Sunday, 9 November 2014

Heaps of honey at Pentre Bach!

When we got our hive and small nucleus of bees , complete with queen, earlier this year , we thought it would just be a case of establishing a colony, keeping them alive and healthy, in the hope that they'd produce enough honey stocks to help them survive throughout the winter ready to multiply and produce lots of honey next year. HOWEVER!!! We didn't take into account what a brilliant summer we would have this year, plus the fact that our hive is the only one for miles around so they had free range to forage far and wide (well up to 3 miles away)in an around the village of Llwyngwril. Our hive was also situated in our walled garden where there was an absolute abundance of foraging material from flowering fruit trees, flowering green bean plants and dozens of sweet pea plants. In early September I cleared and removed the top super (a section of the hive with 10 frames of honeycomb, where the bees store honey and the queen is excluded from laying eggs). It was groaning with capped honey! Meanwhile I'd added another 10 frames of fresh wax foundation to another super in the hope that they might still be collecting and storing nectar and pollen. I asked my mentor, Paul, if I could go and watch him extract some of his honey , so that I would know what to do when I borrowed a spinner from the local beekeeping association. He kindly suggested that I bring my frames to his place and use his electric spinner. I was there like a shot! The whole process took less than an hour. My 10 frames were turned into 26 jars of clear runny honey with minimal fuss, effort or stickiness! Paul told me to put the super of wet frames back into the hive for the bees to 'lick' the remains of the honey off the combs to take back down into the brood box to store for the winter. I did this and after inspecting the hive a week later , found that they hadn't 'licked' it dry but continued to produce more honey! They'd also filled and capped the frames I'd added a week or two earlier. The bees were doing so well, I had to buy another super and make up 10 more frames! I couldn't keep up! So after a fantastic October we had another 20 frames full of capped honey to extract and the bees still had a super full of honey to keep themselves, as well as lots of honey in the brood box (where the queen was still busily laying eggs!). I didn't want to impose on Paul again so managed to track down the beekeeping association's manual extractor and brought it back to Pen y Lon. Mike and I spent an exhausting afternoon using this extractor. We had to take turns, with one vigorously cranking the handle while the other sat on top of the drum to keep it from jumping around the kitchen! We managed to extract a couple of plastic bucketsful of deliciously smelling honey but there was also honey everywhere and the buckets had a scum of particles of wax about 2 cms deep on the top. What to do now? We'd passed it through a double honey sieve but that obviously wasn't fine enough. Muslin! That was the answer! The honey wouldn't go off so it could wait until we'd been over to York for a family visit. We managed to buy some muslin in a Lakeland shop. We were all set! Back home and we set about straining a ladleful of honey through the muslin into a clean jam jar. 12 hours later and it was still straining - literally! Back to the drawing board. We tried cheesecloth but the holes in that just stretched so anything could pass through. In the end we just strained the honey again through finer plastic sieves and eventually all the honey was jarred up- 44 jars in all! It does have a fine film of wax on top but hey, what does it matter? SO ........ we were just going to give jars of honey to friends and family as presents but we'd still have shelves groaning with jars of honey. We may as well sell it. Anyone know anyone who would like to buy some? We've also got the Beekeeping Association AGM coming up where everyone tastes each others honey. How will ours compare? Will they be able to taste runner bean and sweet pea?

Sunday, 12 October 2014

The new look Pentre Bach!

Mike started cleaning the main house back in April then gradually over the next weeks and months he worked his way round the house masking windows, painting walls, replacing guttering, repairing and painting facia boards, etc. This all had to be fitted in between guests staying and so during the busy summer months , nothing could be done at all. He used ladders, cherry pickers, scaffolding, ladders on top of patio roofs, etc. It was a momentous job but now its finished and it was all worth while - it looks a treat. What an improvement on the dull grey walls of the old look Pentre Bach House. Now all that remains to be done is change all our website! And lets hope it doesn't have to be repainted for many years to come!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Little Nell

