The Estate Diary
The Bwlch Tre Banau Estate Yearly Diary
Welcome in the New Year with a glass of champagne or homemade punch with your friends and family. Frosty mornings and roaring log fires, old fashioned pleasures and time spent together to create lasting memories.Take a steaming mug of hot chocolate and a good book or newspaper over to the warmth of the orangery on pale sunlit mornings. If it snows, climb the hill behind the farm for toboganning, building snowmen, snowballs and making snow angels. We remember to feed the wild birds every day and see robins, wrens,tits, thrushes, occasionally a jay and many more too numerous to mention. Days are filled with country walks, a morning visit to one of the local hostelries to chat with the locals or Sunday lunchover at the Neuadd Fawr Arms ably cooked by the owner/chef with the very best locally sourced ingredients. Roast Welsh black beef and Yorkshire puddings followed by a Chocolate Junkyard, a deliciously decadent chocolate dessert washed down with some locally brewed beer or a glass of wine. Crackling fires in the two wood burning stoves that stand at either end of the open bar & restaurant ensure a warm welcome. Drive over to Lampeter and explore this interesting small town that has the honour of being home to the smallest University, not only in Wales, but in the whole of the UK. Make sure you stop for lunch with the winner of “Best Fish & Chip Shop in Wales”. Everything is freshly cooked to order and is crispy and delicious.
Newly emerging daffodils, crocuses and catkins on the trees - oranges starting to ripen in the orangery. Standing in the morning light at the top of the orangery, looking down over the huge Washingtonian Palm and out towards the Black Mountain and the hazy Brecon Beacon on the horizon. When out exploring marvel at the many types of mosses in woodlands and valleys. Evenings spent at the fireside, listening to favourite music, watching a DVD or enjoying a riotous game of charades. Sunday lunch out at The Plough – the locals take all of the family along from Grandma to the smallest to enjoy a beautifully prepared and immaculately served choice of several roasts including best Carmarthenshire lamb, pork, beef or a tasty vegetarian option. Portions are large, not for the faint hearted and the desserts not to be missed (forget the diet). Visit the nearby town of Llandeilo and explore galleries, the superb coffee shop, unique small shops and the award winning small delicatessen. Pop into Cawdor Arms on the main street for lunch, then back to the car and take a short drive up behind the town to the National Trust’s Dinfawr Park, Explore this historic country house with its Upstairs Downstairs atmosphere, visit the tea rooms for Welsh Cakes and then explore the deer park with its herd of fallow deer and rare breed White Park cattle. The 12th century castle ruins that were once home to a succession of Welsh princes, stand in the grounds on a spectacular scenic overlook high above the plain where the river wends its way down towards the town of Carmarthen.
Beside the drive, the second crop of an acre of golden daffodils welcomes you beside the main drive into The Estate. Admire carpets of bluebells in the woodlands, mosses on ancient stones beside the tumbling rivers and a hint in the hedgerows that Spring is underway. In the evenings by firelight on the large comfortable sofas, catch up on all the movies /DVDs that you wanted to watch and never had the time, gather around the kitchen table by lamplight for a game of cards or monopoly, draughts or chess. Book for dinner one evening at The Angel, Salem. Adventurously prepared menu by owner/chef recently voted Best Chef in Wales for the gorgeously presented, perfectly served food that tastes amazing, served in the friendly yet casual surroundings of his own country pub.
Sowing seeds in the garden, blossoms on the apple, pear and cherry trees. We are hoping for a heavy crop of fruit this year down in the orchard. Watch out for the occasional late frosts overnight. Lambs gambol cheerfully beside their mothers in the fields all over The Estate and April showers interspersed with sunshine jump start everything into growth. The grass and clover becomes incredibly green, Frog spawn appears in the ponds among the bullrushes. The days are getting longer so take more time to be out and about, walking through the fields and woodland trails. Drive out to Llyn Brianne Reservoir to see lakes, hills and panoramic scenery that rivals anything even Scotland has to offer. Take a picnic or stop off on the way home for at the pub at Cilycwm, next to the ancient church in the village for a delicious home cooked lunch and a glass of something cheering. When you are in the nearest town of Llandovery, take the time to find the Gorslas Coffee Shop in the main Street for your coffee top up. The Victorian traditional style décor includes large comfortable leather sofas and they serve great tasting cappucino, lattes, espressos, and tasty snacks such as Welsh rarebit, big buttery toasted teacakes and crispy salads.
