What Santa Brought in His Sack

This year I was on a mission to support the local economy by avoiding the high street and giving loved ones gifts produced independently. I gave you some of my favourite Welsh-inspired Christmas Gift Ideas and was thrilled by messages thanking me for the suggestions. In return, I think Santa paid attention to my Christmas list too. But before I show you what Santa brought me, here are a few more bits I bought at the last minute:

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For my boyfriend’s family, who live in Chester, I bought Welsh-made products and painted their family name on a piece of slate I “borrowed” from Bethesda Quarry.
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It was an old pal’s birthday on the 23rd, and he now lives down in London. I bought three cards for the Janet Bell gallery in Beaumaris, with the intention they be framed as a reminder of home. He loved the gesture, having recently moved into a new place.
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Signed prints by Niki Pinkington to join my ever-expanding collection. Read my previous post about Niki’s work here.

I’d been dropping serious hints about this necklace by Lora Wyn, and Santa didn’t disappoint.

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He also brought me two pairs of hand crafted silver earrings, including these seashells.

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And of course, there was plenty of Toffoc flowing!

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Despite my lovely Welsh-inspired gifts, I did receive plenty of stuff you could find on the high street. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, to be clear. It’s the thought that counts.

Because I’m Welsh, a necklace made by a Welsh jeweller will obviously mean a lot to me. Likewise, I go out without knickers more than I go without false eyelashes, so I was chuffed with a replenished supply from Mum. I’ve tried so many pairs in the past, but have realised you’re generally just paying for glue quality rather than the lashes themselves. This cheap winged design from B&M is my absolutely favourite.

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Dad treated me to some Gucci perfume, which smells nice but pretty much any perfume will do for me as long as it covers the stench of clothes I’ve worn three days in a row because I’m too lazy to carry dirty washing down four stories to the basement laundry room.

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I also got this funky beanie, hand made by Barts.

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To fuel my duck obsession, family friends gave me duck tumblers by Next.

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My lovely boyfriend gave me a FREAKING MERMAID TAIL, and this bag and jewellery box which I’m amazed he chose all by himself. On point, boyfriend!

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And finally, my mum made me a personalised cook book in honour of my learning to cook at the grand old age of 24.

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Although receiving gifts is lovely, my favourite part of Christmas is carefully choosing presents for loved ones. I like thinking back over what I’ve learned about people throughout the year and coming up with something relevant. Running to Tesco for a box of chocolates is so easy, but for me the point of Christmas is showing that I really care. The cheapest, most thoughtful gifts often mean the most.

What did Santa bring you? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My Feelings About Graduating Tomorrow

So at 10:30am I’ll be graduating with a Master’s degree in Screenwriting. To start with, let me explain how much I really, really dislike mornings. I’m contemplating staying up all night to make sure I get there in time.

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I’ve spent several years getting to this point: I studied Welsh and English at A level, then a Creative Writing degree, then a Foundation Diploma in Art & Design because, according to my CV, I wanted to ‘gain a more thorough understanding of the production process’. And now, finally, we’re here.

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Creative Writing, class of 2013

I was so excited to start my two-year course. All was going well – I was getting 60+% grades, which at Master’s level qualifies as a Merit.

…that is, until March, when I ended up in the nuthouse. Since March, I’ve felt like a deflated balloon. I just stopped caring. It’s been a couple of months since I received my results, which I still haven’t opened because I don’t want to face the guilt of dad spending £4,500 on a degree that I barely managed to pass.

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I had so many good ideas inside my head, but what came out on paper was half-arsed. I don’t feel like a master of anything.

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I’m sad that I’ve let myself down. I’m nervous to see my lecturers because I let them down. I’m annoyed at myself because I was supposed to be more, but instead I’m only just making enough money to eat through my writing – forget rent, and the general cost of being alive. And I’ve had a bad week, which prompted me to scratch my arms and I don’t have a long sleeved dress to hide them.

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I went to the pub with Dad, and tomorrow I know I’ll be okay, because I don’t have a choice. I’ll keep applying for jobs I might get rejected for, and keep writing about boilers and safe sex so I still have the right to call myself a freelance writer.

