Touched by the Kindness Of Strangers
Our first few days here were so busy unpacking boxes and receiving family visitors that we were yet to get into the village so one evening I had a bit of a brainwave, deciding to first introduce myself and the Hubster to the village via the Llanarmon Yn Ial Community Facebook Page as it seemed a good way of reaching out to people. It was a simple post with a photo of us together, I explained we had recently moved to the area and were looking forward to meeting everybody and getting involved with village life. The online response was immediately warm, welcoming and friendly and was a real indicator of what was to happen from that moment on. TOP TIP: Using Social Media is a great way to find out more about the new location you’re moving to, particularly social media platforms. Joining local group pages on Facebook before you move can offer opportunities to make new friends and acquaintances and gleen insider knowledge about the local area, discover things to do, places to go and an understanding of the topics that concern locals. I would certainly recommend using Facebook as a way of introducing yourself to a small community, particularly if you are planning to live in a remote location. Many villages and hamlets now have a community page or group on Facebook and these are such a useful resource for getting to know people and asking the locals for tips and advice. They‘re also a great way to find out about local events and news. Our village group regularly posts useful alerts about community events, missing dogs, sheep escaped on the road, a fallen tree or localised flooding. Apparently I was the first person to use the Llanarmon Yn Ial Comminity Facebook Page as a way of introduction to the community: several villagers have commented since what a good idea it was (I do occasionally have them! Ha!) It meant Andy and I were immediately recognisable when we went into the village and that encouraged the locals to approach us and introduce themselves. Personally I’ve found the village Facebook group invaluable for asking for recommendations of local suppliers, trades people and services and for helping me to learn to navigate local footpaths, rights of way and bridlepaths when I’m walking the pooches. Whenever I‘ve posted a question people have been helpful and keen to offer us the benefit of their local knowledge and experiences. I tend to use Instagram for more general searches, I find it particularly useful for finding images of local restaurants and country walks in the surrounding area. Social media can be an excellent tool for this, especially if like us you don’t have a neighbour very close at hand to ask all the questions that pop up regularly particularly in the first few days and weeks following your ‘escape to the country’.
Top Tip: Another way I’d recommend you can ease yourself in to country living involves the use of another piece of modern technology: Google or more precisely Google Maps and Google Street View, both have proven invaluable for familiarising myself with where we now live. Before I even stepped out of the car in Llanarmon Yn Ial I had ‘walked’ miles around the village and surrounding areas, exploring several walking and driving routes from our cottage to the village centre. By the time we first came to view the property I could easily direct the Hubster to the local shop, pub, neighbouring villages, nearest supermarkets, GP surgery, dentists and the nearest Costa and Starbucks (all the essentials!) This was thanks to these useful Google tools which enabled me to explore and “walk” (virtually) the country lanes and footpaths before we moved here. This meant that unfamiliar places suddenly felt familiar, I recognised local landmarks and road signs and I felt confident walking and driving around from the moment we arrived here. I’ve since downloaded the Ordinance Survey App too as this offers more detailed maps of lesser used tracks and public rights of way through woodland, fields and farmland. Another App I’d highly recommend is ‘Map My Walk’: this is particularly useful when I discover a new route whilst out walking with Sausage and Rolo, I can look back at where I’ve walked, save the route and repeat it by following the saved directions. This comes in very handy when the Hubster and I go out walking at the weekends and I can’t remember parts of a route I previously walked alone with the pooches. Using apps like these mean I can retrace my steps and share the same newly discovered walks with the Hubster too.
Anyway back to facebook: One of the first to comment on my first post to the Llanarmon Yn Ial Group Page was lovely ‘E’ who runs the Village Shop and who immediately asked if I would like to help out there pointing out that it’s a great way to get to know local people and inviting me to call in to meet her at the shop the next day.
Photo by W. Radley. Shop Manager ‘E‘ bakes delicious cakes and cookies sold in the village shop
E’s comments were closely followed by another lovely lady called ‘L‘. L runs the guest rooms above the village pub, she sent us a warm welcome and asked if we might be interested in helping out in the pub as it’s another great way of getting to know people. The Hubster is now a member of The Raven‘s Volunteer Maintenance Committee.
I first met E in the village shop when the Hubster and I popped in for freshly baked pies the day after my introductory post on Facebook, we immediately hit it off and arranged to meet up later in the pub with E and her Hubster.
Photo by W. Radley: Shop Manager ‘E’ serving us Coffee and Cake January 2020
I could feel myself getting more and more giddy as we sat at a little bistro table inside the shop with E serving us coffee and warm pies and entertaining us with stories about the village, describing the various clubs and societies we could join and all the events in the village calendar. E explained how both the Village Shop and The Raven Pub are community-ran by local volunteers for the benefit of all the villagers. A diary is open on the counter and people write their names each week next to the shift they are available to cover. In the Spring and Summer the village attracts tourists, walkers and cyclists, many of whom sit at the picnic tables outside the shop to enjoy a hot drink and a slice of freshly baked cake. The villagers were thrilled by royal visitors to the shop and pub a few years ago!
Photos courtesy of DailyMail.co.uk : Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall visited ’The Raven’ Pub and Village Shop (both community-ran) during their annual tour of Wales 2015
During our first visit to the shop as local home-owners a bell tinkled above the shop door as villager after villager popped in for a pint of milk or loaf of bread, ‘E‘ introduced us to each new face and we were rewarded with a warm welcome from all, many of whom recognised us from the photo I posted on the community Facebook page.
Later in the pub E introduced me to her lovely friends L and S: L manages the guest rooms above the Raven Pub and S organises a great many community events including the village choir performances. All three ladies are prominent in coordinating community events including the choir, pantomime and many others in the village calendar which benefits everyone. I affectionately think of them as the ‘Queen Bees’ of the village as I’ve come to appreciate just how busy and vital they (and all others who volunteer their time) are to the well-being of the whole community
During our conversation that evening I was asked what I do and briefly told the three of them about my Online Florist business, immediately they offered to take me to see a Florist Supplies Store they knew within an hours drive from here. The following week they picked me up and whisked me off for a lovely trip out together; we visited the store they’d mentioned, we enjoyed lunch at a garden centre and shopped in a beautiful little boutique nearby. We laughed and shared life stories like old friends that day and I was bowled over by their easy and genuine friendship. On the way back I sat in the back seat of E’s car as they practiced their harmonies for an upcoming choir performance. I was blown away by the quality of their singing and the casual way in which they just burst into pitch-perfect song, singing in Welsh too! Hearing them sing was my first introduction to how good the whole village choir would sound at the Christmas Concert a few weeks later
Filmed by A. Radley: Cor Dewi Sant (St DaviC’s Choir) performing Christmas Carols at St Garmon's Church, LLanarmon Yn Ial December 2019
These three lovely ladies along with all our lovely new hilltop neighbours (In particular; A, S J) have shown such kindness and have been instrumental in making me feel welcome and a part of everything here by; introducing me to others in the village, encouraging me to join in village activities, inviting me to events, making a big fuss of my parents when they visit the village and generally smoothing the way for Andy and I to enjoy our new life here. They’ve offered friendship and given me a real sense of belonging too and I don’t think they’ve any idea just what a special gift that is and what a positive impact they’ve had on my life already.
*** NEW POST COMING SOON: Learning The Ropes And Hitting The High Notes - Working As A Volunteer In The Village Shop and Joining The Choir