Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Daily Round: Newport, Pembrokeshire

It’s another wet, wild, and windy day in Wales, and I thought that some of you might be interested in how I spend my days. It’s not a holiday, particularly as I’m in a fairly isolated location with not a great many tourist attractions. Instead, it’s an opportunity to spend two months living in a semi-rural location with a completely different climate, scenery, shops, and activities.

I’m housesitting a cat in a house that is half a mile uphill from the town of Newport, Pembrokeshire. It’s a big house with a large, beautifully landscaped garden out front, a paddock where I hang the laundry to dry (well, if it isn’t raining) above the house, and a woodlot to one side. There are other houses nearby, but they are mostly hidden so it feels very remote, particularly at night when it’s actually dark with no street lights.

Charlie, the cat, is easy to care for. He just needs food, play, and lots and lots of cuddles. There are some household chores though – collecting firewood, ordering heating oil, and watering the large collection of orchids. I even raked the lawn – now that’s something I’ve never done in Canada in the winter.

I don’t have a car, but that’s okay as I can get everything I need in Newport. It does mean frequent shopping trips so that my backpack isn’t too heavy when I trudge back uphill. It’s good exercise but so beautiful as there is a stream with mini waterfalls and tall stone walls covered in moss and ferns and primroses. I’m staying above the cattle grid so I have to make sure the garden gate is closed so the sheep and wild ponies don’t get in.

Newport has a small grocery store with fairly limited options, but it also has a lovely wholefoods store that sells organic, healthy food. There is a small Monday market for about 8 months of the year, and I’ve been enjoying local cauliflower and sprouting broccoli. I’ve been cooking lots as it’s easier to buy fresh than ready-made ingredients.

Newport also has a library, a post office, a bank, and a news agent, and a few craft stores. There are several coffee shops and restaurants although I find the prices very steep ($12 for a bowl of vegetable soup and bread). I’ve been investigating the various pubs to see if they have local cider on tap (with limited success to date, but it’s good to have a rest before tackling the hill).

One of the advantages of housesitting in Great Britain is that there is a dense population to support good public transit. There are hourly buses to both Fishguard and Cardigan with connections to other bigger centres 6 days a week. It’s not perfect as there is no evening or Sunday service, but it’s certainly a lot better than what is available in small Canadian towns.

A little further down the hill is the river estuary and the parrog (harbour). I walk here as often as I can and can’t get enough of the ocean waves and green sloping fields. A lot of the houses in the parrog are holiday lets, and I suspect that there will be more people and activity over Christmas.

Newport is in Britain’s only national coastal park and many people walk the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path. The area has a long, long history with Neolithic dolmens, Iron Age forts, Norman castles, Industrial Age lime kilns, and on through the centuries.

So long as I have a computer and wi fi, I can keep working, no matter where I am. I’m grateful for this wonderful opportunity to have an extended stay in a very beautiful part of the world. I’ve been using the Trusted Housesitters website to apply for housesitting positions and have been very happy with all five of my positions.

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