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Newcastle, UK



Howser on Holiday

Those who’ve had the misfortune of working with me, know that I like to crack the whip.

I’m known round the sites as a man who likes to work hard and play harder.

Now, don’t think that I’m espousing the stereotype that all brickies are hard drinking, smokers with an eye for a top-shelf mag and a Snickers.

I may have dabbled in a fair bit of confectionery as a younger man, but I’m in my mid-thirties now. I drink a green smoothie for breakfast every morning, I quit smoking 8 years ago and only drink on the weekends – when I have to spend time with the wife and kids!

I don’t like to take traditional holidays. Time is money, or so they say, and I like to make money. But every year, around half way through the Summer Holidays, I cave and book time off.

green smoothieYou see around this time, my wife develops strange symptoms of exhaustion. Dawn’s fantastic with the kids on a day-to-day basis, but I can always tell when she’s spending too much time with them. Her hair starts fraying at the edges, her dinners start to get startlingly similar and she falls asleep on the sofa at around 7:30 every night.

Just when I can tell she’s reaching breaking point, I rent a camper van, book some activities and surprise the family by sneaking down to the kitchen on a Monday morning and cooking a fry-up. That’s how they know we’re going on holiday.

exhausted-momThis year we went to North Wales. A gorgeous part of the world, you can find moors, mountains and forests. There are tonnes of things for the kids to do and decent options for hungry/exhausted parents. So, if your wife is looking a little worse for wear, why not look here for some ideas on what to do in North Wales – and take a leaf from my book!

However, there’s no reasons why you can’t get a little research done whilst you’re on the road with the family. There are some great examples of Sustainable Building projects in Wales – even though some may seem a little too modern for your firm, you should never be afraid of reaching for the lofty heights of Sustainability.

Here are three of the places I made sure to stop off at, luckily they also doubled as great places to take the sprogs!

The Great Glasshouse

You may well see your kids’ eyes start to glaze over when you tell them your driving to the National Botanical Garden of Wales, but they’ll soon forget their misgivings when they see Foster and Partners’ Great Glass House. Once the largest in the world, its still quite the sight to behold. A 99x55m toroidal roof, the glasshouse is the centrepiece of the 230-hectare garden in Carmarthenshire.

Let the kids run riot round the huge grounds, get a nice lunch with the wife at the cafe and then sneak off to find a member of staff. Speak nicely to the right person and you can get a sneaky tour of the Energy Centre that powers the entire place. Timber trimmings are thrown into the furnace to provide a surprisingly clean source of energy which provides the entire park with the power that needs.

Hafod Eryri-Snowdon Summit Building

No trip to North Wales is complete without a trip to Mount Snowdon. The variety of paths to the summit provide an easy route for any intrepid hiker. The kids will have no trouble in racing to the top, but you can take it easy if you want to and make the Hafod Eryi-Snowdon Summit Building your meeting point. There’s a cafe and an awesome floor-to-ceiling glass window for looking at the great view.

Opened in  2009, the building cost millions to make and was the subject of some criticism upon its opening. It may not have the Victorian charm of its predecessor, but its locally sourced materials can give you some great ideas for similar design work on extensions.

Ruthin Craft Centre

Everyone loves a craft centre, especially when the kids are at just the right age to obsess and compete over their creations. Sit them down with the tools provided and watch them lose themselves in potentially hours of craft work. You might leave with more paper/cardboard tat than you plan on, but at least you’ll get a chance to rest.


Whilst the kids get down to some serious Blue Peter work, you can take a look at the building itself. A zig-zag zinc roofline makes this building easily recognisable – not something most customers would go for, but still a great sustainable option material-wise. Similarly, the cast stone (coloured terracotta) that lines the walls are a great way of reducing your build’s carbon footprint.