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After getting the bus back to Edinburgh, I spent the shortest amount of time I’ve ever spent in Edi waiting an hour or so for the train to Cardiff. Train down was uneventful, weirdly I had a seat reservation from Newport to Cardiff (about 15 mintues on the train), but not the previous 2 hours! The train wasn’t busy though, so I just stuck with my seat (isn’t my life exciting lol) until I got to Cardiff. I only had a couple of days in Cardiff, I spent one looking a few historic buildings for Markeroni, including having a look through the Cardiff Story museum at the information centre (super interesting), one doing not very much at all (it was raining in my defense!), and then the last day went for a look around Llantwit Major.

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Elizabethan woman plaster panel

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Elizabethan jester plaster panel

 

Llantwit Major was fantastic, the weather was lovely and sunny, and I wandered around looking for blue plaques before seeing a church and going in to have a look. There were a couple of very enthusiastic volunteers inside waiting to tell people all about the church so I let them take me around. I’m really going to miss all these old buildings when I go home, we don’t really have anything that compares. It’s also really interesting seeing evidence of things I studied at school in history, it makes it more real somehow! While I was in the church, a woman (Rosemary) came in and we started chatting about what I was doing. When she found out I was going around photographing historic/listed buildings, she told me that she was off to collect the rent for one of the buildings that was on my list, and would I like to come and have a look around. Obviously I said yes (less dangerous than it sounds, unfit as I am, I could have outwalked her easily!), and she took me around. She had said the tenant was a bit grouchy, and was sick, which made me a bit uncomfortable, the last thing I wanted was to barge into someones house because it’s a listed building, especially if the person living there doesn’t really want me, but I think she must have been kidding about the grouchy part, as he was super friendly! He showed me the inside, and there were some fascinating plaster panels that date back to the original Elizabethan house!

 

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Rosemary, Eddie, and Giraffe

 

The following day I caught the train to Aberystwyth (I later realised I went around the long way, you can actually get the bus to Aberystwyth from Cardiff!). The train out was gorgeous, probably my favourite part was between Dovey Junction and Borth where the train goes along some absolutely stunning wetlands. I’m pretty sure I saw a couple of red kites too! Sadly I don’t seem to have taken any pictures, I guess I was too busy admiring the view.

After getting off the bus in Aberystwyth, I got on the bus to Aberaeron and was picked up by M there. We drove up to the horse farm, and I was left on my own for a few minutes while Maggie (my coworker also from New Zealand) finished up her jobs for the afternoon. When Maggie came in she made dinner and we chatted.

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Backyard view from the farm

 

This helpx experience was completely different to the one in Hawick (not bad, just different). We worked from 9am till 11am, then had a 20 minute or so tea break, and then went back to work till 1pm. Then we were given a tray of food to eat for lunch in our little flat and had time off until 4pm. Usually M and I (her husband) were going in to town and gave us a ride, which was really helpful as we weren’t able to use the wifi at the farm. In the mornings we mucked out the stables, and gave the horses hay (I got quite adept at using a pitchfork during my stay!). After that we did a whole range of jobs, I got to do some more gardening, respread the gravel over the drive for the winter, did a bit of painting and sanding, and lots of cleaning of tack. I don’t feel like I got to know M and I as well as I did the people at the previous place, but they did have some fantastic stories to tell about other people they had had to stay, as well as their own stories. I did get to know Maggie a bit better, and we had a good time! We had a really good time inventing meals to make out of the ingredients supplied. I had a particularly memorable carbohydrate soup featuring rice, potato, onion, garlic, carrot, and a few stock cubes!

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New Quay Pier

 

On our days off (Wednesday and Thursday) we did a couple of day trips, and a couple of days just hanging out on the internet at the library (I got lots of things booked those couple of weeks). I also had a haircut, which I’d been wanting to do for a while now! The first week we did a trip over the New Quay. They had really cheap dolphin tours (about £12 per person for an hour long one) leaving from there, we decided not to do them though as I’ve seen dolphins before several times, and I’d rather save my money to do things I haven’t done yet. We did have a bit of a wander around, and I took some pictures.

New Quay

I really love seaside towns where all the buildings are painted different colours!

The following week we caught the bus in to Aberystwyth and had a mooch around. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t particularly great, but I had a good look around the castle, and we went up to the National Library of Wales which is well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area! My particular favourite was a totara chair carved in New Zealand bequested by the Bledisloe family (who are originally Welsh).

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University College of Wales Old College Building

 

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Aberystwyth waterfront

 

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Aberyswyth Castle

 

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Aberystwyth Waterfront looking away from town

 

On the final couple of days we were given the not particularly fun jobs of both sanding a window that had about 500 layers of old paint underneath, all of which seemed to have started peeling before being painted over again, and of cutting back some brambles/blackberries that had started growing out of the side of one of the barns and had gone unnoticed for some time. I don’t even want to think about how many times I got thorns in my fingers, despite wearing my gardening gloves (wearing 2 pairs seemed to work a bit better!). Thankfully, M and I were really nice about it and gave us a bottle of wine, some crisps, and some maltesers to say thank you! On the sad front I wasn’t supposed to be drinking thanks to antibiotics (you’ll all be happy to know my fungal nail is basically healed now!), but I made a really nice winter pasta with vegetables and some of the wine!

