Explore Llanerchaeron mansion and the Aeron valley, pop into picturesque Aberaeron for lunch at the Harbourmaster (sit in the bar and have, crispy cockles and the crab linguine!!) then grab a honeycomb Icecream from the Hive before and stretch the legs along around the quayside deciding which boat you’ll have when you win the lottery…! Jump in the car and stop atthe Lime crab in Newquay for chips if you can fit them in?!
Enjoy the beach or walk along the cliff path over to Tresaith (for a pint in the Ship) and back. The Boy Ashore is our beach shack cafe and restaurant serving delicious simple takeaways in the day and really tasty seasonal plates in the evening.
Walk from Penbryn over the spectacular cliff path (expect a few hills) to Llangrannog for a pint in the Pentre and our favourite chip shop The Beach Hut.
Growing as a new favourite spot of ours. Take a walk on either side of the iron bridge, either along the Parog or along the north side of the estuary and to the beach. Swing back past Pwnc for tasty lunch and great coffee or a great pub lunch at the Golden Lion?
Close to home and a great local day out. Walk into Cardigan trhough the wild life reserve for some brunch/lunch, the Pizzatipi is great any time of day for all ages, bakery Bara Menyn is our favourite spot for brunch but Crwst and Stwidio 3 are just as great.
Finish the day watching the sun go down with Pizza and some great drinks at the Tipi.
If you're staying with us at fforest, you will no doubt have a busy itinerary already planned: snoozing in front of the woodburner, sweating it out in the sauna, drinking Welsh beers in the Bwthyn, eating delicious food in the lodge or venturing out to the Pizzatipi, exploring the surrounding fields & woodlands or staring blissfully into middle distance. Exhausting. Meanwhile, for the super energetic, all around us are some fantastic walks, beaches and places to visit whilst you’re staying with us at either fforest, Manorafon or the Granary Lofts. So we've put together some easy guides featuring some of our favourite local spots to help you with your adventure planning.
Traeth Bach, Ceredigion
Walk time: 45 mins
Drive from: fforest 25 mins / Manorafon 2 mins
Traeth Bach (Little Beach) is also known as Secret Beach, Llangrannog 2 & Morfa, depending on which local you're talking to!
This idyllic spot is one of the most beautiful secluded beaches we know. Its not the easiest to find... walkers tend to stumble across it along the Ceredigion cliff path in between Penbryn and Llangrannog, but we've been visiting this beach for many years.
Start Penbryn beach car park, head towards the beach, then find the sign for the footpath, its immediately on the right past the farmyard. Start your ascent up the hill, keep walking until you reach an open field, there's a small gap in the hedge which is your gateway to beach heaven! The final descent down to the beach is a scramble to find footholes, its exciting but be careful! Once on the golden sands, spend a few peaceful hours with the beach all to yourself. Rejoin the cliff path and follow on to Llangrannog or return to Penbryn the way you came.
Notes The towering cliff edges engulf the little cove as if sheltering it from the wind, making this beach a perfect spot for swimming, catching some rays & enjoying a picnic. The tidal island of Carreg-y-ty is on the north side and has a sea cave running right through it. Keep clear of the cave between August & October as seals may be using it to breed.
A collection of photos taken on the walk to Traeth Bach by Sian, fforest chief, and Jackson
You may be familiar with Scottish bothies but did you know there are eight bothies tucked away in the Welsh hills?
Whilst hiking in the most remote places in the UK, you may not expect to find 5* accommodation or a camping site along the way but what you might find is a Great British Bothy. A form of shelter or accommodation with minimal or next to no facilities, it's free of charge and doesn't require a booking system - but you do have to beat others to a bed! Use them as checkpoints, lunch pitstops, over night stays or just for sitting down and airing your socks for an hour; adventurers in the wild tend to appreciate these four walls for something, whatever it may be.
'To maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use & benefit of all who love wild & lonely places.'
The Mountain Bothy Association is a charity-run organisation that works to maintain bothies all over the UK. Wales' bothies are mainly inland and in the North, here's a list of the eight bothies you can find in Wales, based on an MBA map:
Find a Welsh bothy
From North - South:
- Dulyn (not show on map, at most northern point near Bangor)
- Cae Amos
- Arenig Fawr
- Penrhos Isaf
- Nant Syddion
- Nant Rhys
- Lluest Cwmbach
- Grwyne Fawr
All mountain bothies are a no vehicle access area, most aren't equipped with fuel or water sources and nearest towns are generally miles away. We particularly like the look of Arenig Fawr in Snowdonia and Grwyne Fawr in the Brecon Beacons. Both situated in the midst of unspoiled and vast natural landscape; home to some of the most beautiful mountainous scenery in Wales.
