June 18, 2010

A Knight in Eco-Friendly, Very Green Armor

Wales is known for it's legends... most notoriously that of King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table, but are there real knights stl living in Wales? Today we're exploring legends from a by gone era and the heroes of Wales today.

Nearby Bantwen cottage, we stumbled upon Merlin's hill...a place where Merlin was supposedly captured and at night residents claim to hear him moaning to this day. The kids get caught up in the mythical legends of Wales...stories that include wizards (Merlin is the most famous of them), giants, dragons and more. Just north of Pembrokesire, near Machynlleth, we voyage below ground to explore King Arthur's Labyrinth, a boat journey and walk through abandonded slate mines with still life scenes, light and audio displays, and a medieval guide to tell the Just Just down the road from Bantwen cottage, we discover the place Merlin was captured, Merlin's Hill, the final resting place of Wales' most famous wizard. Locals say you can still hear him moan at night. It really makes the stories come alive for the boys, who, of course, want to buy wizard wands in the gift shop and try the magic out for themselves.

Just down the road from King Arthur's Labyrinth we discover green Wales at the Centre for Alternative Technology. The interactive exhibits at this outdoor museum inform visitors about energy usage, conservation choices, and alternative methods of doing things in an easy to understand and translate to your own life sort of way. For example it tells you how much water a bath uses vs a shower, and how much energy it takes to put a computer to sleep instead of turning it off...real life facts that can be incorporated easily into everyday life. The kids like all the hands-on exhibits and the ride up to the museum on a water-weight, pulley system tram.

Another area of Wales known for it's green-ness is Pembrokeshire. The coastal path that winds over 100 miles down the dramatic coastline here is popular for weeks long hiking breaks and St. David's, Britain's smallest city, is about to be it's first carbon neutral city as well. Our hotel here is in a restored barn, but very luxurious, and is very Eco-friendly. The Asheston House has solar warmed water and wind powered electrcity but plenty of creature comforts too with fluffy beds, a full kitchen and amazing views of the Welsh countryside.

One of the main promoters of St. David's greenitude is Pembokeshire's own enviro-knight...protector of the environment, Andy Middleton. He rides his bike to work, when he does drive it's in a car powered by leftover cooking fat, and he's currently working on a turbine project that creates energy from the tidal shifts. So, you may be thinking this guy's an eccentric, but he looks just like anyone else walking down the street. He also runs a coasteering company, a sport which he founded in the 1990's because of his love of exploring his childhood coast. It basically combines kayaking, mountain climbing and surfing skills. So we suit up, in full wetsuits to protect us from the cold waters and sharp rocks, and scramble down and over cliffs, swim through bays, and exore sea caves before kayaking back to base.


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