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.
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!
To read about other areas we have travelled to, click here!
We have been on the road for a month now and wanted to share our personal journey with you. You will have read posts (hopefully!) of places we have been, but we haven’t really spoken about our personal experiences. Here is our post on the first month of full time van life.
The #Vanlife movement is really popular right now. We have been very open about our reasons when people ask us. (Vanlifediary will be doing a post on the questions people ask us soon!) We had planned extensively for our change to van life however nothing can really prepare you until you are living it. No matter how many times you read that you don’t need to pack too much for full time van life, you still will. This is because as far as you are concerned you have already downsized considerably. The truth is we still brought far more than we needed.
During the run up to us leaving I was still working a full time job where I lived on site. I would get home in the evening and be too tired to think about packing. Even though I was excited to change my life I just couldn’t find the motivation to pack for it. I know now that I was too emotionally attached to my ‘stuff’. The act of holding it in my hand and having flashbacks of the memories connected to it and deciding if I throw it, keep it or sell it were too hard. What I wanted was someone to do that for me.
Too Much Stuff for full time van life!
The day we left to start full time van life Louise greeted me in the car park. We had a very emotional send of from our work colleagues. The van packed to bursting point with (and not limited too):
2 Bikes (inside the van as no bike rack at that time). 3 Duvets, 8 pillows, 6 Blankets. 4 Bottles of shampoo (when we don’t have a shower), 6 Toothbrushes, 2 Full size and 4 mini toothpastes, 5 Bottles of sun cream. 4 Massive Tupperware’s full of rice. 15 Pairs of shoes, of which every day so far we have worn walking boots… AND all of our wardrobe – because you never know!
We thinned out more of our stuff over the next week as it was just too cluttered. Why did we bring 5 tool boxes, 4 wash-bags, 3 woolly hats (each), 2 extension leads and a partridge in a pear tree? No matter how much stuff you get rid of, you will still have too much!
Road less travelled
With the van down to a reasonable amount of crap, we could concentrate on our adventures. The first week was living with the STUFF so we didn’t get far. From Evesham, to Illmington Village, to Malvern and Hereford, our first week was so exciting. It was all new and felt like a holiday. We used a few websites such as searchforsites and pitchup.com for free locations where possible but cheep sites when we needed. Reasons like to empty the toilet cassette and have a shower. We try to free camp whenever possible but sometimes you just need a good shower and top up the electric.
Speaking of electric… When we set off we didn’t have an inverter in the van. We realised quite quickly that we had overlooked this in our rush to get going. TJ auto electrics in Evesham booked us in for the following week and we doubled back to ‘home’. We knew Tim and trusted him to fit the gear for us. We made all the mechanics jealous as we sat in the sun and they worked on the van! After all, it’s ‘home’ so couldn’t leave it to collect later! Inverter fitted we set off again and headed to Wales.
“Ones destination is never a place, just a new way of seeing things”
We stopped in Hay-on-Wye on the way. Totally blown away by it’s architecture and little roads filled with antique shops and independent businesses. The castle hid itself to us until we were nearly ready to go. It was covered in tarpaulin having some refurbishment work done. Saying that we did find a small hole in the castle wall and found a beautiful honesty bookshop, 2 massive bookcases piled high along the walls with a wooden shack roof fitted to protect them. Plants were growing on the floor and wound the books.
We have stayed in some amazing places but our next stop, Tallybont-on-Usk, is so far my favourite location. Just being able to fully relax and unwind, an impromptu 5 hour hike and frog mating frenzy made this an incredible location. We finally started to relax and realise that we were not on holiday. This is our life for the foreseeable future.
Dare to live the life you have always wanted!
The best part about being on the road is being able to decided if you want to move, or stay put. I could quite easily have grown roots in Talybont. It’s connection to Tolkein just added so much more and really inspired the imagination.
So far all was going well. As we were near to Louise’s brother we decided to stop with them for a couple of nights. To take advantage of a free hot shower and spend some time with them. We were not sure how long it would be until we were back in that area. Having mentioned to Louise’s brother that the van seemed a little sluggish, he recommended a mechanic near where he worked. We made an appointment and told Lous’s brother we may need to stay a few more days!
Miss Chewy spent the day being tickled by the mechanic. He thought it would be a good idea to change the oil, the fuel filter and the air filter as we were unsure when they had been done last. There wasn’t an air filter in place so all the muck from the road had been sucked into the engine. We poured Redex into her and we thought a good swill around the tank should clear some gunk out and get her healthy again. She hadn’t been used very much in the 3 months we had her. She had been between mechanics and electricians!
We also took advantage of a recommended welder to do a few bits that came up as an advisory on the last mot and got them sorted out. Chewy was being loved! In return we believed that she would look after us! Since then we had further issues with her turbo going and needing repair. This took about a week to fix and some angry tweets to Iveco. #sorrynotsorry. Luckily we could stay with family again but we did camp outside of Iveco in Avonmouth on one occasion! Touch wood she seems to have settled down except for a warning light telling us the warning light isn’t working. £150+ vat diagnostic fee for that one was averted! Oh and the sliding door got jammed so we had to climb over the seats to get in or out.
Somerset Sunsets, sat navs and crabs!
We have travelled through Somerset and met a fantastic bunch of people at Tuckers Grave Inn, many of whom were also on their own personal journey to heal and reconnect with themselves. We have ventured as far as the Norfolk Coast had had Cromer Crab, slept on marsh land with lapwings and marsh harriers surrounding us and now camping in a secluded woods not far from the coast.
The sat nav has been a help and a hindrance. It tried to take us down a rather narrow one way road in Malvern which caused chaos to the traffic behind us. It narrowed quickly and didn’t have much in the way of a pavement, just a tall, probably listed building. In the kerb was a ditch/gutter which changed the tilt on the van to where the top of the van was almost touching the building. Having cars up your rear end wanting you to go faster really isn’t helpful at that moment. Occasionally we have had to take a detour due to her size or the sat nav having a nap at the most inconsiderate moment but largely we are unscathed!
Some have asked if we are over our wonderlust yet – are you kidding? We haven’t even seen the start of it yet! Apart from van repairs most of our money has been in fuel as we have done a fair amount of back and forth to see family. We are hoping now that we can limit the amount of miles we do each day and just casually travel. There is still so much to see! Full time van life is an amazing experience.
We are trying to cook as cheaply as possible but not compromise on healthy fresh food. Today for lunch Louise cooked us a water chestnut and potato curry with a red thai curry mix we brought from Aldi. The whole meal cost approx £2.20 for 2 people, including the 80g of rice each. We are measuring our portions as we don’t want left overs (because we don’t have any spare tupperware – I am a horrible person and made Louise leave it all behind).
For us, choosing the first day of spring to leave for full time van life was a good choice. As we are waking up to our new lives, nature is waking up too. The sky, the buds on the trees, the fragrances and textures, the colours and sounds of nature… all things that we would have taken for granted when we didn’t have the time to look closer.
Not having a TV means we can ditch the soaps, news and propaganda, we listen to the animals and watch our barometer for the weather. This means we don’t fall into a nasty trap of talking politics with people! We did wonder if we would become lonely and not speak to people but actually we have had proper conversations with more people than I can count! Not mundane conversations, but conversations about healing, nature, environments and positivity.
This has been the best month of my life. A freedom to explore not only the land, but ourselves
What will next bring? All we know so far is a touch of cat sitting and a family holiday where we have to be still for a week… eek… that will be strange!
Full time #VanLife travellers sharing tips and adventures