Gwyrne Fawr Bothy, Brecon Beacons
We came across a great article recently on The Peel, written by Ivan Kilroe and featuring some beautiful photography documenting a hike to Gwyrne Fawr bothy.
Photography and words by Ivan Kilroe:
Travelling from the north as we were, you would be forgiven for missing the structure nestled at the mouth of the reservoir. Fortunately we had seen a few pictures of the shelter beforehand and could work out its position in relation to our surroundings.
Grwynn Fawr is a particularly small bothy overlooking the reservoir and sleeps a maximum of three people (cosily) on a mezzanine sleeping area. Its size means there is always the gamble of it already being occupied, so we made sure to be there extra early on in the afternoon to avoid disappointment. It would have been particularly unfortunate after carrying such a heavy bag of logs over the 4 mile route to be met with an already occupied bothy. Of course this would be a great present for the residents, but fortunately our efforts were rewarded and we secured the occupancy.
Inside the bothy there is a singular rectangular window that doesn't let much light in on a grey and overcast day like today, a miniature table, stone bench, chairs, and a small but exquisitely crafted stove that tapers into the flu.
We turn to the torches and headlamps to provide some illumination while we fix ourselves a wee dram of whisky to keep us going. The cold white light of the LED's does little to make the space feel homely, but once the fire is underway the bothy is transformed, and a warm comforting glow penetrates the dark corners of the room as we start to feel quite at home in this quaint little building nestled in the Welsh countryside.
Whenever I describe this kind of trip to someone who has no desire to do a trip like this, I'm often met with confusion and a complete lack of understanding as to the why? It's sometimes hard to convey, and I completely understand their sentiments when you describe the somewhat unappealing wintery scene. But there's something in being away from the distractions of modern life and all its convenience that makes me appreciate a few slightly burnt sausages in-between two slices of bread in a dimly lit room with a good friend and a dog sipping whisky into the night.
Read the full article here
3/6 of the fforest dogs
Photo by sian@coldatnight
Swim, run, walk, dig, bury, play, fight & bark on beautiful walks along the coast of south/west Wales, and your dogs can join in too...
The fforest dogs: Arrow, Bru, Mossy, Shrimp, Monty & Nan have explored much of the Welsh coastline already and are probably the most reliable tour guides of the West coast. But in case they missed something, they suggest reading 'The Woof Guide' of Pembrokeshire for the best dog friendly walks in the local area. Most of these beaches, coastal paths and countryside walks are a stones throw from fforest and are well worth a visit.
Visit the Woof Guide website for a list of walks here
Opened in 1970, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path was the first National Trail in Wales and is one of 15 National Trails in Britain.
It stretches for approximately 186 miles from St Dogmeals to Amroth, passes 58 beaches along the way and many a charming town & village, including Tenby, St Davids, Solva and Newport. If you were to do it all in one go, the whole of the Pembrokeshire coastline would take 10 to 15 days to walk! So most people tend to choose to do a small section of it to begin with.
The National Trust provide easy to follow guides for some of the best walking trails in Pembrokeshire, the one we have chosen below covers St David's Head coastal walk. An area of untouched, stunning, ever-changing beauty; depending on which point of the path you have reached you will witness the beauty from all angles. We have provided their concise directions below, but read the full article on their website here
Route length: 3.8 miles
Time: 1hr 15mins
Start at Whitesands beach or carpark...
- From Whitesands, go through a gap in the wall on passing the site of St Patrick's Chapel. Climb a sandy slope up on to the cliff path. After about ½ mile (0.8km) you reach a kissing gate and National Trust sign. Continue to the crest of the hill.
- From here, see Coetan Arthur silhouetted against the sky. St David's Head is forged of very old volcanic rock, some of it dates back almost 500 million years. This geology is best represented by Carn Llidi, the towering jagged outcrop, or tor, and in the rocky islands of Ramsey, Bishops and Clerks several miles out to sea. Our main route sticks to the coast, descending into the valley ahead via broad steps to a spring above the tiny cove of Porth Melgan. An alternative route heads gently uphill round the back of Carn Llidi with fine views to the east, or adventurous souls can scramble to the summit of this peak.
- Cross the stream by a bridge and turn right or north-east to walk up this valley. This area can be slippery and muddy in winter.
- To your right is a marshy area with the typical 'dinosaur egg' shapes of purple moor grass or 'rhos pasture', green in summer and earthy coloured in winter. Higher up, on the flanks of Carn Llidi, you can see ancient field patterns. Look out for birds like stonechat, meadow pipit and skylark in clumps of reedbed and willow. The rare Dartford warbler has also been seen in recent years.
