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A Yurt Holiday in North Wales

Our Yurt, Rhiannon, with its magnificent view

Our Yurt, Rhiannon, with its magnificent view

We’ve all seen those spammy posts on Facebook that say things like “Share this picture of the New Mercedes (or whatever) and we’ll pick a winner on Friday”. And we all know – or at least we should all know – that they are just click-bait scams and that nobody ever wins the car!

Well last Autumn a “Win a Yurt Holiday” post appeared in my news stream. I skipped past it. But as I did so, I noticed it was a North Wales Yurt Holiday, and it just didn’t seem fit into the usual scam category. This one was for real!

The beautifully decorated door, Mongolian style

The beautifully decorated door, Mongolian style

It was a post by a small concern near Llanrwst that was trying to spread the word about their new venture.

Now, I know just how hard it is to get the right kind of publicity, so spread the word I did. I clicked “Share” popping the post up in front of fifteen hundred friends and followers, some of whom would hopefully share it with theirs. That’s where social media can be really useful, publicising the little people who might not have huge advertising budgets.

Good deed for the day done, I closed Facebook and got back to my real life – which since I retired seems to involve music, running a folk club and doing theatre reviews more than actual photography.

Hey, we are winners!
A couple of weeks later, a message appeared in my inbox telling me I had won a long weekend break in a Ffrith Galed Yurt.

A wheelbarrow provided to ferry your belongings

A wheelbarrow provided to ferry your belongings

I must confess, all I knew about Yurts was that they are basically posh tents. We’d already had our annual quota of “weekend breaks”, but what the heck. Late September still had a tenuous grip on the fading summer’s warmth, so we gratefully accepted the offer and headed to the Conwy Valley.

As we approached, we found Ffrith Galed nestled on the hillside above Llanrwst, with the high peaks of Snowdonia to the west and the moorlands and valleys of Hiraethog to the east. The west facing location of the farm offered breath-taking views and stunning sunsets.

Two of the Yurts concealed from on another by the adjoining hedge

Two of the Yurts concealed from on another by the adjoining hedge

Because we live in North Wales ourselves, less than fifty miles away in fact, we sometimes take our surroundings for granted. But at that moment I realised that this long weekend would be spent like tourists and enjoyed to the full.

Jayne and I have been campers for the last twenty-five years, so we were quite surprised to find a distinct lack of tents and caravans. This is absolutely not a campsite. This is literally three Yurts placed in three separate fields, each discreetly out of sight of one another. The view from our ‘home for the weekend’ was of unspoiled countryside and the sounds were minimal and rural.

In fact our lovely hosts Jo and Dylan later told us that one of the biggest stumbling blocks when applying for planning permission had been that the authorities didn’t believe they weren’t intending to fill up the three fields with tent pitches and caravan standings.

At night the plexiglass roof offers a view of the stars

Welcoming warmth
We arrived to find Jo had lit the wood burning stove. It was early evening and the warmth made the Yurt cosy and inviting against the descending chill.

It had been a long and busy day for us, so even though the Yurt had basic but adequate cooking facilities, we decided on a pub supper and headed off to the nearby village.

It was dark when we returned to Ffrith Galed and on opening the door of the Yurt we were greeting by the most magical sight. The entire circumference of the Yurt had a string of fairy lights, charged up by a solar cell and automatically switching on at dusk. Along with the beautifully decorated interior structure, the warmth of the wood and the coconut matting, and the amber glow of the wood burner all these things contributed to an ambiance that fair took our breath away.

You couldn't ask for a cosier bedroom

You couldn’t ask for a cosier bedroom

The bed – a proper bed – was comfortable; I mean really comfortable. There was a chair and a futon couch, a little two ring cooker and a basket full of logs. Camping was never before like this!

We lit candles and sat drinking wine well into the night, mesmerised by the fairytale atmosphere, before closing the damper on the stove and crawling off to bed.

