BeenThere-DoneThat Blog

A blog about life and travel in Great Britain

Tipula maxima

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No, I'm not being obscene.

We had two of these in the house/conservatory today.

It is a rather large Crane Fly. Crane Flies normally have clear, rather boring, wings; but not this one. We think that this particular species, Tipula maxima, is rather attractive. I can imaginge that many people would think that they might sting or bite but, no, they are completely inoffensive. We put them back outside.

Amanda took the photograph.

March through the Arch

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This is the arch that we are about to march through.

It was a lovely day and this is only a 40 minute drive from home so, having parked the car, here we are. We march through the arch and after a short while we turn and look back at the arch from the inside.

There's a nice flower border alongside the path and we can see that the arch is nothing more than a gateway in a wall between two towers. Admittedly the wall and towers have battlements; so is it a castle? Well, yes and no.

A little further along the path and we stop to admire this Laburnham tree and we notice some buildings ahead.

A little further along the path we round a bend and here we are.

This is Croft Castle near the village of Yarpole in Herefordshire. It may have 'castle' in its name but it's no longer a castle but a country mansion in the style of a castle. A castle was built on this site by the Croft family in the 11th centuiry but it has been considerably altered since. The outside walls date from the 15th century and there are four round towers at each corner which, although castle-like, are too slender to act as defensive structures. It is now owned by the National Trust.

There are 1500 acres of parkland. That is quite a lot of land and we didn't have time to explore it but we can always go back.

Next to the house is the Chapel of St. Michael, dating from the 13th century, which contains the tomb of Richard Croft[6] and his wife Eleanor .

We wandered round the outside until we were almost back where we started and then discovered the walled garden. It's not really that obvious and it would be a great loss to have missed it. For a walled garden it is huge. We can't remember the exact size but it must be around four acres. How something that size can feel tucked away I don't know; but it does.

There is topiary.

There is also a very large greenhouse.

And not content with those features there is a small vineyard.

An astonishing walled garden but now it's time to have a look inside methinks.

These are three of the main rooms.

I particularly liked this table where the top is comprised of pebbles sliced through and polished. Very geological and very attractive. I want one.

We really enjoyed that trip and will probably go again.

The Other End – Day 4

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Today is our last day in Swansea and we wake this morning with wall to wall cloud.. Are they trying to tell us something? The cloud wasn't a surprise as it was foretold in the weather forecast and we always belive those don't we? We planned for this so it was going to be museum day. We packed our things after breakfast, paid the bill and left our one case with reception until we were ready to leave Swansea.

Each day we had come out of the hotel and turned left to start our adventures so we turned right instead. We could see on the map that in this direction the road went down to the river so we went to explore. We found a nicely designed footbridge and something we didn't expect. Whenever we were in the Marina area we often saw the pointed top of something white poking up above the buildings in the distance and now we know what it was.

We didn't stay here for long because we had plenty to do so we moved off towards the Swansea Museum; our next stop. You might notice that I didn't take this next photgraph today. Because of its situation the front of the museum faces almost north and the only time the front is in sunlight is around 7:00 AM so I was up early yesterday to get this photograph. This is the oldest museum in Wales and the building was built for the Royal Institution of South Wales in 1841 in the neo-classical style. Entrance is free.

This horizontal duplex steam engine from a lead rolling mill in the Lower Swansea Valley, built 1901, was outside in the grounds.

Back inside one of the galleries was dedicated to the first world war. It had this simulation of a trench together with many other related exhibits.

Another gallery was dedicated to pottery from South Wales. The display cases run along each side of the gallery and across the end showcasing many varied exhibts.

There was a small room on the first floor containing this mummy plus related items. This is Hor who was a clothier priest and scribe of the God Atum.  In the daily ritual of the temple it was his duty to change the clothing on the holy statue of the God.  He lived in Akhmim in Upper Egypt between 250-200 B.C. during the Ptolemaic Dynasty and was named after the God Horus. The mummy was gifted to Swansea Museum in 1888 by Field-Marshal Lord Francis Grenfell who was born in the St. Thomas area of Swansea in 1841.

This typical Victorian display must contain a great number of invertebrates, most of which appear to be butterflies, with an obvious large spider in the centre.