- At the highest point here, the peak of Pen Beri and the expanse of Cardigan Bay appears in the distance. Two headlands away is the winking lighthouse of Strumble Head with the peak of Garn Fawr above it. Descend to rejoin the coast path and turn left towards St David's Head.
- On the plateau a remarkable rockscape opens up. Jagged erratic rocks are mirrored by the rugged profile of Ramsey Island out to sea. North of Ramsey are the 'Bishops and Clerks', little islets, one of which is home to a big lighthouse. Offshore, you might be lucky enough to spot porpoise or dolphin playing in the waves.
- The route eventually passes Coetan Arthur and descends to an Iron Age coastal fort at the end of the peninsula. Continue on the coast path, returning to Porth Melgan. Retrace your route from here back to Whitesands beach.
At fforest we can offer simple, good very tasty food and the right drinks; from breakfast to supper across our camps, restaurants and pubs. But in the local surrounding area, there are plenty of fantastic restaurants, pubs, cafes, and local markets & producers that offer some of the best food & drink in the west. In no particular order we've listed a few of our recommendations:
BBQ shack, Aberporth
A stone's throw from the shores of Aberporth beach, our BBQ shack is now open weekends throughout Summer. Expect meat skewer plates, fresh potato salads and leaves, flatbreads and handmade burgers all cooked on site in our little beach shack restaurant. Stay tuned for a new website coming soon with plenty of info about opening times and menus, but for now, we'll see you Fridays and Saturdays 4-8pm.
Telephone 01239 623633 Website - Coming soon!
Mexican street food of the highest and tastiest quality, El Salsa create authentic flavours and wholesome meals all from their mobile trailer kitchen. We're privileged to have them based in west Wales providing fabulously tasty festival-style food throughout the season. Watch this space as El Salsa are moving permanently to the Cardigan area and are hoping to be open from June! The founder, Laura Elsaesser, a qualified professional chef, is committed to sourcing ingredients locally; from farm fresh welsh beef, chicken & pork from the local butcher Golwg y mor in Aberporth, to her own home-grown tomatoes, chillies, tomatillos, salads & herbs. You won't find a fresher, healthier, tastier takeaway than El Salsa's. Follow them on Facebook to find out where to catch them.
Telephone 07772610561 Website
Crwst: The welsh bakers
Our good friends from CRWST have recently expanded their micro bakery and settled roots in Cardigan. Breakfasts, brunches, organic breads & seasonal patisserie style bakes all handmade on site. The people behind Crwst: Osian (the baker) and Catrin (the brain) are a young couple with a refreshing creativity that shows in their baked goods and delicious breakfast/lunch menus. Their cafe deli is a glorious place to sit, eat, relax and browse an abundance of Welsh produce available to purchase on site. CRWST is currently open 6 days a week.
Telephone 01239 842 338 Website
The beach hut
The best fish and chips on the west coast, The Beach Hut Llangrannog is a family run chippy & cafe/restaurant. Its location is as close to the sea as you could possibly get, sat inside the cosy restaurant you will feel as if you're dining right on the beach. Open daily throughout the season to grab your fish & chips, a wholesome lunch or a tasty supper, or a tea & a slice of cake if you're just passing through. If you're staying at Manorafon, you could walk the beautiful coastal path from Penbryn to Llangrannog, working up an appetite for The Beach Hut at the finish line.
Telephone 01239 654642 Website
A bakehouse in Cardigan town centre. One of our favourites - freshly baked bread, great food & coffee. Their simple menu is based around their freshly baked sourdough and is constantly changing. In fact, you rarely get the same thing twice. The bread has the crumb, chew and flavour of dreams and we would be lost without it. Daily specials range from seasonal veg-packed soups, fresh fish pâtés, exceptional sarnies & herby salsas, all accompanied by the trademark Bara Menyn breads.
Telephone 01239 621863 Website
cardigan bay brownies
Its hard to beat a good homemade brownie, but local baker Nerys brings all the warmth, comfort and deliciousness of great home-baking to the people of Cardigan and beyond. We love her brownies so much that we asked her to collaborate on a new flavour for the Pizzatipi. Nerys has a humbling approach to home-baking and even though she has ridiculous numbers of brownies to bake on a daily basis, she always calls in the help of her two sons to taste-test. Due to popular demand, her bakes are now available to buy online, CBB also attends a regular slot at The Guildhall market in Cardigan, catch Nerys there every Thursday & Saturday from 10am, or come to the Pizzatipi to sample our new flavour!
