Sheep to Shore

Wednesday, December 08, 2004 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Aberystwyth, Wales to Betws-y-Coed, Wales
We awoke this morning at 6 to discover that the heat was on a timer that cut it off during the night. Brrrr!! We got up and quickly pulled on some clothes. To our surprise and delight, the heat returned around 6:30. We made breakfast and packed up.

Then we used a new trick we learned yesterday playing with the GPS controls. We entered an entire list of places we want to drive through today on the way to Betws-y-Coed rather than entering each one after we reach the previous one

Headed north on the A487 a bit after 8 a.m., we find that the sheep are already busy at work keeping the grass trimmed. We occasionally see one standing on back feet, front “elbows” on the ground, grazing.
Many of the sheep we see here in Wales have what appear to be dye markings in different colors. First we thought they might be in common grazing areas and the colors were ownership marks for different farmers. We learned that yes, that is true. We also discovered why some sheep have two different color markings. It's all about romance. When rams are released into a field with females, the rams are equipped with a dye pouch on their chests. The dye marks all the lady friends that the ram “services.”

Petrol prices have been consistent at £ .869 per liter. In smaller villages we’ve frequently seen new car dealerships with the petrol stations.

In our conversation with the blokes at the pub last night, we were talking about differences in driving times for similar distances in the US and UK. The young guy said he was amazed at how quickly he and his friends drove from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and from Phoenix back to San Diego. The long, straight level stretches of road were a marvel to him. Boswell, the barkeep, laughed and said, “Yes. It takes us five hours to get out of town.”

We’ve been in the UK for a week now, and Ken is still doing all the driving. After the first couple of days, he had adjusted very well, and by today his knuckles are even back to their normal color. Now he has nerves of steel, even when meeting lorries (trucks) on the narrow winding roads.
We visited Aberdovey, a handsome little coastal village with abundant public parking and some lovely little art galleries. Unfortunately we were there before opening time so were limited to window-shopping. Outside the village, we saw a links-type golf course between the motorway and the beach. The greenskeepers were hard at work clipping the grass on the fairways to perfection so the flight of the golf balls would be true. We were surprised to see that these hard workers were all sheep.

North of Aberdovey, the landscape became quite hilly with one beautiful vista after another. Looking out one can see a patchwork quilt of pastures separated by hedgerows or rock/stone walls. Within most fields, the grass is green and sheep are grazing, no matter how steep the slope.
After the road returned to the coast, we passed farms along the sea with sheep grazing within rock walled pastures down to the beach. Ken calls this sight “sheep to shore.”  Birds are abundant here also.  In addition to the many pheasants, we’ve seen a good number of swans as well as lots of magpies.

Roads here in Wales are very serpentine, and off the motorways our average speed is probably 30 to 35 mph.  Despite the season, we occasionally see bicyclists on the narrow roads.
Crossing the Penmaenpool wooden bridge over to Barmouth, we chatted with the tollkeeper about our trip and about his daughter who lives in Miami and works for Royal Caribbean cruise lines. He thought we selected an odd time for our holiday but quickly acknowledged that not everyone shares the same taste.

On the coast we have seen many “holiday parks” or “caravan parks,” where 100 or more mobile homes are parked and are available for lease or sale.
We stopped at Harlech Castle, a 13th century fortress built by Edward I as a defense against the Welsh princes, who captured it in the 1400s. Built on the coast high on a bedrock, the castle commanded a view for miles out to sea and inland.
Leaving Harlech, we began to see some mountains of significant size. They are covered with rocks and even here we occasionally see rock walls built up the side of the slope.

Whenever we see road construction where the road is narrowed to one lane, there is usually a portable traffic light, rather than workers holding stop/slow signs.
Arriving in Betws-y-Coed (pronounced bet-us-ee-coid) a little after noon, we visited the TI office and asked about W&K’s Royal Oak Farm B&B. We were sad to learn that Mrs. Horton had retired after last season and no longer accepts B&B guests. We were able to walk out to the farm for a visit. It is just behind the TI along a river, a beautiful setting.
Across the street from the TI, we booked a room in the stables section of the Royal Oak Hotel. It’s a great location in the center of town, allowing an easy walk to the Cotswold Outdoor shop for a visit to the Rock Bottom internet cafe.

Then we drove to Llanrwst, a bit larger town four miles north for a visit to the grocery store. In addition to replenishing our usual picnic supplies, we bought food for dinner—salad fixings, fresh bread and butter, and a roast chicken, as well as a nice bottle of white wine (red is forbidden in our hotel room).

The hotel room is quite nice, heat is on without asking, and we’re booked for three nights.