We moved on a short distance to the National Waterfront Museum. This is a large modern building on the edge of the Marina next to the Tram Shed. This is part of the National Museum Wales whereas the previous museum and the Tram Shed are part of the Swansea Museum as are the two old vessels floating in the Marina outside the Waterfront Museum.

You wouldn't get me up in this thing. It reminds me of a flying bycycle.

Built in Maindy, Cardiff, between 1907 and 1909, Charles Horace Watkins claimed to have flown the Robin Goch on several occasions during 1910, but sadly no official record of the flights exist. What is irrefutable is that the Robin Goch was the first wholly Welsh-built aeroplane, and probably the earliest working monoplane in Britain.

Watkins himself designed the 40 HP motor, and it was forged from bits of steam engine, in the Great Western works in Roath, Cardiff.
The fuselage is hard wood, the wings are canvas and piano wire, and inside the cockpit there is a dining chair to sit on, a spirit level to check you're straight, a ball in a tube to make sure you're the right way up. Pretty primitive stuff.

This is a Benz 'Duc' Motor Car. This particular model was first registered in Monmouthshire in 1904.

This is a replica of Trevithick's Penydarren tramway locomotive. The original was built in 1803-1804 and on the 21st February 1804 it made its first 9 mile journey hauling a load of ten tons of iron together with around 70 people who hitched an unofficial ride. This was the first journey made by a steam locomitive on rails and started a world-wide revolution in railway transport.

Apparently this replica is fully working and is steamed up once a year. Typically this year it was the Saturday just before we arrived. I would certainly liked to have seen that. We did watch a video but it's not quite the same as the real thing. Next visit maybe.

Well that was the end of our visit to Swansea. We went back to our hotel to collect our case and trundled it up to the station to catch a train at about 2:30 PM. We arrive home just over 3 hours later.

SUMMARY:

I have to be honest here and say that in the past I wouldn't have given Swansea a second thought with regard to a tourist destination and it was only because our railway line ended up there that we did too. The fact that the line did go to Swansea encouraged me to do a little research on the place and I began to realise that if offered the visitor quite a lot of options. Many other potential visitors probably take my initial view and don't even consider it which is their considerable loss.

We had a lovely time and really liked the place. We would recommend it without hesitation and do intend, sometime, to go back because there is still plenty of interest that we didn't have time to see. There is a good bus service around the city and its environs so one doesn't really need a car (We didn't bring one).

There are a number of well known tourist destinations that don't have as much to offer as Swansea does and visitors flock to those but not to Swansea. I'm baffled.

I hope that there will be people out there who read this report and realise what they're missing. Swansea deserves better recognition.

The Other End – Day 3

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Wake up. Draw curtains. Wall to wall sunshine again. Whoopee. Another nice, relaxed breakfast.

Today we are going back to the bus station and catching the same bus again but we are going a little farther this time; a 20 minute journey. We alight at the first bus stop after the bus turns away from the coast road in Oystermouth which is part of Mumbles. Both names are said to be corruptions of welsh names. We walk, for just a few minutes, back to the coast. Looking straight across Swansea Bay we can see Swansea on the other side.

Looking to our left we can see buildings in Oystermouth. That rather prominent stone building on the hill is Oystermouth Castle.

Looking to our right we can see Mumbles Pier which is where we're headed. Mumbles seems to be quite a busy little place with plenty of shops and cafes and we have a slow, pleasant walk along the pedestrian/cycle path which follows the shoreline. It isn't very long before we arrive at Mumbles Pier.

Mumbles Pier is Victorian, as most piers are in this country, and is apparently privately owned. Access is free and we walked out to the decking at the outward end. That part of the pier between the shore and this deck at the outward end is in a bit of a state but it is apparently being renovated as this outer part shows.

The pier buildings on the shore are also Victorian and the left-hand end is a cafe where we had our morning coffee. It is a nice little cafe which also serves food but we didn't try that. The cafe seems to have preserved many of the original Victorian features including the chandeliers and fans.