Everything on the Estate is growing and we listen out to hear the first cuckoo. The greenhouses are full, the kitchen garden is starting to flourish, ducklings appear on the garden pond. Honeysuckle and wildflowers make an appearance in the hedgerows along with the fresh bright green of the new leaves. Look into the Estate ponds for tadpoles and newts and watch the golden carp make an appearance on the surface to enjoy the warmth of the sun on the water after wintering down at the bottom of the pond. A recent visit from our friend Russell from the University of Wales revealed that the stones on the top of our bank (hill) were formed from sea shells deposited millions of years ago and that the Banc itself was made up of the same type of rock formations that contain the nearby Dolaucothi gold mine. His suggestion was to pan for gold down in the River Mynnid at the bottom of the hill. If you go over to the nearby National Trust’s Dolaucothi Roman Gold Mine and they will teach you how!
If you are not eating out then prepare lunch out on your terrace or a barbecue in the evening with best Welsh lamb chops from Dai, the local butcher in Llandovery, with some Pembrokeshire new potatoes rolled in Welsh butter and some freshly chopped parsley from the kitchen garden. Strawberries and raspberries are plentiful and it is amazing how good they taste when they are picked and eaten the same day. They taste even better if you buy some Jersey cream from the greengrocer & delicatessen when you are in town. While there, stop and ask to sample some of their delicious array of Welsh cheeses, you will be sure to bring some back with you. On a fine sunny day put on some good walking shoes and visit the Clun Gwyn Waterfalls at Ystradfellte. This stunning waterfall is situated in a part of South Wales known as Gwlad Rhaiadr, or Waterfall Country. The area is world renowned for the amazing number of waterfalls that about here and the dramatic limestone geology. Several rivers drain the moorlands and mountaint of the central Beacons and the Clun Gwyn Falls (White Meadow Falls) on the River Mellte is one of the most spectacular. On the way back to the Estate, stop off for supper at the Kings Head in Llandovery.
Rise early and spend long lazy days strolling around the Estate watching the many birds and butterflies. Take a picnic up to the top of the Banc including some fresh strawberries or raspberries from the kitchen garden; then just sit back and enjoy a panoramic 360 degree view that encompasses the southern tip of the Cambrian Mountains and the magnificent Brecon Beacons. Skylarks hover overhead and Red Kites, Kestrels and Buzzards swooping through the air riding the thermals. Wander down to the river in the woodlands on the southern boundary and sit on the mossy banks. Go out for lunch at The Plough in Rhosmaen, just west of Llandeilo then take a stroll around Dinfawr Deer Park. On the wayback in the afternoon stop off outside the village of Llangadog at the Red Kite Feeding Station. Sitting in this beautiful rural corner of the welsh countryside it attracts over 50 wild Red Kites and Buzzards each day in a spectacular aerial display, making for an exciting bird watching experience. From their 20-person hide you can observe at really close quarters, these fabulous rare birds of prey as they swoop down for their feed. A special event in July worth mentioning is the annual Festival of Music including choirs, recitals and opera in the beautiful gardens of Aberglasney House.
If you can bear to tear yourself away from the Estate, take a drive over to Llansteffan on the south coast. Follow the road to Carmarthen then turn southwest and drive 8 miles to the coast. The village of Llansteffan is a small but lovely spot, nestled between the sandy shores of the Tywi estuary and the lush green rolling hills of the Welsh countryside. In some respects, it is an unexpected oasis along the coast in West Wales. The most remarkable monument in the village is its magnificently ruined castle. It also contains some pretty homes and shops. The beaches are wide expanses of bright sands at low tide worked by diligent cockle gatherers and sun worshippers; the opposite shore of Ferryside is an attractive sight and the fish and chip vendors in the car park serve perhaps the most amazing portions you will ever see. Also during the” lazy hazy days of Summer” the Brecon Jazz Festival is host to a range of jazz musicians who travel from across the world to take part and to the many visitors who are attracted by the music, the social scene and the other leisure opportunities on offer in and around our Brecon Beacons. With a stroller ticket you can pick and choose between 50 indoor and outdoor events. By the way, any fishermen amongst you would be interested to know that our Towy,Taf and Teifi are the best sea trout rivers in Europe and on 14th August a massive 39“ sea trout was caught and then returned alive to the Towy river by a Carmarthenshire fisherman.
