Sunday, August 21, 2011

Offa’s Dyke 9: Welshpool–Lake Vyrnwy–Llanymynech

It’s a couple of days now since I stopped walking the Dyke, but Blisterzilla still needs attention. There’s no signs of any flesh-eating bacteria crawling away from the bandaged area, but it looks pretty awful in an overcooked pizza kind of way, without smelling anywhere near half as good. ( Don’t click on this image before eating: Blisterzilla )

Fortunately the Welshpool hospital is just around the corner from the hotel and so I popped into their A&E department. I found the duty nurse to be super helpful and bravely picked her way through the mess of loose skin and bandages to clean it up. A doctor gave it a quick look over and said my body was doing a very good job of fighting off anything there, but wrote me a prescription for antibiotics that I could use “just in case”. I was despatched with a nicely bandaged wound and some spare bandages.

Munson unlocking his potential at Welshpool Visitor Information CentreWelshpool hospital

I spent the rest of the morning catching up on washing at a coin-laundry and checking out downtown Welshpool. It’s not a very big town so I went round and around the main street about as many times as my spinning clothes.

The local visitor centre staff were very helpful with ideas for exploring the area, and happy to talk about dog-friendly options. I explained that I had ancestors from Dolgellau (which usually produces a response like “oh you’re really Welsh” in a delightful lilting tone) and I’ve seen a lot around there, but little east of Snowdonia National Park. I was looking for somewhere scenic I could take Munson for lunch. They said I should try Lake Vyrnwy so that seemed like a plan I could build on.

I’ve visited some great woollen mills around Ireland and Scotland and often pick out a blanket as a souvenir or gift. I saw that Meirion Mill lay west of here on the road to Dolgellau,  and I would then have the lake on the return loop to tonight’s stay in Llanymynech. Although placed in a beautiful setting, the mill shop is a rather awful tourist trap; its decor is a badly lit reminder of a rural department store from my youth full of uninteresting woollen products from other sources, ugly souvenirs, remaindered books and an unappealing cafeteria.

Welshpool , Lake Vyrnwy - Llanhymynech

Lake Vyrnwy or in Welsh Efyrnwy, as shown on the map above was created in the 1880s to provide a water reservoir for the growing city of Liverpool. The village of Llanwyddyn was drowned in the process but there are no quaint church steeples arising from the depths as a reminder.

It had begun to rain by the time we got there so ‘twas all rather grey and misty, reminding me somewhat of the Scottish lochs along the Great Glen.  I drove up to the Lake Vyrnwy Hotel to look for some food, but the place was rather overrun by a wedding party and the staff studiously avoided me each time I tried to get their attention – I don’t think they could handle any additional visitors.

Lake Vyrnwy

We drove across the lake to a clutch of cafes which either had no covered outdoor seating or wouldn’t accept dogs or both. I found another cafe which had its sole outdoor table filled by waitresses on a smoking break but the menu looked like an artery-clogging horror from the 70s. It’s a shame that with all the effort put into regional food by groups like Taste Montgomery, most of the cafes and bakeries I’ve encountered in the last couple of days (Welshpool and Shrewsbury included) offer nothing regional or  more adventurous than you’d find in a 1970s factory canteen; service rendered with the enthusiasm of someone specifying their preferred method of root canal surgery. I was actually wishing I could find a McDonalds to lift my eating options above the level of slow microwaved stodge.
Bradford Arms Hotel, LlanymynechI stopped in Llanymynech 5 years ago to see where my great great grandmother lived and was married. Tonight we’re staying at the Bradford Arms Hotel which is run by the Hedleys, a very good-humoured Yorkshire couple who are hands-on in the bar and kitchen.

In retrospect it was great that all the food offerings today had been so awful – I was now hungry enough for three courses from Cath Hedley’s fabulous kitchen. I started with

Black Pudding Tower
Slices of black pudding and crouton napped with red wine jus accompanied with apple mash

Black Pudding Towermoved on to

Caerphilly Chicken
Supreme of chicken stuffed with Caerphilly cheese and wrapped in bacon, served on a bed of leek mash and finished with a white wine and mushroom cream sauce

and finished off with Sticky Toffee Pudding.

I had to laugh when my mains order was taken as Careful Chicken but responded that I’d misread one of the menu items as Dreaded Scampi. Every course was a pleasure, and generously supplied; if food service dropped away tomorrow I would at least be coasting on a full stomach.

Munson was very good sitting by my table in the bar all through the meal, and as usual helped me pass the time with some good-natured banter with the regular patrons.

Munson in Bradford Arms bar

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