Ynyshir-Hall-garden2After a hectic time that had been focused on meeting deadlines, work, paperwork and chores of house, pet and child variants I was feeling decidedly uninspired, so I decided that what I needed was an overnight escape to re-charge my batteries and rouse my creativity. When looking for a place filled with awe inspiring serenity in Wales there are many places that you could choose, but for me Artists Valley is a very special place. This calm and tranquil valley is carved out in the Welsh Hills by Cwm Einion, which flows down the imposing slopes and into the River Dyfi.

Whilst quiet this place is by no means unassuming. As I climbed the steep paths through shady, dappled woodland on a lovely spring day, beside a rushing river in the place that they call Artists’ Valley I could well believe the local folklore that this place had inspired the legendry song Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin.  With rock legend Robert Plant having a residence in the valley it is easy to get side-tracked  and overlook the wonder  of nature and that the Rhododendron are out in full bloom.

Now when visiting this very special area the RSPB nature reserve used in BBC’s Spring Watch, just outside Machynlleth, mid-Wales is well worth a visit and right next to it is a beautiful country house hotel that was once owned by Queen Victoria and later William Mappin of the jewellers, Mappin and Webb. Ynyshir Hall is a real hidden gem, surrounded by stunning gardens and fabulous views from all directions; it is a true tranquil escape in every sense of the word. It is privately owned and it really showed as the hotel offered a warmth and level of service that is rare. I was greeted by the family pet, Theodore, a St Bernard dog when I arrived and I can honestly say he stole the heart of my family and I.  I will try not to give too much away about the food and décor as I will be writing a full review of my experience, but it is fair to say that this is a place that is very special and that the art on the walls is only matched by the art that goes on in the kitchens.

frontcover2So revived, renewed and feeling all inspired; now back to the humdrum of work, digging gardens and mucking out stables.  There is of course lots of pie making still going on and plenty of proof reading as I prepare my new cookery book, ‘The Pleasure of Preserving’ for release in June.  I could amend; add to, change and nit-pick at this book until I turn ninety, so I have now set myself a deadline of two weeks in which to make my final changes.  I look forward to it sitting on a bookshelf and better still to it being read and hopefully enjoyed by others.  It has truly been a labour of love and its completion has taken twice as long as I anticipated.

Now for preparing dinner, a hot and steaming pie with duchesse potatoes and plenty of good home-made gravy.  Well I need the practice as there isn’t long until the judging at British Pie Awards.

Until next week I wish you a fond farewell from my home in West Wales.

Da bo ti  (good bye)