BeenThere-DoneThat Blog

Life and Travel in Great Britain

One Old, One New – Day 1

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We were sitting in the No. 2 bus in a traffic jam, with the sea on our left, wondering whether it would be quicker to get out and walk but we decided that, as we were averaging about walking pace, we might as well sit and let the bus do the work.

Perhaps we should go back earlier today to give you the full story.

It was forecast to be a sunny day today and tomorrow but cloudy thereafter so we hoped to take advantage of that short sunny spell and go on a little trip. We left home at about 08:30 AM and drove two and a half hours to Swansea. You may remember we came here before but travelled by train ( The Other End – Day 2 ) whereas this time it would be by car.

We arrived at Morgan’s Hotel near the Waterfront, where we had stayed on our previous trip, and parked in their car park then announced our arrival at Reception. We then walked the short distance to the bus station and caught the No. 2 bus to Oystermouth although we weren’t going that far. We intended to alight at Clyne Gardens for a second visit which is how we ended up in that traffic jam. We didn’t want to drive to Clyne Gardens although there is a small car park by the entrance because we couldn’t be sure of finding a space and the charge was £3 for 3 hours and there wasn’t any other option.

The bus did eventually get us to Clyne Gardens 15 minutes late on a 15 minute journey. We were here to see the Rhododendrons again and we weren’t disappointed.

When we were here last time I photographed ‘The Tower’ which was included on the main web site pages but not in the Blog post. I repeat that image here so that you can see how badly lit the tower is such that it’s not at all easy to interpret what you’re seeing. We were significantly later in the day on this visit and I photographed it again. The lighting is much better and the detail on the tower is much clearer. That shows what a difference to a photograph the time of day can make.


As we were about 2 weeks later on this visit some of the Rhododendrons were shedding their petals which was a shame in one way but also a benefit in that it produced a carpet of colour.

As we were walking along we spotted this little Tree Fern which was one of a number in the garden. There are lots of other plants in this garden besides Rhododendrons and Azaleas.

One of the reasons we came here again was the colour and it was here in profusion. You want colour? We can give you colour.

Amanda did like the mega-rhubarb which is properly called Giant or Elephant Rhubarb and that’s it on the left next to her.

This is it underneath showing a strange looking flower.

And finally showing how much taller it is than Amanda.

Some of those leaves were about 6 feet across but that pales into insignificance compared with other species that have leaves up to 12 feet across. Put that in a pie if you can.

Another interesting example of how conditions can change a view. On our first visit here I took this photograph of Swansea Bay from the high ground in Clyne Gardens which does look a little murky.

But on this trip the photograph from the same view point is obviously clearer.

This, of course, has nothing to do with the time of year but depends on the atmospheric conditions which can change at any time.

On our way back towards the exit we spotted this mega-tree. Well it would be hard to miss wouldn’t it? It appears to be a conifer but I can’t tell you which one.

And finally I looked in a mirror.

Well that was the end of our Clyne Gardens trip and we went back to our hotel briefly then walked to the waterfront for a cup of tea/coffee. We sat outside next to the Marina in the sun hoping that those seagulls wheeling overhead were not going to drop something on us that we would possibly find unpleasant. Luckily they didn’t.

Back to the hotel for dinner and thence to bed. In the morning we finish our repeat of an old trip and start something new.

A Wild Flower Walk

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We decided to walk around Garth Hill (our local hill) today, as we have done before, and I recorded the wild flowers we saw on the way.

The most prolific flower at this time of year is the Dandelion (the gardeners nightmare) and they were alongside the path near the beginning of the walk

and this was a closeup of a rather nice bunch together with some stitchwort

and they were alongside the lane near the end. They do get absolutely everywhere.

Primroses
Common Dog Violet
Wood Sorrel
Cuckoo Flower
Wood Anemone
Red Campion
Wild Strawberries
Yellow Archangel
Bluebells

Bluebells are only just beginning to appear. They will not be at their best for another week or two.

Lesser Stitchwort
Ground Ivy
Forget-me-not

The interesting thing about this time of year is that in perhaps two weeks the available flowers can change dramatically from what we see here to something quite different.