*also known as Cardigan Bay Fish. Len and Mandy Walters have been processing fish and shellfish caught by their own vessels for the past 14 years. Cardigan Bay is home to a vast array of wonderful fish and shellfish, says Mandy: "Wild bass, lobster, mackerel and crabs are only some of the flavoursome and healthy produce that can be found on our doorstep." And she means that literally, their home in St Dogmeals often opens up to the public when a fresh haul arrives. Villagers listen out for Mandy's voice shouting, "I'm out the back!" But if you've been listening out and have still heard nothing, perhaps a more reliable place to buy from Cardigan Bay Fish is the Local Producers Market in St Dogmeals. There you will find Mandy from 10-1 every Tuesday.
Telephone 01239 621043 Website
Glebelands market garden
A six acre holding situated between Cardigan & St Dogmaels, Glebelands are experts in growing and selling veg. Think farm shop/allotment, this is the perfect place to buy seasonal, locally grown vegetables & leafy greens. Supplier of salad to the Pizzatipi, the freshest of leaves in all shapes, sizes & tastes. We eat the lovely edible orange flowers too. As well as growing and selling luscious produce, Glebelands are also committed to promoting sustainable food production. They offer information to those interested in the vital work of sustainable food production and can give sound advice to those setting up market gardens.
Telephone 07511 546701 Website
the plwmp tart
Serving light lunches, home baked cakes and great coffee,The Plwmp Tart is a lovely little cafe just down the road from Manorafon camp, and 5 minutes from the beautiful National Trust beach, Penbryn. Its a popular pit-stop for walkers as its on the coastal path route between Penbryn and Llangrannog. They serve ice creams too!
Telephone 01239 758100 Facebook
Ok, so they're not exactly secret, but they are places that perhaps few people know about, especially those who are visiting from faraway lands. As locals, we fforest elves love to explore the lengths of our coastline, vast countryside & woodlands, and if we happen to stumble across something quite special, the tendency is to keep it a bit of a secret! But some places are just too good not to share and with word spreading fast about a few of our top secret spots, we thought we'd tell you about some and, most importantly, how to reach them.
A short walk from Manorafon/ Penbryn, this spectacular coastal walk will bring you to Llangrannog eventually, but stop off half way and you will arrive at one of the most beautiful secluded beaches we know, 'Traeth Bach' (Little Beach), known to the locals as the secret beach. Its a difficult scamble down, but well worth it.
Walk time 45 mins Drive from fforest 25 mins /Manorafon 2mins Start Penbryn car park, head towards beach, then footpath past farmyard immediately on the right up to the hills. Notes take a picnic and spend the day in the most beautiful and relaxing surroundings, and have it all to yourself!
The witches cauldron
A high level coastal path walk with sheer drops and fascinating rock formations, you will arrive at the witches cauldron at the end of the walk- you can't miss it. A towering, collapsed cavern in which you can swim or canoe (both easily). Its a beautiful little sun trap on a good day; your own salty swimming pool complete with rock diving board. Take care with young children.
Walk time 1-2 hours Drive from fforest 20 mins /Manorafon 30mins Start in the village of Moylegrove, follow footpath signs for Ceibwr beach and from there head west on the coast path. Notes favourite spot for seals
Its only a very short walk to reach this spot. From the outside, you would never expect to find such a gem hidden at the centre of Rosebush quarry. Surrounded by rock and slate, the small freshwater lake is a calming and tranquil place. The translucent emerald green water is perfect for a swim but be warned, its pretty cold!
Walk time 10 mins Drive from fforest 20 mins /Manorafon 35mins Start at Tafarn sinc in Rosebush follow track for about 500m the quarry is nestled among the mounds to your right. Notes The quarry is equally as beautiful in rain or shine but visit on a warm sunny day and you will experience some truly magical scenery
Nestled deep in the Ffynnone woods is a beautiful clearing and impressive waterfall. Located in a secluded valley, ranging from fairly flat valley bottom to steep valley sides, the woods have four rivers and remnants of an ancient woodland - including veteran oaks - mainly located around the river system.
Walk time 30mins - 1 hour Drive from fforest 15 mins /Manorafon 30mins Start at The Nags Head pub in Abercych follow the lane with the pub on your right, you will reach a carpark enter the wood from here, follow the path & discover the waterfall deep in the centre of the woods Notes The falls are just deep enough to enjoy a chilly swim
baby seal beach
Also known as Pirate Cove / Rum Island, this beach is so secret that we don't even know how to give proper directions. Somewhere along the coastal path between Aberporth and Mwnt lies a tiny beach, home to many a seal and her pup. You have to choose the one and only way down to the beach off the path, very difficult to find, only a handful of walkers have dared to venture down the ridiculously steep cliff edge. If you do find the secret pathway, follow the zigzag all the way down where you will find yourself between two cliffs. A small waterfall trickles down from above, forming a river at the bottom that flows off the rocks, onto the beach and into the sea. Follow this river and you will find the beach. So if you see this seal, your best bet of finding the bay is to ask him for directions!
