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Review of Romany Caravan, Monmouthshire, Wales

Reviews
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Posted by Lucy Symons at 01:19 on Friday 23 November 2012

A vintage, 1940's Romany Caravan ("Vardo") set in an exquisite Monmouthshire meadow designated a "Site of Specific Scientific Interest".

>> For prices and booking, see our full listing of the Romany Caravan, Monmouthshire

Vardo through the undergrowth. Photo: Michael WhitesideVardo through the undergrowth. Photo: Michael WhitesideThe Setting:
On arrival in Monmouthshire, we found: clear skies and quiet… total silence like this is so unusual you find yourself listening for something – anything…  all we could hear were owls (lots) and the occasional fox.  The stars were breathtaking (very little light pollution in The Black Mountains) – the whole milky-way was there for our delectation and then, as if on cue, a shooting star shot across the horizon for our entertainment.

The cosy interior of the Vardo. Photo: Michael WhitesideThe cosy interior of the Vardo. Photo: Michael WhitesideThe Rooms:
If you have ever had a fantasy about building a den and fitting it out with an unfeasibly fluffy duvet, candles and torches, grub for a midnight feast, lashings of ginger beer and then somehow managing to convince your parents to let you sleep in it then you have semi-imagined what Caroline and Ruardih have actually created.

I say “semi” because their incredible Romany caravan is almost unbelievable (seriously – your wildest fantasies could not have created this one).  Groaning with history it is exquisite and sparse - a veritable symphony of burgundy and green and yellows, traditional in every aspect.  It is hard to imagine how it can have remained in such good nick unless a great deal of passion and dedication to every detail had gone in to keeping it that way.  And you are allowed to stay here!  For as long as you want.

The vardo was obviously once the primary residence for a Romany couple (it is hard to imagine there were ever families housed in a single caravan but I am guessing they were…).  With space at a premium you have to admire their ingenuity…  tiny drawers and hooks, cupboard doors with battens to hold them tightly closed on the move…  the bed becomes a sofa for daytime, the little queenie stove could double as a cooker, not an inch is wasted. 

But today, however enchanting the vardo is, we require a little bit more, so there is a fully equipped cabin next door which offers all the modern conveniences to make sleeping in the vardo such a fabulous experience.

The small, but perfectly practical kitchen. Photo: Michael WhitesideThe small, but perfectly practical kitchen. Photo: Michael WhitesideThe Food: 
Caroline left us a bottle of wine to welcome us and Waitrose can deliver your groceries in advance of your arrival if you would prefer, as you are a good twenty minute drive from the nearest shops here.  The kitchen is already well stocked with the basics and fully equipped should you decided to stay in.  However, you are well within reach of several spectacular restaurants: a stroll across the fields will get you to the local pub, the Hunters Moon at Llangattock Lingoed (wellies, not heels though, please – mind you, some visitors (American) came in full Romany regalia and made their way across the fields to quaff a pint of his finest local ale… the landlord still talks about it). It’s a ten minute drive to the Michelin starred The Walnut Tree Inn or you may choose to pop to The Crown at PantygelliThe Angel Inn, Grosmont; or The Hardwick.  It seems the denizens of The Black Mountains like their grub… you can also avail yourself of the markets nearby and pick up some local cheese and meat, vegetables or fruit and cook for yourselves using the stove or the bbq provided. 

The Vardo is in a meadow designated a "Site of Specific Scientific Interest". Photo: Michael WhitesideThe Vardo is in a meadow designated a "Site of Specific Scientific Interest". Photo: Michael WhitesideThe Activities:
There are plenty of things to see and do in the area if you’ve had enough of lounging in the peace and quiet – there are major castles, churches, country towns, markets, as well as the excellent restaurants (Abergavenny has its own food festival).  If you’re feeling particularly hearty then you may wish to try mountain walking, golf, riding, cycling (borrow the bikes in the shed, if you'd like, but bring your own helmets), paragliding, climbing, caving, wild swimming, and you are situated in the middle of an important SSSI - an area protected for its natural grasslands and wildflowers.  Or perhaps it’s books you’re after, in which case, head straight for Hay on Wye

The Green:
You can’t get much greener than a vardo… it is recycling at its very best. Irish by origin, all painted wood and fabric, it is fabulously warm and cozy at night, the thick, padded, canvas top fully watertight and baffled to keep out the noise of the rain and wind (this is Wales, after all...). The recently built cabin is heavily insulated and made by a local craftsman who used materials close at hand where possible.  The bath tub is roll top, recycled and the furniture is vintage where fire regulations allow.  There are stoves in both buildings:  a wood burner in the cabin (burning only locally sourced logs) and coal fueled in the vardo.  Water comes from the borehole, everything that can be is recycled.  There are bicycles to borrow.

How to get there via pubic transport: 
The nearest train station is Abergavenny, a 15 minute car journey to the accommodation. When available, Caroline and Ruardih are happy to collect guests from the station with prior arrangement.  You really don’t need to pack very much except your clothes as everything is provided for you. 

Top Tip:
Read the visitors’ books – there are many volumes and each one is packed with poetic little gems.  There’s something about the location or the accommodation here that tweaks the artistic tail of most guests…  they can’t help themselves but to wax lyrical, frequently expressing themselves in rhyming couplets, and each entry seems to build (slightly competitively) on the previous ones.  One of my favourite budding diarists reports that her tall husband (the original inhabitants must have been tiny...) had banged his head so frequently he was: "fairly quiet/stunned too - very relaxing."

Verdict: 
A cracking destination for the Little Greentraveller; or perhaps just the child within us all.  Seriously, a fantasy venue with the most amazing hosts, accessible, unusual, isolated, close to nature and yet no compromise at all on comfort.  

>> For prices, booking and availability, see our full listing of the Romany Caravan, Monmouthshire

See the photos from Lucy's visit on our Pinterest board for The Gypsy Vardo.

Posted by Lucy Symons

Vardo visitor's book.  Photo:  Lucy SymonsVardo visitor's book. Photo: Lucy Symons

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