The answer is yes!
Over the last two weeks I have been on a quest to complete the energy reviews of the National Trust’s Welsh holiday cottages, looking at things like loft insulation, doors, windows, heating systems and general property condition. In the first week I was at several locations, including Llanerchaeron, Cwmdu, near Llandeilo and Haverfordwest. With all the travelling around, I managed to get 7 cottages done.
One of the highlights of the week was my visit to Dinefwr park, near Llandeilo, home to Dinefwr Castle and Newton House, and also two cottages, Penparc and Home Farm farmhouse. The castle itself has seen better days, but sits in a magnificent position, overlooking the surrounding countryside. Newton House is a stout-looking Victorian mansion set in beautiful open parkland with the handsome looking White Park cattle milling around and chewing the cud.
Newton House, Dinefwr
Dinefwr park with its distinctive White Park cattle
Week two saw me travelling down to Stackpole, way down in the south west of Wales in Pembrokeshire. this was a much more productive week, with all the properties within a stone’s throw of each other – all within a few hundred metres of Stackpole quay.
Holiday cottages at Stackpole Quay
Without having to travel around between properties I managed to get 13 done, including three near Amroth, about half an hour away. These three properties are all right next to the NT’s Colby woodland garden, which is a lovely rural garden retreat with formal walled garden, meadow and woodland areas (and another great tearoom!).
Pembrokeshire truly is a special place and a great area to come for a holiday. I’ve wanted to visit for some time, and this has been the perfect excuse to come and have a look around.
I began writing this post while sitting in the Boathouse tearoom down by the quay which is betting a good battering today from the wind and waves. I’m enjoying a pretty substantial bacon nap and cappuccino. Make sure you call in here if you’re in the area, you won’t be disappointed by the portion sizes! I can also recommend the cream tea, which as you can see from the picture below is also popular with the local wildlife!
On the subject of food I also had a couple of visits to the Stackpole Inn, a tardis-like pub, looking tiny from the outside, but boasting plenty of space inside. I can thoroughly recommend the Cawl, a combination of succulent lamb and fresh root vegetables in a kind of broth, it’s a meal in itself.
Just a mile away from the cottages at Stackpole quay is the Stackpole centre, where I was based for the second week. The centre is recently renovated as has some interesting energy saving features that could be applied to the cottages I’ve been surveying. To start with, the windows and doors are really well sealed, with modern double glazing, making the place very heat efficient. The low wattage lights are also on movement sensors, meaning that lights only come on when needed and can’t be left on accidentally. The centre also has heating and hot water provided by a 350kW biomass boiler (that uses wood from the estate which has been felled to provide more area for the planting of native broad leaf species). It also has solar thermal panels to provide some of the heat for hot water. the biomass boiler has an LPG backup, but gladly, this has not needed to be used since the biomass system was installed, which is great to hear as I’ve heard of several systems that have been poorly specified and hence not been so effective.
Trompe l’oeil frieze inside the pergola at Colby
Walled garden at Colby
It has been a fantastic two weeks, discovering parts of Wales that I have not seen before, with some breathtaking coastal scenery and rugged mountainous terrain.
This now leaves just three cottages to complete the whole of the portfolio in Wales, then the analysis work can begin to see what steps can be taken to improve their energy efficiency, and reduce their environmental impact.