This post is basically in two parts; the first part is about our Volt Metro LS electric folding bicycles and the second part is not about our bicycles so if you are not the slightest bit interested about electric folding bicycles then skip to the second part.
We bought two Volt Metro LS bicycles earlier this year and haven’t ridden them much so far because we still have to become used to them and that takes time especially when we are fairweather cyclists. This shows one in ‘ready to ride’ mode and the other folded.
They have advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages: Being electric they take little effort to ride. My longest trip so far is 10 miles in about an hour. The only after effects were related to a slight soreness caused by the saddle as I don’t have much padding in the right places. They, obviously, can be folded but there is no built in mechanism to keep them securely folded. We have purchased, at no great cost, two Velcro straps, one for each bicycle, that can be wrapped around the folded frame to stop it flapping about when being moved in the folded mode.
Disadvantages: They are very heavy at 40 pounds (21.7 kg) each. I find that I cannot lift one into the car on my own (remember I’m 83) and even with the two of us I wouldn’t call it easy. They are difficult,when riding, to keep on a narrow track and, sometimes seem to have a mind of their own when it comes to steering. This, I am told, is because of the small (20″) wheel size.
General: They have derailleur type gears, 8 in all, and the changing mechanism is very easy to use. It is also possible to vary the battery power output and, from experience, ‘Low’ is normally sufficient for an easy ride leaving ‘Medium’, ‘High’ and ‘Power’ in reserve for the worst (steep) hills.
I set off for my second test run this morning intending to go from home in Knighton to a village called Leintwardine where Amanda was to be waiting for me in her car and we were then intending to go into the local tearoom for cake and coffee. The journey would be around 10 miles.
A lot of my journey would be on back roads such as Weston Road out of Knighton to Bucknell. Then a short spell on a main road until I, once again, moved on to a back road. One trouble with back roads is that the surface can vary considerably from reasonable, like this one
to pretty poor like this one.
You may also notice the road width. It is about one vehicle wide and if you meet someone coming the other way or someone coming up behind you’ll need to find a passing place.
I did, finally, meet Amanda at Leintwardine at around 10:30 and we went into the Wood ‘n’ Ribbon Tea Room for refreshments.
After we had coffee and cake (very nice) we left at about 11:30 to walk along a nearby public footpath as far as Jay Bridge. Setting off down the side of the tea room it wasn’t long before we spotted something interesting.
You may notice some ‘lumps’ hanging in the tree in the picture above; they are Mistletoe.
Soon we emerged into a rather nice meadow which was covered in a pinkish grass – Bent Grass.
We reached Jay bridge to find that it wasn’t at all attractive but purely utilitarian. Still, never mind, it was a lovely walk and the scenery by the bridge (second picture) was delightful.
Standing on the bridge afforded the view of the River Clun below which was the reason for the bridge of course. The original bridge was probably wooden and, I imagine, has been replaced a number of times.
We covered just over a mile, which took us about 30 minutes, to reach the bridge (we were dawdling and looking at the plants and butterflies) and the same to get back. It was now around lunchtime, 12:30, so we went back into the Wood ‘n’ Ribbon Tea Room and had some lunch (again very nice). It’s a hard life.
My bicycle was folded, put into the back of the car and we drove home.
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.
Tuesday morning. Woke. Levered eyelids open to look out of window. Another sunny day.
After breakfast we drove all of 15 minutes to Bodnant Gardens, which is managed by the National Trust, and we have been here before about 30 years ago before this web site was even thought of so no photographs from that trip. It is not an old garden having been created around 1874 and there is a house but it is private and not open to the public. Bodnant means ‘dwelling by a stream’.
The garden was gifted to the National Trust in 1949 when I was 13 years old which isn’t really relevant but I thought you’d like to know.
One of the things that we came to see was the Laburnum Arch.
How’s that for a show stopper? This is very near the entrance so was an obvious first and I was lucky to get a photograph with so few people in it. The one trouble with Bodnant is that because it is world famous it is very popular and very busy.
Although the house is not open to the public it is visible.
I’d like to be able to have a look inside that conservatory.