After our brief rest we climbed the obvious steps to the top of the cliff and walked south-west past Middle Head and Mumbles Head and then looked back to this view. Mumbles Head is the one with the lighthouse on it and Middle Head is the one behind it.The lighthouse was completed in 1794 and initially two open coal fire lights were displayed which were difficult to maintain and were soon replaced by a single oil-powered light within a cast-iron lantern. The lighthouse is now unmaned.

We walked as far as Limeslade Bay and went down onto the beach where we rumaged around looking at the rocks. The rocks on the Mumbles promontory are steeply inclined and from the Carboniferous period being limestone at the seaward end and coal measures at the landward end. We found this among some of the bedrock and I don't profess to know what process would have caused it but it is very striking.

It was at this point that we made another mistake. Looking at the map it was obvious that if we went back the way that we came we would be travelling in a semi-circle whereas cutting through the side streets would be a straight line. Well it would have been if the ground had been flat so we ended up travelling in a semi-circle, but vertically, as we went up and over the hill. I should have looked more closely at the contours shouldn't I? The road down turned out to be interesting as it was obviously an old road, very narrow in places and winding all over the place.

We got there in the end and ended up at Oystermouth Castle. The castle is Norman, probably built around 1220, and is the responsibility of the local authority but is run by a volunteer group called 'The Friends of Oystermouth Castle'. The entry charge is £3.50 for adults and £2.50 for us oldies. I have to say it is certainly worth it.

One of the unusual features is a glass bridge about 30 feet up and, yes, we did walk over it and back again. The fun part is going up and down the spiral stairway and there are a number of those in this castle.

There are lots of features in this castle including wall walks, intricate passages running hither and thither and various halls and rooms. One could become quite disorientated with little effort but that's part of what makes it interesting.

There are also good views from the upper parts.

We left the castle early afternoon to get the bus back to Swansea as we wanted to visit the Tram Museum by the Marina. This museum is open only on Wednesday and Saturday and as today was Wednesday now was our chance. I suggested to Amanda that we go back to the bus stop then start to research bus times in case one comes along. When we got to the road a bus came along with 'Swansea City Centre' on its indicator board so we had to run for it. The doors shut just as we got there but the driver did notice us and re-opened the doors. Nice chap.

But, there had to be a but didn't there, this turned out to be one of those buses which diverts from the short route to make a circuit of the suburbs. Luckily it wasn't as long as happened yesterday but I did say then that we learn from our mistakes; we obviously don't. We may have been more fortunate if we had missed that particular bus. We still got back in time for the Tram Museum except for one minor point; it wasn't open. I enquired in the Swansea Museum nearby to be told that only one of the two required volunteers had turned up that morning so they weren't allowedto open it. Bother!

A quick change of plan saw us heading back north in the direction of the railway station to a shopping centre called 'Parc Tawe Shopping Centre' just north-east of Castle Square. No, we weren't going shopping but we were planning to visit 'Plantasia'. The local council describe it thus:

'We decided to create a Rainforest in the middle of the City to highlight the need and importance of looking after and protecting the World we live in. So come in and walk around our Tropical Paradise, take time to learn about the plants and animals which call the beautiful Rainforests their home.'

The entry charge is £3.95 for adults and £2.95 for us oldies. Not a lot.

Lots of interesting plants and there is a large pond with a waterfall together with a lot of large fish. When we leaned over the rail to get a better look the fish came rushing over to have a look at us. We saw a notice later which mention packs of fish food to buy so I think that they must be used to visitors giving them food. They were out of luck this time.

They also had two Cotton Top Tamarin monkeys which are among the most endangered primates in the world with a population of somewhere around 2500 individuals and which were apparently rescued from a zoo that was closing down. So they now have a home here in a wired off enclosure that appears to be the full hieight of the building.

They normally hide in the densest undergrowth which is what they were doing when we arrived but a bit of patience paid off when they eventually appeared. They are about the size of a domestic cat and rather cute with it.

There is also a separate section where some tropical birds can fly freely although not this particular one. It does know a few words but wasn't at all communicative when we were there. I seem to have that effect on people.

These Lorikeets were able to fly around and at one point I felt the draught as they flew close over my head. Cheeky little blighters. They are capable of talking and are also good whistlers. We didn't hear any of them say anything but their whistles were piercing.

