Big House Landshipping

Personal Reflections on the Big House Landshipping Pembrokeshire Restoration Project


First Days in Pembrokeshire

Posted by sarah on September 1, 2000 at 3:15 PM

On Saturday, July 15 2000 Alun, Elaina and I said goodbye to a gathering of friends and family from Cardiff, Windsor and Birmigham, at Elaina's Cathedral School, Llandaff and set off for our new life in Pembrokeshire.

It had been a glorious few weeks weather-wise, but really miserable for me to be stuck in a hot little house in Cardiff waiting for Elaina to finish her school year. I was determined to sit it out, although Alun was waiting for us 102 miles west, and we made sure she went to all her parties and events - including her last evensong which had proved a lovely opportunity to have a small gathering.

Elaina's classmates turned up amid tears of farewell. We all gathered outside the cathedral for photos, and the headmaster Lindsay Gray repeated his promise that Elaina could come back to the school if she wanted to. 'Just turn up, Sarah'.


We drove off into the sunset and I could feel the stress of the last few weeks falling away as the landscape gradually evolved into rolling west Welsh countryside and deep green views.

When we arrived at the house I was in for a lovely surprise – a car pulled up into the drive and Alun’s mum and dad handed me a beautiful bouquet as a welcome. Elaina looked out of the window and screeched with delight - there were two little black Dexter cows in the field.


Elaina and I spent most of our first week lazing around. It was too hot to do anything else. So much for the rain I’d been promised!

We did manage to visit her new school and had a conducted tour. A week after we’d officially left, Elaina was back in Cardiff to attend a pop concert.

She went wearing a fabulously expensive outfit courtesy of me and she looked really trendy. With me heavily pregnant and too ill to travel, Alun did the trip for me to make sure she got there and back in one piece. We both attended Gethin's end of year school concert.


Then Gethin joined us for the first two weeks of his holiday and we were soon operating as a family unit once more.

And then the hoards (or should I say Fords) arrived! I spent a couple of days getting on top of the laundry and making sure everything was ready for the onslaught. We had six children and Tony staying with us and Stu and Tracy staying at Alun’s folk’s house.


Rachel also joined us at the beginning and end of the weekend and by the time other pals had come along too there were 17 people sitting down for a fine Sunday lunch of the best salmon - all 18lbs of it. Alun built a huge fire in the paddock to cook the beastie and I made some large bowls of accompaniments.


On the first day of the Ford kids’ reunion I cooked a huge Mexican-style nosh-up with about 20 dishes. Then Jimmy arrived and the boys went off fishing, only to return at 1am to a house full of wide-awake, midnight-feasting children.


The next day we had a glorious day on the beach playing cricket and going in the sea and we all sat on the damp sand having a picnic. Stu and Tracey who live in southern France couldn’t believe the quality of the beach - or the absence of masses!

We came home sun-burnt and elated. On our return I made a selection of dishes again, so it was a real catering experience for me.

By the end of the weekend I had big fat swollen feet and I felt pretty rough. Heavily pregnant, hot sunshine and the wrong side of 35...but it was worth it to have everyone here. It was so wonderful having the right venue for a reunion with my bro’s and my family all having a laugh with our collection of kids.

We all operated as a unit. Gethin and Elaina were real stars, taking the kids out to have fun with our many animals, and helping with the chores.


Stu and Alun hit it off big-time and Stu commented he’d have a hard time entertaining us when we visit in France because we were such excellent hosts.

The house withstood the numbers with ease and Elaina worked her pants off keeping on top of clearing the kitchen and loading and unloading the dishwasher. Gethin impressed his guests with his physical prowess and excellence in handling an assortment of vehicles!


We had an extra day with Stu and family. Alun took them fishing and came back with a goose, which he'd caught on a fishing line. Stu was pretty gob-smacked. And I nearly had the baby himself when they pulled this huge bird out of the back of the car. Tom had caught a little bass, which Alun cooked for him for his tea.

We went over to Blackpool Mill and stopped for a pint of Pembroke dock real ale (served by the jug) at Cresswell Quay before coming home for yet another nosh-up I rustled up for the gang.


An hour after waving them off, Elaina’s old pal from Cardiff arrived with her grandad. We had a lovely salmon lunch before the kids disappeared off to play with the animals. We had a couple of quiet days - one day on the beach, and another at the Cardigan Show, but the girls seemed happy watching Nickelodeon on the telly.

For such a slight child she seemed rather anxious about her food intake. I told here that a very famous chef - Franco Taruschio, said a pudding was really important for the digestion. She was convinced!


Finally we had a couple of days as just the four of us. One day I took the kids to the beach and we had a picnic. Both went in the sea. Gethin was so concerned about me in my pregnant state and insisted on hauling me around (no mean feat!) We were so lucky with the weather – It’s been fantastic since we arrived and we’ve all had the perfect summer holiday. We were all upset when Gethin had to go home.

Elaina was promoted to honorary adult and spent some time with Alun caring for the animals. Her dad came for the day and we all had lunch together. My mum came over too. Alun went back to work in the yard despite being fairly weak himself and wobbly with back pain. Sympathy pains, I feel!


On the baby front, I continued to get fatter and fatter - and more and more alarmed when the doctors confirmed the baby was breech and would be impossible to deliver in that position.

Categories: Freystrop Posts

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