My time at Nant Gwrtheyrn

Click here for Cymraeag version: Mae fy amser yn Nant 

I have been learning welsh since October 2012 and I love learning the language. I get to practice reading and writing in Welsh but I only really speak the language in the classroom. I always wished I could have a taste of complete immersion in the language to help build my confidence speaking, and one day my dream came true and I won a competition with @LearnCymraeg  to study at Nant Gwrtheyrn.

As soon as I saw there was a nature course at Nant Gwrtheyrn I jumped for joy as this combined my two passions…nature and welsh. Three days of speaking welsh and learning about nature-what a perfect combination, I thought.

Well the month of May soon came around and I was off to Nant Gwrtheyrn. It didn’t take too long to drive there and it was easy to find. I stopped for a few minutes in the top carpark looking over to Yr Eifl towering above into the clouds before driving the steep twisting road that plunges down the wooded hillside to Nant Gwrtheyrn and the sea. I was apprehensive about driving down at first but it wasn’t as bad as I had thought and the views as you drive down are amazing!

When I arrived I found the staff really welcoming and friendly, and my room in one of the old quarry cottages was lovely. I was really looking forward to my stay there and it was going to be like going back in time with no TV or phone signal.

For the rest of the afternoon I strolled around the village and then walked to the beach. I saw a pied wagtail, male stonechat and a buzzard. I walked along the beach looking at what was left of the old granite quarry and then sat on the beach watching the waves crash onto the pebbled beach and looked out at the beautiful view.

In the evening I walked back to the beach and I made my first little video of me speaking welsh, then I walked back to the village and watched the sunset before going to bed, excited about starting the nature course in the morning.


Day One at Nant gwrtheyrn


I woke up early and walked to the cafe bleary eyed and slightly apprehensive. There was a lovely spread on for breakfast of fruit, yogurt, juice and cereal.  There was so much to choose from.
There were learners from many different places.  South and North Wales, Oxford, Leicester and even one welsh learner from Australia.  Everyone was friendly and dived into to trying to speak Welsh straight away.
After breakfast we were put into 2 groups. I was in a group of 5 and our tutor was lovely. In the classroom we introduced ourselves then we learnt the names of some birds in welsh.
The weather was a bit windy but it wasn’t cold so after our lesson we went for a walk with Twm Elias (local naturalist) down to the beach.
We saw thistle, wild garlic, primrose and gorse.  We learnt that lesser celendine has shiny petals to reflect the sunlight.  Mares tail can be used to clean pots-natures brillo pad and according to folklore; when gorse is in flower, kissing is in season.

We strolled along the beach looking at pebbles of basalt, granite and jasper that were brought here in the Ice Age; and also learnt about the history of the village and saw the remains left behind from the quarrying of granite.
We were ready for lunch after our walk and it was delicious.  We had vegetable soup, sandwiches, and bara brith.
In the afternoon we learnt the names of some mammals in Welsh and talked about what we had learnt that morning.  We then sat and listened to Twm tell us stories of myths and legends of Snowdon, the giant Rhita Gawr and about Tre’r Ceiri the local hill fort.
After a lovely dinner we listened to more stories from Twm about different birds like the owl.  They were a symbol of good fortune in ancient Greece and associated with the Greek goddess of wisdom, Athene.
It was a lovely calm evening so before going to bed I strolled down to the beach and took photos of items washed up on the rocks and then watched another lovely sunset.

beach finds

Day 2 at Nant Gwrtheyrn

It was a lovely day and I got up early because I was excited about the day ahead. The S4C programme Heno was filming us on our course today learning about foraging and cooking.
Firstly we learnt the Welsh names for a variety of wild plants in the classroom then we all went to the local village Llithfaen with Catrin Roberts who showed us how to forage for wild food along the roadside.

Foraging is fun but only take what you need and you must be careful as some plants are poisonous or deadly.
We saw lots of plants we could collect. Wild plants like garlic mustard, plantain, violet and primroses grow along the side of roads and navelwort and spleenwort can be seen growing in the gaps and cracks in walls.
We then went back to the Nant were we foraged for wood sorrel, dandelions and gorse.
Dandelions leaves can be added to a salad and the flowers can be made into marmalade or wine. The root of the dandelion can be also be used to make coffee.
Gorse has bright yellow flowers that are edible and have a slight coconut aroma. Primrose flowers are edible too and can be used in a salad.
After lunch we learnt how to make violet biscuits, garlic bread and nettle soup.

In the evening I skipped dinner and went for a walk with another learner to the hillfort Tre’r Ceiri. Half way up we met a local man who stopped to speak Welsh to us which was lovely.

The views walking up to Tre’r Cieri are stunning and the hillfort is very impressive.
Tre’r Ceiri is a hillfort dating back to the Iron Age. The name means “town of the giants”, (1,480ft) above sea level. The settlement is surrounded by stone walls that reach up to 13ft in some places and within the walls are ruins of about 150 stone houses.
For supper we went to Nefyn and had chips before coming back to the Nant to watch my final sunset here, sad that tomorrow will be my last day here.


Day 3- My final day at Nant Gwrtheyrn

I got up for breakfast at 9am and packed my bags, sad that this was my last day here.
At 9.30 I attended my last lesson in the classroom. We learnt the Welsh names for a variety of native trees and revised what we had learnt over the few days.
At 11.30 we went for a walk in the woods with Twm Elias. He told us about the folklore and history of some plants.

 Foxglove digitalis goes by many names in folklore, such as witch’s thimbles, our lady’s glove, folk’s glove, lion’s mouth, fairy caps. Fairies are quite fond of the flower, as are butterflies and bees, and it’s believed that if you wish for the fair folk to make a home in your garden, plant some foxglove where you wish them to live. It is however, a poisonous plant so beware.
 As a cheap source of artificial light, rushes were peeled, dried then soaked in fat to use as rushlights.
 The rowan tree protects against witchcraft and enchantment. Before babies were baptized a piece of wood mountain ash was put in the cradle and iron from the fire at the foot of the cot to intimidate the fairies.
 Folklore says- When the blackthorn is white, sow barley both day and night and, a long hard winter is referred to as a Blackthorn Winter.
In the woods we saw rushes, wood sorrel, lichen, a dung beetle, magpie and choughs also.
By the time we had finished the walk we were all ready for lunch, which was delicious as usual. As we ate lunch we listened to Twm tell us more tales. He is a fascinating storyteller. I could listen to him for hours.
The last activity of the day was a treasure hunt around the village to test what we had learnt during our stay. This was followed by hugs and goodbyes and the promises of keeping in touch.
I came away from the place immediately wanting to go back and study another course there. It’s an amazingly beautiful place with a lovely relaxed atmosphere. I would recommend that anyone learning Welsh should go to Nant Gwrtheyrn. It is a fantastic place to learn Welsh.
I really enjoyed going on a course there and hope one day I will go back there again.