Sue and Peter Barnes
A few years ago we took the opportunity of early retirement from jobs as university academics in order to ‘live the dream’ in Wales. We both knew the area well, having worked at the Outward Bound School in Aberdyfi and Peter also having worked at the Llanbedr airfield and climbed extensively throughout Snowdonia since childhood; so eventually we opted for Dolgellau and moved here in mid-2014. Then earlier this year we opened “Dipsy Dragon” our shop/art-gallery.
The gallery has just had its sixth month of being open and it would be fair to say that it has been an eye-opening experience. Opening a gallery, and producing enough work to stock it, has required a huge amount of work from both of us. Although Sue has had a long held desire to earn a living from making ceramics the reality has been that on many occasions actually being creative has had to take a back seat to the reality of earning an income. Peter on the other hand, who simply wanted to be able to do all the sporting activity that being the head of a sports course didn’t give time for, has had to turn his hand to new activities, such as building display stands and hanging pictures.
That being said the gallery has begun to develop its own character and is starting to feel as if it ‘belongs’. The Dolgellau location is naturally an enormous influence not only on our creative work but also on our entire lifestyle. Sue’s ceramics, and increasingly some tentative forays from Peter as well, are evolving nicely through experimenting with methods of production, firing and glazes and a variety of styles. ‘Elemental’ is a constant theme with the Welsh landscape, culture, myths and legends all being hugely influential. Our range of ceramics now stretches from small, cheaper, items such as our popular ‘Welsh Ladies’ and ‘Dipsy Dragons’ right up to larger free-form styles based on plants and trees that have now been exhibited around the country.
Dolgellau and the surrounding area has, of course, a thriving and vibrant artistic community and “Dipsy Dragon” also stocks work from a wide range of local artists. This includes everything from ceramics, to cards and prints by local photographers and paintings from renowned artists. Our aim is always to stock ‘local art, locally inspired, by local artists’. In a perfect world we would love to see Dolgellau become a hub for local artists with some of the shops currently lying empty opening up as gallery spaces bringing much needed visitors and revenue into the town. For the moment, however, we need to get our Christmas stock in place and hopefully do some selling!
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As soon as we drove over the cattle grid, down the drive and saw Pandy Isaf , we knew. We knew that was where the next chapter of our life, our adventure, would take us. I once won a Feng Shui consultancy visit. I was working from home, we had just moved in to our house and there was a competition on the radio – to win thousands of pounds worth of furniture. Next thing, I was on the telephone, live on air , talking to Henry Kelly and I got the answer correct. No, I didn’t win the furniture, but I won a Feng Shui visit. Long story short, the gentleman who made that visit told me that a house calls you. That’s how you end up living where you do.
Anyway, that was 2 years ago this month. 2 years ago that we first visited Pandy Isaf and Dolgellau. Now I am greeting guests here, as I was greeted then. It took us nearly a year to get here. But bearing in mind we lived about 4000 miles away and had a house to sell and so much more to organize, time flew.
We arrived in March,
our furniture arrived in April and …
we opened our Bed and Breakfast in June.
So what has our first year in Dolgellau been like? There are so many things that we love about our home, running the B&B, the town and the surrounding area.
The Torrent is on our doorstep and this is a fabulous walk. You would think that the Hobbit was going to jump out from behind the big boulder covered in moss, or they are going to be filming Lord of the Rings a bit further up the track. The waterfalls are spectacular.
The Precipice Walk is a 5 minute drive away and has spectacular views of the Mawddach Estuary.
Then there is Cader Idris !
Dolgellau is a small town with picturesque stone houses and everything you really need. We have a butchers, bakers, (not yet found the candlestick makers) deli, outdoor gear shop, greengrocers, pubs, cafes, restaurants, a wine bar, a post office, a vet, doctors, dentists, a small hospital, a weekly market in the back of the pub, a monthly farmers market, regular live music at a number of different venues, weekly yoga classes, coffee shops and more (but no fast food chains, thank goodness! ). Actually, the local fish and chip shop is for sale….
… the castles, the forests, the small towns and pretty villages. When people ask what is there to see – it is hard to summarise. It really depends what it is you are looking for and where you have been before. Within an hours drive we also have an Italian themed village (Portmeirion), Zip World, Surf Snowdonia, Bounce Below and as well as the castle ruins dotted around, there are also some fabulous National Trust properties.
We have moved a number of times over the years – to different towns, villages, countries and states within those countries. Everywhere you live becomes part of you and the people who surround you are so important. We have been welcomed with open arms here. Yes, we really miss our friends that we have gathered along the way – but – those extra bedrooms don’t half come in handy ! We had 22 nationalities in our first month and we have had some wonderful guests . And they keep coming back !
Whilst it was the beauty of the area that captured us initially, there were 3 sounds that were unmistakable when we first arrived. The sound of the river at the side of the garden, the birds singing in the trees and the sheep chattering away in the field the other side of the river. Today, these are the sounds of home.
The race covers a distance of approx 10.5 miles, from Dolgellau to the summit of Cader Idris (2927ft) and returns by the same route. Run under WFRA rules.
In 2017 the race was on 20th May and the provisional date for the 2018 race is 19th May.
You can find further details and previous years results at