I wake on my back staring at the canvas. It feels far too early but I can’t get back to sleep. I try to read for a while, drawn to Brian’s snoring I consider various elaborate ways of waking him. It is satisfying to see how making the breakfast has transformed from a spectator sport to a communal event.

The groundsheets of Lucy’s tent are leaking and Paul heroically saves the day. Paul’s pastoral ability and good nature causes the Cerbyd ladies to unite in forming the Paul R Jones Appreciation Society.

Cerbyd are aware that they have another mystery surprise and assume it must be the laundrette so contently wash and dry their muddy clothes. We hurry the group to collapse tents and pack bags, this too is becoming a well oiled machine. But neither the luxury of the laundrette nor the dishwasher, that they are yet to discover, is today’s mystery surprise and as if by magic Christine our registered blue badge tour guide arrives.

The group are speechless and genuinely excited by the prospect of discovering a little of secret Wales in the capable hands of Christine. Christine rides shotgun and we’re off again. As we travel through Beddgelert we hear the story of Gelert:

“In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, “The Faithful Hound”, who was unaccountably absent.

On Llewelyn’s return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant’s cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.

The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound’s side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog’s dying yell was answered by a child’s cry.

Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but near by lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain.

The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here”.

Accompanied by Christine’s voice we drive deep into the heart of Snowdonia round every corner waits a discovery. We visit Llechwedd, Slate mines with the intention of splitting slate. Four times we are assembled together for the slate splitting but each time the slate is not ‘good enough’ for splitting.

I know far less about slate than I thought I did. I make a mental note that I must address this when I return home. I can’t understand why Llechwedd is still waiting for World Heritage status? If the group did notice they didn’t show any disappointment for not being able to split the slate. In fact smiles were a plenty and the happiness swelled as we swilled tea and gobbled down Welsh cakes in the Slate Café.

Happier and rounder we take off on the next leg of Christine’s mystery tour – Plas Newydd, the home of the Ladies of Llangollen. Lady Eleanor Butler and Miss Sarah Ponsonby lived together in a romantic friendship from 1780 overhauling the house into the gothic style and adding stunning carved oak arches and interiors.

As a big thank you to Christine for her extraordinary help we pull up some chairs at a rather large table (I think we may have been the largest group ever to eat at the Conwy Falls restaurant) and cram more food into our mouths.

At Christine’s request we drop her at the side of the road and head on. I close my eyes and I sing to myself:

(To the tune of the Littlest Hobo)

Maybe tomorrow, Cerbyd will be driving through your town,

Christine, our blue badge tour guide that we can count upon.

Down this road that never seems to end,

Christine, our friend, waits just around the bend.

So if you’d like her to guide you for a while,

Just pack a bus full to the rafters that is Cerbyd’s style.

Maybe tomorrow, Cerbyd will be driving through your town,

Christine, our blue badge tour guide that we can count upon.


We leave late especially as we are heading North and today is the day of the longest drive. This was a mistake especially after having to stop for cows in the road and road works. The group must have been studying their timetables as a wave of excitement reverberates up and down the bus.

‘What is our mystery surprise?’

We park up in a supermarket car park and I head off to get the surprise fish and chips with Tomoko while the rest of the group sit by the seaside. I walk the long way to the Dolphin Fish and Chip shop to throw the group off the scent. Not a wise move as time ticks away but seeing the joy and excitement on the faces of the Cerbyd group as we approach with bags of fish and chips makes it all worth it. The group gorge themselves on this Great British tradition then Ben and Megan go for a swim in the sea. I would like to state that Cerbyd does not advocate swimming on a full stomach.

Brian and I start to hurry the group as we need to set off. Otherwise we will be pitching our tents in the dark. Much to our paternal disgust within twenty minutes of leaving Aberystwyth where there are adequate toilets, the group demand to stop to relieve themselves. We refuse for as long as possible but when it looks like we maybe having to clean wet seats, we cave in.

Luckily we are near Ben’s cousin’s house so we pop in to say hi and so every Cerbyd member can use the lavatory – quite an honour!

Ben’s cousin doesn’t seem to be in and we’re able to walk straight in to her house. I can’t stop the Cerbyd group snooping around the house like guests from episode of Come Dine with me. Louise takes a particular liking to a pair of shoes and Kathryn seems very fond of an old Victorian photograph but there is no time for this! We round them up and put them on the bus again.

‘There will be no more toilet stops!’

It is getting dark and late. We arrive at the Cwm Cadnant campsite at 9.30pm. It is dark and reminiscent of the Ewok village on Endor. Despite the many tents there are no inhabitants at large so we blindly pitch our tents.