The end of another perfect day so back to the hotel for a meal and, hopefully, a good nights sleep. So I'll wish you all a good knight and, luckily, we have one to spare courtesy of Oystermouth Castle.

Sorry but I couldn't resist.

More sightseeing tomorrow – our last day.

The Other End – Day 2

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We wake up early on the first morning in our hotel. A bit too early as it turns out. It is 5:00 AM and we have been woken by the extractor in our bathroom starting up very noisily. It seems to have a mind of its own as there doesn't seem to be any logic to its operation. I later mentioned it to reception who later told us that it had been checked and there was a fault so they've temporarily disconnected it. We went back to sleep and eventually woke again at 7:00 AM.

Drawing the curtains tells me we have wall to wall sunshine. Super! We have a pleasant relaxed breakfast. Very friendly and cheerful staff and lovely food. Can't complain at all.

After breakfast we set off for the bus station which is a 10-15 minute walk away and we catch a bus towards Mumbles. We aren't going as far as Mumbles and we alight after about 12 minutes at Black Pill near the Woodman pub. Anyone that knows this area will realise where we're going but before we got there we sidestepped onto the shoreline for a quick photograph of Swansea across the bay.

You should be able to see a tower on the right of the picture. That is near the Marina where I previously photographed this same beach. Quite a beach!

We went back across the Oystermouth Road and down the lane beside the Woodman pub and we arrive here:

Clyne Gardens are known for their Rhododendrons and Azaleas and I make no apologies for the number of 'flowery' pictures. Consider yourselves lucky that I haven't included all the phogographs I took. This is one of those places where one wants to take another photograph after every step. We planned to make this trip at this time (8th-11th May) because of the Rhododendrons and Azaleas displays. The intensity and variety of colour is astonishing and more so when you consider that entry is FREE. You cannot get better value for money.

I have reproduced a plan of the gardens below which is a photograph of the board displayed at every entrance and you can just read the text in the larger version. You should notice that the gardens are roughly divided into two; the lower part with all the paths that seem to wind all over the place along the route of a small stream, giving a sense of seclusion, and the upper part which is on higher ground and is more open. Both areas are utterly delightful.

We entered the gardens at the extreme right. We made a mental note that just inside the gate there is a refreshment tent and just a short distance on are toilets. A good combination for us oldies.

We were then faced with this view. Doesn't that path seem inviting? Don't you feel that you want to see what treasures it holds? We had decided to follow the little stream to the large pond at the end then come back along the path which borders the stream valley so we took the first left. We were immediately assailed with bright colours at every turn.

It's alright for some of us who have time to sit and admire the view but someone has to take the photographs. Click, click, click. It is rather like being inside a kaleidoscope.

It took us quite a while to cover any distance as there is so much to look at but we did, eventually, arrive at the Japanese Bridge. The little waterfall feeds the stream running through the gardens.

This is the pond at the end of the garden that feeds the waterfall above.

This garden does have many plants that are not especially colourful but which, nenertheless, are interesting.

We made our way back toward the entrance although we weren't ready to leave, toilets don't ya know., then went back along the path which follows the top edge of the gardens. There were, of course, yet more colourful displays and some very impressive specimen trees. This garden has something for everyone. No, it has everything for everyone. This next picture is from the top part of the garden and you can see that it is higher than the secluded parts with a view across Swansea Bay and showing Swansea on the left.

We went back towards the entrance and had some hot drinks, some items left over from yesterday's lunch together with some purchased cake as a light lunch whilst sitting outside in the sun. When we were finished we strolled off towards the bus stop where we hoped to catch a bus for a short ride back towards Swansea to Singleton Park. I had an application on my smartphone which gives details of bus routes, bus stops and times which we found to be very handy and this gave us a bus at around 2:30 PM. We had a choice of getting off at one of two places. The first involved a walk which I estimate would have taken us 10-15 minutes and the second would drop us off at a stop which was significantly nearer. We chose the second. Big mistake! What I hadn't realised is that the bus goes all round the streets in the suburbs and turns a 10 minute ride into 40 minutes. Oh well, one learns by one's mistakes but we got there in the end.