If you're staying with us at fforest, you will no doubt have a busy itinerary already planned: Snoozing in front of the woodburner, sweating it out in the sauna, drinking welsh beers in the Bwthyn, eating delicious food in the lodge or venturing out to the Pizzatipi, exploring the surrounding fields & woodlands or staring blissfully into middle distance. Exhausting. Meanwhile, for the super energetic, all around us are some fantastic walks, beaches, places to visit and activities to try whilst you’re staying with us at either fforest, Manorafon or the Granary Lofts. So we've put together some easy guides featuring some of our favourite local spots to help you with your adventure planning.
Scroll down to see our chosen top 5 beaches on the Ceredigion coastline.
Penbryn beach is one of Ceredigion's most popular beaches and is virtually on Manorafon's doorstep. Owned by the National Trust, Penbryn lies between Tresaith and Llangrannog, two other popular coves linked by the Wales Coast Path, and a network of quiet wooded lanes. Walk time 30mins through the woods Drive from fforest 20mins /Manorafon 2mins Start at the national trust car park. From there head towards the woodland footpath and arrive at the beach at the end Notes On very low tide, explore the right hand side of the beach - beautiful rock formations, pools & cliff edges and a fabulous spot to watch the sun setting over the sea.
Visiting Mwnt's tiny secluded beach and climbing Mwnt is a highlight for many of our guests. Take a walk on the beach or climb Mwnt mountain, there are spectacular views all around.
Walk time 30mins Drive from fforest 15 mins /Manorafon 30mins Start at the national trust car park. From there head straight up the hill or bear right and walk around the lower path for frequent views of seals and dolphins. Notes The sunset view from the top of Mwnt is something not to be missed.
Llangrannog is probably the most picturesque seaside town of Ceredigion and the small beach there is just as beautiful. On low tide walk over to the right and discover Llangrannog part two, but be careful not to get cut off over there on high tide!
Drive from fforest 25mins/Manorafon 5mins Notes 'Carreg Bica' is the defining feature of Llangrannog beach. Its big, bold & wave-shaped, and is probably the most photographed rock of west Wales.
A quieter beach just outside of Cardigan, its a perfect place to relax and have a picnic lunch with family & friends. If you're feeling adventurous, walk the cliff path to the witches cauldron, one of our favourite secret spots. Drive from fforest 15mins /Manorafon 20mins Start in the village of Moylegrove, follow footpath signs for Ceibwr beach and from there head west on the coast path to eventually reach the witches cauldron. Notes favourite spot for seals.
Aberporth beach will always hold a special place at the heart of fforest; it being the home of fforest chief and Sian. With two separate beaches, the right hand side is our favourite. Its also the backdrop to fforest chief's office shed.
Drive from fforest 15mins/Manorafon 5mins Notes The sunsets over the estuary are pretty spectacular.
A Bay to remember
Guided boat trips to bring you closer to the wildlife of Cardigan Bay: Dolphin, seal and sea bird watching tours. A Bay to Remember use modern purpose built vessels with the latest environmentally friendly engines and safety equipment that offer a safe and exhilarating experience suitable for all ages. Their booking office is located just outside the entrance to the Pizzatipi, some boat trips depart from this riverside location too.
Telephone 01239 623558 Website
One and a half hour guided Dolphin Watching Boat Trip, leaving from the picturesque fishing village of New Quay, Ceredigion. Learn about the local history, geology and wildlife from our marine biologist guides and knowledgeable skippers. No trip is the same but you typically see bottlenose dolphins, a variety of seabirds, grey seals, bottlenose dolphins and harbour porpoises. Occasional visitors here are sunfish, basking sharks, minke whales and even humpback whales!
Telephone 07795242445 Website
Diana Ellen Boat trip
The history of the river Teifi dates back to the 11th century, on this boat trip with the aid of photographs and local knowledge, Captain Dai will give you an insight into how the river developed into a major fishing and ship building industry. Embark from the jetty in patch Gwbert, at the the mouth of the estuary and travel up-stream to the centre of Cardigan. Stop at various points of interest to cover the development of the river and discuss how the people once earned their living on this beautiful stretch of water. The tour will take between 3-4 hours dependant on tide and weather conditions.
