Camchain and tensioner seen up close in a cutaway bike engine

Home Travel StoriesLlangollen Lockdown

Meandering Into Llangollen

Ride Date 25 Jul 2020

By Ren Withnell

Have I even been camping this year? I don't think I have. I had one trip to see my Dad sometime in February and that wasn't camping. Then Lockdown. Damn that evil bug.

Ren in the tent on a campsite on the Ayrshire coast
Camping? Remember camping? It's sort of like being at home but a lot more uncomfortable.

Things have these past few weeks been "easing" a little. We can ride our motorcycles for fun once more and now we can go camping. Being allowed to do something and feeling like doing something is a good idea are two different things though. While I'm not paranoid about Covid-19 I don't want to become a transmission vector either, I have family and friends who would be considered at risk. It's trying to strike a balance between living an enjoyable life and not being a bug spreading dick.

On Friday I said to Sharon "I fancy going camping soon, you know, if it can be done with some social distance kinda thing. One night, get back into it, nothing drastic" I'm expecting "let's talk about it, plan it, work it out, look around, see what we can do". Instead I find an excited response much akin to a puppy being taken for a walk -  "let's go let's GO!" When? Tomorrow!!

Oh, right. Erm. Errr. Best have a think then.

We don't want a big trip, not for a one-nighter. Ideally it would be nice to be within walking distance of a shop or small town. Somewhere rural. I have a look on the maps and there are several options but one campsite stands out. It's 10 minutes walk from a town I know, it's cheap (very cheap by today's standards) and thus correspondingly basic and thus without "social" areas which ought be avoided. Tower Farm Llangollen, that might do the trick.

"But sweetie, the forecast isn't so clever." And yet the advantage of a poor forecast is hopefully there will be fewer campers and fewer tourists, thus reducing the potential for unnecessary contact. Correspondingly it could also cause a miserable wet weekend. Sharon is still totally up for this - "we've got waterproofs it'll be fine, lets GO!" Blimey, this is a refreshingly welcome change of attitude from a woman who is essentially a lizard who cannot function without direct sunlight.

Sharon smiling in the sun next to her and Ren's motorcycles
She only smiles if the sun is out.

So here am I, packing the now dusty tent and camping kit on a Saturday morning. The weather so far is light grey with occasional showers. Hmmmm. I'm wondering if the worshipful Lady Parker is still feeling quite so enthused.

At midday I arrive at her place to find she is awake (good start), dressed (even better), the bike is out (impressive), she is mostly packed (amazing!) and she is still excited (who are you and what have you done with Sharon?). She's all set to go and I have to calm her down to ensure I have a brew and a pee and a biscuit (or 6). There's still a little faffing around so perhaps this is Sharon and not some overzealous alien impersonator (I prefer the alien theory...). 

We depart and our journey is uneventful in the best possible way. I intentionally get us lost around the narrow lanes north of Llangollen and it is good. We're not in the grand Snowdonian Mountains yet these hills and valleys and hamlets and farms are an elixir for the spirits. Gambolling mature lambs, fields of hay, tractors at work and thick dense woods remain unspoiled by the grey skies. The rain holds off and we just ride. 

Abbey Farm campsite outside Llangollen looks busy. Oh heck, I guess the weather isn't stopping folks. Our campsite turns out to be practically perfect for our needs though. Tower farm, without on site bar, without WiFi, without camping pods and with only basic facilities is quieter, much quieter. We are the only tent campers among a handful of campervans and caravans dotted around. 

The lone tent and bikes in the large field surrounded by trees at Tower Farm campsite
It seems we have this whole field to ourselves. Socially Distanced.

Apparently the boiler's broken so there's no hot water, damn good job we're only here for one night, we'll be fine. In the interest of Covid hygiene only the disabled toilet is open with sanitisers and disinfectant sprays on hand. I imagine the rest of the campers will use their own facilities so we have the loo to ourselves almost. We usually use the pee-can most of the time anyhow.

If you're looking for the whole package then Tower Farm ain't it. If you need a patch of grass and basic but functional toilets and sinks then you're in the right place. This is all we need, this is all we want. And today at least there's next to no other people which is good.

