‘During the last years, the first place I could feel myself so consolidated in my soul and mind, I was so far away from the problems and the hustle and bustle of life. ‘B
‘Located in the Llanthony Valley on the edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park, Llwyn Celyn is regarded as one of the most remarkable of all surviving late-medieval houses in Wales. It was built in 1420, a few years after Owain Glyndŵr’s revolt against the Kingdom of England. The site came to the Landmark Trust as a rundown farm, with water coursing from the hillside through the main house which had been protected by emergency scaffolding since the early 1990s.A £4.2million restoration has returned the house to its former glory, ensuring its survival for generations to come.’ Writes the Landmark Trust about its 200th building. However at least part of this budget was used to facilitate community engagement and as part of this HBTSR have been invited to hold a Welcome day out for people seeking Sanctuary on two occasions.
Our first visit nearly three years ago was entirely outdoors and coincided with a local Hedging and Dry Stone Walling competition. At that time the buildings were surrounded with scaffolding and plastic but on this visit could be seen in their full glory. We were delighted to see Kasia who masterminded both visits and was an ever-present whirlwind of activity. Kasia had again arranged with Crucorney Environmental group to provide green wood working and activities with wool such as spinning and making pom poms. In addition on this visit we were very fortunate to also have a group of puppet makers.
Lawrence, Melrose and Ailsa arrived at Llwyn Celyn at 9am with a car laden with donations of biscuits, cake and fruit, and some food to be heated up and met Kasia in the Threshing barn. She was already busy making Tabbouleh and salads. Adil and Mary arrived very soon after with a number of delicious salads and some seriously amazing fruit loaves. When Carola, Virginia , Margaret and Pat arrived with additional food we had a quick tour of the house and set up ready for the arrival of guests. Kasia brought out a beautiful wooden bowl and we realised that it was the one we had helped to make last time . A lovely piece of history.
We had anticipated that Mark from Newport would arrive before 11 but a difficulty with Sat Nav , directions and narrow roads conspired to make his journey rather longer. However the 16 passengers seemed to have enjoyed the adventure but were delighted to arrive and start joining in with the activities after a quick drink and biscuits.
Stuart must have driven at the speed limit as he arrived earlier than anticipated with 36 passengers. He’d obviously been charmed by Thanu and Gayan who were volunteering as supervisers for the trip and absolutely nothing was too much trouble. The two groups blended well and I noted Mark and Thanu chatting and offering advice. I was delighted to meet for the first time my ‘Penpal’ Theodore. We had written to each other many times over Christmas when our mutual friend Otis was in detention and we were working on the campaign to have him released. It was also very good to see Otis himself – possibly the most photographed man in Swansea! Miles came with chocolates that vanished into various mouths!
Tours of the house and small museum were popular with people finding it hard to believe the building was over 600 years old and amazed by the luxurious rooms and the beautiful furniture. The album about the restoration occupied a number of people but selfies were to the fore and many people took a very long time to see each room as they wanted to photograph each item. Virginia noted some children having a pretend tea party in the kitchen and gently suggested that the expensive china might be better put away. They hurried back to puppet making!
Mary and Melrose worked hard together to coordinate the food being ready and to stir the pans when I kept disappearing to follow up various queries and ideas..Lunch started to be served at around 1pm and was plentiful and delicious. Soup, dahl and chickpea tagine were the hot options with the salads and tabouleh and couscous and cheese, eggs and hummus with bread rolls. The small amount that was left was first offered to the two young men who were fasting and then others opted to have the rest so they wouldn’t have to cook later.
Then Sue and Gez started to rally people for a walk. It took a while and people were still thinking about going to the toilet when the first people had reached the end of the drive! However the Selfie pauses easily allowed everyone to keep together. about half o f the group wanted to walk and others stayed back to complete their masks or carving. After about 10 minutes Sue decided to interfere with the increasingly frequent photo stops –and took the two main culprits by hand!
I walked with a man from Nepal who said how much he loved the countryside and how it did remind him of the scenery around his home [ near the Annapurna Base camp ] It did sound as if it was much more isolated there than here though! We carried a push chair up the hill and back down the other side when it came back into its own for the sleepy boy to be pushed along the road. As we climbed we saw a number of young people laden with rucksacks coming in the opposite direction and were told they were doing their Duke of Edinburgh awards. This provoked discussion about the award maybe put a little bounce into the steps of some who had been starting to flag as they weren’t having to carry heavy packs. The bluebells on top and the views to Skirrid and back down the valley were beautiful and timeless.
Carola had a map with her so Gez decided to ask her to negotiate the way back before suggesting that as soon as she took over the path became muddy. As we seemed to be walking down a small stream this was possibly not surprising! We startled some sheep who leapt and gamboled . There were some beautiful piglets and horses as we walked which gave everyone a chance to talk about farming and animals.
A little girl who is apparently struggling with her 15 minute walk to school managed this 2 hour walk with energy to spare and it was lovely to watch her walking and chatting with different children and adults during the course of the walk.
