In Narberth at this time of year there is a hive of activity with lots of Christmas events and Christmas shopping going on! It is a mecca for independent shops and in particular craft shops and art galleries. Perhaps the most popular is the well established Susie’s Uggs workshop owned, managed and run by the very experienced and effervescent Susie! At this time of year she and her merry crew work long into the night making sure Christmas orders are met. This I am told can be challenging but customers know they can rely on a great service and hundreds of parcels are sent off in time for Christmas.
The boots have a unique design and a very wide range of colour combinations. The boots and slippers have a warm and cosy feeling and are so comfortable to wear! I say this from experience! Phone Susie on 01834 861047 for a real person and great customer service. Our visitors to Old Oak Barn often drop by and go back year after year because they know they get wonderful original hand made footwear which will last and last. Photos 3 and 4 courtesy of Susie’s website and Owen but the rest I took!
Susie also does bags and hats and other goodies. Check out their website which now has an online shop too!
There were strict judging criteria and both entries required me to focus on what I know we do well here at our lovely self catering holiday accommodation! Written applications were submitted and extra supplementary evidence was included and some weeks later I heard that Old Oak Barn was indeed shortlisted for the final in both categories.
Sustainable Tourism Awards
Best Customer Service in Tourism Awards
The next stage was an appointment with two judges who visited me here on two different days in early November. The first award was sponsored by The National Trust and I must have done something right because I was awarded SILVER! In the finals I was up against the Ceridwen centre near Newcastle Emlyn which is a very big enterprise which hosts weddings, has yurts and holiday cottages plus is a large venue for local and community events eg Fireworks and Christmas Fayres. I was also up against the Myddfai Centre near Llandovery which is an award winning community and visitor centre which opened in 2011 by none other than HRH I believe! This was lottery funded initially and is recognised as a centre of great interest to many. The fourth finalist was Larkhill Tipis which is a long established glamping and yurt and tipi site in West Wales. They offer five different nomadic ‘glamping’ experiences: an Alachigh, a Mongolian Ger, a Bentwood Yurt, a Lavvu and a Native American Tipi. This has won several awards over the years and opened in 2003.
You can imagine how thrilled we were to receive Silver in this category.
I had to give evidence for and explain amongst other things how we manage and monitor our energy consumption, water and waste, how we recycle and reuse what we can. How the building was originally converted and materials used. How we promote the visitor experience. How we help our visitors understand what it is going on in the local area and further afield. How we get involved in local charity work. How we promote, protect and support the local environment, nature and wildlife. Initially I had thought just to enter this one category but just two days before entries closed I decided also to go for a second award – that of Customer Service. I know we look after our visitors very well because I am constantly told so by people who stay here. I had to demonstrate HOW we go the extra mile to make sure people get the very most out of their visit. Judges were impressed with the details I provided plus of course our many amazing reviews online and in the visitors books. I know there is scope for me to monitor and evaluate visitors views even more and in a more formal way but at the end of the day there is only so much anyone can do to encourage visitors to tick boxes and complete questionnaires!!!! I was told there were lots of entries in this particular category so I was over the moon to be awarded Bronze!
So we went along to Llanelli on 25 November for the Awards Night! There was entertainment in the form of a string quartet, food and drink and we came away with two awards! Thank you so much to everyone who has helped to make Old Oak Barn the very successful business it is today!
Parc Y Bocs is a farm shop, a great new children’s play area and lots more too! The fresh veggies are renowned in the area for being tasty and are available all year round. Situated not far from Kidwelly and only about 15 minutes from Carmarthen they are well worth a visit if staying at Old Oak Barn. The cafe serves up simple food every day and you can also buy as takeaway too. There are some wonderful original gifts in the shop some of which are made locally! For many years Burns have been leaders locally in healthy pet food supplies also known as Burns Real Food for Dogs, Cats and Rabbits. The mixes were developed by John Burns himself in 1993 after as a vet he noticed how crucial food was to the recovery and of course the health and well being of pets. He developed simple foods which are intended to allow the body to function naturally. So all the pet foods are made from the highest quality ingredients and without any pharmacologically active supplements. I like the sound of that!
