Here at vanlifediary, Solstice is creeping up on us. Follow our journey from Yorkshire to South Wales as we get sentimental and personal with you!
Our journey begins
Yorkshire has been our home for the last few weeks as we visited our daughter. Thanks to the rain, it was a damp visit. The waterfalls were bursting as the rivers somersaulted off of the rocks – free falling to the river below. The noise was a tremendous orchestra of rumbling and crashing, echoing off of the walls and down the river. It was very grounding to be stood watching this immense power that mother nature brings to the table. The rivers that have been carved out over hundreds and thousands of years are still evolving today. We are witnessing that happen at this very moment. The water that falls here will be life sustaining – it will also be recycled. The cycle of life will repeat and the next season will have its turn.
Our journey as vanlifediary, during the 2019 summer solstice, is also going in circles. Mostly by design. We had committed to be back in South Wales by the 21st June. We had to, at some point, start our journey down to South Wales from the Dales and we were a little reluctant! There are so many places we still want to visit there. The journey was a great opportunity to see some friends along the way but we hadn’t really understood why these people were the ones to be a part of our very special journey until the solstice itself!
A moment of real reflection and a sudden realisation…
On solstice evening ‘vanlifediary’ found ourselves sat in our campervan next to a reservoir in Wales. You can barely make out the paths and roads on the opposite hill as the leaves have exploded into their summer outfits and are providing shelter for the wildlife. The reservoir was in the shade of those hills and rippling in her dark blue silk dress, as deep in colour as she is in the middle of her large expanse. Looking out, the seasons new offspring of ducks and geese follow their mothers in perfect lines from the bank, still growing into their adult plumage. A slight purple haze started to cover the sky as the sun got ready to finish the longest shifts of her cycle. A picture of serenity with barely any sounds other than the natural noise of the earth and the odd car that passes us by.
This week saw a milestone in our travels. We left our jobs on the spring equinox and have just seen our first summer solstice as full time vanlife enthusiasts. A whole quarter of a year of full time travelling now under our belt! It is very exciting and has seen us go as far North as Yorkshire, Somerset to the south, Gower on the west and a week’s long road trip in Norfolk to the east. By no means have we done everywhere in between. We have made a lot of new friends on our travels and had the chance to see some old friends too.
We left Yorkshire on Tuesday and drove to Nottingham. We met up with a very special lady, El. I met her when I was helping out at a castle in Staffordshire and we became good friends in an instant. I recall the day like a movie scene. After all the events (from Reenactment teams to a ghost hunt) we found ourselves sat in a tent at 3 am with a knight, a witch and a swordsman drinking tea and vodka, whilst eating El’s mini cheddars! Some nights are so surreal! Funnily enough, that was on the summer solstice 2009. Exactly 10 years ago that we met and I still count the people I met that day as very close friends.
We were so happy to stop by and see her and the family. She cooked us a lovely mexican meal and we reminisced about our days at the castle. I always get a little nostalgic and then I wonder… we look back at history and read all about the monarch and lords, see the stately homes etc. What will future generations think when they look back at us, when our lives are just names in a census and a period of time governed by our Queen, our government and the building techniques we used. Perhaps they will even laugh at our methods of medicine? Are they much more advanced? Have we gone too far already to save our future? Has there been another world war? Time to stop thinking too much and move on to our next destination.
The next stop on the vanlifediary solstice tour was to see Luke. We lived next door to Mrs C when we were working and she had a large family. Mrs C is a remarkable woman and always made us feel so welcome living next door and we became good friends. Luke is one of her sons who happens to live in the Brecon Beacons. A year ago, for Louise’s birthday, we decided we wanted to climb the Sugar Loaf mountain in the Brecon Beacons. It took us long time to complete. 3 adorable pugs managed to lap us before we had made it up to the summit. Not our finest moment but we pushed on. Sometimes stopping every ten steps to catch our breath as it was so steep in places.
