Kiri and


Some major twits in Llantwit Major?

June 3rd, 2021 (by Steve)

Our roof box has been lonely. Nestled at the back of our shed for nearly two years, buried behind tarpaulin used as a sunshade in the garden and a variety of garden toys. Only a wasp valiantly attempting to build a nest in the shed (but regularly thwarted by us) has been keeping it company. So we can only imagine its excitement as it once more took its place on top of our car for an escape to Wales as soon as we were allowed in the Easter holidays in April.

Since the first lockdown last year we’ve slipped into a weekly routine of country walks in the surrounding area each Saturday with the kids, so it was going to be good to have a change of scenery, if not necessarily a break. As we crawled towards our self-catering in Llantwit Major (quite a mouthful for the young ‘uns to pronounce!) we realised everyone else was on the road too, so we had a resourceful lunch on the road, with the commentary of “Mummy’s teeth are being the knife”. It reminded me of a dinner we had on the M4 on our return from the lake district when Kiri and I were in the early stages of our relationship. I knew that Kiri was the one to marry when she made me a peanut butter and jam sandwich whilst crawling in a different sort of jam.

But anyway, back to Llantwit Major (or Llanilltud Fawr, as the locals call it). Well, actually, we hadn’t made it yet, due to traffic and then some exceptionally fierce speed bumps once we got to the town. Since our last holiday as a 4, the kids have grown to an age where we won’t suffer from a bit of deviation to the routine, so we had a laid back meander to the beach in the late afternoon. On our amble, there were red road signs warning that COVID-19 enforcement was in place; a reminder that we’re not out of the woods yet. Just a week previously, travel outside the immediate area in Wales wasn’t permitted, so the road down to the beach had been closed.

Oh, but what a beach. Absolutely incredible; jurassic cliffs, then a natural pavement of large, flat smooth stones, with natural terraces down to the sea and the occasional round bowling ball boulder. And in the cracks of the pavement were rockpools with diverse aquatic life. Stunning. The kids liked it too!

After spending a while getting our bearings, we tried to order a pizza on the way back from the beach, but due to low phone signal and a much longer wait for delivery rather than collection, I popped into the centre of the town to pick some up, along with some Farmer’s Pantry bacon that had come highly recommended by a local.

The following morning, that very same bacon had the starring role in our rolls – slabs of gammon slathered in ketchup – it certainly lived up to expectations. What better way to start the day? We were then joined by visiting family members after a bit of a kick around on a field and we all headed once more to the beach. Now when I was a child, you had to earn your icecream with a walk, or at least something strenuous. Not this day, but then again, I guess we are in the middle of a pandemic. It was interesting to watch the two approaches to eating icecream; one child neatly consumed a strawberry icecream, daintily nibbling the cone whilst the other went for the tactic of “if I aim the chocolate icecream at my face at speed, some will likely go into my mouth”. The biting of the bottom of the cone was a brave move, which sadly didn’t pay off, but the t-shirt was happy to share the chocolatey goodness.

After some minor rockpooling where we didn’t find much, we headed back to the town and wandered past the main church (the site of one of the original homes of Celtic Christianity) where we appreciated the architectural brilliance of old meeting new, whilst celebrating both. Mental note made – beautiful things happen when old and new are sensitively joined.

I then reminded myself of my Dad as I explained to our eldest what a mounting block outside an inn was for… and then Kiri and I had a conversation for far too long that was a clear indication of 12 months of weariness – should we take a bag into town to bring back beer, or should we drive around after our walk. I mean who cares!? But the endless micro-decisions brought on by the pandemic seem to make small decisions like this too hard to make!

Making the most of the lovely April weather, the following day we met with a different subset of family members; this time for a barbecue on the terraced beach, complete with Farmer’s Pantry burgers and sausages. This time in our rockpooling we found shrimps and lots of shells. And more shells. But no fossils. We’d wisely thought to bring a towel in case the kids got wet in the rock pools, but not a change of clothes, so had to head back to our accommodation for that. And then it rained… so we had to fashion an improvised shelter with a tarp. And then we saw that someone had stuck a picture of Cliff Richard on a sign warning about dangerous cliffs. Yet after all of this excitement, what was our eldest’s favourite part of the day? Toasting marshmallows over the embers of the barbecue.

By the third day, we’d got into a routine – get up, have breakfast, then find some more family members at an outside venue (probably a beach). This time we ventured back to England and arrived at Sand Bay, driving straight past the car park where we’d agreed to meet. 5 minutes later I saw my Dad do exactly the same thing. Now there must be something about arriving somewhere and fueling up – icecream one day, coffee this time… but sadly it was too early, so everywhere was shut. Instead we focused on building an historically accurate sandcastle. It was maybe a little too ambitious given the chilly temperature, as the kids preferred to run around – maybe our next beach visit?

A toasted sandwich for lunch was our first meal out in a year; sitting outside and trying to remember how to behave (us that is… not the kids!). We then returned to the beach, shifting a large piece of driftwood to make a makeshift windbreak, then running around attempting to get a freshly purchased boomerang to return. Sadly none of us managed it, and when I nearly decapitated my Dad we all agreed it was time for icecream (it had to happen!)

On our final day, unusually it was just the four of us. The two of us who need time alone to recharge had a bit of down time in the morning whilst Kiri and our youngest headed off to the beach, before we headed off to a different beach (Dunraven) in the afternoon. With a large expanse of sand, it was very exposed and cold, so we found ourselves some shelter and set up camp out of the wind, complete with tarp. We spent a very happy couple of hours redirecting a stream, climbing boulders, digging in the sand and balancing stones (Makka Pakka would be proud). We hadn’t even though about rockpooling until we stumbled across a starfish in one. We hadn’t even thought about fossils until we stumbled across a couple of ammonites! There was just one more thing the afternoon needed – an icecream. But it wasn’t to happen; the beach shop was shut.

The following morning we just about managed to squeeze everything into the car, but when we got back home, the roof box had clearly had too much excitement in one go, and snapped one of its struts. At least it has another one!

We settled in the garden with the deferred icecream from the previous day and dreamed forwards to the end of May. We’d had a foreign break planned for the half term for over a year… would we be able to go? Would restrictions allow it? Would illness get in the way? That, dear reader, is a story for another blog post.

2 Responses

Great diary Steve and Kiri; good you had a nice break. I wonder if jams are the flavour of this Summer on the main roads. We had an excellent week in Devon in April and it took us 10 hours to crawl back. Nice photos too.
Best wishes Richard of Poppleton

Have just read your holiday blog, having found it buried in Mike’s hundreds of e-mails! It sounds as though you had a lovely (though tiring) time. The children certainly seem to have enjoyed themselves. It is lovely to see them growing up.

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