On a hot August day we went to Portmeirion – hydrangeas resplendent – and ate lunch in the garden at Castell Deudraeth, the hotel on the water having reduced its non-residents offer to ‘light bites’ (no reservation). Lunch at the Castell brings entitlement to free entry to the village (worth £10 pp), and since the lunch is good and not overpriced, this is a good offer. We were allowed into the village f.o.c. on the strength of our reservation for lunch, which suggested an obvious dodge: reserve lunch, enjoy free tour, cancel reservation. One member of our party was tempted by this plan, but since it was her birthday she was outvoted.
I prefer the low tide ploy myself. Time your arrival to coincide with low tide, take the public footpath which leads down to the estuary approx 200 yards before the car park, walk along the estuary and enter the village from the beach. Even at low tide this may require some wading (to mid-thigh level) through the stream, so dress appropriately. On this day low tide was not well timed for lunch, but I took our dogs down to the water anyway and they had enough of a romp to take some positives away from the day. No dogs allowed on the premises – understandable I suppose.
Admired the tributes to summers past on the plinth of the Hercules statue in the gardens. “To the summer of 1959, in honour of its splendour”. “1971 highly commended”. “1975, excelled even 1959”. “Nonesuch 1976”. Will they find a space for 2013? Probably not: the sculptor Jonah Jones, who presumably carved the plaques, died in 2004. But someone carved the slate plaque to Jonah Jones, so perhaps there is hope.
I am sure there have been better summers than 2013 since 1976. 2003, for example, was stinking hot in England, but slightly frustrating in West Wales where a chilly coastal mist – OK, fog – shrouded the littoral without dispersing for weeks on end, and you had to walk half way up Cader or drive inland to break through it. August 24 2013 deserves its own plaque: warm sunshine in Wales, no play all day at the Oval. Bank Holiday Monday (26th) was a cloudless day. There were long queues to reach the summit of Snowdon, but on the new Wales Coast Path, Pennal to Aberdovey section, we passed half a dozen other walkers in four hours.
2006 was good too. I remember our French au pair boy from Toulon sleeping the afternoons away in a hammock. Since then, only disappointing summers. The glory of 2013 is not an absolute glory but relative: it felt extra special by comparison with the dismal preceding years. We had begun to wonder if climate change meant no more normal summers, just weird hot flushes in March.
One of the best things about the summer of 2013 is how green it has been. The hot spells have been interspersed by wet days – eg the day scheduled for our village tennis tournament at the end of July. The ditches on the golf course have water in them, and the fairway, if not lush, does not have the scorched earth look. Perhaps watering has improved. An extra psychological boost has come from the weather forecast: they kept telling us to expect a break in the weather and cooler temperature, but the weather itself would not listen.
Now it probably has. Bring on the blackberries.