Last weekend saw me, Mr TS and our two youngest children abandon our two older boys to their revision and nip off to visit Wales! I left the guilt at home, packed our practical outdoor gear and jumped into the car with unseemly haste – it was time for some adventures! As we crossed the Severn Bridge the clouds parted and a dragon glared down at us, full of fire and promise.
We were on a mission to pack as much into two days as we possibly could and to try some things we hadn’t had a go at before at the behest of Visit Wales. As I plotted and planned it dawned on me that some of the things I assume BB has done were, in fact, done by his brothers and he hasn’t had a go at all! It was time to indulge him and her and immerse ourselves in glorious South West Wales!
Our first day was spent on beaches, on horseback and tobogganing down a hill, we explored castles and seaside towns, ate chips, laughed and throughly blew all our cobwebs away. There seemed to be a beach or a castle around every corner and the landscape was HUGE!
First on my list was Pembrey Country Park in Carmarthenshire – mixing coast and countryside and offering a wealth of family activities it was a Must Do. We started the day on Cefn Sidan Beach, miles and miles of golden sand, sand dunes and sky. The children ran and ran and it was wonderful to see her shaking off all her teenage cares and breathing deep – she had the beach to herself!
They explored sand dunes and combed the beach for finds washed up by the energetic waves while I felt my lungs fill with clean air and the worries of the week washing away. But we were here to do new things too so we said goodbye to the beach and prepared to saddle up!
I haven’t been on a horse since I was about 18 and that was a total disaster so I was a little bit nervous but neither of the children had ever ridden and their eyes were gleaming with excitement. I had signed up for half an hour’s training in the school and then half an hour trekking with Pembrey Park Riding Centre and was delighted to find we were to be taught as a group of four by the lovely Midge.
Hatted and booted and ready to go!
Our horses were led to the mounting block and Mr TS leapt into Ed’s saddle as if he’d been doing it all his life, I swung a not very swingy leg over Sweetie’s back and managed to clamber aboard, Bonus Boy and Our Girl popped up onto Star and Ruby respectively and we were led into the training square.
All in all we did pretty well, we all managed to walk, stop and turn a gentle corner and then she moved onto trotting. Trotting is the bouncy bit where bum meets horse back at speed and requires synchronised standing and sitting – this would be my undoing, I was sure of it. The children were still grinning, Mr TS was all calm and relaxed, I paled a little and braced myself.
“Hold onto the saddle and the reins, stand up, keep your heels down and look between Sweetie’s ears. Imagine there’s a pin on her saddle Chris, you don’t want to sit on that as it comes up!” shouted Midge with a hearty laugh – What? Five things at the same time, are you mad? I squeezed Sweetie with my legs and hoped for the best, thankful that I had someone holding a rope at her front end to keep things in order. Sure enough bum met saddle with a slap which was enough to get me standing up, sitting down and trying to do it with the same rhythm as Sweetie. I did it! Midge told me I was brilliant – I felt like a child and puffed out my chest. Bonus Boy and Our Girl both followed me and both did REALLY well; their grins were broadening by the second!
A little more practice and a few more pointers and we all set off with our leaders for a hack through Pembrey Park, practising the things we had learned as we went. I approached a bit of trotting with a smile rather than fear and it felt much more natural and far less painful!
I loved that it was just the four of us learning together, that we had the security of lead reins, that we were riding through beautiful woodland (I wasn’t allowed to take pictures as I rode in case I spooked the horses) and that all the girls who led us were kind, chatty and helpful – Bonus Boy was having a lovely natter about The Legend of Zelda as he rode along!
I love my daughter’s face in this picture, look at her trying to hold in her happiness! She was finally doing something she has always wanted a go at and we had never found time for and it was bursting out of her.
Back at the stables we all reluctantly said goodbye to our lovely horses and their leaders (my dismount was even more ungainly than my earlier mounting – I slithered to the ground rather than springing off, I clearly need swingy leg practice, Sweetie’s rump was very broad!). Bonus Boy was totally in love with Star by now and Ruby and Our Girl had become firm friends, their first go at horse riding was definitely a big hit!
But our day was only just starting, Pembrey Country Park has so much to offer! We passed on the 130m long dry ski slope (I didn’t think my legs would cope with horses and skiing in one day) but couldn’t resist a go at the longest toboggan run in Wales, The Cobra!
This was another new thing for Bonus Boy who was too little last time we had a go at one – he was chuffed to bits when he was told he was old enough to ride it himself! He decided to take Dad along for the ride for his first go – I think you can tell by the look on Mr TS’s face and his unseemly haste to get himself out of the toboggan that Bonus Boy had discovered his inner speed demon! His next few runs saw him whizzing off on his own and arriving back at the bottom VERY swiftly!
Several rides later, after much laughter and with totally insane hair dos we went to dry off and warm up.
Ski Pembrey is open all year round and there is an Alpine Ski Lodge and Cafe at the bottom to warm your cockles after a day on the slopes. You can turn up without booking to snowboard or ski and all equipment is provided with a reduction in price if you have your own. Qualified instructors offer coaching and instruction whether you are a complete novice or a budding racer and it is definitely something on our list for next time!
Right – that’s enough for today, I’ll let you catch your breath and have a cup of tea! Come back on Friday for our Adventures in Wales Part 2 where we will be exploring castles, following in the footsteps of a particular poet and pond dipping, den building, duck racing and more at Colby Woodland Gardens!
Our activities were provided by Visit Wales for the purposes of this article, all opinions are our own and a jolly good time we had too!