This time we were visiting Singleton Park although not all of it but just the Singleton Botanic Gardens. We walked through a small part of the park to get to the botanical gardens and saw this stone circle on the way. This is not a genuine stone circle but one that was built in 1925. Known as the Gorsedd Stone Circle it was erected for the National Eisteddfod of Wales' Proclamation Ceremony.

The botanical gardens are described by the local authority as 'one of Wales' premier plant collections, with spectacular herbaceous borders and large glasshouses' and we wouldn't argue with that. Once again entry was FREE. I do like Swansea.

The greenhouses are large enough to have pathways and they didn't seem overly hot.

There was an arid greenhouse which featured numerous cacti, succulents and the like.

The local authority also says 'Although the gardens are at their most stunning during August, when a full programme of events and tours are staged, there is something to see throughout the year. The herbaceous borders are a fantastic sight from late March until mid October'.

They can say that again!

We wandered out of the Botanical Gardens into the surrounding Singleton Park which was originally part of a large family estate. We saw this Swiss style chalet built in 1826 as part of that estate and was designed and built locally. There are plans to use it as a cafe although there were no signs of life when we were there. It is, apparently, a listed building and Swansea Council is now working on the legal details of a plan to lease the Alpine-style building to Swansea University.

As well as refurbishing the inside of the cottage to provide a tea room and a café, the university is also looking into the possible introduction of a visitor centre and cycle hire facilities there in future. Watch this space.

Whilst in the main park we saw something unusual. The next photograph won't win any awards but it is the only time I have managed to photograph a Kingfisher. There is no mistaking that brilliant blue and we saw it fly a number of times. They aren't rare but they are very shy and you will be very lucky to see one. We were on the other side of the lake and I was using maximum telephoto. Must be a good omen.

We finally had had our fill of plants and flowers for today so wandered back to the bus stop. This time the bus didn't go all round the houses but went straight back to the bus station from whence we went back to the hotel.

If you are a keen walker you could walk along the sea front from near the Marina to Clyne Gardens, a distance of about 3 miles, and then walk from Clyne Gardens to Singleton Gardens which is probably no more than a mile.

We are looking forward to tomorrow.

The Other End – Day 1

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You may remember that in posts in the recent past I have mentioned the 'Heart of Wales Line' which is the railway that runs through our town, Knighton, and that we have twice travelled to Shrewsbury on it. We decided that it was time to visit the other end of the line which is Swansea. The trip north to Shrewsbury takes less than an hour which makes a day trip feasible but the trip to Swansea takes more than three hours so we made a three night trip of it.

We took one case, with wheels, to keep luggage to a minimum and Amanda, my wife, and I set off one sunny morning and trundled down to the station to catch the 11:01 AM train to Swansea. We made sure that we were in plenty of time as there is a train only every four hours so if we missed it we'd have a long wait. This is the train in our little station and, yes, that's all of it; one whole carriage. Well there is only two of us. smiley

There were plenty of seats and we were very quickly settled. There turned out to be no refreshments available but we had come prepared with a paper bag full of lunch and one can of fizzy drink. The doors shut and we were off! Some of the stations on this line are request stops and if you are waiting on such a station you have to hold your hand out for the train to stop and if you want to get off at one of those then you should tell the ticket man and he will make sure that the driver knows to stop.

After five stations we stopped at Llandrindod Wells and sat there for twenty minutes. This was not unexpected as it is a single line all the way except in some stations, like this one, where trains can pass and we were waiting for the train coming the other way. When it arrived we continued on. This line runs through very picturesque countryside which is, of course, covered in the inevitable sheep. After travelling for around two hours we had our packed lunch and we eventually arrived in Swansea at around 2:30 PM.

We set off down High Street (trundle, trundle) passing through Castle Square on the way which, amazingly, contains the remains of a Norman castle.

There isn't a lot of it left and one cannot go inside but it is a real medieval castle and I rather like the contrast between the old and the new. We continued on (trundle, trundle) and soon arrived at our hotel – Morgan's.

A rather nice Victorian building which used to house the Port Authority but which has now been converted to an hotel. Our room was on the first floor and there is a lift for those who cannot manage stairs. The room doors have electronic locks operated using a credit card sized card, there is air conditioning in the rooms for those who want it and the rooms have good sized en-suite bathrooms.


