Canopy & Stars Logo
Charles from Woodland's Farm guide to the best things to do in South Wales

Charles from Woodland Farm's guide to the best things to do in South Wales

After 30 years as a solicitor, Charles Horsfield made the most obvious career move. He became a ceramicist, and host to glamping guests, naturally. In love with his job, he thrived in the kind of high pressure, high stress environments that others avoid – perhaps even relished it a little. But after his father encouraged him to explore more of himself (and a hefty nudge from his long-suffering-from-the-long-hours partner, Craig), Charles went in search of a new angle. Which happened to be about 360-degrees, on a potter’s wheel, under the tutelage of a former Benedictine monk.

Now touting the benefits of a life behind the wheel, he invites city folk out to their farm to live a little slower, a little more intentionally, and with a lot more calm. Hoping to tap into some of that laid-back spirit, we asked him what the most unmissable parts of South Wales were, and he gave us his six favourites.

The Skirrid, Black Mountains & Abergavenny

Have a go at a walk up The Skirrid. On the edge of the Bannau Brycheiniog National Park, it’s a mildly challenging climb for an hour and a half, rewarding you for your efforts with an amazing panorama over to the Black Mountains and back over to England and the Malvern Hills. Afterwards, you can treat yourselves in Abergavenny, which is a ten-minute drive away. Get tea at the Chapel Café, which is an art shop and gallery as well as a kitchen that sources seasonal produce from local markets, foraging and I think a home garden! Another good one is The Angel Hotel, which is a Georgian coaching inn with a modern revamp

A evening view of sugar loaf mountain

A scenic drive, a historic destination

I always suggest a stunning drive through the Ewyas Valley via Llantony Priory, and the jaw-dropping views around Hay Bluff before descending into Hay on Wye, the home of books and antiques and, of course, the internationally renowned Hay Festival. It’s pretty quick, around an hour’s drive, but it’s got some cracking sights, wide open valleys, views of the mountains, and some lovely woodland. Hay’s the perfect place to finish, with some great restaurants and a few shopping spots! If you are staying nearby, pop into Hay Deli, they’ve got some amazing stuff sourced locally.

A window above a shop sign that reads "Hay Antique Market"

A pub and river walk, enough said

Black Bear at Bettws Newydd, fine dining in a rural pub. Have a walk on Clytha Hill first (go for the bluebells around Easter) or walk along the river with your dog and then prepare to be amazed at the culinary genius on offer. Unassuming but never disappointing. One of our top tips. They’ve picked up a few awards recently, and it’s not hard to see why. Locally sourced food, fresh seafood, even Welsh truffles! Drinks menu is great too, and there’s lovely bar snacks, get a sbagliato and deep-fried mussels.

Exterior shot of The Black Bear Inn

Castles Galore

Castles galore. What more could you want? Walk the three castles walk from White Castle, to Grosmont Castle and home via Skenfrith Castle. It’s 19 miles all in all, which is quite a long one! You might want to save a whole day for it, or just do a bit. Stop for lunch and some wild swimming at the Bell at Skenfrith, which is absolutely gorgeous. There’s a spot by the bridge near Skenfrith Castle to take a nice dip. You could drive and take in the spectacular Raglan Castle too.

A view of a castle and a draw bridge

BBQ like you’ve never had

Under the Nut Tree. It’s nuts to eat outside every night in this country but here they’ve cracked it. A wonderful spot which makes you smile when you arrive and the food, which changes daily, is all cooked outside. It’s like a family brai but top notch. You might see anything on the menu, sometimes pizza, Italian food, or even Aussie inspired dishes, or more American style BBQ. You have to book it’s so popular. Worth thinking about a taxi, as it's lovely having a drink eating al fresco.

View from above of woodlands farm

Meet the maker

Couldn’t make a list of suggestion for South Wales without a plug for my very own place! Get your hands dirty with a pottery lesson at Woodlands Farm. Spread over two days create something useful and beautiful at the wheel with your own hands. Everyone achieves greatness by creating two pieces to love and cherish for ever. Getting behind the pottery wheel is my happy place, and I love to share it with other people. Ask Jack Harries, he loved it but was very badly behaved… Oh, and you can say hi to the pygmy goats.