Till next time then.

Wales in Spring!

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These photographs were taken this morning in our garden.

It’s April – Say no more!

Cold, and Yellow Trumpets

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You may remember that in my previous post I showed a photograph of a solitary wild daffodil on the Croft Castle Estate and said that were more plants round about and that we may come back in a few weeks time for another look.

In the meantime I have managed to develop a stinking cold so I’m not feeling terribly bright. However we decided to go back to Croft Castle and see if I could manage the walk. Well I could.

There were more daffodils with their trumpet-like flowers as we suspected in two separate areas and the picture below is one of those areas.

This is the second area.

It is possible that there could be even more in flower in a week or so. Remember that these are wild daffodils which are about half the size of the garden variety.

I managed to stagger back uphill to the National Trust restaurant were we had some lunch and went home.

Butterflies and Flowers

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Butterflies? Flowers? February? It’s not as silly as it sounds. It all started this morning with a bright sun in a cloudless sky – it was going to be a beautiful day so we just had to go somewhere. That somewhere turned out to be Croft Castle.

We wanted to try and find some snowdrops which were supposed to be found in Pokehouse Wood. Don’t ask me where that name comes from because I don’t know and I’m not about to start guessing but the wood is on the western edge of the Croft Castle Estate. If one parks at Croft Castle then it’s going to be a five and a half mile return walk to Pokehouse Wood which we didn’t really want to do so we, naturally, cheated. On the way to Croft Castle we pass through the small village of Amestrey which, surprisingly, is on the western edge of the Croft Castle Estate so we didn’t pass through, we stopped and parked.

We used a public footpath to reach the edge of Croft Castle Estate where we found a sign, by some steep steeps, which told us that we had arrived at Pokehouse Wood. Up the steps we went and eventually arrived at a wide path where we turned right. Walking along the path, which we noticed was going downhill very slowly, we kept a lookout for Snowdrops. Not a sign. Not a tiny speck of white to be seen anywhere. But then we found these. Not a lot admittedly but it is a start.

As the path was going downhill we eventually arrived at river level, you can see the river below us in the image above, onto another path where we turned right.

Then things started to get interesting.

So, finally, we did find a few. We also noticed that the Snowdrop flowers were beginning to die back so we were lucky that we hadn’t left it another week as we may then have been disappointed.

We also spotted this solitary Primrose.

The path we were on seemed to be heading back towards our starting point so we decided to risk it and continued on this path. It wasn’t long before we arrived at the bottom of the steps we had climed previously so we needn’t have climbed them in the first place. Bummer!

On our way back along the public footpath we stopped to have a look at this tree.

Now that is a tree that you couldn’t easily miss. That tiny person at the bottom is Amanda trying to identify it. She eventually decided that it was a Wellingtonia. Wellingtonias are native to California in America and that is where they grow to their maximum height. They do also grow in other parts of America but not to such a height. However they do also like it here in Britain; growing not to such a height as they grow in California but higher than they grow in other parts of America.

We drove round to the car park in Croft Castle then walked to the restaurant where we had some much appreciated sustenance.

Our next plan was to walk around the upper reaches of Fishpoool Valley so we set off and came across another interesting tree.

This is known as the Candelabra Oak which Amanda estimates can’t be far short of 1000 years old. So you should be able to work out that it is an Oak and I don’t want any dimwits asking “Barry, why is it called the Candelabra Oak” as it should be fairly obvious. We started down the wooded path into Fishpool Valley.

Some way further down we saw, across on the other side, the Grotto which we had heard about but hadn’t seen so we went across to have a look.

It has to be said that we were not awe struck. Apparently some of it is now missing but what and where I don’t know. The second photograph above shows the Grotto on the left with Amanda sitting a little way in front. Walking on we came across our third flower of the day – a wild daffodil.

From the look of the area there should be a lot more of those in bloom in a few more weeks. We’ll have to come back and see. Back to our walk. The path went on – and on – and on.

It may be long but we were enjoying it. At this time of year with no leaves on the trees and a low sun the atmosphere was ethereal.