Parc Y Bocs play area is really well designed and is ideal for small children. They even have smaller sized picnic tables. Adjacent is the pond and further down the slope are some wonderful gardens where all sorts of things are grown. I was struck by how neat and tidy everything was and its clear a lot of pride is taken into running the gardens well. The chicken on the right here I bought in the shop – it now stands proud and tall in Old Oak Barn by the french windows! I couldn’t resist it! There are some beautiful chickens at Parc Y Bocs which run towards visitors who want to feed them – just like our chickens here! They too are in a fantastic run with all mod cons! Below you see the old grey fergie which gives lots of children hours of fun. We used to have one 40 years ago when we first moved to Wales and lived in the north of Carmarthenshire near Brechfa Forest! Do go and visit Parc Y Bocs when in the area – the service is always excellent and I think you will love it!
The Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) is a nationwide conservation charity that quite simply saves wetlands and protects many endangered species of birds. There are 9 such centres in the UK and the Wetland Centre in Wales near Llanelli is less than an hour from Old Oak Barn. Wetlands are the main source of drinking water for people and wildlife and it is vital of course that they are looked after. In total 3,000 hectares of prime wetland habitat are managed by WWT, much of it designated as nationally or internationally important for wildlife. The site near Llanelli is approximately 450 acres and is carefully managed so that wildlife will thrive. WWT is one of the world’s leading science and conservation institutions in its field. But they say they are unique because “we never forget it all starts with the simple pleasures, like feeding a duck. And maybe a nice cup of tea.” Pictures mostly courtesy of the Wetlands Centre!
In addition to seeing the wildlife at the Wetland Centre there is an abundance of activities on offer for children. Check out their website for the latest “Whats On” section. If you visit in the summer entry includes a canoe for an hour and weather permitting or you can borrow a bicycle also without charge. It is really good value for families looking for a bit of an adventure! Open 363 days of the year from 9.30 until 5pm. There is a great little cafe you can go and sit for an hour overlooking a pond for free but if you want to stay longer you do of course have to pay the admission fee – fair enough!!
Children will love it here. There are always extra things on for them during half term and holidays and for toddlers every week! I was lucky enough to visit recently and was blown away by everything I saw. I shall definitely be returning soon and in July/August next year to see the flamingos hatching their young. In 2015 we were told there were 11 successful flamingo chicks reared! Brilliant! Have a peep at this short video to give you more of an idea of what to expect. I think Peter Scott would have been chuffed!
For those who like somewhere a little different and who love great tasting food guaranteed to be freshly prepared then we recommend a visit to Wrights Food Emporium which is about half an hour from Old Oak Barn. It is situated in a wonderful old pub in the village of Llanarthne in the Towy Valley and is run by Simon and Maryann Wright who clearly have a wonderful eye for detail in everything they do! We rate it highly! Earlier this year Wrights made it onto the 40-strong list of top restaurants in the whole of the UK, compiled by Observer Food Monthly. There are only 2 other Welsh names on this list! It also has a lovely deli which sells all sorts of goodies. So, it claims to be somewhere a little bit different and a little bit special and we think you will agree it is! The bread there is heavenly. Recently our visitors have eaten there while staying here more than once because it is such a handy stop off if you have been to Dynevor, Aberglasney or The Gardens of Wales and the quality is guaranteed.
Image above courtesy of Warren Orchard
Image above courtesy of Warren Orchard
A selection of their food! All served with a smile!
