We have only been in our house for 12 days but already feel very much at home. I haven’t lived in Wales since 1969 and had forgotten how open and friendly everyone is. Nobody goes past without chatting, often providing their life histories and extracting ours in a matter of minutes!
Exploring the town will take a long time as there is so much to see but we have made a good start with the added impetus of a visit from my sister, Siân and brother-in-law, Tony. We were all taken aback by the beauty of Brecon Cathedral, on our doorstep. The site has been a place of worship since 1093 and it is clearly a very active Cathedral, with daily services, concerts every Friday, an art exhibition and choral groups. They also have stained glass workshops and tours of the tower so you can take in the views over the town and towards the beacons beyond.
We also have the rivers, one running at the bottom of our garden and a larger one, the Usk, flowing beneath a very old bridge. It is lovely to hear the water flowing and falling in a small waterfall, just upstream. Tony spotted an otter swimming one evening and Rob saw a heron cleaning its feathers on the rocks just below our garden. There are historic plaques on walls all around town, including the one just 3 doors up from our house. We are a minute’s walk from the Castle and the Brecon Gaol was sited near our house, which was where the Warders lived. The tunnel we have under our garden was either to allow locals to collect water from the river or for the prisoners to bathe.
One of our neighbours has lived here since he was born and he told us that there were 60 children in just the few houses in the quiet street. In the tiny house opposite his, there were 20 children, sleeping 4 to a bed.
On Fridays a market is held in the old Market Hall, there since 1897 but a site for earlier meat and butter markets. The range of local meats and cheeses are very tempting, as was the cake stall. They sell a trio cake, a third chocolate, a third coffee and walnut and the rest plain jam and butter cream sponge. Perfect!
Once a month a craft fair uses the hall on a Saturday and it took place this weekend. High quality items of glass, wool, wood and fabric were for sale, along with framed photographs of the surrounding area at all times of year. It is quite frustrating that we aren’t staying put as we have seen furniture and paintings we would love to install in the house.
I couldn’t begin to list the clubs and events you can join. I have never seen so much choice, including scuba diving, indoor and outdoor bowls, Cuban salsa dancing, knitting, painting and climbing. There was an Amy Winehouse tribute last night, the Jazz Festival is coming up and there is a Sunday Jazz Jam at the theatre. The leisure centre, theatres and museums have plenty to offer and the tourist office provides lots of information about the area. You can hire picnic or rowing boats at the canal and spend days hiking the trails. At this time of year the town is busy with walkers and cyclists, in fact the Bed & Breakfast accommodation is fully booked most of the time. For the tourists we have coffee and teashops plus lots of souvenirs on sale, mostly with the Welsh dragon on them.
Our house was built around 1870 and has thick stone walls. 2 of the bedrooms have picture rails and 1 has a fireplace. Some of the doors and floors are a golden wood but a lot of the original features are hidden under gloss paint or plaster. Rob will definitely be demolishing a few walls when we live here as there must be another fireplace and more stone walls to uncover and restore. He has already taken down some shelving in the loft bedroom and found stone behind the plasterboard to dig away at and re-point.
Although it is hot and sunny today, we had a few days of rain to keep us inside and focussed on the decorating. Unfortunately previous owners were not too fastidious with their painting and we have more work than planned just scraping off old paint that has been slapped over lovely wooden doors and floors. In one room you can see 4 different colours the room used to be! Masking tape anyone? Under carpet we uncovered more wonderful wood and have been cleaning that up too. Slate hearths, stone windowsills and the patio need cleaning of old paint but the kitchen and bathroom are new and in good condition and the garden is just lovely.
We brought a lot of our old belongings from our garage and as these have been stored since 2009 it was a bit like Christmas opening up boxes and re-discovering things. For 3 months we have most of what we need and can do without the rest. We had to buy a kettle, toaster, can opener and a potato masher and got 2 little sofas from Ikea for 150 pounds, not bad at all. I have to admit that I love having a huge oven, a modern washing machine and my tumble dryer arrives tomorrow – what a treat! Another delight is a rotary clothes line – all these years on a boat certainly makes you appreciate simple domestic equipment. Oooh and a bath to soak in after a long day’s painting! Hope I’m not going soft 🙂