Telephone 07748140779 Website
Skomer Island boat trip
For over 40 years Pembrokeshire Island Boat trips have been providing boat trips to Pembrokeshire’s offshore islands, and in this time have realised that one person’s idea of the perfect trip can vary greatly from another’s. They aim to offer a wide range of services catering for all ages and interests, from 15 minute crossings to 3 hour offshore voyages. A 15 minute boat ride takes you to enjoy one of the most incredible wildlife experiences in Britain, Skomer Island, where hundreds of puffins choose to nest each year.
Telephone 01646 603123 Website
The River Teifi has some of the most breathtaking otherwise unreachable stretches in Wales, Heritage Canoes has the only commercial contract to take you there. Winding towards the sea, the deep, tidal Teifi Gorge is a unique environment where fresh and salt waters meet and the species it is home to forms one of the most varied aquatic landscapes in the country. The gorge offers safe, gentle river paddling in open canoes for people of all ages and abilities. With the river flowing lazily past ancient woodland and wildlife habitats, a canoe trip should be high on your list of must-do’s on your holiday.
Telephone 01239 623633 Website
The Sea Warrior
Experience the wonders & wildlife along the river Teifi. These trips start from the quayside just around the corner from Pizzatipi and are just £5 per person payable on board. The trips are along the Teifi River to its mouth and return, lasting about 50 minutes. Trips run from Easter to September, times are dependent on tides and the weather. Pop in for a pizza & beer with us on your return!
Telephone 07769 947047
'The word community, when you hear it often, starts to lose its meaning. But here, in this small car park by the ruins of St Dogmael’s Abbey, you get it.'
- Diana Henry, food writer
We love the St Dogs market. Just up the road from the fforest offices & Granary Lofts, the office elves pay a visit every Tuesday to buy breakfast (the biggest croissants you'll ever see) and sometimes lunch too. Winner of 'The Best Food Market' at the BBC Food & Farming Awards 2016, St Dogmaels local producers market may be small but to be voted the best in Britain, it has to offer more than just great produce, and it does.
Established in 2009 with some financial backing from the Rural Development Project, the founders of the market started their journey by purchasing authentic, high quality market stall units. This is perhaps the first thing you notice upon arrival: the pretty green and white tents that look like they belong at a 1960's fair-ground. Its a welcoming environment thanks to the quaint stalls and happy faces manning them.
But of course, the main attraction at this market it the produce on offer. With 18 stalls + additional during the busier Summertime, the market offers a wide range of local produce including quality meats, dairy products, organic vegetables home-baked goods and a variety of plants & flowers.
'The market is 'local' in its truest sense, in that the produce is all grown, reared or manufactured within a 30 mile radius of St Dogmaels.'
As well as bringing together great local producers and great food, keeping food miles to an absolute minimum, its also a vital social hub for the locals of the surrounding area. A great place for socialising as well as doing your weekly shop, there are volunteer musicians providing live music, cookery demonstrations and outside craft workshops that often feature at the market. These days, its not just the locals that are benefiting from the St Dogs market as people are coming from much further afield to experience the unique atmosphere and to sample some of the best quality local food.
We all love Barley Saturday. An event that attracts all the locals as well as others not so local; from kids to grown-ups to dogs, its an occasion for everyone.
Since 1871, it has been held on the last Saturday in April to celebrate the end of the crop sowing season, with barley being the last cereal to be sown after the wheat and oats, this year it falls on the 29th of April. Originally it was a day when farmers from the surrounding area came to town to hire workers, it also gave stallion owners the opportunity to display their beautiful Welsh Cobs, advertising the stallions for stud. These days it is the horses that are at the centre of attention and it's not just cobs on show, there are horses and ponies of all shapes and sizes, from Shetlands to Shires.
After the 11.30am judging of various horse competitions, the crowds gather to watch the horses parade around Cardigan and down the High Street at around 2pm. The best bit is when the horses are trotting out in all their glory, manes flowing and nostrils flaring, quite a spectacle. Horses are followed by vintage cars, motorbikes, tractors, carriages, milk floats and gypsy wagons, plus plenty of flat caps! It’s a special day of the year in Cardigan town.
We like to celebrate Barley Saturday in our own way, so on the night of the 29th of April, we will be hosting our famous "Dawns Barlys" (Barley Dance) at the fforest Pizzatipi. We'll have live bands & DJs, woodfired pizza & beer, good & bad dancing. Its the (un)official Barley Saturday party - don't miss it! For more information have a look at our Facebook event.