I was born on the 21st of May, 2014 in a stable on a farm near Talsernau, not far from Harlech. I had lots of fun growing up with my three brothers and two sisters. One by one they all went away to new homes far away , then on the 31st of July , when I was 10 weeks old, my new mum and dad came to collect me in a little white van and I sat on my mum's knee all the way back to Pentre Bach. I saw all sorts of interesting things on the way but it was a bit scary! It's great here at Pentre Bach. I've got loads of space to run and chase leaves and butterflies and things. Last week they took me to a place where there was a huuuuuge big puddle and kept throwing stones into it for me to get but every time I jumped into the big puddle I couldn't find them. Every time we go out for a walk we meet lots of big friendly humans who like to make a fuss of me. I wag my tail a lot and lick their hands and they seem to like that. A few days ago another big dog just like me came to stay. She was called Mizzle. I was a bit scared at first and hid behind my mum and dad but I soon got used to her and really really liked playing with her, chasing her and jumping up to nip her ears or her tail. She didn't mind a bit! She's gone away again but she's going to come and stay again sometime soon. Ah well I better go and give my dad a hand with some jobs. We're going to do some digging- my favourite!

Friday, 20 June 2014

Tweet , tweet , tweet at Pentre Bach!

We do our best to encourage birds at Pentre Bach by providing nesting boxes and putting out food on birdfeeders around the house and gardens. We also leave access to the barn through a special 'swallow door' so that our regular swallow visitors can get back to their nest in the roof of the barn where they've been returning to raise their young for a number of years. We don't really mind putting up with the bird poo all over the work bench for a few weeks! The house transformation from dull grey to magnolia has been coming along a treat and two sides have been completed. However, thanks to our feathered friends, the painting of the front has now been put on hold. The swallows have built a total of 14 nests under the eaves all around the main house and Y Popty. They're fascinating to watch as they come and go, sometimes landing on the nests and squeezing them selves in and at other times just swooping in near to the nests and swerving off into the sky again. we'll enjoy watching the young making their first attempts at flying in the next few weeks and then we'll be able to resume with our painting again. We've also been busy planting and growing a number of hanging baskets which have been coming on nicely in the greenhouse. It was time to hang them out this week but as we were coming and going from the greenhouse this week we noticed a little wren hanging around. Then when Mike was hanging one basket outside the back door of the main house, he noticed a perfectly round hole underneath. On further examination he could feel five or six tiny eggs inside the hole. So... ...... back to the greenhouse with that particular hanging basket until the wrenlets fledge.
The wren's nesting place! Then this evening, after a stroll down to the beach, we were just closing up all the windows and doors when we just caught sight of our local, friendly robin, hopping around the back porch. One more minute and he would've been locked in there for the night. Mind you that wouldn't have been the first time!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Summer Events coming up!

If you're very active or just prefer to watch then there are loads of events coming up in the next few weeks. The first is tonight- Race the Train in Fairbourne - I was tempted to take part but it clashed with my Welsh class. What a shame. This weekend the fantastic Three Peaks Yacht Race starts from Barmouth harbour (around 3.30ish on Saturday June 7th). I was hoping to help set them off with Batala Bermo at the quayside but unfortunately have to be elsewhere that day. You can follow the race all the way to Ben Nevis on the website Other events coming up include the Trail Marathon in Coed y Brenin on the 21st of June. We have some guests staying at Pentre Bach that weekend who are taking part. Good luck to them! Also that day is the North Wales Country Fair in Bala. Merrionnydd Beekeepers' Association have a stall there! And on the same day is the Tywyn Summer Solstice Lantern Parade! Busy day. There's a Country Music and Line Dance Festival in Barmouth over the weekend of 5-6th July. Yee Ha! Then of course there's the annual Talyllyn Race the Train setting off from Tywyn on the 16th of August. Will I take part this year?

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Bizzzzzy bees at Pentre Bach!

