Didn’t We Have a Lovely Time…

Francesca looks back at her holidays in Wales ahead of the publication of her Welsh saga, Heartbreak in the Valleys

Mountains, Gandalf!

As a child we didn’t have many holidays, mainly because my father’s business relied on spring and summer trade, so when we did go it tended to be in the autumn. We always went to the same place, to stay with my cousins in Merthyr Tydfil.


Cardiff Castle

Now as far as I recall, I’ve never been to Bangor, the subject of the song in the title above. However, our cousins, being very partial to a drive out, certainly took us to a lot of other places. We’d drive for hours around mountain roads, admiring the wonderful landscape. I remember being particularly fascinated by the tiny streams that used to run in crevices down the mountains. My cousins were particularly fond of picnics, so most days we’d park up in a beauty spot to enjoy some sandwiches and scenery.

With Mum and a cousin at Mumbles

I loved the trips to Swansea, particularly Mumbles, looking out at the Gower peninsular. I always remember it being sunny, which was lucky considering we always went around mid October.


Devil’s Bridge

Another favourite spot was Devil’s Bridge in Ceredigion. The great height of water, cascading down into an abyss (or so it seems) is quite something to behold.

Now don’t ask me why, but my family had a penchant for visiting reservoirs. I have dad’s old photographs of several dams, three of which I’ve identified as Llyn Brianne, Elan Valley and Ponsticill.

Elan Valley Reservoir

Castles, of which Wales has many, were another favoured trip out. I found the more ruined ones the most romantic, invoking tales of long ago. One trip to Cardiff Castle was particularly memorable as there was an art exhibition on. My mother, never the most subtle of people, made some comment about anyone being able to paint that rubbish, only to find the artist standing behind her. Oops. She wasn’t best pleased, as you can imagine!

Llandovery Castle

One day we drove to the house where my mum and grandma were born, the one in which my great gran lived for many years. This was in the village of Abertysswg in the Rhymney Valley. Little did I know then that I’d one day write about somewhere based on that village, except I called it Dorcalon.

Abertyssyg in the Rhymney Valley



November 1915. For Anwen Rhys, life is hard in the Welsh mining village of Dorcalon, deep in the Rhymney Valley. She cares for her ill mother and beloved younger sister Sara, all while shielding them from her father’s drunken, violent temper. Anwen comforts herself with her love for childhood sweetheart, Idris Hughes, away fighting in the Great War.

Yet when Idris returns, he is a changed man; no longer the innocent boy she loved, he is harder, more distant, quickly breaking off their engagement.

When tragedy strikes Dorcalon, Anwen and Idris put their feelings aside to unite their mining community.

In the midst of despair, can Anwen find hope again? And will she ever find the happiness she deserves?

Published 10th June 2020 by Hera Books

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