We have our coldatnight blanket woven specially for us at a very old water mill near the banks of the River Teifi. The same water that flows through the Teifi, around our camp at fforest farm and past the Pizzatipi on Cambrian Quay in Cardigan, is the very same water that turns the wheel that powers the loom that weaves our blankets.
The woollen industry flourished in South Wales until the end of World War I when it began its decline with high prices during the war. At one time there were more than 300 active woollen mills. During the Industrial Revolution the Teifi Valley between Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire came to employ thousands of weavers, spinners, dyers, knitters, drapers and tailors. The river and its tributaries powered dozens of mills, and sheep in the surrounding grassland supplied fleece to be made into woollen products.
As of 2013 there are just nine commercial woollen mills still in operation, often run by small families producing traditional Welsh cloth on old looms. Melin Teifi is one of the last remaining mills in Wales that continues to manufacture the finest welsh flannel using top-quality materials and local craftsmanship. And this is where the fforest coldatnight blanket was born thanks to the wonderful skill of Raymond and his team.
Our blanket is a traditional Welsh double cloth weave unique to fforest. The pattern is taken from an old blanket I bought years ago at a car boot at Tanygroes. It is a design I love and had never seen before. After days drawing on graph paper trying to create an original fforest weave design to make into our own blanket, I gave up and thought why not recolour this wonderful old design and give it new life. It is originally an early North Wales Rose pattern first introduced more than a century ago by Hannah Jones at Penmachno Woolen Mill, Caernarfonshire.
Many Welsh weaves feature cross designs which represent the flag of St David, Wales's patron saint, and each Welsh mill would develop their own doublecloth patterns to make the mill identifiable by the unique designs. This is what we have tried to achieve with our blankets. By following the patterns and traditions of Welsh wool manufacturing, we produced our own unique design that can always be linked back to fforest.
It is a strong and well thought out simple, balanced design consisting of flower motifs within interlocking circles in a field of colour. We have made a few tweaks and added some new colour to this very old design, giving new life to an old way. Using pure new wool on a 1930's Dobcross loom, each thread is put through the heddles by hand, as it always was.
Each year I like to add a new colourway to keep it fresh, although the red and charcoal seem to be firm favourites.
Cafe/ delicatessen in Llanarthne, not far from Carmarthen. From daily baked breads to refillable bottles of wine, a tasty lunch or tasting menu, Wright's food emporium is a treasure trove of quality, local produce.
We can't go to Carmarthen without a visit to our friends at Wright's. Simon and Maryanne have brought over 25 years of experience in the restaurant industry to an old pub in the middle of nowhere just outside of Carmarthen. It's not a surprise but with their son Joel and a core of great staff they've created something really special. If you're ever near Carmarthen or on your way to or from us its always worth a pit stop.
In May 2016, VICE's 'MUNCHIES' produced a 'Guide to Wales' and featured one of Wright's legendary communal dinner parties. Fast-forward 11mins in to jump straight to Wright's...
look closely and you may spot a fforest elf or two around the table...
Up the hill from our Pizzatipi restaurant and a favourite lunch stop for the fforest elves, the Bara Menyn bakehouse was opened by Jack Smylie Wild in 2016 as a sourdough bakery but soon realised it could be more. Their simple menu is based around their freshly baked sourdough and is constantly changing. In fact, you rarely get the same thing twice. The bread has the crumb, chew and flavour of dreams and we would be lost without it.
Owner and baker Jack Smylie Wild gives a short history of Bara Menyn...
The seed that would eventually become Bara Menyn was sown years ago, when I had plenty of time on my hands, few job prospects in rural West Wales and poor local bread. There wasn’t much to do all day apart from drinking tea and eating toast, but even that was becoming increasingly difficult: “I can’t eat this stuff anymore,” I said to Seren, “shall we start buying something nicer?” I was referring to the thinly-sliced, yeasty white loaves we had both got into the habit of picking up from the village shop. To be fair, it was the best stuff available: at least it was independent, Welsh bread, which was fresher and less carbon-guilty than well-known, branded supermarket loaves. Still, it contained additives, dissolved instantly in the mouth, and was made as quickly and cheaply as possible, without love, by machines.
“There isn’t anything better around. Why don’t you learn to make your own?” came her reply. I thought about it for a second. “Actually,” I said, “you’re right – why don’t I know how to make bread? Surely everyone should know how to make bread?” It was a moment of realisation: this most basic of foodstuffs, the staff of life, made in myriad ways every moment across the globe – yet I had no real idea of how it was made; or rather, how I myself might go about making it at home. So the challenge was on.