We’re all aware of how important honeybees are to our ecology and that in recent years numbers of bees world-wide have been dwindling. We’ve decided to do our bit to help increase the honeybee population, and so in early 2014 I became a member of Meirionnydd Beekeeping Association and subsequently undertook an intensive beekeeping course
run by the association over the course of three weekends. Meanwhile we obtained a hive and the various necessary pieces of beekeeping equipment and set about getting ready for our bees. The hive came as flat pack (not from IKEA!) and proved quite a challenge to build (although not too much to a man of Mike’s carpentry abilities!) and then we had to choose an appropriate location for our hive. With the help of a local established beekeeper, we decided to put our hive in the walled garden where the bees would be able to forage an abundance of pollen and nectar from our fruit and vegetable plants and in turn help us by pollinating our plants, while at the same time, would be a safe distance away from our guests. The hive can be spotted through a gap in the wall, yet is far enough away from the garden and field so as not to be troublesome to our guests. At the end of May our first nucleus arrived and within a few days was transferred into our own brand new hive. I managed to get stung on the chin during this process despite being well and truly suited up and ended up looking like the Elephant man! The colony should grow to around 50,000 honeybees by the end of the summer although that will decrease to around 20,000 over the winter. They're absolutely fascinating creatures and it's very tempting just to spend the odd hour or two sitting watching them come and go. The honey that is produced this year will most likely just be suffice to supply the colony with enough food to last them over the winter but hopefully by next summer 2015 Pentre Bach honeybees will be making enough honey for us to be able to sell some to our guests. We’ve also planted a wild flower meadow at the far end of our vegetable plot to help enrich the honey. Bizzzzy times ahead!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Get together in Llwyngwril! - Party People at Pentre Bach

Following on from the blog about the reasons why people come to Pentre Bach and Llwyngwril, the most popular reasons have, by far, been to celebrate significant birthdays, big family get togethers and student reunions. Large groups can just book the main house, or if required, the adjoining cottages Y Popty and Y Llaethdy. Families can eat together, party together and play games together, yet also have the space to get away from each other when they want some peace and quiet. Adults love the cosy traditional farm kitchen, the grand dining room and the window seats where they can curl up with a good book and gaze out upon Cardigan Bay. Children of all ages, enjoy the dressing up hamper, the hiding places in all the little nooks and crannies, the large field where they can play all sorts of ball games, the tyre swings and the table tennis room. The treasure hunt can also lead them round the village in search of the answers. Many groups have crazy fancy dress parties while others prefer a more sophisticated catered dinner party. We've recently found an excellent new local caterer who will cater for anything from a three course waiter service meal to a barbeque or even wedding reception! Here are a few pics of groups enjoying Pentre Bach!

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Mom's The Word...: A Family Holiday To Pentre Bach In Wales

A lovely blog from a guest who stayed in Y Llaethdy over the Easter holidays. Mom's The Word...: A Family Holiday To Pentre Bach In Wales: So, Easter has come and gone pretty quickly I ...

What more can I say!

Friday, 18 April 2014

What people leave behind!

It's amazing what our guests leave behind in our cottages, after they depart. These are the most common: 1. Shampoo, soap and shower gel by the bucket 2. Cooking oil 3. Mobile phone chargers 4. Socks (everywhere!) 5. Milk 6. Coleslaw 7. Tomato sauce 8. Fruit juice 9. Pyjama bottoms 10. Salt But occasionally we are left some half empty bottles of wine, the odd can of beer, pairs of trainers, children's sit-on toys, toilet bags, keys and even a maroon red suspender belt! Go on......own up......Who does it belong to?

Monday, 14 April 2014

A taste of honey!

Well bees and beekeeping certainly seem to be the flavour of the month at the moment. Just the other week my mum told me that she'd been watching Mary Berry visit a beekeeper and their colony. Last night my daughter informed me that big Events companies (she's doing Events Management at uni) are all starting to keep bees as part of their environmental protection policy. Who would've believed it a few years ago? And then tonight I've just watched the first of a series of programmes on BBC 4 about bees, presented by broadcaster and beekeeper, Martha Kearney. This is all very timely for me as I've just completed a brilliant course run by the Merionnedd Beekeepers' Association and have ordered a nucleus of bees from a local beekeeper near Coed y Brenin. Mike bought me a suit and hive for Christmas (the hive arrived as a flatpack - IKEA for bees!), the special gloves were bought for me by my mother-in-law , and I've recently purchased a smoker and hive tool, so by June, when my bees arrive, I'll be a fully fledged, if rather less than confident beekeeper. But never fear, the MBKA have appointed a mentor, a very experienced local beekeeper , who will help and advise me through the first few months.
The next decision will be where I site my apiary. Do I site it where the guests can see it? Will our guests be interested, enthusiastic, wary or even frightened of our bees? We hope eventually to be able to offer all our guests a taste of our Pentre Bach produced honey. Maybe we might even sell some one day....... But we'll be doing our bit to increase the British bee population and will beeeee doing our bit to help with pollination. Did you know that it takes up to 56000 bee trips to produce one pound of honey? Watch this space to find out how I get on when I get my bees. It's going to be a bizzzzzy time! :)