All across our hills and the valleys below the autumn colours start to glow. An early morning tramp across the Estate fields may well be rewarded by field mushrooms for breakfast. Sauteed in a little butter and olive oil, then served with finely chopped bacon they are delicious. We do have them popping up in the big greenhouse all summer but they do not taste the same as the wild field mushrooms. Our roads in this part of Carmarthenshire are always fairly quiet but in September they are really peaceful. Explore the rustic byways around the villages and stop at local hostelries for lunch or maybe just a glass of locally brewed beer. Watch the leaves on the trees and hedgerows start to turn from green to reds and golds.. Visit Penderyn Distillery nestled in the foothills of the ancient Brecon Beacons mountain range; the only one in Wales and one of the smallest independent distilleries in the world. Take a day trip over to one of Wales's most popular heritage sites in the grounds of the magnificent St Fagans Castle, a late 16th-century manor house. During the last fifty years over forty original buildings from different historical periods have been re-erected in the 100-acre parkland including old houses, a farm, a school, a chapel and a splendid Workmen's Institute. There are also traditional skills demonstrations and native livestock breeds.
The leaves have fallen from the trees, and the occasional frosty morning makes them crunch underfoot when walking through the woodlands. The air is clear and bright in the pale morning sunlight. It is time to start lighting the fires again with the logs we have stored over in the woodshed. We get the tractor out with the log splitter attached and split them down into manageable sizes. Some we leave larger as they make a good log to leave in the woodburner to keep it going all night. Shut it down tight, then in the morning you just need to load in some more logs onto the glowing embers and it bursts right back into warming and cheerful flames again. Take a trip into Llandovery and visit Dai, the local butcher, for a good piece of Welsh Black Beef to roast in the oven with some root vegetables from the greengrocer. If you happen to be in Llandeilo, pop into the coffee shop and try some of their delicious cakes and pastries with a steaming cup of latte, cappuccino or hot chocolate. A favourite is a huge portion of their famous coffee and walnut sponge. If you are looking for an unusual and exciting day out visit The Big Pit – it is a real coalmine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. You can see the colliery buildings, the pithead baths and go 300 feet underground with a real miner to see what life was like on the coalface.
Keep the fires burning all day so whenever you come into the cottage it is warm and toasty. There is underfloor heating but nothing beats a real roaring log fire to sit around with a steaming hot cup of tea and toasted crumpets. Catch up on the DVDs you never had the time to watch or listen to favourite CDs. Wrap up warm and walk along the green road and over the top of the Bwlch Tre Banau Banc. In the evenings visit one of the cheerful local pubs or restaurants or stay at the cottage by the fire and play chess, drafts, cards or monopoly. Time spent here at The Bwlch Tre Banau Estate will make you unwind in a way that no other placed can. We can guarantee you will leave relaxed and recharged. Take a trip down to Cardiff to the Everyman Theatre or the New Theatre. Closer still the historic town of Brecon has its own theatre in a very picturesque setting located at the start of the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal in the town centre. It is a great venue for concerts, plays, comedy, opera and dance and also houses a restaurant named Tipple ‘n Tiffin. If you are a rugby fan check the itinerary for Cardiff Arms Park. In November Wales may well have an International scheduled. You chaps can always placate the lady in your life by taking her to one of Cardiff’s top restaurants for dinner afterwards, that is unless like countless ladies in Wales she also happens to be fan of the game. Typical cuisine in Cardiff includes fresh seafood, such as mussels, cockles, scallops and shellfish, more than 50 different Welsh cheeses and Cardiff's famous Welsh lamb. Closer to home our local town of Llandovery has a terrific local rugby team and grounds and there again you just can’t beat Bunty’s well deserved reputation for superb cooking over at the Neuadd Fawr Arms in the nearbyvillage of Cilycwm.
Christmas and the lead up to Christmas is an exciting time of year. It can also be stressfull so take some time out and stay at The Estate while you are doing some of that all important Christmas shopping. We can recommend the historic town of Carmarthen and the small shops and galleries in Llandeilo for searching out some really unusual and interesting gifts for all the family. We’ll be busy getting in the Yule Logs, putting up the Christmas lights around the courtyard, finding the biggest tree that will fit into the house (last year we had to snip the top off) and listening to Christmas carols. There are carol services in many of the small local churches and town halls. The Welsh male voice choirs are heart stopping to listen to. If you like the big city atmosphere, spend a day in Cardiff – the shops in the walking streets in the centre are a must and the atmosphere is festive. Here at The Estate we decorate mainly with greenery gleaned from the trees and hedgerows. Holly with loads of red berries from the tree in the courtyard, ivy from the hedgerow beside the green road, conifer and fir branches for the beams and of course a real pine scented Christmas tree. New Year is also a truly great family time at the Estate. You can book into one of the local events on New Years Eve or make your own celebration – it doesn’t get much better than a roaring fire, a bottle of bubbly and great company. We could get really lucky, it just might snow! Happy New Year