we had seen signs to Dinosaur Park.  The girls both wanted to go and so it seemed like the perfect day to go.  I am not sure how to describe Dinosaur Park.  It is definitely a park and it definitely has dinosaurs (and other pre-historic creatures) but it is both more and in someways less than that.  Yes there are a large number of life-size fibreglass models of large extinct animals but then there are slides, a play barn, and frisbee golf.  You can also go water zorbing, pilot disco boats and ride on a number of coin operated (tuppence!  yes tuppence a ride!) electric vehicles (my favourite being the Orbiters) as well as ride Wales’ only tubey run.

The highlight (and probably at the same time the lowlight) of the day was the dinosaur trail.  Over two dozen dinosaur models laid out in the woods with an ‘expert’ taking you on a guided tour.  This was not Jurassic Park.  This was a local armed with a tickling stick and a big bag of sweeties taking the children round the woods introducing them to the dinosaurs.  Now anyone that knows anything about kids knows that kids love dinosaurs.  They know all their names and what they ate and how big they were.  I know because I was one of those kids.  Unfortunately our ‘expert’ didn’t know that much about dinosaurs and her stock phrase to stop the precocious kids from asking awkward questions, or even correcting her mispronunciations was by replying (add your own Pembrokeshire accent here) ‘You know more about dinosaurs than I do, have a sweetie.‘  It certainly added to the experience.  In fairness to her I think she was filling in for a sick employee as later in the day she conducted a fossil hunt and was very good at it (real fossils had been added to a big area of pebbles and if you found a fossil you could keep it – the girls (with a little help from daddy) both found lymnaea).  However you would have thought that as an employee of Dinosaur Park you would at least know the dinosaurs in your park, regardless of the actual job that you do.

Dinsoaur Park was a big hit with the girls, we got there when it opened and we left just before it closed and they both wanted to go back (which we could have done with a boomerang ticket for a fraction of the price).  The weather wasn’t great but it didn’t really rain, just a drizzle that hung in the air inviting you to walk through it to get wet, but it didn’t matter.  It may be stuck in a timewarp (compared to other attractions) but that is its charm.  Kids are encouraged to use their imaginations and although the models are not exactly anatomically correct (in line with current thinking), or even that convincing (to the eye of an adult), Amélie still shook with fear when she saw the model of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and that was the magic of Dinosaur Park.

On the other side of the attraction scale was Folly Farm.  It is neither a farm or a folly but a combination of zoo, indoor playbarn, steam funfair, adventure rides and the eponymous farm.  This is much more of a modern attraction with a good selection of exotic animals (including the only giraffes in Wales) and with more to come.  Indeed on our visit they were building a large enclosure to house lions which is due to open later this year.  The indoor play area was enormous with three stories of interconnecting tree-house to lose yourself in.  That was only half of the indoor attractions, in addition there was a complete funfair (the largest indoor funfair in Europe) with chair-o-planes, ghost train, golden gallopers, dodgems and a waltzer.

Again, we spent the whole day at Folly Farm having another fun-filled day and although it is a regular winner of ‘Best Day Out’ awards (and 400,000 visitors a year can’t be wrong) if you asked Éowyn and Amélie where they wanted to return, it would have lost out to Dinosaur Park.  However the visit to Folly Farm was capped with a visit to the gift shop.  Before leaving West Bromwich, Nanny Fran had given all the children some money to spend on their holiday and I had told them that they could spend it on whatever they wanted but Daddy wouldn’t buy them anything else.  They have to learn the value of money somehow.  So the gift shop was the perfect place for them to hone their purchasing skills.

Amélie, saw exactly what she wanted within a minute, a fairy and horse model.  She could not be dissuaded from her choice.  Eowyn, however, was a little more economically savvy.  It must have taken over 20 minutes for her to make a decision, weighing the different combinations of toys that she could afford.  Eventually, she made a decision and left the shop with a pack of three mermaid dolls, a cuddly mermaid and a pink unicorn – sounds like a good night out!  Ezra wasn’t left out either and indeed he made his own choice too.  Lucinda was pushing him around the shop while I calculated the running total of Éowyn’s purchases.  As they passed a display of cuddly cowboys, Ezra pointed at them and said ‘that‘.  Lucinda gave it to him and he cuddled it.  She then gave him a cuddly pirate and he cuddled that too.  He then looked at them both and threw the pirate on the ground.  He had made his choice.  So with Eowyn’s armful of toys, Amélie’s fairy and Ezra’s cowboy we headed to the till, paid and left to grab an Italian meal in nearby Narberth (Arberth) before heading back to Kiln Park.

After two fun-filled days we decided to take it easy on Saturday, with a walk into Tenby and day spent on the beach, building sandcastles for Éowyn’s mermaids!  Saturday was also the day that Éowyn’s friend from the next door caravan, Emmy, left to return home.  Éowyn got herself all upset, although Emmy didn’t seem quite as upset.  So we made a fuss of her and headed to the leisure complex to play Éowyn’s favourite game, Air Hockey.

For our final full day in Pembrokeshire we decided to explore the county and both decided that we would head to St David’s.  Although it doesn’t look that far on the map it took longer than expected to reach the smallest city in Britain.  When we reached St David’s we were a little disappointed and instead of stopping too long decided that we had passed a couple of interesting spots on the way and would prefer to head back to those.  So we turned the car round and headed a little bit further down the A487 to Solva.  Lower Solva (to be accurate) lies at the bottom of the ravine at the mouth of the river Solva on the north side of St Bride’s Bay.

We parked in the harbour carpark and walked down the A487 stopping in the various galleries and the three story gift shop(!) but the highlight of this short stop was Sunday Lunch at the Harbour Inn.  A traditional carvery was served with a good selection of vegetables.  The girls were given a little bag with colouring pens, a puzzle book and a pack of cards for playing snap as a gift with their meal.  But the pièce de résistance was the desert: salted caramel profiteroles.  I will leave it to your imagination but if you are ever in the vicinity I would highly recommend popping in and sampling them for yourself.

Before heading back to the caravan we made one more stop:  Carew Castle.  A magnificent castle it is currently being restored by the National Park Authority and you can certainly see the work that they have done so far but how much they still have to go.  Unfortunately we didn’t know about it until we happened to pass by and thus we had missed out on all the half-term events that they had put on all week.  Nevertheless the girls still had a good time (despite the rain) mainly due to the laminated eye-spy leaflets that they were given on arrival.  It made Éowyn especially ask questions about the castle and about the items that we were trying to find.  Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the bats (there are 11 species that roost in the castle) that make this a Site of Special Scientific Interest.  Neither did we have time to visit the adjacent mill, the only tidal mill in Wales.  Next time.

And so before you knew it and before we were ready the holiday was over.  We had a thoroughly good time in Pembrokeshire and would definitely return to the area and possibly even the same caravan park.  It helps that we were lucky with the weather but there were a lot of attractions in the area for children that even without the weather we could have found things to do.

I apologise that this is a bit of an epic (indeed it is the longest write up on the site), but perhaps you can understand now why I split it into two updates.  However, news in the Bagnall household isn’t over and expect another update before the week is out.  Meanwhile there are plenty of photos below to balance the prose.

Peace and Love




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