A short way from the house we saw the occasional Rhododendron and at this time of year they seemed to be everywhere. It didn’t seem to matter where we were or which direction we looked there would be rhododendrons. This garden houses one of four National Collections of Rhododendron forrestii, named after the plant collector George Forest, so that might explain it. Bodnant raised their own Hybrid Rhododendrons of which the garden has a mere 350.
As the garden is very large, at around 80 acres, and is on a slope, there is plenty of structure to it.
Above shows the Lily Pond with the Pin Mill building on the Canal Terrace. The building was added in 1938 having been built in 1730 in Gloucestershire; it was rescued from decay by Henry Pochin, the original founder of the garden, who dismantled it, brought it to Bodnant and rebuilt it brick by brick.
We plodded onward down the slope passing numerous rhododendrons on the way and caught sight of this cheeky chappie eating the flowers!. He certainly wasn’t timid and if he eats them all he’ll end up the size and shape of a pumpkin.
We could see from the view in the next picture that we were, at last, getting near the bottom of the valley and the river. Rhododendrons? What rhododendrons? You don’t expect to see them everywhere do you? Oh! Wait!
At the bottom of the valley is the old mill and Amanda showing the way. Nobody mention rhododendrons!
The building is the old mill, a Grade II listed building, which was built around 1837 and was used to turn the wheels of the estate flourmill and then the estate sawmill. There is also a small refreshment kiosk here (it’s a long uphill walk back to the main tearooms).
So that’s the end of the garden then? You have to be kidding! There is now a greater distance to the ‘Far End’ than we have already covered. So lets’s not waste time – just follow us. Keep up and don’t dawdle.
Off we go then and I’m not going to mention Rhododendrons.
I think that the poor chap above was just stunned by the amount of colour and in the next picture Amanda must have spotted something interesting (no it wasn’t me).
Stepping stones across the River Hiraethlyn. The disappointing part, for you, is that Amanda didn’t fall in. In walking along the valley one can walk on either side of the river and cross at any of the frequent bridges as shown below.
There are a number of lakes along the valley.
Finally we reach the ‘Far End’ BUT we now have to walk back and it’s all UP. On the way back we popped in to have a look at this – The Poem. Perched on a steep bank overlooking the mill pond this beautiful building was built by Henry Davis Pochin, the original builder of this garden, as a last resting place for his family.
After all that walking we staggered out of the exit and slumped into our car. So was that the end of our day then? Well no. It was about the middle of the afternoon so, even though we were tired, we decided to travel the short distance to Conwy.
We have been to Conwy before and there are pictures on the main web site of that visit but there some things that we hadn’t seen on that occasion. One of those was the suspension bridge built by Thomas Telford now owned and maintained by the National Trust. When we visited Conwy for the first time there was an entry fee and we thought that it wouldn’t be value for money so we gave it a miss. This time, however, we were National Trust members so could get in free. When we arrived we found that there was now no charge and the bridge was open to all.
It is an impressive bridge and very attractive so it was a worth while visit. From here we walked down to the Quay to see something else that we had heard about.
A house can’t come smaller than that surely unless you know better?
By this time our legs were worn down to the knees so we went back to the hotel. Another dinner, another sleep. Another day. What will the new day bring?
On Tuesday the weather forecast for Wednesday was that it would been mostly sunny until around 3:00 pm and on Wednesday morning, yesterday, it was the same; mostly sunny. So we set off for the Elan Valley to see if it was worth returning in the, hopefully, better and warmer weather next year.
It was about an hours drive from home and was sunny for most of that until we got near our destination when cloud miraculously appeared and left us with very little intermittent sun. What a surprise. Well not really as this area is known to be one of the wettest in Wales otherwise it wouldn't be what it is.
So what is it? Here's a clue:
It's a series of five reservoirs, known as Claerwen, Craig-goch, Pen-y-garreg, Garreg-ddu, and Caban-coch, which were built between the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. The one above, Caban-coch, is the first dam to be reached when approaching from the nearest town – Rhayader (pronounced 'Raider') which is just 3.5 miles away.
The next picture shows the same dam, the reservoir beyond, and the rather threatening looking weather.
This link shows a map of the area which will give you an idea of where we went.
We started from the little white square near the 'Elan Village' label and went back along the white road to the B4518 where we turned left and followed that road until we reached the Y shaped junction where we turned left. Although the map appears to show that the road goes under the reservoir it doesn't – it goes across a long stone bridge with numerous arches. We just followed that road to its termination at the Claerwen Reservoir dam.
