Tag Archives: Nature

Talybont-on-Usk

Tolkien Reading Day – Where better than Talybont on Usk reservoir!

Tolkien reading day is an annual event held on the 25th March to celebrate the work of the great author J.R.R Tolkien. Why the 25th March? The fall of Sauron from Lord of the rings of course! Tolkien was at one point good friends with C. S. Lewis – the famous author of the the Narnia chronicles! (Note – this post was originally posted on 25th march on the old website. We have added more information for you on this update!) Talybont on Usk Reservoir is a beautiful place to visit. From it’s crystal water to it’s dramatic hills, you could not wish for a more scenic destination. Wales has inspiring landscapes, giving birth to myth and legends across the world. It’s stunning scenery has inspired many over the years and strangely enough it is understood that Tolkien himself spent time in the village of Talybont on Usk in the 1940s whilst working on parts of Lord of the Rings. It is easy to see similarities between the landscape and his books. He named the hobbit settlement Crickhollow after Crickhowell, just 9 miles away.

Visiting the reservoir

The village is just a few miles from the reservoir and Talybont has a bit of everything – from a canal, 2 rivers, a reservoir, hills, woods, waterfalls, wildlife, local arts and crafts, a village shop and wi-fi cafe, 3 pubs and a restaurant.  It can even boast its own fascinating history from the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution. We visited Talybont On Usk and loved it so much we stayed for 2 days! We looked up the location on searchforsites and decided to head here. A small layby set off of the road held enough room for around 6 comfortably. The reservoir was just 100 yards away from us and was full of life. From the waters edge the hills climb steeply creating a very protected and sheltered area. Wildlife was abundant, from the birds of prey above to the frogs and fish in the water.
We met up with a gentleman on the first night who was camping in his tent. He told of us a walk up the hill behind us that was worth a visit. The next morning we woke early to find others had joined us in the night. The car park was busy – possibly because it was Saturday. A walking group who had arranged a hike up to the ridge of the hill behind us and all around the reservoir in a circular walk. They said it would take them around 7 hours to complete with the first mile almost vertical! We let them go first as we didn’t want to embarrass them 🙂
It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

A long walk up a steep hill!

They were right, the first mile was quite good going as we followed the forestry trail up the hillside. We stopped after a couple of hours, with the sun peeking through the cloud and the reservoir looking so small beneath us. High up on the side of the hills we sat in awe of this place. We could hear a small bird of prey eeping for its mother, and food of course! We continued our walk and came across so many different plants and trees, small waterfalls where the rain was running off of the hills. Oh it was just so beautiful!
We were walking for a good 2 hours before re realised how far we had gone and then had to decided whether we turned around or carried on walking! a quick look at google maps showed we could continue and would join up at a road a mile or 2 away.  Once we met the road it was a flat straight walk back to the van but our feet were very unhappy. About 2 or 3 miles on the road after walking on the gravel felt very hard to our feel and it was so much harder! We must have walked a good 7 or 8 miles.

Still walking!

Our walk was very different to the professional walkers, however it still took us 5 hours. We didn’t rush, and stopped to look at the many waterfalls and natural rock formations. After that, back at the van we has a little rest and cooked some dinner on the gas hob. Some quality time to read was in order for Tolkien reading day. Where better to get lost in myth and legend? Amongst the landscape that inspired so many authors and poets of course!
Talybont reservoir
Talybont on Usk
To read about other areas we have travelled to, click here!

Make your Dream a Reality

Make your dream a reality. It is something many of us put off. I was just like most of you. Living in a house, working and paying into a pension and I liked cosy evenings on the sofa under a duvet. I had debts a few years prior but managed to get back on my feet. My hobbies include music, walking and hanging out with my friends.

My generation were raised on this notion that we all need to watch the news, have a 9-5 job, pop out a few kids, work some more and then retire.

For many years I had just accepted this model was the one we all had to live by. I understood my place in the world was to work and pay tax, food shop on a Saturday and do laundry on a Sunday. Gap years were something I heard of but didn’t get the chance to do. I grew up hearing the stories of strangers who went abroad and gained valuable life experience.