Our final picture, before we climbed out of Fishpool Valley and went back to our car, is of one of the ponds. The surface of the water was completely still and acted like a mirror showing some amazing reflections.

We also saw some butterflies – a Brimstone, a Comma and a Small Tortoiseshell so it must be Spring. That was the end of our day but we hope to be back for more daffodils – weather permitting.

Barry & Amanda go to Paradise

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It may be that this may not quite match your vision of Paradise and, in fact, it probably doesn’t match ours either but it’s there in writing so it must be true.

This trip was to be a test to see if it was going to be practicable to visit Birmingham as a number of day trips by train rather than staying there for a number of days.

We left home at about 9:00 AM and walked to the station and caught the 9:23 AM train for Shrewsbury. It was an uneventful journey of about 50 minutes and we waited at Shrewsbury for about 20 minutes for our train to Birmingham New Street Station and after another uneventful journey of about an hour we arrived in Birmingham.

This was going to be an ‘Indoors’ day, as it was quite cold out, so we were aiming to go to Victoria Square first and visit the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery. We found our way to the exit nearest to Victoria Square and emerged into what I think was Navigation Street. Brrrr! We then walked north along Pinfold Street, right up Ethel Street then left at the top which led us to Victoria Square. It was all rather confusing because the centre of Birminham is like a building site at the moment with hoardings and diversions everywhere.

We found the museum quite easily and went inside (entry is free). The travelling time taken to this point is approximately 3 hours although it didn’t seem too onerous.

One has to then go upstairs to the next level where the museum starts at the Round Room. The museum itself is a 19th-century Grade II listed building.

The structure of the Round Room, like many of the other galleries, is worthy of observation especially the large glass-domed roof. The passage to the right of the central figure is ‘The Bridge’ which crosses the street below and this is that same bridge from outside.

The first gallery we visited was the Industrial Gallery which was mostly wood, jewelry and ceramics related items but the gallery itself is certainly worth examining. The construction features a lot of metal, which I assume is cast iron, and note the circular metal decorations at the top of the support columns.

The large columnar structure hanging down in the centre of the picture is one of a number of Victorian gas lights and it has not yet been determined how they functioned.

Needless to say we found our way to the Edwardian Tea Room just beyond the Industrial Gallery as it was now about lunchtime.

This view was taken from the upper galleries that follow on from the Industrial Upper Gallery and it’s also worth showing you this gallery and its roof.

Typically Victorian with more ironwork and the same gas lamps hanging from the roof as in the Industrial Gallery. Rather attractive don’t ya think?

We had lunch here and found it to be very comfortable with very good food. We ended up sharing a table, as it was busy at one o’clock, and had some very pleasant conversation with two very nice people from Suffolk. The conversation included, as one would expect, on how to ride a penny farthing bicycle.

After lunch we moved on through the Round Room into the main part of the museum and, let me tell you, one could get lost in here. After going down one level we found ourselves in the Gas Hall and, no I don’t know how the name is derived. We weren’t particularly interested in the exhibits but, again, it’s a rather nice Victorian building.

Going back upstairs into the maze of galleries we found an amazing choice of subjects.

In that picture above you can see the arch into the next gallery and on the far side is another arch ad infinitum. It is easy to get lost unless, perhaps, you carry a floorplan with you ( they are downloadable on the web).

Amanda specifically wanted to see the Staffordshire Hoard; one of the biggest finds of gold objects in this country and we did actually manage to find the gallery. This is a picture I took later on from the Egyptian Gallery on the floor above.

The helmet above is a replica of the original which was discovered as a multitude of small fragments. The person who deduced its original form must have been an expert on jigsaws.

In the picture of the gallery taken from above you may have noticed in the top left corner there was a small fragment of a freize showing; this is more of that freize.

The frieze is a replica of the Parthanon frieze in the British Museum and is otherwise known as the Elgin Marbles. It can be seen from the Egyptian Gallery.

We had now decided that it was time to move on to our next location and as we were leaving we spotted a small case, near the Friends of Birmingham Museums desk, no more than 2 feet square.

It was a single small pot as seen above but the image is repeated multiple times and is known as an Infinity Box.

