We couldn't let a summer go by without camping at Cwmdu.
Cwmdu (pronounced Cumdee) is a tiny village in the Black Mountains in south Wales. It's home to a cafe, the Farmers Arms pub, and a campsite I've been coming back to since staying there with my family when I was about 10 years old.
I like Cwmdu campsite for its simplicity and beautiful surroundings. It's just a few fields nestled in a valley of more fields, forests and fields. It's never ridiculously busy, the showers are basic but hot, and more recent developments have seen Wi-Fi become available all over the site.
There's no mobile signal on site so the Wi-Fi is welcome should you wish to stay in touch with the world. It keeps dropping out though so you'll not be having Skype calls or watching Netflix, but it's good enough that you can share a photo or two on Facebook of you getting back to nature.
We arrived at 2.30pm and were off on a walk by 3.30pm. They are dozens of walking routes around the hills and we only wanted a short one. A steep bridleway we were following split into two tracks overgrown with ferns and nettles and since we were both wearing shorts we turned back.
On our walk the next day I wore trousers with zip off legs and carefully managed the staying cool in the warmth of the sun with the necessity to keep my legs from getting stung, by alternating between fully trousered and shorts.
The Farmers Arms wasn't open yet so we had coffee and cake at the cafe before spending the first evening sitting under our awning with a few beers while our chilli con carne cooked on our new kitchen unit. Many campers seem to have invested in tiered shelving to cook on and store food and utensils.
We've always managed by cooking at either our indoor or outdoor table, but I could see the advantage of still having our table for use - for a boardgame for example, or just free of the general untidiness of cooking - that we bought one this week. We said it would only come with us on longer camping trips but we wanted to try it out and so it came to Wales for the weekend. It has a large top shelf, big enough to have a double stove (we only have a single) plus still have room to chop and prepare your ingredients. Underneath is a fabric cupboard with sturdy shelf and a mesh zip up door, perfect for storing food or pots and pans. It took less than two minutes to put it up and down and over the weekend I became completely converted to having it around. I think I'll easily convince Tony it should always come with us.
On Saturday we ate an early breakfast at the village cafe. I had the big breakfast while Tony ordered the 'mountain'. We'd been looking forward to this breakfast but I do remember the sausages being better quality - these seemed like the cheapest of cheap 47 percent pork supermarket sausages and I'll think twice about having breakfast there in the future. That said, the cakes on offer seem to have won all manner of awards at a local competition, and the coffee is good.
Tummies full, we set off on what we knew was going to be a mammoth walk. One of our more recent local discoveries is the Brecon to Monmouth canal which you'd totally not expect to find half way up a mountain. But there it sits, meandering across the hills for 37 miles. Exactly because you'd not expect it to be there, it's quiet and you can walk along the tow path passing other walkers, cyclists and joggers only very occasionally.
It took longer than hoped to get up to the canal as what looked, on the Ordnance Survey map, like our easiest bridge route across the river turned out to be on a private estate. We had to walk a couple of miles out of our way to cross the river at Crickhowell. It was 11am when we reached Crickhowell, and we made our first stop at a pub for a pint.
We finally reached the canal at Dardy and then followed the tow path for several miles in the dappled sunlight coming through the trees. It was quite a distance to the next pub and we decided, due to hurting feet, not to continue along the canal, but to head for Bwlch (no idea how to pronounce that one). Bwlch had a pub of its own and we sat in the small garden enjoying our third pint of the day.
For the entire half hour we were sitting in the pub garden a man was standing at the bus stop. We wondered if a bus was ever coming, not least because in neighboring Cwmdu there's only one on a Tuesday and Thursday - it really is that rural.
One of my favourite anecdotes from my trips to Cwmdu is that on a trip there maybe twenty years ago I'd wanted to send postcards home. In a village Post Office I asked for eight first-class stamps. In the Welshest of Welsh accents, the little old lady behind the counter, looking completely shocked, said, 'Ooooh, I don't think I've got eight!' I think I'd asked for her entire year's supply of stamps.
We arrived back in Cwmdu at 4pm. Drinking in the day caught up with us and we both had little snoozes. At 6pm we played a couple of games of Ticket to Ride at a picnic bench and then set about cooking dinner of chicken thighs in garlic with rice.
While washing up the dinner things we were talking to a mother and daughter who, along with the rest of their family, had just pitched a tent next to us. The mother was saying how her kids couldn't survive without the Wi-Fi code and so we shared that it was password12345 (sorry Cwmdu campsite - you might want to change that now!).
They'll still not be using the internet though because a little later on we overheard them telling the rest of the family the password was onetwothreefourfive, all in lowercase.
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