Occasionally there is live music in the bar usually on a Sunday. Keep an eye on the website for more details. Coming up soon on Sunday 27th is Scott Davis Harvest Special – 6 courses and a glass of something on arrival: £37.50
This is one of Carmarthenshire’s most beautiful walks and I’m not surprised it features in Lonely Planets top 1000 must see sites across the whole world! We walked it on a beautiful September day with a little cloud cover coming and going which made the shadows and light all the more fantastic to see! The 5K walk starts at the car park with a gentle stroll initially along a firm track. Be warned though – the road from Llandeusant to the car park is full of potholes! For those staying at Old Oak Barn we can provide extra information on how to get there and what to expect!
Heading towards the little trout farm you are flanked by gushing mountain streams and some great views of the distant peak of Pen Y Fan. You will reach Llyn Y Fan Fach in about half an hour – the walk is suitable for most people but if you want to ascend further to the top then allow about 5 hours and suitable clothing and footwear. It is here at the lake that as ancient legend has it a beautiful lady still lives! The story goes that back in the 13th century a farmer grazing cattle nearby spotted the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She agreed to marry him on one proviso – that he must not hit her more than twice. You can guess what happened! In time, yes .. the inevitable happened – three strikes, and the otherworldly wife disappeared back into the lake, taking her magic cows with her. The valley, the guide adds, is rich in medicinal herbs and bog plants, suggesting this may be the mistreated fairy maiden’s healing legacy. It is also linked to story of the Physicians of Myddfai.
Today it is grazed by hundreds of sheep who do a good job at putting up with walkers! The views north from the lake are amazing. We ran out of time to continue to walk to the very top but spoke to some who had who were delighted with their efforts! The spot is actually in Carmarthenshire and in the Black Mountains too which itself is part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. You can read more about the lake – its history and geology if you visit here.
I have always taken huge pleasure in growing flowers. For over 40 years now I have sown lots of annuals and during our 28 years here at Cwmpalis I have certainly developed my own random gardens which provide variety, colour and interest. For me one of the pleasures is being able to pick them to enjoy inside. Increasingly though I value watching the birds feed on the seeds be it Red Hot Pokers in July or the later flowering sunflowers. Growing winter bird food naturally is something we can all do!All the photos here were taken by myself and all the flowers have been picked and then displayed ready for visitors to the barn. Some of the favourites are of course sweet peas! The other benefit of course to growing plenty of fragrant flowers is that it helps the bees!If flowers are a little scarce or unavailable then I can improvise and use some of the many herbs – the display on the left includes parsley, marjoram, sage, rosemary and fennel.
Established just a few years now “The Spooky Magic Carmarthen” tour entertains visitors with a look at the creepy past and includes some grissly stories from centuries ago. You will also take part in some unusual magical experiments involving ghosts, murder weapons, antique photographs and a witch trial. We recommend this attraction and think you too will be highly intrigued at some of the stories even though they often look at rather unsavoury characters. Nick is obviously a gifted raconteur!
Creepy Carmarthen tours continue every Wednesday evening from now until the end of September – the next one takes place on Wednesday 2nd September at 7pm. To book please call 01267 231557. Adult tickets are £7.50 each, children & OAPs are £5 and a family ticket is available for two adults and up to three children for £23. All walks depart from Carmarthen Guildhall.
Highly recommended by Trip Advisor, winner of the “Visitor Experience of the Year” at the Carmarthenshire Tourism Awards in 2013 – the walk is a must for both visitors and locals alike. Have a read of the reviews to learn more!
If staying at Old Oak Barn then we can organise your evening out for you!
About 15 minutes from Old Oak Barn is the pretty town of Narberth which draws in many visitors throughout the year. Known for its wonderful variety of independent shops as well as the exciting Narberth Food Festival it is also home to a brilliant little museum. Facilities include a vibrant visitors centre for people of all ages including children, a coffee shop, a book shop and staff are on hand to answer questions and queries. There are lots of interactive displays and the quality of all the artefacts and displays is excellent. Its obvious a massive amount of time and effort has gone into the development of the site in Church Street.Narbeth Museum is open in the summer from Tuesdays – Saturdays and in the winter just 4 days a week Wednesday – Saturday. 10.00 – 5.00pm. We strongly recommend a visit. Children will enjoy the book corner!