They do have an odd eating arrangement here. Dinner, in the dining room, is served only Thursday to Saturday and on other days food is available in the bar. It is, however, a very nice bar and the food really is excellent with a reasonable number of options on the menu. We settled ourselves into our room and then went out for a look round. One has to bear in mind that the Germans flattened Swansea during the last war so there are few old buildings but we didn't see any new buildings which we disliked and, overall, Swansea has a nice atmosphere.

It was a short walk to the Marina where we found the Waterfront Museum but didn't go in as we were saving that for the day we were leaving. The museum is the building on the immediate left which incorporates a small cafe with people sitting outside at tables although there are also tables inside.. The red brick building with the small tower is an old Victorian water pumping station which has now been converted to a pub.

Looking in the opposite direction we can see boats in the marina and, in particular, two old vessels. The nearest is 'Canning', an old steam operated tug, and the further of the two is 'Helwick', an old lightship, both of which are no longer in service and have been kept as museum pieces.

Swansea is on the coast and the sea can be found a short walk south across the marina. It is on a bay called Swansea Bay, no surprises there, and there are long stretches of beach composed of fine sand, suitable for children, which run round the bay as far as Mumbles.

We were both getting a bit tired now so it was back to the hotel to prepare for an evening meal. So far we have liked what we've seen and tomorrow is another day.

The Last Castle

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We had a sunny day forecast recently so we thought we'd go to see Raglan Castle in Monmouthshire. Why Raglan Castle? Well it's not too long a drive at one and a half hours and it's a big castle. Oh wait, did I say 'its a big castle'? Well I should have said it's a BIG castle. It may now be a ruin but it still impresses, especially that gatehouse below, and gives ample opportunity to get lost in the maze of corridors and spaces.

The castle is managed by CADW and there is an entrance charge for non-members although, I believe, English Heritage members get in free. There is a large car park and they have toilets but no refreshments. However in the farn next to the castle is the Raglan Castle Cafe which we tried for lunch and can recommend.

The building of Raglan Castle began in the 1430s which was rather late in the day for castle building and it was the last medieval castle to be built in Britain. There were modifications and additions made up to the end of the 16th century. It was intended to be a luxurious home as well as just a fortified castle. The castle was put under siege during the civil war and eventually surrendered after many months. It was then ordered that the castle be totally destroyed but the fortifications proved too strong, however, and only a few of the walls were destroyed leaving it in its current condition.

This next picture shows the Great Tower surrounded by a moat. It is not possible to ascend the Great Tower because of its condition but it is possible to climb some parts of the castle which I did and there are some great views to be had.

This next picture took a bit of nerve on my part because I had to lean over the guard rail to get this view of the rather nice cobbled floor showing a hexagonal pattern. I'm not especially good with heights.

To give you some idea of how confusing the interior layout of this castle can be I thought that I had photographed just about everything when I met up with Amanda once again (we had been looking round separately) when she mentioned the Grand Staircase and I said "What Grand Staircase?". So she took me to see it and I realised that I had missed it completely.

On my meanderings I came across this so I had to photograph it. You do realise what it is don't you? That U-shaped stone seat has a shaft underneath. I'm sure that you can work it out.

You should be able to see from the floor plan that the Great Tower is surrounded by its own moat. The next picture is from the south and the following picture is from the north. The only way in to the Great Tower is via the arch and bridge.

After wandering about in the sun I decided it was time to explore the murky depths. There are a number of places where one can go underground and I should mention there is very little light down there.

In one place there was a vey dark fenced off section with a notice on it which read "Please do not feed the dinosaurs".

If you like exploring castles then this is one not to be missed and there are a number of others in this area. We will probably go back and visit some of the others so prepare to be thoroughly "castled out".

P.S. I thought I'd spoil it and add one more picture. Guess who!

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Reservoirs, Roads and Rails

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The online weather forecast for today was chilly and cloudy up to about 5:00 PM when we would have some sunny intervals for a couple of hours then back to cloudy for the rest of the day. Knowing how completely wrong the online forecasts had been over the past two or three days we decided to go out for the day.