This particular box is an ingenious piece of fine craftmanship made from a variety of beautiful woods, including burr walnut, Indian rosewood and white maple, surmounted by an illuminated glass box containing mirrors that enable the viewer to see Infinity from all directions.

It also works if one walks 360 degrees round the case; a fascinating experience.

We finally left the museum to locate our next building. The building in question is that very distinctive one in the centre of the next picture – the Birmingham Library.

The exterior is certainly unique but I can’t decide yet whether I like it or hate it. I do know, however that I like the interior.

For those of you who dislike modern buildings look away now.

That picture gives you an idea of what the interior is like. The building has 9 floors with a lift serving all floors or escalators from the 4th floor down to the ground floor.

Going up to the very top floor gives access to the roof viewing platform.

This platform is on one side of the building only i.e. it does not go all the way round. This time of the year is not the best time for this sort of photograph as the sun is very low and the lighting rather contrasty plus the fact that the place is covered in cranes.

However this platform does give access to this:

This is the Shakespeare Memorial Room.

The Shakespeare Memorial Room was created and designed to house the Shakespeare Memorial Library by John Henry Chamberlain in 1882. He was responsible for re-building the old Central Library after the original building was gutted by fire in 1879 and the Shakespeare Memorial room opened off the new wing of the that building.

The room is in an Elizabethan style with carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. The woodwork is by Mr Barfield, a noted woodcarver; the brass and metal work by Hardmans. The ceiling decoration is stencilled.

Controversy surrounded plans to demolish the Central Library in 1971 so this room was re-built as part of the Library of Birmingham.

The next level down, Level 8, is, so I understand, not accessible to the public. Going down to Level 7 gives access to the Secret Garden.

This is one of the Roof Terraces and not the best time of year to see a garden but we cannot change that. We will try and visit again during the summer months. It does however give another high level viewpoint and one with fewer cranes.

There is another roof terrace further down, about Level 3 as I remember, shown below.

So back inside which is a lot warmer than it is out here.

There are an awful lot of books in here. Apart from the shelves you can see in the pictures there are further galleries radiating from the central space which are lined both sides with book shelves.

We decided it was about time we made our way back to the railway station but just opposite the station we spotted something worth inspecting.

That is the Piccadilly Shopping Arcade which was originally built as a luxury cinema in 1910 and was later converted to a shopping arcade in 1925. Nice hand-painted ceiling.

We went back into the station and bought something to eat on the train from Shrewsbury to Knighton then discovered that we had a choice of three trains; one just after 4:00 PM, one just after 4:30 PM and one just after 5:00 PM. Whatever train we choose we cannot afford to miss that last one otherwise we miss the last train from Shrewsbury to Knighton and wouldn’t be able to return home until tomorrow.

All good so far. We decide to get the earliest train which would get us into Shrewsbury in time to have a leisurely coffee before catching the Knighton Train. That was the theory until we saw the train – it was packed with lots of people standing and we didn’t want to be standing for an hour. Bummer!

We decide to get the second train which leaves from a different platform. We find the platform and wait in the cold. The train arrives and that one is also packed. In fact it is so full that we not allowed to get on. Double bummer! One of the local commuters tells us that this happens every weekday.

This is getting serious! We cannot afford not to get on the next train. We go back to the original platform and we wait in the cold again. When the train stops everyone on the train gets off and we are reasonable near the doors that we get on to the now empty train fairly soon and actually get some seats. Whew! The train soon fills up as much as the one we first saw but at least we aren’t standing.

There are no more problems and we arrive in Shrewsbury on time with 10 minutes to catch our next train which is waiting in the platform and, as usual, there is plenty of room.

Well I said this was a test trip and it taught us that day trips to Birmingham are not a good idea. To avoid the rush hour we would have to leave before 3:30 PM which would make our sightseeing day unacceptably short. If we go again, and we hope to, we are going to have to stop for at least two nights. So we now need to find a nice hotel near the centre of Birmingham that provides dinner as well as breakfast.

We shall see.

Happy Christmas

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We would like to wish all our visitors a very happy christmas and a happy new year.

It seems almost certain that we won’t be having any snow before the new year but after that who knows?