Kipper verdict – Anya: “I love ‘em!” Yasmeen: “Hmmn…” 1-1 on that one then, although kipper orders for breakfast tomorrow have gone up. Breakfast was good – once again, mountains of food for everyone. Those who had ordered croissants were slightly jealous when they saw the cooked breakfasts but they needn’t have worried – there was plenty for everyone. In fact, the more astute have ordered croissants tomorrow knowing full well they’ll be sausages and bacon as a bonus to accompany them!
There was actually a pre-breakfast early morning expedition down to the Menai Straits. With morning wake up call scheduled for 7.30, it was of course obvious that most children would be awake by 6am. Trying not to disturb a foraging hedgehog – not a flat one, as most of us have only seen – Mr. Suter led a group of early risers through the woods to the Straits. Beautiful views, the rising sun peaking nervously over the tops of the clouds, the water still as a mill pond, a gentle flowing of the tide towards the Britannia Bridge, the intrepid group decided that wanted to be at one with nature by… throwing about half a tonne of stones and rocks into the water. You can lead a horse to water…
For our first arranged activities the Nelson and Cardigan groups walked through the woods to the Via Ferrata (Latin for “Iron Way”), where we prepared ourselves to traverse the rocky limestone cliffs we found there. The children used ‘cow’s tails’ (special bits of rope that they controlled) to attach to the steel cables along the cliff. Some children were naturally nervous, but all must be commended for completing the course. Special mention for accomplished climbing must go to Moaed, who hence forth is to be known as Moaed the Mountain Goat.
Wellington and Marlborough donned waterproofs, and headed down to the water and the kayaks waiting there for us. Kayaks were originally developed by the Inuit as a craft for hunting on the open sea – they were often sewn into these to stop water getting in, although our children discovered that you simply drop out into the water. Indeed, many spent as much time in the water as in the kayak!
If breakfast wasn’t filling enough, it was back to the dining hall for yet more food – a choice of jacket spuds, fish fingers and ciabattas for lunch to tide us over until tea time. Replete, we walked around to Plas Newydd to explore the National Trust property there. Of great excitement before we could even get inside were the family of swallows who had nested just inside the door, with four voracious young. Intrigued, we watched as it was the noisiest most persistent who pestered mum and dad for the juiciest titbits most often. It was remarkable to watch just how quickly the parents flew in and out to find food and return to feed constant hungry mouths – if only it was so quick at ASDA.
The house itself is currently undertaking an extensive series of renovations, but there was still plenty to see. Not, unfortunately though, the Earl of Uxbridge’s wooden leg, fitted after losing his own at the Battle of Waterloo. In the closing stages of the battle, the Earl – who had reputably had eight horses shot from under him – remarked to the Duke of Wellington next to him, “By God, Sir, I’ve lost my leg,” to which the Duke replied, with equal restraint, “By God, Sir, so you have.” We explored the upstairs bedrooms of the Lord and Lady, before moving downstairs to the Inside Outside Upside Down room with its intriguing camera obscura, and then on to the dining room with the extremely large Rex Whistler mural with just as extremely large a name: Capriccio of a Mediterranean Seaport with British and Italian Buildings, the Mountains of Snowdonia, and a Self-portrait wielding a Broom – trips off the tongue, doesn’t it?
We hadn’t eaten for a while, so it was time then for dinner: Spanish chicken or pasta bolognaise – and who could refuse the treacle sponge and custard? It was time then for the highlight of the visit: the gift shop. After all, everyone needs a dolphin encased in plastic with swirling glitter, don’t they? And then, if we hadn’t enough calories already, we brought our sweet treats to the bothy where Mr. Grant had lit a campfire for us to toast marshmallows and regaled us, in the dark, smoky, atmospheric surroundings, with the tale of Grindel, a man-eating demon in the saga of Beowulf – just what you need when you want children to have a good night’s sleep!