Reviews: my review of them: “I’ve just completed a great couple of weeks with M and I. I thoroughly enjoyed their home baking and their stories! The work was generally pretty easy, I helped out with a bit of weeding, some cutting back of brambles/blackberries, a bit of painting, and lots of mucking out and feeding (I can now add proficiency with a pitchfork to my repertoire!). I and M were kind enough to drive me into town most days (when they were going), as well as being happy to drop me into town on my days off. Thank you again for all your hospitality!”

Their review of me: “DL spent two weeks with us and has a cheerful and pleasant personality. She joined in all the work and activities with willingness and good attitude. She got on well with our other volunteer and we wish her well for the future.”

TL;DR: Worked in Aberaeron on a horse farm with another NZer (who I didn’t know before arriving). High points: making up ridiculous meals with limited ingredients, 2 hobs, a microwave, and a kettle (which couldn’t all be plugged in at the same time!); eating honey ice cream in Aberaeron on nice days (the passionfruit one was amazing!), going on day trips, lots of funny stores. Low points: sanding a grungy windowsill; cutting back blackberries growing out of a barn, making up ridiculous meals with limited ingredients, 2 hobs, etc, etc, etc.

I left Edinburgh Monday morning and other than having had way too much to drink and needing the loo about an hour into a two and a half hour bus trip, got to the Borders with no problems. I was met by L, the Mum of the family I was staying with outside the supermarket in Hawick. Thankfully the supermarket had a loo I could use before heading out to their place about 10 minutes away.

When we got there, I met J, W, and their son, A, from Australia. We all had some lunch (toast), then had a look around the property. Unfortunately because it had started to rain we didn’t really want to do any work outside, so J, L, and I made jam inside. I’d never made jam before, but it was surprisingly easy! I’ll definitely be having another go when I get back home. I even got to try a new fruit, damsons!

Once we’d made the jam and put it into jars, L went to pick up her 2 kids E and M from school. When they got back, we all introduced ourselves, and then E and I hung out and made loom bands (there was quite a bit of that over the 2 weeks!).

Putting in vege patches

Putting in vegetable patches.

 

Here you can see the various stages of putting in the vegetable patches. First we had to dig out the area to put the frame in (you can’t really see it here, but the plot is on a slope), then put in the preassembled frame. After that we put the soil back around the frame to hold it in place, and then W would put supports around the frame to hold it in place. Then we would either fill it in with soil, ready for planting, or put layers of cardboard, manure, and dirt into the frame. You can see me right in the background shovelling manure! We did that until Thursday (until we ran out of wood to build the frames).

 

Friday we started to build a polytunnel. Well, I say we! I mostly moved dirt around (lots of fun, really!) for the day, with short breaks to help measure things out.

Over the weekend I mostly hung out and went for a couple of walks.

Week two I tidied up an area next to the chicken coop. This mainly involved digging up some grass, planting two blueberry bushes, and laying some paving stones down to walk on. Then I covered the other half (where the remaining grass was) over with carpet to stop weeds growing up over the winter.

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Laying the paving stones out before starting

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Blueberries planted (last couple eaten!) & paving stones being dug in.

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All finished!

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These ladies were happy for all the freshly dug over dirt!

 

I also did a bit of weeding (which I actually really enjoyed, with the exception of fairly consistently putting my hands into stinging nettles!).

Thursday evening I went for a bit of a walk to have an explore. I managed to convince myself that I was lost, but had in fact been following the roads I intended to go down all along.

All in all, I was sad to leave. I had a really good time here!

Reviews:

My review of them: “I’ve just finished my first helpx here with L and her family. I had such a wonderful time, they were all SO friendly, welcoming, easy to get along with, and generally fantastic hosts. I was there with an Australian couple and their son and we probably worked about 5 or so hours a day leaving heaps of time to explore the area (Tom has maps of walks you can do), or hang out with the kids! L, T, and the boys were also kind enough to include me in their outings on the weekends. I couldn’t have asked for a more awesome group of people to start off my helpx experience.”

Their review of me: “DL has just left us after her 2-week stay on our smallholding. While she was with us she built raised beds, dug and prepared ground for planting, planted blueberry bushes, cleaned out chickens, cooked dinner, looked after the kids and, boy can she make delicious desserts!! It has been a real pleasure having DL come to stay. She is easy to be around, hard-working and good fun too. Good luck with your onward travels DL. X”

TL;DR

Worked in Hawick! Things I enjoyed: playing with the kids, putting vegetable patches in (it’s so exciting working when you can see the results as you go), cooking. Things that weren’t so great: constantly putting my hands into stinging nettles unintentionally, weeding the driveway!

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