Taste-testing laverbread: a Welsh tradition

Although we love the traditions of Wales, this was asking a lot.

Sue’s cousin, Jim – who is fortunate enough to live on the glorious Gower peninsula of southern Wales – had served us breakfast of laverbread, a local delicacy that looks for all the world like boiled spinach.

Sensing our hesitation, Jim enthusiastically explained that laverbread, or bara lawr in Welsh, isn’t bread at all – but is seaweed cooked to a soft greenish-black paste and often served with bacon and eggs.

That really didn’t ease our trepidation much.

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He went on to say that laverbread was a traditional breakfast for Welsh miners before a long day in the pits.

Plucked free of charge from the shores of the Pembrokeshire and Carmarthen coasts, laverbread had long been a central part of the diet of Welsh workers.

In the 1800’s, laver collection was an important cottage industry and laver huts remain on the Gower coast today.

Jim explained that the laver was thrown over the roof of the huts and left to dry before being taken by horse and cart to centres like Swansea for processing.

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Photo courtesy Twitter

However, these days laverbread is a trendy health food, rich in minerals and vitamins, full of protein and low in calories –  and praised by fans as “black gold”.

According to Jim, the actor, Richard Burton, once famously described laverbread as “the Welshman’s caviar”.

At this stage, we were convinced.

So what does it taste like? Well, it’s rather like porridge – a little salty, filling and slightly mushy.

 

But, combined with cockles, still in their shells, it isn’t bad at all. We each finished our bowl and found that it also had a subtle seafood aftertaste.

Seaweed probably won’t become a staple at our breakfast table, but we’re pleased we tried laverbread.

Like Australian Vegemite, it certainly is different – and when in Rome…!

Main photo courtesy Wikimedia and Vauliagmeni

Gower Wales

The Welsh sing for St David

Wales is a special place – and never more so than each March.

St David’s Day, which is held on March 1 each year, is the perfect time to visit this wonderful part of the planet. Celebrations go as far back as the 12th century.

Special events are held to commemorate the death of the 6th Century priest who went on to become the patron saint of Wales.

 

Parades are held in a number of towns and cities and many schools hold a day of celebrations, including musical performances and poetry recitals.

Wales holds a special place in our hearts – and it is impossible not to fall in love with the rugged Welsh coastline; distinctive language of its delightful people; and the strong and enduring Celtic culture.

We’ve spent time in northern and central Wales; in the vibrant capital city of Cardiff; and on the amazing Gower peninsula that is not only a highlight of the country’s south, but is also one of the great scenic treasures of Great Britain itself.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

If you haven’t walked in the green countryside and mountainous national parks of Wales – or stood in awe of its hauntingly beautiful coastal bays, we highly recommend a visit to this incredible part of the planet.

The culture and mysticism of the Welsh are traits to be envied and, despite the fast-pace and 24-hour-seven-day nature of modern life, these people will, on March 1, be out in force marking the death of the priest they call Dewi Sant way back in about 569 AD.IMG_0284

The leek, which is the national symbol of Wales, is often worn on Saint Davids Day

According to legend, when St. David was leading his people to victory against the Saxons, he commanded them to wear leeks in their hats to avoid being confused with the enemy.

In Wales people, particularly children, wear traditional Welsh costume on Saint David’s Day.

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Photo courtesy express.uk.com

Girls wear a petticoat and overcoat, made of Welsh flannel, and a tall hat, worn over a frilled bonnet.

Boys wear a white shirt, a Welsh flannel waistcoat, black trousers, long wool socks and black shoes. The outfits originated during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Children in Wales enjoy traditional Welsh dances, sing Welsh folk songs, recite Welsh poems, and take part in school concerts or eisteddfodau.

 

Alongside the red dragon on green and white, St David’s flags – with a yellow cross on a black background – are unfurled in public to help mark the occasion.

Traditional Welsh food such tea loaf, Welsh cakes or crampon pancakes are popular on St David’s Day.

Many sites of Welsh national heritage also open to the public.

Wales

For an unusual gift, try a Welsh love spoon

We have close ties with Wales.

But it’s a lot more than just family links that keep bringing us back to this wonderful part of the planet.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWe have been fortunate to travel the length and breadth of Wales – and each time we have new experiences, find different attractions and explore ever more memorable destinations.

It’s far more than just the intriguing history, the warmth of the people and the intense pride in their heritage.

As we found on our most recent visit to the remarkable Gower area of southern Wales – with its standing stones and other monolithic structures – there is also deep and important local belief in folklore and Celtic mysticism.

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Related articles

Beauty and history merge at Gower

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One particular Welsh tradition has spread world-wide -and is a great gift idea for just about any occasion

‘Love Spoons’ are carved from wood, contain special decorations and were traditionally used as a gift of intent.

In much the same way that today’s young men might bring gifts of flowers, chocolates or even jewellery to their beloved, ‘Love Spoons’ were traditionally used by a suitor to show a girl’s father that the would-be husband was capable of providing.


There are similar traditions in Scandinavia and some parts of Eastern Europe, but Welsh ‘Love Spoons’ stretch back as far as the 17th Century and were originally used to eat cawl soup, a Welsh stew made from vegetables and lamb.

The earliest known example is in a museum at Cardiff and is from 1667. Later, the spoons became a symbol of romance and had certain symbols with specific meanings: a heart for love; a lock for a promise of security; a horseshoe for good luck; a cross for faith; and bells for marriage.

Creating these spoons is now seen largely as a folk craft, but they adorn the walls of even the most modern  Welsh home or apartment – and there are entire galleries devoted to showing and selling them

Ours draw us closer to family and also bring back memories of this glorious and often-mysterious  lush green land across the seas.