Learn about James Williams and the impact he left on the town especially in his sad ending.
There is a great little film seen through the eyes of a child.
If you have an interest in local or family history they might be able to help because over the years they have amassed an extensive and interesting collection of records and photographs that can supplement your research.
Volunteers have also carried out research into soldiers from Narberth in both the First and Second World Wars.
We loved all the displays and will be returning soon for another visit. We were impressed with the quality of everything we saw including the greeting from one of the women from Rebeccas Riots in the 19th century! And we enjoyed playing battle with the princely Owain Glyndwr!
We have always been passionate about the countryside and local environment in which we are lucky enough to live. Since establishing Old Oak Barn as a holiday cottage, open all year round for visitors to enjoy, we have constantly sought to look at the impact that it and our visitors may have on our environment.
We all know that sustainable tourism is much more than just being ‘green’. To be truly sustainable, we must think about the needs of our local rural environment and respect all wildlife, flora and fauna as well as think about the quality of life of local communities and local traditions and where possible contribute to local economic prosperity. We must consider how we manage all waste from the barn including water as well as recycling opportunities. We are sure we go the extra mile in encouraging our visitors to learn a little about the local culture and traditions and in showing them how we have looked after this valley for the last 25 years we open their eyes to how they too can play their part in looking after wildlife and the natural environment.
We offer children a short quiz with a surprise “prize” at the end which includes reference to the welsh language but is more designed to encourage identifying birds and bird sounds here plus identifying trees and plants. It is lots of fun and has been well received. We have some written welsh phrases and words plus welsh dictionaries including children’s picture dictionaries in Welsh and people are often surprised to hear the language spoken locally. We always suggest holiday makers buy local produce including local meat from two fine butchers in St Clears. We offer them fresh grown produce from my garden when there is a surplus. We encourage visitors to recycle waste which can be composted here and edible food scraps are swapped for fresh eggs.
With sustainability in mind in 2015 we have decided to purchase cleansing products which have been made on an organic farm just over the border in Gloucestershire. Daylesford Organics make some wonderful smelling rosemary washing up liquid, kitchen surface cleaner and sanitising hand wash which we use in the barn. Very occasionally bleach is used too but for daily use we are thrilled with the new products which have been approved by our visitors so far.
When making alterations in the barn we always consider the environment and energy use – last year we installed solar powered velux blinds – all repainting of windows and doors used oil free paints and new cushions were chosen for their 100% natural feather filling and cotton covers. Another water butt has been installed to collect rainwater from the roof to water in summer the many flowers grown around the barn.
Our website makes it clear that we value the views of visitors of all ages very much and I often ask them what improvements they would like to see here. Its often surprising what people come up with! Recent additions to the children’s book corner includes more books on trees, flowers, birds, stream life and woodland mammals.
Our next plans are going to be exciting – in 2016 we hope to open up a small boardwalk on the pond we developed 25 years ago so that visitors can spend time looking a little closer at the wonderful array of pond life we have attracted. The challenge will be not to disturb the 2 pairs of grey lag geese which now nest there along with a pair of moorhens and mallards – so this may only be open after June when nesting has finished.
I was lucky enough to go during the first week of July when these few photos were taken.
The walled gardens have matured well these last few years – did you know there are over a mile of walls and recently designs have concentrated on planting more climbers than ever!
The evening sun catches the light in the middle garden and although not a lot of colour in some parts of the gardens we were struck by how pretty the form and structures are.
One of the best things about the gardens are its tranquil setting within the landscape of Carmarthenshire. The story of Aberglasney spans many centuries, but, the house’s origins are still shrouded in obscurity. There are constant changes and alterations going on all the time at what must surely be one of Wales’s finest gardnes and country houses.