We arrived back to find tea [and cake ]was in full flow and everyone looked very content. Most of the chocolate cake had gone but there were many other delicious varieties and some to take home as well.
I stopped to chat to Stuart who was keeping an eye on the bus [ you can’t be too careful ] as he had to park before the bottom of the drive. He was delighted to see the changes in Llwyn Celyn but sorry that they hadn’t made a bigger road up to it! I offered to look after the bus so he could visit the house but he pointed out that I wouldn’t be able to move the bus if a big vehicle came along… And actually the road was quite busy as there were a number of events on in the Llanthony valley besides the Duke of Edinburgh award walk. He also gave us an extension so people could finish their tea and cake slowly.
And then with hugs and photos and waves it was time to go home. There would have been a number of sleeping children and probably adults on the journey.
Grateful Thanks to Kasia Howard who made this possible and worked hard to ensure that the day went so well.
to Mary and Melrose for Kitchen duties and to Amina and Funmilayo who helped out with the washing up. They’d not been on a trip before as they go to church on a Sunday.
to Issy, Olivia, and Bettina for masks and puppets
to members of Crucorney Environmental group for woodworking and wool related activities.
to Adil, Lawrence, Pat and Margaret for welcoming duties.
to Gez, Sue and Carola for leading the walk.
to Virginia and Miles for making the journey and joining in.
To Mark and Claire for bringing people from Newport and thanks to them all for coming
TO Wayne and team for compiling the list and to Thanu and Gayan for great supervision and thanks to our guests from Swansea .
Great relief for her while she deals with her stressful daily struggle.
We were warmly received by the Hay, Brecon and Talgath Group. There was a brief introduction by the group and those of us that visited. We were then led to the Threshing Barn and treated to hot chocolate, coffees, tea or juice depending on individual choices alongside with Biscuits and cookies,
After we had rested for sometimes, some people joined the creative workshops going on- Art and Craft using papers and fabrics.
Others went to the Sheep Pen just outside and participated in the practical session of wood work and wool making.
We were also shown round the Bunkhouse which is reputed to have been around for about 700yrs and we were told Monks had lived in the house. We saw all the rooms in the house.
We later had lunch at about past 1pm.
We went for a walk after lunch. It was a long walk of about 5km, if not more than that. Nevertheless, it was an adventure and for those that went on the walk, we were glad we did.
One thing we enjoyed about the walk was that we walked round the National Park, saw breath- taking views of some farms, mountains, valleys, hills and we also had spectacular views of the Llywn Celyn from the hills.
Eventually, we returned at about past 4pm and we had different types of delicious cakes to eat.
I must commend the Hay, Brecon and Talgarth Group. They were superb, friendly and welcoming.
We look forward to coming back again.
We left back to Swansea at about past 5pm and arrived at 6.50pm. It was a trip we all enjoyed and we will never forget.
We say a BIG THANK YOU to the Team for hosting us. We would love to be back soon.
It was great to see lots of new faces from at least 15 different countries / cultures joined in for this trip. For many, this was their first ever day out with the group. The Coach journey was smooth and Stuart gave us lots of interesting information about the area and landmarks as we passed by.
We all fell in love with the venue at first sight. The kids were excited to see horses and farm animals in the nearby field. A warm welcome from HBTRS broke the boundaries for the newcomers. Kids went straight into activities before we actually sat down with a cup of tea or coffee.
It was a great privilege to be able to visit amazing Llwyn Celyn – Medieval house and enjoy amazing architecture from at least 600 years old. Remembering its name is a challenge though
– everytime I had to refer the text message when someone asked where we were going to. Its an impressive venue well worth the visit. Having Mark as a tour guide added the value while most of us got busy filling our phones with hundreds of photos.
We loved every single activity that was set up for us. I hope they were impressed by our wood carving skills ! Making wool yarns another big hit. Men, women and kids of all ages enjoyed it.
It wasn’t long until we saw our children coming out from the hall in different masks and stuffed creatures. Special thanks to those amazing people who hosted these activities for us. Not easy doing it for that many hours.
So much fun going up the mountain with Gez and Carola. They were brilliant leading us through Bluebell carpeted fields and farms on the hill. It wasn’t the easiest hike with a buggy while managing some energetic children throughout. We definitely made poor sheep and piglets confused being so noisy. It was a very long walk! And full of so much fun.
Lots of lovely food, cakes and drink as usual. Once again a great day with so much effort of lots of kind generous people. Many thanks to those who have helped this amazing day to happen. We are so grateful to you all !!
You are all very welcome. It was a lovely, heart warming day and I am so pleased that everyone enjoyed themselves. What a wonderful affirmation of the power of the landscape and of craft to breakdown boundaries and go some way to making people happy.
Of all the activities we have done at Llwyn Celyn, working with you has been the most fulfilling. In these troubled times, where everything feels on edge, we came together as one community to enjoy each others company and be creative and at peace.
David is going to finish the bowl that everyone carved, and then perhaps it would be Ok for me to catch up with you at another outing and hand it over – so that you have it for use for all your future excursions – a travelling talisman of sorts.
I’d love to repeat the event again next year.