This dam was opened by the Queen in 1952.
The road continues across the dam and stops at the other side where we get some different views.
The picture above was taken from the top of the dam looking south back the way we came.
We set off back along the road we came on, as there is simply no other choice, until we came to that Y junction. where we turned left towards the Penygarreg Reservoir.
We made a brief stop to photograph this little series of waterfalls
and continued on to the dam at Craig Goch reservoir.
You may notice that by this time, around 1:00 pm, the cloud cover is increasing making the foreground pretty gloomy. We could have driven along this reservoir until we joined the road that we had used on a previous trip through the Cambrian Mountains to Devil's Bridge and then turned right back to Rhayader but it was near lunch time so we returned the way we came to the Visitor Centre.
They had a restaurant there and we had had a brief look at the menu when we started and wanted to try some of the appetising items on offer. We parked in their car park for which we had to pay £2:00, that covers a day, but we get a discount of 10% on whatever we spend in the restaurant.
The restaurant seems typical of this sort of establishment except that the food turned out to be anything but typical. The food was really very good and is produced on site. We both had their home made curry, chicken for me and beef for Amanda, and thoroughly enjoyed every morsel. Excellent! We would have like to have tried the cakes but we were just too full. Next time perhaps.
The photograph below was taken from where I was sitting and you may notice that through the window you should be able to see that wall of water flowing over the dam. We hoped the wall would hold out until we had finished our meal.
This trip was enough to convince us that was a lot here to see including lots of dramatic scenery and we intend to return next year in warmer weather to do a lot more exploring. It is only an hour's drive away after all.
The next day when we were back home it started to snow. Admittedly it was rather sparse and none of it settled but it was our first snow of the winter and in November. Brrrrr!
Today was forecast to have sunny intervals. I'm hoping that at least one of those intervals will be longer than 5 seconds as we have decided to re-visit Shrewsbury using our little train.
We came out of Shrewsbury Station and up some steps on to a high level walkway which took us over the railway and down to The Dana. The Dana is an old prison dating from medieval times although the medieval building is long gone.
There has been a prison on the site since 1793, the original building being constructed by Thomas Telford, although the present prison was constructed in 1877. The name 'Dana' is still often used for the prison, as well as being the name of the road to one side of the prison and the pedestrian route that runs from near the front of the prison into the town centre via a footbridge over the station which is the route we used but in reverse.
There are prison tours available but we didn't avail ourselves of that option but opted to walk onward. We made our way down to the River Severn and walked along the riverside path away from the town centre. There was supposed to be some sort of weir further down river so we though we'd have a look at it.
As we walked along we could hear a background noise which we decided might be the weir. Perhaps bigger than we though then! As we progressed the noise became louder and when we reached the weir we could see why. It was bigger than we thought.
I wouldn't like to go over that in a small boat.
We turned round and walked back towards the town. When we reached the footbridge shown in the next picture we went up onto it and looked down river. We could just see the change in texture of the water surface which indicated where the weir was. You can probably see it more easily in the larger version of the second picture.
We walked along the riverside until we reached the next road bridge over the river. One thing I noticed immediately was that there were trees growing out of the water like the one on the left. Amanda tells me that it is a Willow and that it is not unusual for a piece of willow to float down stream and get stuck in the mud where it promptly takes root. So now you can see the result.
I also took this next photograph of the same bridge because I rather like the effect the low sun was procucing as it shone through the arches. I imagine it's being reflected off the water.
We continued walking and eventually reached the lower edge of the large park known as The Quarry which we visited on our previous trip. The riverside walk looked really nice in the sunlight.
At the top edge of the park is St. Chads Church which I also mentioned in the blog post of our previous trip ( Sun, Signals and Sabrina ) when I wrote:
"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."
So we walked up to St. Chads and into the graveyard and this time I found it.
On the way back into town we saw Rowley's House which was built in the late 16th century by the wool merchant Roger Rowley. It is believed to be the earliest building in Shrewsbury to use bricks as part of its construction.
That was the end of another interesting, at least to us, walk. So back home on the train for us.