Thick trees around the edge of the green field is our scenery for the night
The scenery is great here too.

Once pitched and brewed and settled in we depart for Llangollen in search of sustenance and exploration. Our first stop is the "Nemo" chippy complete with plastic shielding across the counter, all very Covid ready. Sausage, chips, gravy and a drink of choice for £3.95? Yes, that'll do quite nicely thank you.

We sit on the benches next to the war memorial to dine "al-fresco" and "socially distanced". While the skies are cloudy only 2 or 3 tiny droplets of rain fall as we eat. I've missed this, more, much more than I realised. This isn't a fancy restaurant in a remote city, this isn't fine dining among vast mountains or picturesque lakes, this is a chippy tea in a Welsh town. And yet it feels so good to be out, to be elsewhere, to be doing, to be living.

My opinion of Llangollen isn't particularly positive. Previously it's always been this weird little place that's always full of tourists. In spite of this the evening is ours and it would be wasteful not to use it, We shall have a walk around and see what's what.

I am beginning to see that my opinion might be in need of updating. The town is a eclectic mix of buildings from the very old to the quite recent. There's higgledy piggledy houses with odd random windows and rooms. The river dominates in a mix of hardy rocks with foaming rapids and calmer flows complete with ducks. Curious shops mix with familiar names. It's small and yet complete. 

An old timber frame house with small windows in the town
They don't make 'em like they used to. Curiously interesting.

We meander with the river through a park, smart grass and flowers opposite rocks in the water and an abandoned mill. A house where it ought not be, trees and reeds with the tip of an "Aldi" sign poking out inbetween. A sharp modern glass cafe built into an old stone barn. Narrow back streets off the busy main A5 road. Not always pretty but often fascinating. 

Trees cover the valley sides, the river has rocks jutting into it, there's a pleasant park at Llangollen
If you don't look you won't find places like this. Llangollen has been an agreeable revelation.

In the park a 3 legged dog is bouncing around energetically, his missing rear leg seems of little consequence. He bounds up to Sharon and I, begging us to kick his ball which we do. As he sets off with gusto the owners, a couple of similar age to Sharon and I with a mature, subtle hippy vibe, engage us. They live here and the lady enthuses about a place just up the river, past the church, down under the railway, through a gap... and so on. We must go apparently.

Sharon seems keen so we do. We find ourselves on a bank of sand and pebbles further up river. My feet are tired so I sit on a rock while Sharon goes off to explore. She returns with a couple of large flat stones. I know what she's up to. She's stealing half of Wales for her garden. "They are NOT coming back in MY top box!".

Thick tree cover, pebbles and water in a hidden location along the river
Sharon finds her own private paradise.

As we set out to depart a PCSO (Police Community Support Officer) appears among the trees and foliage. Momentarily I feel guilt as should any good citizen. Should I be here, is this private land? He's perfectly friendly, apparently they keep an eye on this place as the local "yoofs" like to gather and drink here. They're more concerned about the litter rather than their behaviour.  Turns out he's a biker and we talk for 10 minutes about life here.

Back at the tent and with hot tea in our hands it starts to rain. We timed that perfectly, not with any skill just pure unadulterated luck. We settle in for the night as the rain starts to rattle the canvas relentlessly. We don't care. We've had a grand day out exploring on 2 wheels and 2 legs, the weather can't take that from us now.

If you'd like to share your own travel revelation click here.

Meandering Into Llangollen In search of the thrill of exploration and pushing the boundaries of human endeavour, the Dynamic Muppets travel somewhere they've been before. However Llangollen still has much to reveal.
The Old Folks Climb a Hill After a night under canvas our intrepid explorers take a genteel stroll up a hill to see an old castle. Well that's what Ren thinks it'll be like anyhow.

Reader's Comments

ROD said :-
Nice to see you are out and about again.
We stayed at Tower Farm about 4 years ago for 3 nights and used it as our base to tour the area.
06/08/2020 19:17:26 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Bloody typical.
I go back to work and you go 5 miles down the road from the wife's place.