The one thing that comforts me is this blog. Right now I should be dying my hair, ironing my dress, finding unladdered tights, and maybe checking what grade I actually got for my degree. It reassures me that I’ll always be a writer, because all I’ve ever wanted to do is write. I’m guessing around 10 people will read this blog post, but that’s okay, because it will be out there in the universe, existing, regardless.

*vom*

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Welsh-Inspired Christmas Gifts

There are plenty of traditional Welsh gifts out there. Love spoons, slate coasters, salt… but to be honest, as a 24 year old female who isn’t a grandmother I wouldn’t be that impressed with a spoon, no matter HOW MUCH?!?!? it cost.

Instead, here’s my pick of Welsh-inspired Christmas gifts, which prove that Wales can be cool…right?

Welsh Girl Problems

I once had a fictitious Facebook profile named Welsh Chick Issues. Then Welsh Girl Problems came along who was much funnier. I catch up with her posts on social media when I’m feeling homesick, and now she’s got some lush merch on offer.  I actually bought the ‘Tywysoges’ jumper a couple of months back.

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Gemwaith Lora Wyn

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I am head over heels with this pendant! Alternative colours available, whilst alternative location for heart can be requested (Rhyl will be rejected). Anglesey shape also available. Buy here.

Dwi ‘di mopio. 

Bolycs Cymraeg

Translated to Welsh Bollocks, the social media persona aims to re-tell our country’s history, picture by picture, word by word:

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And now there’s a book, which I’ve already ordered Dad. And not just cos it costs a fiver.

Naiswon!

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Dwi am brynu’r ti-shyrt yma i’r brawd ‘fyd:

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Niki Pilkington 

Regular readers will have caught my previous post about Penllyn-raised illustrator Niki Pilkington. Despite now working from the Big Apple, having been commissioned by everybody from Paul McCartney to Topshop, much of her work still draws themes from Welsh culture and language.

These are a go-to when my parents need to find me a gift, and my collection contains about 10 prints right now.

There are some gems in the ‘Merched Cymraeg’ collection by Twinkle & Gloom as well:

 

Monopoly 

If you have to be stuck in a house with the fam for an entire day, some regional monopoly will help kill a few hours. The Sir Fôn and Wales editions cost upwards of 80 quid on Amazon, but this Cardiff edition is available from John Lewis for £21.99:

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‘Sgynai’m byd doniol i ychwanegu. ‘Sa well ni herio’r Saeson? ‘Sgwn i os ‘dyn nhw’n gwbod fod popty ping mond yn air i’w difyrru nhw, ag mai meicrodon yw’r gair cywir? 

Cawl

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I met author Siôn back in 2012 at the Terry Hetherington Young Writers Awards in Swansea (shudder). After I read aloud my work he came over to tell me it was funny, so obviously I liked him immediately.

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                                                     Siôn yn dysgu’r bychan sut i gyfarch Saeson

Siôn is himself a highly entertaining writer, unfortunately even more so than me, and I can’t wait to read this collection of essays, short stories, cartoons, poems, comics and a recipe for cawl. Nice one mun!

Toffoc

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Toffoc is the ffocin one. Like having a big toffee-flavoured cwtch.

The Little Chilli Shop

I visit Wales’s first chili shop in Beaumaris whenever I need a present for Dad. The owners are fab and customers are free to sample the huge range of products available, and conveniently there’s a legendary ice cream shop situated across the road.

I like the Cheeky Girl, whereas the boyfriend prefers the Bad Boy. Reckon we’re a bit wrong for each other if you ask me.

The chili marmalade is surprisingly moreish, and there’s even chili jewelry.

Fydd dy dîn di ar dân.

And finally…

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Angan rwbath romantic i’r fodan? Sorted.

I would say you’re more than welcome to buy me this for Christmas but to tell you the truth I impulse bought it at the Electric Mountain gift shop in Llanberis several years ago. Tidy.