We set off about 9:30 AM and followed a route we had used a number of times already which led us west to Crossgates where we would turn left for Llandrindod Wells but this time we went straight on towards Rhayader (pronounced 'raider') and as we were heading for Rhayader the sun started to break through. cool

When we reached Rhayader we wanted to continue west but there was a slight problem although perhaps I should describe it as a mountainous problem. Between us and where we wanted to go were the Cambrian Mountains; a large wild and mountainous area with few roads and some of those roads stopped part the way across. However we were lucky that there was one road going in the direction we wanted which went up, over and down the other side. So we left Rhayader and started up, and up, and up. This is part of that road not long after we'd left Rhayader.

We stopped by a stream to look at the view and a little further along we stopped again to look at the Craig Goch Reservoir in the Elan Valley (second picture below). Had we turned off onto the road along the Elan Valley, which we didn't, we would have found six large reservoirs. Perhaps we will have to do that one day.

We traversed these uplands on a road that was often not wide enough for two vehicles to pass, although there were plenty of passing places, and many sharp blind bends. There were also places where there were very steep slopes next to the road and no guard rails. We did, eventually, reach the other side of the uplands and started to go down. This was the view from the top looking down through the pass that we were about to go through. One thing that is noticeable about this area is that there are no trees.

We did make it to the bottom and then onwards to Pontrhydfendigaid (I suggest we pause for a short time whilst you untie your tongue). The name apparently means 'the bridge of the blessed ford'. We turned out of Pontrhydfendigaid and soon found ourselves at Strata Florida Abbey, which was our destination, after a journey of 2 hours. This ruin is owned and maintained by CADW – the welsh equivalent of English Heritage. The name Strata Florida is a corruption of the Welsh Ystrad Fflur, meaning Valley of (the river of) Flowers.

This gateway is the highest part of what is left. The abbey does have a wonderful backdrop as you can see in the second picture below.

There is also a large area of medeival tiles dating from the 14th century which makes them around 700 years old. Is your bathroom going to last that long?

Strata Florida Abbey is interesting but it is not worth making a special (long) journey for simply because there is really not that much to see but if you are in the area or passing through then it is worth stopping off. I doubt that we spent an hour there before continuing to our next destination further north – Devil's Bridge.

Devil's Bridge is actually three stacked bridges as each time that a new bridge has been built to replace the old bridge the new bridge has been built above the previous bridge. There is an old tale that the first bridge was built by the Devil but actually it is probable that it was built by the monks of Strata Florida Abbey. The original bridge is thought to have been built between 1075 – 1200. The bridge is at a point where the River Mynach drops 300 feet in five steps down a steep and narrow ravine.

The next photograph was taken from the newest bridge looking down into the ravine. It is possible, on payment of a small fee, to climb down into the ravine via the steps seen in the picture. We didn't have time to do that on this trip but we do intend to come back.

Th other ting we came to see was the Vale of Rheidol Railway which runs from Aberystwith, on the west coast, to Devil's Bridge and back. The journey takes an hour each way. When the train pulls in to the station it uncouples from the carriages and moves past a set of points then reverses to the other end of the carriages to pull the train back to Aberystwith.

We had a light lunch at the station in the Two Hoots Cafe. I had soup with bread and Amanda had a sandwhich and we each pronounced our food to be very good indeed.

That was the end of our day except for the drive back and the return journey took just 90 minutes as we didn't keep stopping to admire the scenery. Can't wait to go back.

Keep time

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Now is the time and this is the Keep.

Built in the early 14th century Hopton Castle is about 10 miles from home so, as it seemed like a spring day, we decided to venture out. There is not a lot to see but it is accessable to the public and free to enter and free to park. The main entrance can be seen on the shady side and one can go inside although it is not possible to go beyond the ground floor.

Amanda was pretty keen to get inside and there she is on her way in and by the time I got there she seemed to be on her way out. But, no, she was just coming over to greet me.

It has been suggested that this was not a genuine defendable castle but more of a stately home built by someone who was anxious to show off their wealth. If that really was the case would they go as far as constructing earthworks around the castle as large as this that they would not expect to use? That would need a lot of work and money.

A short but interesting and pleasant visit.