Finally, out of breath and sweaty, we reached the summit. We dropped to the floor in a glorious display that should have been narrated by Sir David Attenborough and panted for a good 15 minutes. Just as we had caught our breath a school party of about 20 ten year olds all came singing and dancing along the ridge with no sign on exhaustion. They looked like they had just got off of the bus!!! Some sheep joined us, sensing that food is often consumed on the summit. The boys in the school party decided to name one of them ‘Snot’ and I dread to think what the others were called.
We checked ourselves in on Facebook as being on top of the mountain with a photo of us at the trig point for proof and shortly after Luke sent us a message. He said he lived close and wondered if we would like to pop over for a little bit of dinner and see his home at Bryn Bach Barn! (which is also a holiday let! click here!!!) “Of course!!!” we said… realising we now needed to get off of the mountain and not smell like a sailors armpit for dinner, we made our descent.
Food for thought!
This year, we met Luke for a much more civilised brunch in Crickhowell and enjoyed some marvellous Welsh cakes and refreshments at Latte-Da Coffee and Kitchen. Latte-Da is a small but elegant tea room with a nice assorted menu. A large percentage of their menu is locally sourced and they make home made cakes, gluten free brownies and American pancakes.
They have a wide range of coffee to choose from and the staff were very polite and helpful. I can’t tell you how refreshing it was to have soya milk with my tea! Louise had the Dirty Chai, a regular chai Latte but with a shot of espresso. The cafe had a very natural and welcoming feel. Even though the tables were quite close together this just felt cosy and not claustrophobic. They are so popular that Trip adviser has them rated at number 1 for Crickhowell and 2 for the whole of the Brecon Beacons!!! We can certainly say that we will be visiting again when we are passing through.
Car parking is just across the road and is a great place to start before you have a look around the town. Did you know that Tolkien took his inspiration for parts of Lord of the Rings from the local area and named Crickhollow after Crickhowell! It has been exactly a year since we last met up with Luke on his home turf. Another Vanlifediary Solstice anniversary. (even if we were not full time vanlifers then, we did travel part time in our VW – Which I really miss!)
Back to where it all began
As I sat by the reservoir, all the puzzle pieces stated to slot together. Ten years since I had met El and a year since we had seen Luke on his home patch. We drove past the Sugar Loaf mountain on the way to Crickhowell. Now we are sat by the very same reservoir that we came to when we set off on our journey at the spring equinox. We were in Talybont-on-Usk.
None of this was pre planned. It was a revelation in the evening that we had reconnected with these people. We hadn’t decided on where to stay, just remembered how lovely it was. When we got close and thought it would be nice to stop there again for Vanlifediary solstice. We remembered how the last time we visited you couldn’t move for frogs as it was their mating season and the floor was covered with the frisky amphibians. By now, their offspring are likely enjoying the tranquillity of the reservoir and their cycle is just beginning.
Relevance of cycles.
The relevance of these cycles never ceases to amaze me. The deep connections that we make to places and with people run deep in our subconscious. Perhaps we will be like migrating birds, always coming back to Wales for summer solstice. Perhaps the people we meet on our journeys will stay with us and connect again on their own cycles. As I sit by the water I watch sky darken. Able to make out the shapes of bats and hear the owls start to call, I watch the water lapping at the shore line. I wonder if these are the same drops of water we saw 3 months ago. How far have they travelled before returning? When we return again, how much more will we have seen? What will we have learnt? Who will we bring with us?
I am a deep believer in the cycles of events. For example, if we haven’t dealt with a situation in our lives we will face a version of it again. This will repeat until we have learnt what we need to and grown. I believe that people can come into your life for many reasons, some stay, others go, some come back again.
As we travel further into our own lives and take stock of situations, we can sometimes look back and realise the mistakes we made. Or the exact moments when everything became clear. The ‘A-HA!’ moments. As we drive we are still learning. We have learnt more in the last 3 months than we can believe. Life isn’t about text books, its about being outside, exploring and learning. That’s what makes us so rich and lucky.
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