 

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If you’re wondering what else I’m giving this Christmas, Mam’s getting this vaguely overpriced but had-to-have-it bunting by Elements Crafts (£15), whilst I bought soap containing world-renowned Anglesey Sea Salt for the boyfriend’s mum (£4.50 wrapped), in the hopes she’ll like me cos I’m exotic. And for Dad, an album by the true love of my life Meilyr Jones, partly so I can steal it.

Even if my suggestions are too ridiculous for your tastes, I hope I’ve inspired you to shop local.I’m a firm believer that unless you’re gonna put thought into presents, you may as well not bother. I love searching independent shops for Christmas gifts, especially around Beaumaris and Betws y Coed.

Now that I spend most of my time in Liverpool, it can be lonely without anyone to speak Welsh and discuss sheep with. I personally would love any of these gifts to remind me of home.

Swsys a snogs,

Lows xoxo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Vaguely Alternative List of Things to Do in Llanberis, Wales

Having grown up nearby on the Isle of Anglesey, Llanberis is my absolute favourite place in the world. When I have mates from Liverpool visiting, I always bring them to here.

Situated at the foot of Mount Snowdon, Llanberis boasts the highest point in Wales (obvs). At any given time the summit is chokkers with tourists, where they’ll admire this cracking view:

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…unless it’s foggy and wet, in which case they’ll have wasted four hours.

You can catch a heritage steam train up for a hefty £37, and I’m not being funny, but it’s a bit of a cop-out unless you’re old or disabled. However there’s no guarantees you’ll nab a seat even if you’re old, as this elderly man found out when the train was too full of fat people.

Another little titbit: in 2011 a man was jailed for driving his 4×4 up the mountain in gale force winds not once, but twice.

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This Tweet from back in August gave me a right chuckle as well, after a helicopter burst into flames on the summit:

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Anyway, back to it.

I feel for all these tourists, because there’s so much more to Llanberis than a big rock. So, to make life easier for those of you visiting Wales, I’ve compiled a selection of my favourite and vaguely alternative things to do in Llanberis.

My boyfriend had never been to Llanberis, so our recent visit began at legendary greasy spoon Pete’s Eats.

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Pete’s is always packed full of travellers, all of whom look like they deserve a 2000 calorie breakfast. We, on the other hand, did not.

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With our bellies full, it was time to do some exercise. Maybe.

Go on – show me an English high street with better views.

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But first, we popped in to The Snowdon Honey Farm & Winery. It’s run by a lovely old Welsh couple who let us sample various alcoholic concoctions, fuelling us for our mission to the waterfall.

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Having visited Llanberis countless times, I decided this was the day I would finally find the waterfall. I failed, again – even by following the ‘waterfall’ signs – and ended up walking along the train track instead (not advisable).

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Down at the lake i.e. Llyn Padarn, you can hire a row boat for about 6 quid, or take the Llanberis Lake Railway around it. You can even get in the water for a kayaking lesson, among other water sports.

If you want to experience a mountain without having to actually climb one, you can take a bus deep inside the Electric Mountain, which my mum assures me is brilliant and cracking value at £8.50 per adult.

There are plenty of things to do for free in Llanberis, too, my favourite being feeding the ducks.

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I’m smiling but I’m actually quite scared.

Walking to the other side of the lake you’ll pass my favourite spot, Dolbadarn Castle. I camped and got steaming drunk here last summer, and it’s the best place to watch the sunset from.

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Once you’ve hit the other side of the lake, there’s a cluster of attractions to keep you occupied. The National Slate Museum is actually better than it sounds, whilst the Quarry Hospital Museum is also interesting, housing some of the original equipment from the 1800s (I like to play dead in the mortuary).

Another of my favourite spots is the Vivian Dive Centre, best visited at sunset when you have the entire hidden lake to yourself. The water is so blue it looks like a tropical lagoon. It’s worth noting that although anyone is free to enter, this lake is bloody deep so don’t be doing anything stupid like jumping in (although cliff diving is popular).

Right next to the dive centre is this spot:

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Climb right to the top of the tracks and you’ll find spectacular views from the Dinorwic Quarray and buildings and machinery from bygone days.

