Our Welsh Adventure - by Joanne Woolridge

Being active isn’t just about sport and exercise - a lot of the time it is just about being outdoors and enjoying the local countryside or parks. Or travelling a little bit further, as Joanne describes here, to have fun in some of the stunning landscapes which surround us, only a couple of hours travel or less from Stoke-on-Trent…

Our Welsh Adventure

My ten year old daughter and I were invited along on a camping trip during the school holidays.  My friend found an excellent campsite situated at Rhaeadr Nantcol Waterfalls at the base of the Rhinog  Mountain range in Wales.


We travelled in calm convoy from Stoke for three hours, arriving on the site to a tidy and well laid out campsite with a well equipped reception (which offered phone charging and a facility to refreeze your ice blocks).  My friend and I visibly relaxed knowing the toilets were clean, and our three young girls wouldn't be freaked out and loophobic.

We found a spot just adjacent to a stream which looped around a small island which boasted a tree and rope swing, fed by the nearby waterfall and running into a nearby lake.  We excitedly began to pitch our two tents, helping each other, aiming to prove that girl power would suffice.  We were five females on an adventure, spanning decades of experience and inexperience, but full of spirit and positivity.  What should have been a relatively quick canvas assembly turned into a rather lengthy bout of grim determination to pitch the tents on stony ground.  Adamant we wouldn't be beat, we hammered the puny pegs into the earth, and gave those rocks a headache.  We weren't about to repitch.  That spot was ours!


We soon discovered that our neighbours consisted of a pleasant young couple, residing in what looked to be a canvas pasty; debatable whether it was a one man or two man tent.  They had that day climbed Snowdon, claiming they had ascended via an 'easy' route and descended on a different route which resulted in them having to get a taxi back to their car, costing £27. 

Across the way was a couple from the Wirral with their little boy.  The mum was very chatty and quickly seemed to befriend most folk on the site before the night was through.  She was in awe of our set up, as my friend had artistically draped her home-made, colourful cotton bunting between our two tents, creating a friendly and cheerful border.  'Mrs Wirral' described the scene as 'Instagram Ready' and declared that she had developed 'camping envy'.

In my inimitable way I had managed to scrape together the contents of the fridge before leaving home, therefore making my contribution to the evening meal.  My friend subsequently turned these offerings (sausages and bacon) into a scrumptious meal, chopping the bacon, skinning the sausages and making meatballs, combining them with tinned tomatoes, herbs and pasta.  De-lish!

I'd set my heart on exploring our surroundings before the sun went down and we set off upstream, following an inclined path, to the increasingly loud sound of rushing water.  I graciously let the young ones walk before me whilst I quietly hauled myself up the craggy route, utilising my four paws for extra support.


The way was marked with posts painted blue which led us to a small patch of paradise, at the top of the fall (which we later discovered wasn't the top), where the cool water pooled, swirled and invited us in.  The girls were the first to accept the invitation and kicked off their shoes to stand on the rocks amid the crystal clear flow.  I resisted the urge to jump in the deepest part fully clothed in favour of some ankle-deep wading.  The view from the top was spectacular, the landscape bragging and the air was intoxicating.  The sunshine was relaxing into a warm and cosy place which begged for the day to be ended there where it couldn't be improved upon. 

We made the weary but happy descent down to the campsite where the bustling of the holidaymakers eventually dulled to a whisper and the lights dimmed and torch lights flickered.  We set about creating cosy cocoons in which to sleep and dream about the day to come. 

We spent four magical days in this beautiful area.  Rain was not capable of stopping play, as the girls donned their costumes and euphorically jumped the waves at Barmouth beach.  The weather didn't dampen their spirits, they were already wet from the waves, so 'bring it on rain, do your best!'. 

We incorporated a visit to the slate caverns in Llanfair, where we walked in the footsteps of young slate miners; we wore hard hats and carried torches (where they worked by candlelight), and traversed the nine accessible caverns silently as we were the first visitors of the day.  There was an eeriness and silence except for the occasional drip of water through the slate above us. 

We carried on a short distance down the hill to a farm park where we hand fed grain and pulses to goats, sheep, and chickens.  In the bunny barn we were privileged to be able to cuddle an adorable baby bunny, hold a contented chicken and stroke a three-hour old fluffy chick. 

One afternoon we were visited by a lovely four legged creature, a very sedate, elderly looking female border terrier.  She ambled over gently and had the most placid look in her eyes.  It was hard not to invite this lovely border terrier into our bunting-bordered territory.  She happily sat amongst the rest of us girls and was fussed over, talked to and adored by us all.  We felt sure someone would be looking for her and made the most of the five minutes we had with her.  The five minutes stretched into ten .... into twenty .... into an hour ..... Three of us wandered the campsite looking to catch sight of someone bereft of their beloved pet.  We were unable to call the owner's number shown on the pooch's name tag due to inadequate signal in the hills.  I began to imagine how my feisty one-eyed Jack Russell would adapt to having an old lady share his space at home, and my friend contemplated how this little lady would adapt to her family cat. 

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The fervent search began to fade as we returned to base to find the lovely madam still enjoying the attention whilst waiting for the burgers to finish cooking on the barbecue.  An hour had passed and the bond was strong, when along came a man looking about him.  When asked if he was looking for a dog, he answered, 'A brown one?'  I wanted to reply, 'Ah, no, this one's black', but it wasn't.  He'd come to claim back his girl.  The instinct to stand in front of her and hide her was strong but we all knew she had to go.  He was a jovial chap who made jokes about her befriending all the families on site, but we knew we were special to her.  He called to her, 'Willow ....', she didn't budge.  She contemplated staying I'm sure.  She did walk off with her human, but not before glancing over her shoulder one last time. 

Joanne Woolridge

Meir Park