Ben, Louise, Brian, Femke and I head to the pub to stretch our legs, unwind and most importantly catch last orders. We nestle in gripping our restorative pints of ale and play cards backed with curious Welsh landmarks. We get gooey eyed. We sleep sound.


While Brian’s group get down to some weeding in the Boulder Garden my team are off to the Woods of the World. The Garden staff have obviously spotted the potential of me and my team as we stride up to our summit rakes in hand. We clock in at the Woods of the World specifically the North East USA. It begins to dawn on the team that the rakes are for raking and we need to make piles of the dry grass for collecting. This isn’t quite the glamour some of the group were expecting.

It may not be the ‘special mission’ I had in mind for my crack team but we’ll definitely do the job to perfection. Two hours later we have raked the whole field, posed for a Harry Potter-esque picture substituting broomsticks for rakes, modelled for photos with the local newspaper and found a frog. Mission accomplished Team Cerbyd. Hasta la vista National Botanical Garden of Wales.

Although that isn’t strictly true as we join up with the ‘other’ gardening team to share lunch then explore the gardens in the blazing sun. I potter, contented that no one has died yet, through our verdant surroundings, sniffing flowers and avoiding the pneumatic bees. I take the weight off my feet and sit outside the great glasshouse relaxing in the shadow of Norman Foster’s wondrous design. I even had a delicious ice cream. Actually it was more of a blagging lick of Louise’s then Meg’s and then Femke’s ice cream. The ice cream was lovely but have I began to abuse my power as leader?!


A beautiful spot and I thank Morag Colquhoun for recommending this rural idyll. Brian and I like less curvy & aesthetically pleasing Nigella Lawsons get the dinner on a mild curry with peas, pineapple, tomatoes, olives and a sprinkling of special spices. There is a small glass of slightly warm white wine for everyone with their meal tonight. A fire is built and the talk turns to beard wearing maggots and the demise of David Bellamy.

It rains in the night and we rise at 8am. Setting off from one rural idyll to the next – It’s the National Botanical Garden of Wales. Although I have visited the gardens plenty of times, the directions I am given by Jane seem to be slightly confusing. They read as follows:

The easiest way to get to the Garden, as far as I am concerned (and it’s also very scenic) is to follow the A40 from Llandeilo to Carmarthen. On getting to Nantgaredig, turn left at staggered Cross Roads into Station Road. This will take you over River Towy up to T junc, turn right and 100 yards later, turn left. Follow this road going up hill- after a mile from the junction, you will see a house on the left with Air Ambulance display caravans in carpark, followed by sharp left hand bend, you will then come to straight stretch of road and as road veers round to right, there is a lane going off to the left. Turn left here, follow lane to the very end and at T Junc turn left and then immediately right into our corporate entrance. You will know when you are at the end of this lane because there is a very big house on your left that has recently been done up and still in process. The lane would be approx 1.5 miles long. When you come into back entrance, take the 2nd turning on your right, go past green houses and keep going until you see back of long cottage and lots of cars parked outside.

We eventually arrive and are met by Jane Downs from the Botanical Gardens and are split into two groups. Brian and I adopt the role of team captains.


The busking goes down an absolute storm, the tricks are plenty fun and keep everyone from grannies to grandchildren awe struck and amazed. There is time to chat with physicists about the link between art, science, black holes, time travel and the moon being made of cheese. Like moths or any other positively phototactic insect to a light bulb, physicists swarm to talk to the Cerbyd group. It all ends with a humongous bang as the Chemists turn up and start pulling the crowds with their explosions. We watch the show and I hear the Physicists grumble ‘typical Chemists always making a scene’. The tricks the Cerbyd group learned and demonstrated were:

Anti-gravity Maltesers

Rabbit Spiral Spin Factor

Cartesian Diver (I sink therefore I am)

The balloon and spike one

Lollistick Kazoos

Vibrating hangers

Cerbyd reconvene for a thoroughly communal lunch. With breads, sandwich fillings, olives, salad and bread spread out over the table we all help ourselves and dig in. Lunch is swallowed and we rejoin the Physicists for a Q&A about life, its’ meaning and everything else.

The group naturally split into smaller groups and make the most of the next couple of hours to look around the Eisteddfod before we depart at 5 pm to head to Brecon to Penpont our next campsite in the middle of a two thousand acre working rural estate on the banks of the River Usk.

After negotiating tight farm roads leading to and through Penpont we arrive at a secluded camp amongst the old rose garden complete with awning.