Beautiful vista
In the morning, the full impact of the location revealed itself. We looked down upon a valley shrouded in clouds.

Early morning mist over the valley

Early morning mist over the valley

The sun, coming up over the horizon, gently kissed the tops of those clouds and delineated the rolling slopes of the hillsides opposite and cast long shadows of trees that were preparing to exchange their green capes for red and gold. And whilst our eyes feasted upon the vista our ears were met by the distant bleating of sheep and the call of a buzzard, and the only acknowledgement of modern times was the distant sound of a John Deer tractor doing its morning rounds of the fields.

The facilities block

The facilities block

Each of the three Yurts are situated a hundred and fifty yards or so, in opposite directions, from the car park and facilities block. This purpose built timber block houses a small communal kitchen area with dish washing facilities and a fridge.

And there is a separate private shower room and toilet for each Yurt. It is clean and well kept with lots of nice little touches such as clean new wheelbarrows, provided for the purpose of ferrying your belongings from the car park down the footpath to your Yurt.

All you could hear was sheep - oh, and some bloke warbling!

All you could hear was sheep – oh, and some bloke warbling!

A perfect away from it all holiday
If you fancy a break in the solitude and seclusion of the countryside, whilst being within easy reach of the North Wales Coast and Snowdonia with all its tourist attractions, then for your perfect holiday I can’t recommend Ffrith Galed Yurts highly enough.

You can enjoy great outdoors without compromising on comfort. Glamping at its best. It’s like camping but without the creepy crawlies.

You can contact Jo and Dylan on 07851 019 218, via their website or on Facebook

So what is a Yurt?
A traditional yurt is basically a round tent covered with skins or felt and used as a dwelling by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia.
These at Ffrith Galed are more akin to the Mongolian Ger whose structure comprises a cylindrical latticework wall with a door frame, wooden poles forming the rafters and a steam-bent wheel crown as the top supporting a Plexiglas dome.
Unlike tents which have a thin outer canvas and an inner skin, these yurts have a covering of thick felt inside a waterproof membrane to keep the warmth in and the wet out. They are built on a wooden platform carpeted in jute.

Enjoy our pictures (click to enlarge)

Early morning mist over the valley

Early morning mist over the valley

By |March 20th, 2016|0 Comments

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Mother Nature

Mother Nature personified through the voice of Julia Roberts.
Both are beautiful, but only one is vital to our well-being.
We should listen.
We should all listen.
And understand what we hear.
And act upon what we understand.

Tomorrow it could be too late.

By |December 28th, 2015|0 Comments

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A dispiriting lack of “Welcome in the Vales”

20151226_151102After a nice Boxing Day walk up Lady Bagot’s Drive, we called in at the Drovers Arms in Rhewl and found this framed press cutting from September 1982 with a picture I had taken of Mum and Dad when they retired from running the pub after 26 years. They had taken over the tenancy in 1956 from my Mum’s brother George and before him, my grandfather John Lewis.

We’ll keep a welcome in…
A lot has changed since then, sadly not all for the better. Five minutes into enjoying my Guinness, another couple walked in, and were greeted with “We’re closed”.

Then the cheery Christmas tree lights were switched off.

A couple of minutes later another gent walked in… “We’re closed”.

Glancing at the several customers with half full glasses, he asked: “Oh. Any chance I could just get a quick Coca-Cola?”. This reasonable enough request was met with an abrupt: “Well I’ve just said no to somebody else, so I’m not going to serve you, am I!”

I couldn’t believe the way the landlord was speaking to people bringing him custom. My dear old Mum and Dad, overseeing this from their gilded picture frame, would have been turning in their graves!

As the still thirsty traveller vacated the building, the landlord switched off the remaining lights in the area where we were sitting, me with half of my Guinness still remaining. Obviously aggrieved at the fact we hadn’t taken the hint and leapt up the minute the tree lights had gone out, he snapped: “Finish off now”.