If these traditional spoons catch your fancy, but you are not likely to head for Wales anytime soon, they can also be obtained online.

How to get there

Wales is only a few hours drive or train trip from most of the UK’s big cities. Many international airlines fly direct to and from Cardiff.

Romance Traditions Wales

Travel to the mystic Gower

Everyone has  favourite destinations that tops all others.
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The attraction is usually predictable:

  • the glamour and thrills of Italy’s Venician canals, Amalfi Coast; alpine lakes, sunny Tuscany and edgy Naples; the stunning Greek Islands; Catalonia; Spain; or the South of France.
  • the majesty of the Alps in Austria, Germany and Slovenia.
  • the grandeur of London, Rome and New York.
  • the intrigue, scenery and romance of English villages, Scotland, Denmark and Paris.
  • the pulsing excitement of Asia, India and the Americas
  • the natural wonderland of Australasia, the Maldives, Pacific Islands, Caribbean and the Arctic
  • the animals and ancient wonders of Africa

Each of these has its own special lure which appeals to people for different and often intensely personal reasons.

Others, like us, prefer the road less travelled; enjoying isolated communities and sights free of crowds.

We really love Italy and Greece, but people are often surprised to also hear us speak highly of  the Gower peninsula of South Wales.

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Gower peninsula: a special place


Some fellow travellers have never heard of the place.

But, to us, there is something very special about Gower.

On our only visit, we had a particular feeling of exhilaration and astonishment at both the natural beauty of the area and the sense of history and heritage that surrounds.

Protruding into the Bristol channel, the peninsula has glorious beaches, secluded coves, limestone cliffs, and a hinterland richly carpeted with colourful bracken, woods and lush grass. Gower was the first part of the United Kingdom to be officially declared an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

But there’s more than just attractive scenery. If you are enthralled by Stonehedge, you’ll love this place.

Beauty and mystery

Gower is entwined with an enormous amount of Celtic mythology and legend – so much that many people who study such things consider the peninsula to be almost sacred ground.

For example, Gower contains;

  • remains of Bronze Age and Iron age sites
  • Iron Age hill forts
  • megalithic monuments
  • sites where 6th Century saints established the first Celtic cells
  • neolithic burial tombs and stone rings
  • remains of early Celtic churches
  • ruins of a medieval chapel
  • remains of a medieval village

Gower is also reputedly the burial place of lestyn ap Gwrgant, the last ruler of the Welsh kingdom of Morgannwg.

One of the highest points on the peninsula is an ancient ridge known as Cefn Bryn. Just north of the ridge summit, there is a neolithic burial ground known as Maen Ceti – or Arthur’s Stone.

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Locals believe that during the Bronze Age, Cefn Bryn was used for a lot of ceremonies and rituals.

Beneath the bracken on the hill, more than 60 burial cairns have been discovered, one of which is known as the Great Cairn.

The term ‘Arthur’s Stone’ cames from a legend that the Maen Ceti was thrown into its position by the ancient British King Arthur.

Red priestess

At Goats Hole Cave, Gower, in 1823, archaeologists uncovered a fairly complete Upper Paleolithic-era human male skelton, dyed in red ochre. Initially, the remains were believe to be those of a woman from Roman Britain, so they became known as the ‘Red Lady’.

However, later analysis showed the remains were actually those of a young man, dating back as far as 34,000 years.

We have a special relationship with Great Britain and have been fortunate enough to explore most of island.

However, we knew little of Gower’s natural beauty nor its Celtic mythology when we drove from Bath one day in late Autumn.

It was an eye-opener.

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An amazing introduction

As we skirted Swansea and headed onto the peninsula, a thick fog started to roll in early in the afternoon.

As anyone who knows British country roads will attest, they can be extremely narrow with poor visibility in even good weather.

In thick fog, driving becomes nail-biting.

Poking through the gloom into north-west Gower, we passed fewer and fewer towns and villages and seemed to be getting further and further from civilisation.

Then, out of nowhere, a smattering of houses and the outline of a church emerged from the fog and the car’s GPS system announced that we had reached our destination – the coastal village of Llangennith.

By this stage, the fog was so thick it was almost eerie and we happily headed indoors without seeing much except the ground below our feet.

Now that’s Wow Factor!

You can imagine our amazement the following morning when we found that we were actually perched almost directly above a stunning beach, with pristine sand and long, evenly-rolling waves.

Llangennith may have only two roads, but it is a real slice of heaven that apparently draws surfers from around the world.

As well as the scenic bay, the village clusters around a Village Green and the church of St Cenydd, which was apparently destroyed by raiding Vikings in about 986 and now dates from about the 12th Century.

Not far from the church are the remains of the medieval village of Coety Green.

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A sea serpent

A highlight of the picturesque coastline is a promontory known as the’Worm’s Head.

Said to be have been called ‘Wurm’ (dragon) by Vikings, the attraction is shaped like a giant sea-serpent, with an island at the tip joined to the rest by a rocky causeway.

At high tide the island is apparently cut off from the causeway and many walkers – including the famous Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas – have made the mistake of staying on the island too long and being cut off by the rising tide.

The beauty of Gower, however, lies not merely in its coastline.

A hinterland to remember

Immediately behind Llangennith are reddish bracken covered woodlands and grasslands of rich green.

Our cousins, who are lucky enough to live at Llangennith, spoke with obvious pride of the Gower’s astonishing heritage.

Gower, they said, was home to ruined castles and manor houses which would really capture the imagination during foggy afternoons. We immediately thought of Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

Sadly, we left the peninsula all too soon, but determined to return and describe more of this remarkable place.

If you have the opportunity, pay a visit to Gower.

It is certainly something to be both seen and experienced.

Gower Wales