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

More reasons for coming to Pentre Bach/Llwyngwril

In 2012 we had a large group who gathered together to celebrate Patrick and Jeremy's civil ceremony of their partnership. Friends and family gathered from all over the UK, the US and France to help them celebrate. Every year we have large groups book our cottages to spend Christmas and New Year together. We had an expat family, who came over from Dubai, in the hope of getting cool, damp weather! Americans have come here to visit ancient castles. One man stayed in Y Llaethdy and spent the week taking beautiful photographs, many of which now grace our website Can you think of any more reasons?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Why do people come to Pentre Bach/Llwyngwril?

Why come to Pentre Bach/Llwyngwril? When we first took over Pentre Bach Holiday Cottages, we were sure that most of our guests would be lured to our properties in the pretty village of Llwyngwril, on the southern edge of Snowdonia National Park, by the outstanding beauty of the scenery around us. Walkers and those keen on outdoor pursuits would be arriving in their droves to enjoy the countryside around Llwyngwril. Well that has been true to a certain extent but there are numerous other reasons why our guests have chosen to come and stay at Pentre Bach, some of them quite unexpected. Possibly the most bizarre purpose for a visit to this area was by a group of around 30 (mainly) men from the Netherlands, back in 2008, led by Iwan, who came to take photographs of RAF planes training in the hills above Corris. Some of them even brought along some step ladders so that they could get even higher to snap the pilots as they zoomed past!
The most popular motive for groups spending weekends in our main house is most definitely to celebrate significant birthdays or anniversaries. We’ve had parties celebrating every birthday from 21sts up to 80th! One lady, who had reached the age of 80, thought that she was coming to a little cottage for a quiet weekend with her daughter. When she arrived and sat down on the garden bench to appreciate the view over Cardigan Bay, all of a sudden heads started to pop up from the ha-ha in front of her! The whole extended family had arrived earlier to surprise her and later in the weekend a fancy dress party was enjoyed by all.
Some adults like to come and recreate nostalgic holidays spent in this area when they were young. They delight in bringing their children and grandchildren here to enjoy the pleasures of an unspoilt Welsh seaside holiday, building sandcastles, catching crabs and flying kites. We’ve had three wedding parties staying in our cottages, and actually hosted the wonderful wedding reception of Mel and Eric from Canada. Both their families came and stayed for a whole week leading up to and after the wedding, helping to organise the event and then explore the area afterwards. The ceremony was held at the top station of the Tal-y-Llyn steam railway and then Mel and Eric cycled on a tandem down to Tywyn beach for photographs. The reception was held on the lawn over the ha-ha and in a marquee, and catered magnificently by Annie Grundy.
We’ve had one or two stag parties and hen parties but I’m sure they won’t mind me saying that the participants were more ‘mature’ in age, preferring the peaceful location of Pentre Bach in the quiet village of Llwyngwril, with its solitary pub, to the hedonistic and over-indulgent type of hen/stag party that they might be treated to in Manchester, Dublin or Magaluf! The first stag party indulged in a weekend of playing poker in our sumptuous dining room and in fact the groom and several of the others from the group have since been back to Pentre Bach with their extended families. Last September we hosted a training weekend for Meirionnydd Girl Guide Leaders. Their busy weekend of meetings, planning and practical sessions was interspersed with various individuals practising playing musical instruments in the garden. We have to say that after they left, there wasn’t a single sign to show that they had ever been to stay!!! They have got to be the tidiest group ever! And we’re so pleased that they’re returning later this year! Groups of various religious tendencies have stayed at Pentre Bach. The ‘Church of Shalom’, from High Wycombe, have booked all of our cottages on two separate occasions. Robin and Chris Caine brought groups to come and stay here for a fortnight at a time. They were all delightful people and all enjoyed every day to the full, culminating in group barbeques, cooked by Robin each evening. We’re looking forward to welcoming them back in 2015. Every August in Tywyn, the event ‘Race the Train’ occurs and we’ve had both large groups and individual families who have chosen to lodge at Pentre Bach whilst taking part in this annual event. Mike has even helped out as a marshall to ‘do his bit’! Maybe I’ll take part in the race one of these days……
Other outdoor enthusiasts have been those who enjoy mountain biking (great trails at nearby Coed y Brenin , where there’s also a Go Ape course!) , bird-watching (at ,amongst other places, Ynys-hir, made famous by the BBC’s Springwatch), fishing , both at sea and at the picturesque Cregennan Lakes, surfing at Tywyn or golfing at Aberdyfi, Harlech or even the par 3 course at Fairbourne. Many groups do enjoy walking and instead of joining the hordes ascending Snowdon every weekend, they opt for the relative tranquillity of climbing Cader Idris, which is practically on our doorstep, and the effort of the ascent is rewarded by spectacular views from the summit. We’re ideally situated right on the new Wales Coastal Path and only last week we had a couple staying in Y Popty, who spent two days walking along two different sections of the path, using the Cambrian railway either at the beginning or end of the day to return to the cottage each day. Many groups of friends, who used to go to university together, choose Pentre Bach as a venue for a reunion. Now in their 30s or 40s, they get together once a year and most now have young families so Pentre Bach House and the two adjoining cottages offer lots of space for the expanding groups, yet is intimate enough for cosy gatherings. Children of all ages enjoy playing, cricket, football, etc in our field.
This was a group of doctors dressed as farmers, with one individual dressed as a sheep, playing cricket!!! In August 2012 we had a couple who booked two weeks in Y Llaethdy to ‘get away’ from the Olympics!! In March this year, we’ve had an extended family come to stay, who’ve congregated here from all over the country, in order to scatter their parents/grandparents ashes over the summit of Cader Idris. Fortunately it was an absolutely beautiful Spring Day. What a lovely yet sad reason for coming to this area. These are just a sample of the many and varied reasons for choosing Pentre Bach and the village of Llwyngwril as a venue for a holiday or short break. Get in touch if you can think of any other unusual reasons.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Battered and Bruised but still in one piece (well nearly) after the Great Storm of 2014!

