This afternoon we ventured out to Aberystwyth to see whether one of the two remaining Kelpie puppies might prove suitable for us.
The farm where they’ve been raised is a positive gem, set in absolutely beautiful hilly countryside with panoramic views; being so close to the coast as well, it’s wonderfully situated. We had a long chat over a cuppa with the owner, a very lithe young man who spends his summer shearing sheep flocks throughout the area, even travelling as far as Pembroke which is a fair drive across country.
We discovered that he works a fair bit with shearers from the Falkland Islands – what a small world! I will never forget my visit there, back in 1994; such a wild, weird, wonderful place. The wind there seemed to blow & buffet, ceaselessy. Indeed it was the first time I’ve experienced four seasons in one day: snow on Pleasant Peak at dawn; fierce sunshine at lunchtime (heralding an impromptu barbeque on the deserted creek where we fished for grey mullet with a school of wild porpoise gliding gracefully past); lashing rain in the afternoon as we struggled the Landrovers across treacherous, tussocky hills to the coast to visit some ghostly wrecks of long-forgotten masted ships & a sprightly (if rather smelly) Rockhopper Penguin colony; with said conditions deteriorating to sleet by evening, as we hastened ‘home’ to RAF Mount Pleasant before the weather finally set in with unforgiving fury. Yet the wildness of where we are now – albeit not such a place of mournful solitude, does not always feel a world away from those silent hills….
Anyhow – enough of this musing – the puppies….! Of the two, the red-& tan dog caught our eye: he seemed highly intelligent & had a most engaging, gambolling personality. The black-&-tan pup was endearingly sweet; however, if we’re to have a working dog for stock herding, he’d need to have some guts about him (especially where the goats are concerned…!). The puppies have been living with their Mum in the barn; so whilst house training might appear an issue, Tony pointed out he’d prefer a dog to be kennelled – especially if that’s what the animal is used to & is comfortable with – & our cottage is a little too small for any sizeable canine companion anyway. We thanked our host for his hospitality & headed into Aberystwyth itself, for a couple of reasons: we wanted to have a look for a suitable kennel to purchase for potentially accommodating said puppy (although tomorrow we still holding out hope that we’ll have an opportunity to see ‘Blade’ the Malamute, hence we are not committing ourselves yet); & we wanted to take the opportunity to visit the Aberystwyth branch of ‘Ultracomida’, the excellent market Delicatessen we patronise as regularly as our frugal pockets will allow which is situated in the beautiful coastal town of Cardigan. Having eventually traced the unassuming shop frontage to a little street leading off the coastal promenade, I enthusiastically examined their excellent cheese counter, for starters. Ultracomida rightly deserves the accolade of being one of the finest small Deli chains in Wales, if not indeed the UK – their marketing, & superb quality produce, are absolutely spot-on. There was a long, droolingly-anticipating queue at the bar/cafe, which serves superb food & drink; so with Old Father Time being our enemy today, we reluctantly satisfied ourselves with a takeaway ‘goody bag’ of fine cheeses (of course!); local cider; Penlon chocolate ale; complementary crackers for the cheese; & of course that local ‘must-have’, a goodly tin of ‘Thick Spaniard’ as it’s fondly known: that deliciously, wickedly thick hot Spanish chocolate, supposedly a drink but in truth a heavenly, heart-warming pudding-in-a-mug (if you have room that is, after sampling Ultracomida’s irresistibly gorgeous paella!). We have also found that used with our own wonderful full-cream goats’ milk, you cannot have a more divinely, lip-smackingly chocolate-rich experience. Perhaps I should try it in my ice cream?….now there’s a tantalisingly tempting idea….!!
My wallet lightened by £16 but my arm satisfyingly weighted with a substantial bag of tempting goodies, we headed onto the pier; but the drizzle had taken a firm hold, turning the coast to dull, dreary grey so we retreated inland in our unsuccessful quest for a kennel.
Thus defeated we headed homewards – ironically, with sunshine bursting blue flashes, across the light, leaping sea; as we pursued the pendulous clouds toward the inevitable toil of evening chores….& even darker, to the deeply unwelcome news that there’s been another suspected FMD outbreak reported in Kent resulting in the imposition of another Temporary Control Zone – nightmare. Whilst visiting the delightful Kelpies, our host related the true farce following the imposition of the movements ban on livestock on 3rd August: his neighbour had purchased some sheep at a major livestock market several hundred miles away in Bicester (Oxfordshire), that fateful day: but he was pressured into either moving the animals off the market’s premises immediately or having them culled on the spot – so he was forced to move them illegally. Having been initally stopped by the Police he was offered an escort all the way from Oxfordshire to North Wales – with NO preliminary vet check & NO interim quarantine offered. Those sheep had been purchased at a major livestock market, which was a confluence for animals from all over England; & here they were, just after an outbreak of the UK’s most dreaded disease, being shipped hundreds of miles to a disease-free zone. Madness.