I interpreted this to mean “We’ve had your money, now sod off”.

I am utterly astonished at the lack of Christmas Cheer being shown to customers at a time when pubs locally are closing down at an alarming rate.

It saddens me to say, that will be the last time I shall darken the door of the inn that was my family home for almost sixty years.

Meanwhile, I’d like to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year. All except the present incumbent of the Drovers, that is!


The good old days. Mum and Dad (Jim and Effie Birchall) at the Drovers in the fifties, and a painting by the late Arthur Dalrymple.

By |December 27th, 2015|8 Comments

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Who’s your friend?

The common house fly tramples in dog poo before invading our homes spreading that poo on kitchen surfaces, in the sugar bowl and any food it can lay its beady eyes upon. The spider, however, can actually help rid your home of these disease bearing flies

At this time of the year, people seem to go into a frenzy about spiders!

With the approach of Autumn, the spider population  seems at its greatest and they make their way indoors because buildings offer the best environment for weaving their sticky webs in a way that will maximize their food supply.

The likes of Facebook becomes flooded with OMGs and “Someone save my from these monsters“, whilst newspapers, for want of a better story, run scare headlines like Spiders the size of MICE could soon invade Welsh homes and Six ways to get a Giant House Spider out of your home

This all begs the question… Why? 

Let’s put this into perspective. The common house fly will trample in dog and cat poo, or practically any other poo it can find, and on the rotting carcasses of dead birds and animals before invading our homes to spread its poisonous payload onto kitchen surfaces, in the sugar bowl and on any food it can lay its beady compound ommatidian eyes upon.  Yet we seem happy just to casually wave them out of the way with a wafting hand.

Yet it seems the mere sight of a spider, those friendly little creatures that can actually help rid your home of these disease bearing flies, will send the lady of the house reaching for the vacuum cleaner, or even screeching and screaming until their dutiful husbands reach for the nearest shoe to squash the eight legged interlopers to arachnoidal oblivion.

No spider will hurt you. They will naturally scurry away from human beings. Yes they can bite but there is no spider in this country that will give you anything more than a mild irritation. Certainly far far less than the result of a wasp sting or even a nettle sting and despite common folk lore, there very few spiders in the world that can deliver a deadly bite. And it is important to understand that even in those counties that to have the odd “dangerous” breed, “death by spider bite” is very rare indeed since clinics, poison control centres, and hospitals often have various species-specific antitoxins on hand to treat the bite.

The common house fly on the other hand, can do you a great deal of harm. They spread infectious diseases by carrying viruses, bacteria, protozoa and even roundworm and threadworm on the hairs of their legs. They regularly spread diarrhoeal illnesses  such as salmonella,  E.coli, Shigella, CampylobacterEnterococcus, cholera and dysentery.

Other diseases carried by house flies include typhoid, anthrax and tuberculosis. There are in fact over 100 pathogens (disease-causing organisms) commonly associated with house flies.

So next time you see that little spider scurrying across the floor, leave him to go about the business of protecting you from this very real danger.  And when that spider’s web turns up in the corner of the room, think of it in terms of being a much more efficient and healthy method of pest control compared to the toxic chemicals in fly sprays and insecticides.

Long live the Spider!

By |August 22nd, 2015|0 Comments

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May the Fourth be with you


Chris (right) in his edited clip from Star Wars

I’ve just finished wishing three of my friends a happy birthday in the same manner that I do each and every year on “Star Wars Day”.

As a photographer, I’m not averse to a bit of photoshoppery but this bit of expert editing by a film fan is by far the best thing I’ve seen since rag week students re-arranged the letters on a sign above an Odeon Cinema to read ARSE WARTS !

Vermont based cinematographer Chris Seerveld has created for himself the ultimate fan boy experience by actually editing himself into a clip from the Star Wars film A New Hope, and the result is this epic YouTube video showing him in conversation with Luke Skywalker and taking a trip in a X-wing.