In my 20’s a friend of mine decided to travel to Australia for a year (or two as it turned out) and this was the first person I had a connection to that jumped ship. My BFF Becky decided that in a year she wants to emigrate to New Zealand. I suddenly felt as though it might be possible. Real people that I knew, that were like me, were doing something adventurous. Maybe I could do this too?

Sign you are waiting for vanlifediary

Work / life balance

My job was hard work and I found it to be both challenging and rewarding. I worked for an animal charity for 13 years and I have a great sense of achievement and pride for the job that I did. Starting at the bottom I worked my way up through some really hard grafting and I got promoted to assistant manager. As a result I was provided on site accommodation. That sounded really appealing! An extra half hour in bed, no commute, it had a garden.

In reality living on site is a ball ache! I got called out at 2am because the alarms are going off. I couldn’t leave site in the evenings 3-4 days a week or walk my dog except around the grounds.

What is your dream?

In 2014 we purchased a VW panel van and converted it into a campervan, this would mean that we were able to go on cheaper holidays and more often as we could camp – getting me off site more and keeping costs down.

It took a little while to get the van how we wanted it. With added units, insulation, carpeted walls and a really comfortable futon that we pulled out to sleep on, she was fit for use. After several trips in the van we really got into the swing of it. We started to take less and less with us and only brought essentials. As space was limited we began to cut out the bulk of clothes, shoes and ‘luxury items’ as we just were not using them.

As soon as we were pitched up I could feel my shoulders drop a few inches. There is nothing like being able to wake up and hear the birds, smell the earth and be surrounded by nature. I quickly realised this is what I NEED to be doing more of. For my own health and wellbeing I needed to get back to a simpler life. We wasted money on ‘things’ that we didn’t need, and when I looked around my house I just saw pointless clutter. I can’t take any of this with me when I die, decorations serve no purpose and it’s just collecting dust. In the van I only had what I needed, it’s simple.

The problem I encountered was that I wanted it more and more. My dream to live full time in a van only got stronger. I spoke to my friends who said “make your dream a reality”.

Gap year vanlifediary

And we did.

You can make your dream a reality too, whether it’s buying a house, a big wedding or buying a van. It can take hard work but you can do it. Put simple steps in place to start saving money (you can save money travelling too!). Find a way to break it down into achievable steps and make a start today.

For us, travelling in a van means that we can wake up every day with a different view. Although we have only travelled in the UK so far, I have never been happier. I have a dream where I get to travel around the world. Thinking about our future it is clear to me that, unlike our elder generations, we will not have the opportunity to travel when we retire.

Why now?

Why not? For the most part, people my age can expect to hit retirement age at 65+ and then it is likely that we will need to continue working as the price of living increases quicker than pay is rising. I will possibly be looking at working until I am 70-80. There is no way that I will be able to get into a van and travel the world then!!! This way we can explore the world while young enough to still get a job if we decide to settle down and pay back into our pensions.

The way I see it I only have one choice, do it now, while I am young. The technological revolution means that we are now able to reassess our working lives and can do things a different way around.

With the boom in working from ‘home’ and digital nomad enterprises increasing all the time it has never been a better time to travel and work. Setting up several online blogs or businesses can afford you the freedom to travel and still earn money. As long as you have an internet connection you can work on the road. Most towns have a coffee shop with free wifi or a library to log into. Many companies are also selling devices that enable you to take the internet with you. Mobile phone companies are making it easier to access the web from a phone or tablet too. This makes it easier when making your dream a reality!

How did we do it?

Our plan was a 2 year plan. Save money like crazy, Sell some of our clutter, build our web presence and start earning income. With 6 months to go, sell the VW and buy a bigger van, convert it, take a deep breath, leap.

In reality a lot of unexpected things happened. I split up with Ami and started a new relationship with Louise. Louise was working which brought in another wage and once I had introduced her to camping she fell in love with it. She wanted to help make our dream a reality! We actually moved the leaving date forward a year as there was a second income.

Vanlifediary to do list

Now, Make your dream a reality.

You could do it too. If you have the feeling that you have been trying to fit into a mould that doesn’t fit, let me ask you this. What is it that YOU want to do? What is stopping YOU? Lastly, what would have to happen for you to make that change? Making your dream a reality is very possible.