 

Sun, Signals and Sabrina

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We have been to Shrewsbury twice before and I have blogged both trips as you may remember. On each of those occasions it was cloudy but today was forecast to be sunny intervals. We have experienced forecasts like that before where we have two minutes of sun followed by two hours of cloud so we weren't hopeful but decided to risk it. So we started off on our third trip to Shrewsbury on the train and it turned out to be third time lucky.

I have shown you pictures of our little one carriage train before, but from the outside, so here's a picture of the inside.

You may notice that it is very popular, especially at this time of year as between 1st October and 31st March old people like us who have bus passes may travel free. This covers the whole line from Swansea in the south to Shrewsbury in the north; a total trip of around four hours. Our part of the trip from Knighton to Shrewsbury is only 50 minutes.

This is a picture of the signal box outside Shrewsbury Station. I took it from the train as we flashed past inasmuch as our little train can flash past anything. "But wait", I hear you cry, "why are you showing us pictures of a signal box.? We don't want to see pictures of signal boxes." Well, you do, but you just don't realise it yet.

This signal box was built in 1903 and is the largest mechanical signal box in the world which is still working. There, you can't fail to be impressed by that can you? When I first saw it I thought it was big but I didn't think it was THAT big.

We emerged from the station into a sunny Shrewsbury and headed south east along Castle Gates. We hadn't gone far when we realised that we had just passed some some steps and we thought 'I wonder where they go?'. Well we had to find out didn't we? The steps led us up to a higher level walkway and I spotted this view.

What do you think that building is? A stately home, a museum perhaps or even a prison. Nope! None of those. It is, in fact, Shrewsbury Railway Station. Quite impressive for a railway station eh? Built in 1848 it is now designated a grade II listed building.

We went back down the steps and after a short walk entered Shrewsbury Castle grounds. Bearing right along a path which was sloping upward we eventually arrived here at the top of a knoll. This is Laura's Tower built by Thomas Telford, in 1790, for Laura, the daughter of Sir William Pulteney, as a summer house.

There are some impressive views to be had from the top of this knoll although some of them are obscured by trees. Luckily for us it was March and there were no leaves on the trees so we had some lovely clear views such as this one along the River Severn. Incidentally the steps and walkway we decided to follow earlier would have taken us across that footbridge but we didn't want to spend time going that far today.

After a surfeit of views over the town we went back down to ground level and continued our walk through the town along Castle Street then Pride Hill where we turned into Butcher Row and saw this fine timber-framed building.

The timber-framed building shown below is at the south-east end of Butcher Row and on the corner of Fish Street which runs across the top of Grope Lane which I have mentioned in previous posts. This particular building still has its original frontage with the deep window sills on which the merchants would have displayed their wares.

We went back along Butcher Row and turned left along Pride Hill heading south-west. We eventually reached St. Chad's Terrace where we found (you've guesssed it) St. Chad's Church. Built in the 1700s, so not that old, but quite an impressive and unusual church. It created a stir at the time because it had a circular nave. 

I was hoping to get a photograph of Ebeneezer Scrooge's gravestone in the churchyard but we couldn't find it. Yes we know that Scrooge was a fictional character but the churchyard was used in the making of the film and the gravestone was left when filming was finished. It is still there somewhere.

The circular nave is unique, with pews arranged like a maze and Charles Darwin was baptised in St Chad’s Church.

Just across the road is the Quarry park which incorporates the Dingle. Dingle, apparently, is another name for a Dell. Either way it's a very attractive garden and there were plenty of blooms in spite of it being the middle of March.

This view shows St. Chad's Church, with its very tall tower, in the background.

This statue of Sabrina was created in 1846 by Peter Hollins of Birmingham for the Earl of Bradford. A folk etymology developed, deriving the name from a mythical story of a nymph, Sabrina, who drowned in the River Severn nearby and Sabrina is also the goddess of the River Severn in Celtic mythology.

That, however, is not the only Sabrina, as there is a boat called Sabrina which takes visitors for a cruise around Shrewsbury on the river. It was very convenient that it happened to come along as I was photographing the river.

After our last two visits Amanda wasn't particularly enamoured of Shrewsbury but she says now that she is really beginning to like it. We are, of course, planning to come again in the warmer weather when the leaves are on the trees.

We caught the train back home where we arrived without incident.

I suppose that that was our first 'proper' trip of the year. More trips to come I hope.