I’ve been doing a lot of teaching lately, including most weekends. A week ago Saturday, I arrived back home in the evening after a very long stint of teaching, including the preceding two weekends and all day Saturday. I was shattered and looking forward to collapsing in a puddle on the couch. My plan was to vegetate for a day or two, maybe three. Shortly after I walked in the door, Doug says, too casually, “How tired are you, Kelly?”
There is a story involved here, but the short of it is, that Doug had just discovered he had his dates wrong for a conference and was supposed to be in Wales at 8:00 the next morning. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I even knew he had plans to go to Wales at all, much less that he was thinking of dragging me along. Before I could blink, I found myself throwing some things in a suitcase, piling in the car, and driving to Llandudno, in the north of Wales. We arrived after midnight in the pitch dark. The next morning, Doug gets up at the crack of dawn and heads off to the conference. (I ask you, what kind of conference begins at 8am on a Sunday???) I wake up a few hours later, walk over to the windows, and – wow! – stare out at the ocean, and the picturesque town of Llandudno. Here is a pretty shot of the town, which I took from in front of my hotel:
Here is the iconic pier:
I spent the morning walking along the pier and the strong ocean air blew all the cobwebs out of my head. It was an incredible, invigorating interlude. Doug was busy attending talks, but I was charmed by the town, and the wonderful views in every direction.
The pier, with its candy stands, rides, bouncy castles, grand old hotel in a state of disrepair, and funky arcade games, was a kick. Zoltan the magnificent tried to tell my fortune, and the Pirate Blasta beckoned:
Late in the evening on the second day, Doug and I took a drive around the Great Orme Headland on Marine Drive. This 4-mile stretch of road is considered one of the most scenic drives in Wales. The view in every direction is breath-taking. We were particularly taken with St. Tudno’s Church and churchyard, perched high up the wind-swept hillside overlooking the ocean.
See how the trees have bent to the ceaseless wind. It is one of those spots that inspires awe. The monument stones are beautiful.
St. Tudno built the first church here in the 6th century. They still have services here, held outdoors in the summer.
Continuing up to the summit, you pass the Great Orme Bronze Age Mine. Discovered in 1987 by archeologists, this copper mine is 4000 years old. This is me, standing on the top of the summit with the bay in the distance. The wind was so strong I had to fight to stand up.
Look closely at the hills behind me and you will see an interesting man-made feature. Over the years people have left their names spelled out in large stones along the side of this hill.
Marine Drive may be only four miles long, but it is a beauty.
Now, observant readers may notice that the title promises a wool-related adventure. This is, after all, a knitting blog. Enough of this travel stuff! Let’s talk about wool!
When I found myself in Llandudno, one of the the first things I did (as one does) is get on-line and look for nearby yarn stores. One of them caught my eye: The Lost Sheep Company in Colwyn Bay. As soon as the conference ended Doug and I made our way to this delightful shop run by Welsh-wool enthusiast, spinner, knitter, and designer Chrissy Smith. The shop is lovely, filled with wool in various stages of production, and an assortment of spinning wheels, weaving looms, tools, and other treasures.
We struck up a conversation with Chrissy, who told us the basement was overflowing with fleece. Of course, then we just had to see the basement! Here is Chrissy, knee deep in fleece, all of it from local Welsh farmers and all of it from Welsh breeds.
Chrissy is a passionate and knowledgeable advocate of local wool and local farmers as well as the history of the wool trade in the region. She regaled us with stories and politely answered our questions. She helped me wade through hip-deep fleece, so that I could play with the unbelievably gorgeous Black Welsh fleece up on this shelf – the blackest natural wool I have ever seen. It was much softer than I imagined, and rather addictive.
The shop had a number of customers and students learning how to spin, and had the kind of atmosphere which made you want to sit down and chat over a cup of tea. One of the women had come from quite far away to learn how to spin, and I could see why. If you find yourself in that part of the world (whether pirated away in the middle of the night or otherwise), you must go check out this shop. And if you have time for a spinning lesson, so much the better!
Chrissy sells her hand-spun wool in the shop. On the day we were there, her supplies were pretty limited, but I bought four pretty skeins:
The one on the left is one that was in the window and is unlabelled; Doug liked it and added it to the bunch. The others are, from left to right: Jacob, Welsh Mule, and Black Welsh Mountain. And just because yarn photos float my boat (and presumably yours) here are a few closeups:
I am looking forward to playing with some hand-spun. Beware, Doug: maybe I will need to counter your newest guitar with a spinning wheel!
We drove home the long way, all the way down the A470 – 186 lovely, twisty miles from Conwy to Cardiff. Autumn was in its glory. This was the best 3-day break I’ve been on in a long time.