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Look closely and running alongside the road, next to the reservoir, you’ll spot a dragon cave.

Though not to everyone’s taste, I’ve saved my favourite ’til last. Located up in another quarry on the outskirts of Llanberis, near the Siemens factory, is an abandoned WW2 bomb store. It took us three attempts to find the place, which involves crawling through fences and various downright dangerous misdemeanours. It’s one of my most beloved spots.

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There are plenty of nooks and crannies to explore, including the interior, made possible be whoever keeps forcing the door open with an angle grinder (cheers). It isn’t for the faint-hearted: take torches, because you won’t see a hand in front of your face otherwise.

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Image by Nick Catford

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Of course, this adventure technically involves trespassing. However, local kids and urban explorers have been visiting for years. If you’d rather let someone else do the dirty work, you’ll find plenty of reports and photos here.

I would recommend staying a couple of days in Llanberis, maybe at the hostel above Pete’s Eats or The Heights bunkhouse, which is a great spot to chill with a beer after a long day.

The main thing I would say is to explore. Ignore all the advice I’ve just given you and do your own thing. Follow your nose, and you’ll find the lush picnicking spots Trip Advisor won’t tell you about.

What are your favourite things to do in Llanberis? Have I missed anything out? And most importantly, have you found the secret lake? Let me know in the comment section!

Why do People with Mental Health Issues Stop Taking Their Meds?

It’s only Wednesday, but this week has already been pretty rough. A lot happened on Sunday, and the memories have been making me feel sick with shame ever since. I’m finding it impossible to talk about with anyone, so perhaps articulating those thoughts in this blog will prove cathartic.

On Sunday, I wasn’t myself. For those that don’t know, I suffer from borderline personalty disorder.

Although I’ve been pretty darn happy lately, I’ve also started to feel like a failure. I’m experiencing doubt in my abilities as a writer, and having recently graduated, each job rejection is a blow to my self-esteem.

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Sunday was a culmination of self loathing caused by career and relationship worries, and lack of medication for a couple of days (which causes insomnia, which never helps my state of mind).

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On Sunday afternoon a friend encouraged me to take a walk. I wandered down to the docks, next to the River Mersey. Water always gives me a sense of peace, and growing up on an island, I always had easy access to it if I needed to blow off steam.

When I’m down, it’s a comfort to know I can end it if I choose to. I never would, but sitting near the ocean, or walking over the 100ft bride in my Welsh hometown is like a backup plan if it ever gets too much.

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Next to the Mersey I jumped the railing, just to get that little closer to the water. I didn’t want to sit on a bench, with strangers walking right by me. I wanted to be alone. There was a little gate, with stairs leading down to the water.

I sat on the stairs, huddled against the wall and rocking back and forth. A jet ski kept whizzing by as if it were looking for something.

A security guard appeared, followed by two more. I broke down, frozen to the spot for a few minutes, before announcing I was going home. They muttered into their walkie-talkies, watching until I was out of sight.

I sat under a tree next to the big wheel to compose myself. Two police vans waited nearby, but I told myself I was being paranoid.

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I didn’t even notice two policemen, then three, surround me. I hyperventilated. Why wouldn’t they go away?

They lead me to a police van and I calculated whether I could outrun them. Even in that state, I still cared very much what all the tourists watching thought of me.

One policeman was kind, and told me a story about a colleague who had had mental health problems.

The other said I was giving him attitude because I wouldn’t state my name. I eventually admitted  I was just tired and not feeling myself, probably from lack of meds. His response was ‘but WHY would you not take them when they make you better?’ He was impatient and couldn’t fathom why I would make everybody’s lives more difficult.

It took a long time to convince me to willingly go to the hospital, as opposed to being sectioned.

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Being escorted by police through the hospital was the most humiliating moment of my life.

My friend Justine came. I had calmed down a lot by the time she arrived, and the crisis team were happy to let me leave. Justine fed me pasta with avocado and we watched girly TV.

