Monmouthshire

We left The Roses Cottage in Pembrokeshire and the Sat Nav took us to Cardiff via some very narrow, bendy country lanes where we were halted in our tracks by a fjord which was 2ft deep. After the tourist behind us, who had also been led down this lane by his Sat Nav, made his U-turn, we turned around and wound our way down some other lanes towards Cardiff, praying that we wouldn’t meet any other vehicles.

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We stopped in Cardiff for lunch and a look-see before driving on to Steppes Barn, home to James and Alice Rose. In Cardiff we had lunch at The Corner House which was delicious and had a wonder around a couple of shops, much to James’ dismay. We didn’t see much of Cardiff but what we did see of the City Centre was very nice, with cute little alleys shooting off the main street with interesting little shops, restaurants and cafes.

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When we arrived at Steppes Barn we realised that we’d left our sleeping bags in the cottage in Pembrokeshire. Both Katherine and James admitted thinking that the boot had been packed particularly compactly this time but neither of them joined the dots and realised it was because a few bulky pieces were missing. With amazing fortune, Gareth and Rosemarie, the owners of Ivy Court Cottages were driving up to London the following day to see Adele in concert so we arranged an M4 rendez-vous to pick up the sleeping bags!

That night on putting the girls to bed, Sophie did her best Princess and the Pea impression and had to sample every mattress. Apparently not a single one was satisfactory and the following day she complained that she’d only had 10 minutes sleep! Don’t worry, James and Alice, if you’re reading this…she definitely slept well!

Our first morning was spent repairing torn clothes, doing laundry and chasing up a refund from National Motorhomes which is like pulling out teeth. We then drove to the rendez-vous point to collect the sleeping bags before heading to Tintern Abbey.

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Tintern Abbey is an amazingly preserved Cistercian Abbey, founded in 1131, on the bank of the River Wye, on the border between Monmouthshire and Gloucestershire. Whilst Sophie complained that everything we did was so boring and why did we just go and see stones and old walls all the time, and sat in a sulky heap making daisy chains, the rest of us actually really enjoyed it and found it very interesting. We then had a drink in the next door pub which had a pretty good playground which changed Sophie’s mood thankfully. Two girls from Barry came along to play with them which was even better, until little 6 year old Cassidy showed everyone her brand new mood ring. Sophie wanted one….but the gift shop had closed by then. Foul mood returned. So off we went back to Steppes Barn and an early night.

Wednesday….a lot of rain. Sailor is lying on the grass in the rain – he loves it. This is his favourite spot…

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We’ve decided he needs a little rest from traipsing around after us so he stayed home alone today while we went to the Big Pit National Coal Museum.

This is one of the best museums we have been to so far on our trip and highly recommend it. Don’t leave it too late in the day though, as we did, because you need to set aside around 3 hours to do it all properly. When you arrive there is an underground guided tour of the pits where you hear about what life was like for the miners from Victorian times until the pit closed in the late 70s and see an actual coal face. All the guides are ex-miners. We heard how children as young as 5 years old worked 10 hour shifts in the pitch black. We asked Sophie what she thought of that… apparently not much…After the tour we continued to an exhibition called King Coal where we learnt more about what happened at the coal face. If you have children with you when you visit, we would recommend doing King Coal first before the underground tour to give them a better understanding of what they are experiencing during the tour. Unfortunately cameras and phones aren’t permitted underground so we don’t have any photos to share with you. This photo shows the pit just before it closed.

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The rain is holding off which makes a welcome change. We spent the morning at The Butterfly Zoo and Hedge Maze which hit the spot with the girls. The maze is great fun. We split up into 2 teams and raced to the centre. Once you complete the maze there is a little wall of history about mazes and puzzles to have a go at.

On Saturday was the Monmouthshire show which we’ve been looking forward to. It was a typical agricultural show with livestock, horse and dog shows, lot of shopping stalls and a food tent. Not to mention several rides for the kids. We were there for about 5 hours! We were all pretty exhausted when we got home.

Sunday was a typical Sunday with mowing the lawn (until the mower broke!), a lovely walk up Galway Hill where, at the top, you have an incredible 360 degree view of Monmouthshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire.

Sailor gave us the run around and got lost whilst chasing sheep and ended up in the farmers garden. Luckily he didn’t get shot. We then had a delicious but rather expensive lunch at The Bell in Skenrith.

On our final day we hired a canoe and paddled down the Wye River. It took about two and a half hours with a little bit of complaining from the girls but overall we think they enjoyed it. Surprisingly, Sophie participated more than Lizzy. We then drove to Ross-on-Wye for lunch in a little cafe which served up some pretty decent grub. That evening Katherine was in agony from the paddling – obviously having done the lion’s share of the work (according to her!)

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It’s back to Farnham for us now for various reasons but the journey hasn’t ended. We’ll be doing some short trips to visit friends in Bath, the Newforest, Bradford on Avon and East Sussex over the next month and then it’ll be down to Cornwall in August, so we’ll keep you posted.

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