Aberglasney wins funding – July 2015
Aberglasney has just been awarded almost £1,000,000 in a lottery grant click here for more details to create a new heritage horticulture training facility at the historic gardens. This exciting project aims to provide inspiration and training for a new generation of gardeners as well as students with learning difficulties and school children and is the latest in a line of restoration projects at Aberglasney. Watch this space!
Marros Riding Centre near Laugharne and Pendine about 20 minutes from Old Oak Barn offers visitors and the local community guaranteed service and quality when it comes to anything horsey! A long established company run by Hazel and family the farm was bought in 2002 and now have 38 licensed horses and ponies.
Hazel (middle in pic above) is a qualified First Aid at Work First aider and the British Horse Society Riding and Road Safety Trainer for the Centre. She has ABRS 6 in Stable Management and Equitation as well as BHS Stage 2 and BHS NVQ Level 3.
Marros was presented with “Visitor experience of the Year” Bronze Award from Carmarthenshire Tourist Association and “Outstanding Customer Service in Tourism” Bronze Award in 2013/14 and this year received a Certificate of Excellence with Trip Advisor too.
Individual, family or group riding sessions
Horses suitable for beginners & experienced riders
Lessons for all standards of rider
BTEC and City and Guilds courses in Horse Care and Riding
Trip Advisor Carmarthenshire – Certificate of Excellence
We heard last week that Old Oak Barn has been awarded a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor!
This is the first year we have gained this recognition and we are pleased as punch!
Not many small businesses in the holiday cottage category receive this award every year and it shows among other things consistently very high standard ratings from visitors in for example – customer service, sleep quality, cleanliness, location etc. We want to thank all our guests for choosing to come and stay with us here in Carmarthenshire and also for taking the time to write a review when they go home. Many visitors return every year and over time some become good friends. We have loved getting to know children of all ages and in some cases have watched them grow up too.
We stayed for 24 hours on this magical island of Skomer in May 2015.
Breathtaking – can only describe the scenery and wildlife as some of the most beautiful in the whole of Wales. To see bluebells not under trees is awesome. We loved every minute. Sleeping in the hostel is fine and more luxurious than anticipated. Taking all food and drink for the 24 hours was perfectly manageable too. We did have to book the accommodation last year as it is so popular and there is only room in the hostel for 14 overnighters.
Skomer is accessible from the little harbour at Martin’s Haven and for those wanting a day trip boats sail (weather permitting) just three times a day. Contact Dale-sailing for more details. You have to be prepared to queue in the popular weeks ie Whitsun half term.
Looking towards St Brides Bay and Solva from the island. We also saw porpoises from the island and from the ferry crossing. And of course we saw the worlds largest population of Manx Shearwater returning around half eleven at night from their days feeding in the Irish Sea. What a fabulous noise they made!!
There are 3 breeds of rabbits on the island and they are quite tame. Watching their antics in their natural habitat was great fun!
The little boat arrived to pick us up the next morning and take us safely back to the mainland – the crossing to Skomer is quite short and only takes about 15 minutes. Experienced crewmen know the seas well and don’t take risks if forecasts are poor. so crossings can be cancelled at short notice.
We think you will love Skomer 2015 too! Come and stay at Old Oak Barn in June and have a look for yourselves. We currently have two short breaks available around June 6th and June 21st. Phone on 01994230716 for more details.
You can see more pics of puffins in our other blogs!
Click here for lots of ideas of what to do, where to go and what to see during the month of May.
Some of the planned activities include of course visiting bluebells in the many woods locally including Dinefwr at Castle Woods. There are literally hundreds of places to go to see bluebells in Carmarthenshire and they are of course adjacent to Old Oak Barn in our very own Cwmpalis Woods.
Or you could get up early on Saturday 9 May and hear and learn about birdsong at The Wetland Trust near Lanelli – this is very appealing to many of our visitors at Old Oak Barn who take such pleasure in hearing the birds here during Spring and Summer especially.
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