All words and photography © Nina Nixon
Wales has always felt like a far flung adventure for us. Just that bit too far with three bored children in the back of car to seriously consider exploring had always left me with a heavy heart as I watched others off discovering her hidden beauties.
That was when we lived on the south east coast, but now we live in the north west and Wales is not that far for us, at all. It's so deliciously close we can even see her mountains, outlined on a fair day from the top of our hill. Given the right perspective I can place my finger right on the top of Snowdon and give her a little tickle.
So with the summer stretched out in front of us I found a place that would see us journey through valleys where we could retreat to for a well earned break.
Dolau Canol is set on the Highmead estate in the Teifi Valley with hundreds of acres of private land to explore, deep in welsh quilt country. A lovingly managed restored project by Wales' leading conservation architect Roger Clive-Powell and textiles expert Jen Jones - a home from home, but more comfy. Dolau Canol was our first gem to discover, hidden in the depths of Wales. It was just us and the wildlife to keep us company, unless we felt like wandering a bit further a field...or few.
The mornings saw us mooching around, rising late and gathered together eating breakfast around the huge wooden table. Days spent exploring the fields and meandering lane or keeping an watchful eye out for kingfishers darting up and down the stream. None were found but we did spy otters sliding from the banks into the cool, clear water, bobbing up once then disappearing. On the warmest of days our wanderings took us to the coast, just twenty minuets (ish) through beautiful little villages and along winding roads. The welsh roads are such a pleasure to navigate.
In the evenings the kids would plunder the games room, finding all sorts of fun things to try their hand at. A good old game of darts was a favourite but they would always come back to the swing ball. Taking turns to be the first to win, a glory run around the field would always follow along with much whopping and self congratulations. On these evenings I would sit back laughing at their antics and soaking the joys of the day up, etching each one to memory.
And as the sun finally disappeared behind an array of dotted clouds those that favoured a good yarn would snuggle up under a beautiful heavy welsh wool blanket (from Jen's shop along the lane I believe) loosing themselves in a completely different world whilst the rest of us sat outside wrapping our fingers around mugs of hot chocolate, keeping our fingers warm against the chill, with an eager eye and one ear prick for the night critters to appear. Bats darted around each evening, but we were on the look out for the star of them all - the resident barn owl. We were treated to a prize display on our very last evening, with swoops from barn to barn and treetop to treetop, a distinctive screech in its call. That night we went to bed with very happy hearts - our week away was complete.
We flirted with Wales for one whole week and in turn she took us in and embraced us, until none of us wanted to let go.
This is how a break away should be and I'm already planning our next trip. But for now I have my memories, in my heart and paused in time on film (that I'm still pouring over). And I have the hill I can climb up each and every day from where I can wave from afar. Or tickle the top of Snowdon if I so wish.
Dolau Canol is a property part of 'Under The Thatch' and you can find all details about them here.