I got a bread book, read up on the theory of yeast and gluten, and made some disastrous loaves. But after a while they became edible, and actually improved until the point came when Seren spoke her wise words again: “You’re getting good at this, you could start selling your bread, and start a small business.”
I was sceptical at first – making money from bread is notoriously difficult, and I lacked the kit to make it on any sort of larger scale. The idea, however, of being my own boss; of working with this mysterious, living substance that gave the fingertips such pleasure as it became steadily silkier and smoother on the workbench; the idea of the satisfaction to be found in nourishing people with honest, healthy, delicious bread; the idea, as well, after years of abstract academia (I studied philosophy at Cardiff), of shifting focus from the head to the hands, turning from the matters of the mind to the matter of the soil and the seasons, its fruits and its seeds – all these ideas germinated and began to take hold.
So I started a small micro-bakery from home, which was ultimately unprofitable, but nonetheless satisfying and educational. During that time I got my hands on a copy of Tartine Bread and began experimenting with sourdough, which soon became an obsession. These experiences of slow-fermentation breads and artisan processes soon got me a job in a brand-new bakery further up the Teifi valley in Lampeter, where the owners of The Organic Fresh Food Company – Ben and Lucy – had bitten the bullet and built a small bakehouse, in a spare room attached to their farm shop. They had developed a couple of good sourdough recipes – all they needed now to get the business off the ground was someone passionate about sourdough. After six months of searching for such a baker, a moment of serendipity brought me to their doorstep, and for half a year I toiled away in a flurry of flour, wild yeasts and scorching ovens, earning a few mandatory burns and blisters along the way. Under the guidance of Ben and Lucy, I cut my teeth, and my passion grew; but the 2am awakenings were never going to become natural or easy, and besides, seeing a young couple running a successful business inspired me and gave me more dangerous ideas.
So in the late summer of 2014 I was again jobless and wondering what might become of me. I was writing lots, and getting some things published here and there, but my wallet was (literally) empty, and as most of us know, that gets pretty boring. It seemed natural then – with this newly acquired dough addiction – to try and go it alone and start a bakery of my own – maybe not on the scale of Ben and Lucy’s – but certainly comprising a more professional outfit than my previous micro-bakery, which really was more of a nano-bakery (or even more accurately: someone making bread in their kitchen and selling it).
A few things came together at once – I heard of some funding available, not much, but enough to entice me again into dreaming dangerous things (which meant dreaming of deck ovens, and big mixers, and burnished loaves fashioned by my own hands); and then one day I was talking to someone about my vague, nebulous plans to set something up when they said “I know a woman in Cardigan who’s got an amazing crafty art gallery, spread over two adjacent buildings, who’s been keen for a while for someone to set up a food business in one of them.”
I drove into Cardigan that same day. The shop and gallery she was talking about was Custom House, and the woman was Karina. I introduced myself, mentioned my discussion with our mutual friend, and she led me through to the building next door – number 45 – where she housed her larger items of art and furniture. I stared up at the amazingly high ceiling, at the old stone walls and wooden floor; at the huge glass windows. I instantly began to dream – although this time it was more of a vision – I could see the potential, I could picture the bakery, I could almost smell the bread and see the customers coming in through the big wooden doors to collect it. Driving home I knew that it had been a dangerous imagining – and a dangerous encounter – because a seed had not only been planted – more than that, it was already growing and branching out into the field of actuality – the ball was rolling; and I was terrified. The space was too large for just a bakery; too large for me alone; it would have to house something beyond my humble bread, beyond my own capabilities and imagination.
So I was walking into the unknown from day one. I had to trust…..And the people who leant me money had to trust me….And Karina had to trust me…..And Seren had to trust me….And I had to trust in myself. But also from day one came support, in abundance; everyone was willing to help in whatever way they could. My dad came down to decorate; my mum made signage and fliers and artwork for the walls; my best friends came to wash up; other friends lent bits of cash in the face of my naïve budgeting plan; Anna, a friend and waitress, persuaded her brother Tom to come and be our chef; Seren ‘washed my pants’ – a term we’ve come to consider as a metaphor for keeping everything flowing smoothly behind the scenes; Karina was endlessly supportive in endless ways; my mother-in-law took on managing front of house; friendly, lovely people arrived asking for work…..And out of the chaos a business slowly began to emerge and find its feet. Seren said I’d laid an egg – well, the chick has hatched, and now we’ve got a whole family of wonderful people – staff, customers, suppliers – who keep it alive and kicking and flourishing…..and people really do come through those big wooden doors to collect our bread, drink our coffee and eat our food….
Bara Menyn is in the Centre of Cardigan and just around the corner from our Granary Lofts - Visit their website here