Some of our guests who have booked to stay at Pentre Bach this year may be wondering what state the house and cottages are in , following the storms of the last few weeks. Fear not! Pentre Bach is almost unscathed - well more or less! You may have followed some of the terrible stories on national and local news about what has happened to some of the towns and cities in this part of the country. Barmouth was hit badly with the first of the storms in early January. We enjoyed a cosy mulled wine or two in the Last Inn after walking across Barmouth Bridge on Christmas day but less than two weeks later the pub was under a metre of water. Our local Cambrian Coastline railway that passes the end of our field, was also hit badly in that same storm and complete stretches of the line were washed away, resulting in a complete closure of the line from Machynlleth round to Pwyllelli, for over 6 weeks. The line eventually reopened last week as far as Barmouth. It may be quite a few more weeks before the line north of Barmouth is reopened. Another victim of the storm was the Dyfi Osprey Project. They lost the tree perch that the ospreys used (easily replaced) and also an expensive camera that followers on Facebook are well on their way to replacing by their generous donations. Our village has got off very lightly so far. The first storm in early January brought down the footpath leading from the beach up past the Quaker Cemetery so when walking on the beach we usually have to retrace our steps and go back the way we came, but this is no hardship compared to other parts of the country. Last week's winds caused more havoc, with a number of trees being brought down and also caused numerous power cuts. The first one left us without electricity for 20 hours. So out came the candles, camping gaz and playing cards! We were lucky enough to have a log burner in our cottage so kept very cosy. Our electricity supply was then very spasmodic throughout the next 4 days. It certainly makes you appreciate electricity when you don't have it! How did people manage before TV, computers, tablets, microwaves and mobile phones? Fortunately we had an old-fashioned telephone that we'd kept (Mike never throws anything away!) so were able to plug that in to keep in contact with the outside world. We also had some damage to our main house roof when two large stone slabs from the top of our chimneys became dislodged and fell onto roof slates and smashed two of our older solar panels. The satellite dish was also affected but all of this can easily be repaired in time for our next set of guests. On the plus side, the weather has been very spring-like over the past few days, the birds are singing, and daffodils are starting to sprout everywhere. Rob's lambs at next door's farm will soon be appearing in the fields. Mike has been busy cleaning the exterior walls of the main house ready to paint the outside cream or Magnolia, which should greatly enhance the outside appearance of the house. Watch this space for more news about how this work is progressing. We've also been doing lots of spring cleaning and decorating in all of the cottages ready for a very busy season. We look forward to welcoming all our guests in 2014!