We drove the 2.5 miles from Pembridge to Eardisland and, as in Pembridge, we crossed the River Arrow again although, this time, it was on the far side of the village for us. The bridge dates from around 1800.
Once again there is a free visitors car park on the main road through the village almost opposite the Dovecote and there were plenty of spaces but, unlike Pembridge, no public toilets. The Dovecote, dating from the late 17th/early 18th century is shown below and is open to the public. It functions as an information and exhibition centre for the village offering interesting historical displays and information on the area alongside a shop selling local produce. There is no entry charge.
Moving to the right of the Dovecote we can see the side of the Manor House with a front view below.
The Manor House dates from the 17th century with what appears to a a geogian extension added to the front. Turning to our left, away from the side view of the Manor House, we look back past the Dovecote towards another road bridge.
If we go into the Dovecote we see at the back of the interior a small staircase and going to the bottom of the stairs and looking up will show a small part of what we could see if we went upstairs.
Arriving upstairs we can see the whole point of the place; a huge number of nesting places for the doves and I understand that they numbered well over 600 although there are no doves there now.
Amanda is trying to asses, from the depth of water, what would happen if she fell in. In the background is the 17th century Millstream Cottage and the water is, naturally enough, the mill stream.
Dating from the early 13th century is the Church of St Mary the Virgin. Some parts such as the Chancel and South Porch were built in the 14th century. The original Tower, of probable 15th Century origin, collapsed in 1728 and was replaced by the present one in 1760. The whole church was restored in 1864.
Eardisland turned out to be very pretty little village and well worth a visit. Unlike the church we haven't been restored so we will now have to return home for a rest.
There is an area in Herefordshire known as the Black and White Villages and there is also a Black and White Villages Trail which is meant for motoring not walking. We last visited about 12 years ago on a day trip from Ludlow and the results from that are already on the web site. That previous visit was before the blog was started so there is no blog entry for it. This time it was a 30 minute drive from home so we were able to have a much more leisurely look round especially as we were re-visiting only two of the villages.
Both villages, Pembridge and Eardisland, are situated on the River Arrow.
We started in Pembridge and we had to cross the River Arrow to get into the village and this is the bridge we used. It is not very old having been built in the 19th century but is attractive nevertheless.
There is a small, free, car park with access down the roadway next to the King's House in East Street and there was plenty of room. There is a small sign, easily missed, pointing to it from the main road and there are also public toilets in the car park which had disabled facilities and were nice and clean.
The entrance to the public car park can be seen on the right. The King's House is a restaurant, not open on a Monday when we were there of course, and dates from the 15th century. This building is a sign of things to come. This next picture is in East Street looking towards West Street and showing the front corner of the King's House on the right. You should be able to see a number of black & white timber-framed buildings.
I think we'll need to do a bit of exploring don't you?
How's that for a start? The building on the right is the New Inn so called because it was new when it was built in the 17th century. Can you think of a better reason?
A market charter was granted to Pembridge in 1239 and just behind the New Inn is the early 16th century Market Hall.
Standing in the Market Square it doesn't look like a hall as it isn't enclosed but that's because the upper storey was removed at an unknown date. Pity really as it would have looked pretty impressive with an upper storey.
Although these villages are known as the black and white villages, with good reason, not all of the buildings are black and white. This next picture shows a row of black and white buildings broken by one cream washed, jettied building.
The picture above shows a timber-framed building with red brick infill and the one to its right, an early 15th century hall house known as West End Farm, has a pinkish cream wash on the walls. This was one of the earliest domestic buildings in Pembridge. The multitude of other timber-framed buildings in Pembridge date to the 15th century.
The church here is also unusual in that it has a separate bell tower which dates from the 13th century. The current church dates from the 13th century with alterations in the 14th century century.
The bell tower has to be seen to be believed. The main timbers are enormous and from the look of them they are whole trees squared off.
The church also has some very interesting interior features. There are mason's marks in the picture below – can you spot them?
There are also some medievel wall paintings. One on the wall behind the organ and one on the wall of the nave. Not in the best of condition but they are visible in spite of being around 600 years old.
Just outside the church door is a delightful view across the churchyard to the village and the hills beyond.
That is the end of part one covering Pembridge. Part two will be Eardisland.