I actually got out on the bike a few times during my incarceration in Wales in June. Once to go to Manchester for a medical. Was funny when he went to check my knee reflex without telling me and his hammer bounced back at him off my armour pad. Fortunately he never made me take off my armoured undies.
Second time was to go to Hitchcocks for parts for the Himy. The recommended max distance for travel is 5 miles. 4.9 miles as the crow flies from the house to the border near Chirk.

06/08/2020 23:20:17 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Glad you've got out kids.
I like Llangollen, but yes, you can't normally see it for Emmets.
You ever walked over the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct? It's a hoot.

06/08/2020 23:40:37 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Have you changed the plastic on the handguards?
06/08/2020 23:45:37 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
ROD - Small world huh. As said due to it's convenient location to town as well as the countryside I reckon Sharon and I will return to Tower Farm.

Borsuk - sorry chief! I seem to recall when you were here we weren't allowed into Wales full stop and even when we were there I wasn't quite sure we were supposed to be. Are you back on the little dingy now?

Upt' - I keep on threatening to actually see the Aqueduct but it never seems to happen. We've been to the village once but it was packed with "emmets" as you call them/us. We could see it from Llangollen but I've not actually walked it. One day squire, one day. As for the handguards, the "smiling" picture of Sharon was taken ages ago and the plastic there is the "first draft". I later acquired a 25 litre plastic drum and used the better plastic from this. Everything is in development, there's work afoot on "Tour-A-Plank" this weekend.
07/08/2020 07:48:59 UTC
Bogger said :-
I quite LLangollen. There's just enough to see and do for a long weekend. The Axe shop is ace. I was drooling over them.

Glad you had a pleasant weekend. Keep up the good work.

07/08/2020 08:39:43 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Axe shop? Are you a psychotic axe wielding murderer? Note to self - Bogger might be dangerous. I can't say as I noticed the axe shop, what with me being such a pacifist and tranquil sole.
07/08/2020 09:43:53 UTC
Upt'North said :-
Might? Be dangerous.
07/08/2020 09:55:44 UTC
Bogger said :-
Hmm, yes, a predilection for knives mainly. But axes will do fine. I think it's to do with wood whittling when I was a kid. Honest.

07/08/2020 10:29:23 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Yes Bogger of course Bogger whatever you say Bogger. I'm not arguing with a chap with a knife fixation. I can barely operate my eating knife let alone be trusted with anything sharper than my elbow.
07/08/2020 12:18:16 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Is that the Proventure shop you mean Bogger or the Axe throwing range.

My brother was good at axe throwing when we were kids, though it was my Grandfathers ARP firemans axe he used.

I never got the hang of it and stuck to throwing knives and my Uncles WW2 army issue machete.

08/08/2020 00:56:48 UTC
Bogger said :-
Not the knife throwing range. But you have me excited now. It'll be the shop.

08/08/2020 14:45:27 UTC
John S said :-
I remember Tower farm camp site from when we used to have motorcycle club camping weekends there in the 1970s. The site then was just the very uneven field on a slope which was accessed through the farmyard with the only facilities being a toilet, water, and a wash basin. I think the back field is only used for mobile homes now. The flat camping area used now looks like pure luxury!
09/08/2020 08:37:19 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Eeeeee by 'eck John S, was it all black and white back then too? Yes it seems the campervans and motorhomes are on the "back" field as you say and we were put on the field you see, to the left of the driveway. And yes the ground, while not bowling green flat was absolutely fine for camping on.

We only saw the disabled loo which is a "wet room" affair, ie toilet, sink and shower with tiled floor. You essentially would shower in the same room as the loo. There were 3 or 4 washing up sinks in another room and I peered into the gent's loo through the window, couldn't see much. It is simple, dated and used, equally the bits we could use (disabled loo and washing up sinks) were in working order and perfectly serviceable. It ain't luxurious but as long as the boiler gets fixed for a hot shower I'd be happy to spend a short week there. I've been to places a helluva lot worse.
10/08/2020 08:25:08 UTC

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