Spring Break to North Wales – 25th to 29th April, 1994
Our members joined the coach at Bognor Regis, the Body Shop at Littlehampton, Worthing, Hove,
Patcham and Pease Pottage, where we had our coffee stop and the driver, Dave, introduced himself and the coach safety regulations. We smartly turned up the M23, but at the west slip to the M25 the driver saw the very long queue and cleverly took the right lane M25 east and did a U turn at the A22 . We then sped past the M23 queue, through the road works to join the M40 and through the splendid Chilterns, to turn off at Warwick and
journey south to Stratford-upon-Avon for the lunch break, except that many had already wolfed their sandwiches. We did not stay long, as it was wet and windy and Dave wanted to get away up the more scenic roads. So we went west to Alcester, then NE to Bromsgrove and Kidderminster, because Dave was, like our previous driver, Terry, a Black country man. We pressed on towards Shrewsbury, to pass through fields of sheep, which we would not leave until the Day of Return. After a comfort stop at Llangollen, we arrived at our hotel in Betws-y-Coed short of 6 o’clock, to unpack and prepare for that first ordeal, dinner. The chef and manager was a rotund character, modelled perhaps on Richard Griffiths in TV’s “Pie in the Sky”. The hotel a century ago had terraces and lawns sweeping down to the railway station, but had been pruned by the new road to a two metre footway. After dinner, several members went to explore Betws-y-Coed, but there was rain about.
After night rain, it was dry and warmer as we left for Portmeirion, a Mediterranean village created by the architect, Clough Williams-Ellis from 1925 to 1972, to explore the gardens, houses, coffee houses, shops and minarets on incredible vertical levels. Then we just had time for a quick snack before catching the pièce-de- resistance, the Ffestiniog Railway, threading its way through woods, cuttings and a short tunnel to Blaenau Ffestiniog, where we could have joined BR for Llandudno, but instead boarded our coach. Dave then took us up the Conwy Valley, beautiful scenery to Llandudno Junction, to turn on to the A55 and speed through the new immersed tunnel, superb Civil’s job, then returning through old Conwy town, back to the A55 and Prestatyn, to meander through back roads to Betws-y-Coed via Llanrwst. It gave a little time to walk round the shops and post the cards before dinner.
Wednesday was another sunny day for the trip to Chester via the A5 and A5104, with a guided coach tour round the city by Dave before dropping us off by the Cathedral. Many then popped in to the refectory for a coffee, whilst others were joined by relatives or friends. The party then toured in an open-top bus the lovely timbered streets, sought prescriptions, had lunch in Brown’s crypt, under portraits of the first Earls of Chester – who is the present Earl? Congregating at the Cathedral, we rejoined the coach to take the A55 back past Holywell to scan the Wirral peninsula and then stop to see the White Church. This had an unusual history, being partly looked after by the Canadian government, in memory of their many young soldiers buried there after the 1918/9 ‘flu epidemic. We had a quick glance at St. Asaph’s, as we sped along minor roads, well driven by Dave, through a high plateau between many lakes and woods of the Forestry Commission. Eventually we arrived back at the hotel for a special dinner; after all those sheep, it had to be lamb! So the chef referred to the Welsh menu, which he had translated by one of his staff. We started off with superb wild salmon and trimmings, whilst the chef prepared to carve the seven rolled lamb joints for 38 people in three and a half minutes . It was an excellent meal for the engineer gourmets, and so well served by the girls. For those late night walkers it did drizzle, but we remained optimistic!
Thursday should have been a sunny day with blue sky; instead we had drizzle as we went south to look round a woollen mill, partly operative, but the shop well stocked by Edinburgh Wools! Returning past Betws-y- Coed and Capel Curig, still drizzle and low cloud through the inspiring Llanberis Pass, never to see Snowdon emerge. We then took the Lakeside railway at Llanberis along Llyn Padarn, cameras at the ready, returning to study the slate museum and work shops, including a magnificent 55 ft diameter water wheel, However, one intrepid member was determined to take the Snowdon mountain railway, even if only past half way and, like our ancestors the Romans, in sandals! After lunch, Dave continued trying to draw Snowdon, as we took the usual minor roads, no wider than the coach, past Dinworic’s past glory and then down the west side of the Snowdon range to Beddgellert and back to Capel Curig. We stopped at the Swallow falls which, with all the previous rain, was in magnificent spate. In Betws-y-Coed the ladies did their last shopping or just gazed in Anne Davies’ boutique! The men did the packing? So to our last dinner; yes, it had to be pork, as we had seen two poor specimens at Llanberis. The conversation was just as ribald and noisy as on previous nights – it had been such an inspiring tour.
With regrets, we set forth on Friday, in sunny weather, down the A5 to Shrewsbury and then took the A49 to Church Stretton, for the coffee break. Continuing down past Craven Arms, Ludlow and Leominster, before going west along the winding A44 through Worcester, to arrive in Evesham for a late lunch and only a quick look at the very interesting Abbey. Still keeping to the A44, we went through Chipping Norton and Woodstock to Oxford, where we took the A34 down to the M4 and east to the M25, only to be confronted with LONG DELAYS on the M25, north and south. It was not our day, but one learned how to avoid these delays if in a car, by using the slip roads of the many junctions to gain miles! It was more than a relief to stop at Pease Pottage for our first taxi, then freewheeling down to Patcham, Hove, Worthing and the Body Shop, and no doubt Dave was glad to be back in Bognor and an empty coach.