My beautiful, amazing boyfriend abandoned his weekend trip a day early, despite my telling him not to. I feel terrible about it, but seeing him walk through the gate at the train station meant the whole world to me. I can’t believe how fortunate I am to have someone who doesn’t walk away from me at my worst.

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Today I’ve been feeling pretty lonely, so I tried to find some resources exploring why don’t people want to take their medication? FYI, I take antipsychotic and antidepressant medications.

I used to have a schizophrenic friend who would skip his medication at regular intervals, and I would wonder exactly what that policeman had wandered.

So, here are my reasons:

  1. The conviction that I’m suddenly cured.

2. Feeling so good, you wonder whether there was anything wrong in the first place. Maybe I imagined the whole thing? Did I even deserve those uni extensions? What if I needlessly wasted 12 days on a psychiatric unit whilst someone else was busy topping themselves? Better check, just in case!

3. Exhaustion. It’s hard to express just how zonked I feel a lot of the time. Although medication has been a blessing – when I’m taking them and stable, I’m the me I was always meant to be – they also take a lot out of me. I’m still exhausted after a 10 hour sleep, and it takes HOURS to wake up because my mind is so foggy.

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So, this week has been a  bit crap. I feel fragile. I missed deadlines writing for a digital content agency I’ve only just begun work for – something the regular me would never do. I’m mortified that I effectively got fired for the one thing I’m supposed to be good at.

BPD often feels like taking one step forward and two steps back.

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I often convince myself that people only like the medicated part of me. They don’t like ME, only the edited version they think they know.

So what’s the point of anything? Nobody REALLY loves me, so nothing really matters.

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Obviously in a good state of mind I know this isn’t true, but in my own little world, I believe the harsh thoughts.

So it’s been an eventful week. I’m still a bit shaken and need time to process, but as usual – I’ll be okay soon.

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Urban exploration in Lancashire

Today was a little less remarkable compared to other explores, but interesting nonetheless. First up was a garden centre near Phill’s house, abandoned in 2013:

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According to the Warrington Guardian, the 66 year old bipolar co-owner attacked his business partner during a psychotic episode, choking him before attempting to topple a statue on top of him – before abducting the manageress. Because of his age the courts decided not to whack him in prison. DRAMA.

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The place appeared to have been abandoned around Christmas time, with broken decorations scattered about.

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The manager’s house was on-site, but we didn’t get many photos in the darkness; here’s a record of someone else’s visit. Phill showed me a photo from a previous visit which quite clearly shows a human silhouette and proper gave me the heebie jeebies.

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According to Phill, the place had deteriorated a lot since that previous visit; copper piping  ripped out, no  fish left in the pond. I found this video of it in a previous life.

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Next we found a bar-hotel which had only been abandoned a year or two. We had a good explore around the exterior, but climbing up the fire escape we seemed to trigger a motion sensor and had to scarper.

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Next, Phill wanted to check out this cottage along his daily commute he’d been keeping an eye on it for several months. We didn’t attempt to get inside. Isn’t it pretty even in this condition?

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Another location he’d previously visited was Daresbury Hall, a former Georgian country house in the home village of Lewis Carroll. During the second world war it was used as a military hospital, and then by a charity (now known as Scope) as a residential home for the handicapped.

It had recently been ruined in a fire (STOP BURNING STUFF, FUCKWITS), so here are photos from his previous visit:

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We didn’t spend much time at the hospital, which had two security guards’ offices attached. We didn’t even see security guards, never mind have to outrun them!

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Inside the hospital were the remains of a £750,000 cannabis farm, complete with police tape and evidence bags.

On the hospital grounds, a huge home had been semi-built on the sly by the dealers. According to Phill, the previous security guard had been in on the farm and alerted the family to a raid, who were able to slip out and never identified.

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It was too dark in there to bother taking many pictures, but believe us that no expense had been spared. Sauna… Dressing room… Marble… Elevated beds to make the most of countryside views…

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Here are pics Phill took on a previous visit:

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Hopping over fences on our way back to the car, we unexpectedly came across a series of miniature train tracks:

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I would love to hear about your adventures in the comment section. In the meantime, you can follow our adventures on Phill’s Instagram.