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Fakenham Wensum columnist's fire holiday drama in Cardigan Bay, Wales

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We never expect any form of drama when visiting our favourite bolt-hole on the Welsh coast.

Borth is a quiet resort which stretches along a section of Cardigan Bay and appears to exist in a different era. Somewhere like the 1950s.

Last September, our peaceful beach-side week away was interrupted by the outbreak of a house fire less than a hundred yards north of our cottage.

Wensum: the fire-damaged Welsh house surrounded by scaffolding.
Wensum: the fire-damaged Welsh house surrounded by scaffolding.

We knew it was serious when clouds of dense smoke started to blow out to sea.

I walked along to investigate to learn that a back yard bonfire, fanned by an offshore breeze, had quickly spread to piles of rubbish in the garden before catching the house itself.

Before long the road was sealed off as the fire brigade did its best to douse the flames. I watched from a nearby pub as the roof caved in and all seemed lost.

So much was destroyed in just a few hours. The next morning I revisited to find a sorry spectacle despite the fact that the outside walls were still standing.

Eight months on and back again in Borth I was desperate to see what steps had been taken to improve or rebuild the house, knowing that a fund-raising page on social media had quickly attracted more than £10,000.

The presence of scaffolding at least gave signs of progress, however slow.

And a message painted on one wall conveyed a heart-felt family sentiment: "Thankyou to everyone for all the help and support you have showed us this year."

Clearly this drama still has some way to go.

Meantime along Borth’s solitary main street, I’ve been charmed by the strong sense of commitment to the Ukraine crisis.

Blue and yellow flags crop up here and there and one house has even devoted wall space to painting the country’s colours. It does not look out of place in a community which loves to decorate many of its house walls by painting them in pastel colours.

On closer inspection I found a card in the window which read: "Uncle Albert’s Fundraising Day raised £852.35 for the Red Cross Ukraine Appeal."

Doubtless hundreds of villages and towns across the country have been moved to express how they feel about what is happening to Ukraine by contributing something – anything – to help out.

I confess to never before having watched the Eurovision Song Contest on television. But surrounded by family this year I was persuaded to sit tight and suck it up.

And I’m very glad I did. It seemed inevitable that there would only be one winner and so it proved.

Rather than experiencing all sorts of divisions, the spectacle in 2022 embodied a unity that very much delivered a positive message. I didn’t much care for Ukraine’s winning choice but our youngest thought it was terrific.

Doubtless a generational difference. Being fairly ignorant of the history of all this, it was cheering to acknowledge the success of our Sam Ryder’s contribution with his top-three placing of Space Man.

A rare achievement for the UK in this competition, I’m informed. He seemed delighted and so he should have been. During our final few days in Borth we have managed to swim regularly, walk up to the war memorial which overlooks the bay and count a number of red kites circling overhead.

A particular treat was to explore at low tide the tree stump remains of a forest which formerly extended far out into the sea. Plenty of stories surround the true origin of these remnants, just as they should do in this land of myth and legend to which we will shortly be bidding farewell.


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