Archive for the ‘wales’ Category

Worcester, Herefordshire and a little bit of Wales (Part 1)

August 20, 2019

It was time for us to meet up with another cousin, this time from my Dads side of the family. I think Sue and I are actually second cousins, or maybe cousins once removed…oh I never did figure out which was which but in any case it doesn’t matter. Roy and I hopped on yet more trains to make our way to Worcester where we were being picked up. However the train journey was not to be as easy as it should have been.

Map of the journey

We left Alex’s by catching the bus to the local train station in Erith, we got onto the train and had not long left the station when Roy went off to use the toilet. Some few minutes later the drivers very quiet voice came over the intercom saying something about a problem, and I think he said something about the toilets but I didn’t really hear or take in what he was saying. Next minute the train comes to a halt, again the drivers voice came over the intercom, with indecipherable announcements. Next I see the driver walking through our carriage, I think to myself – oh, there must be a problem, oh and Roy seems to be taking an awfully long time in the loo!!!

Yes, you guessed it, Roy was locked in the toilet and couldn’t get out so in desperation he had to activate the emergency button attracting the attention of the driver. Apparently this then activates the stopping of the train which cannot be deactivated until the driver manually deactivates it from the original activation point. And did I forget to mention that we were in the very last carriage of the train so it was a long way for the driver to make his way through the train to release the button, and Roy of course!! As a result the train was then running 18 minutes late. To top that off the train was now not going to Charing Cross due to another issue further along the line so we had to change at London Bridge then take the tube with one change of lines to get ourselves to Paddington Station. Fortunately we always allow a bit of extra time for events such as this so we still arrived at Paddington with 15minutes to spare to catch the train to Worcester.

We were met at the train station by a Sue & Martin who then took us to their home a few miles out in the beautiful countryside. Now, it’s rather special to be able to meet up with cousins after such a long time and instantly feel comfortable and at home. We spent the afternoon in the garden talking, laughing and reminiscing. They live in a lovely old farmhouse which just feels so comfortable and welcoming. We also have a bit in common, one being that they also have a motorhome in which they travel all round the country and Europe as well.

The following day we were off on an all day drive to do what is called the Black & White trail which takes in a number of villages which are known for their black and white Tudor style architecture.

The general route

Close up view of the route

First we had to negotiate the odd narrow country road

Expertly driven by Martin

Through the village of Bromyard which was our first view of the black and white timbered buildings

Pub in Bromyard

Our first port of call was the town of Leominster where we were stopping for morning tea. After finding a car park, we wandered off into the village where we found this establishment.

Someone thought this was his place!

And no, we didn’t partake of the delights available in Roy’s cafe, we were to venture further into town.

Martin striding ahead in the town square.

We were heading to another cafe for morning coffee, I came across this model in the centre of the square

It is a model of the market house erected on the site in 1633 and subsequently saved then moved and renamed Grange House. It is the finest remaining example of work done by the King’s carpenter John Abel.

Grange House today

Passing narrow alleyways with buildings overhanging and not a straight line in sight, we made our way to the cafe.

Coffee for morning tea

Oh, and guess what we found just around the corner from the coffee shop? You guessed it, a cheese shop! Yes, we did sample lots of lovely cheeses and possibly some purchases were made.

Cheese shop in Leominster

Narrow alleyway and sheepy art work

Time for us to continue on our travels.

Next town on our travels was Dilwyn.

Dilwyn houses

a lovely collection of black and white buildings, all beautifully kept as well.

Onto Weobley next, where we were to have lunch in a local pub. But first a wander around the village to check out some of the unique architecture.

Weobley architecture and magpie statue

We had a lovely lunch at the pub, whilst in the pub I noticed these stained glass windows which look very much like some of the windows we had in the private spaces of Pen-y-bryn Lodge.

Stained glass window

Further along the road in Weobley we came across the Old Grammar School dating from 1660.

Old Grammar House, note the angles of the walls and windows

Now a private home with all its interesting wonky lines, the school was in continuous use until the late 1880’s. It catered for up to 25 pupils on the ground floor with the masters accomodation upstairs.

From here we continued on our journey, but along the route to the next village we came across this church in Kinnersley. Actually, I say in Kinnersley, but this just really an area rather than a village as there was no evidence of a village apart from the church.

Kinnersley Church

The 12th century church has an unusual slightly separate tower. It has intricate paintings and coloured stencil work decorating the ceiling and arches of chancel and nave. These were done by the famous Victorian “Arts and Craft” architect Bodley, who is buried in the church yard.

A very good, well carved marble 17th century monument to the Smalman family is on the wall inside, however it is now strapped to the wall as you will see in the picture below. The monument was described by the architecural historian Pevsner as one of the best of its kind in the country.

Detail from inside the church

More detail from inside the church

Outside the church there was evidence of old entrance doors, later bricked up.

Bricked up entrance

On wandering around to the rear of the church we came across a very large castle, Kinnersley Castle.

According to Wikipedia “The Castle of Kinnersley, was originally a stone structure, thought to have been built during the reign of Henry I (1100-1135 C.E.). The Elizabethan building that now occupies the site has obliterated all but a few traces of the medieval castle.

Although it looks predominantly Elizabethan on the outside, it has many features of different periods. It was ‘renovated’ in the 16th century by the Vaughn family and houses a fine example of an intricate plasterwork ceiling in the solar, thought to be one of the oldest in Herefordshire. There are many green men and serpent hounds to be found on this ceiling, a lot of the detail is picked out in gold. On the stone overmantel of the fireplace, carved into the stone is a boy’s head with a serpent around its neck.

Kinnersley Castle

View from over the fence

Apparently the castle is only open to the public a couple of times a year.

Enough rambling, part two will be posted in a day or so.

Welshpool & Shrewsbury

June 23, 2019

We set our next destination as Welshpool which is near the border with England.

The planned route

We both agreed that we would take a route less travelled rather than sticking to major motorways and A roads, so with this programmed into the sat nav, off we went. Initially it went well, we were quietly enjoying the scenery and countryside when all of a sudden we were on what I could only describe as a track/lane.

Narrow windy road

It was definitely becoming more and more narrow the further along we went with the hedge rows and trees becoming closer and closer the further we travelled. With absolutely no opportunity to turn around, we continued on with thoughts of should we have a hedge trimmer with us? Should we pull the side mirrors in?

Oops!

That was until we met a car coming in the opposite direction. Luckily for us, they reversed along the road until we had the opportunity to inch past each other at snails pace.

We were soon back on slightly wider roads/lanes but when “she” – the Sat Nav – told us to turn off again, we ignored her and continued on until she had worked out a new route on a major road.

All was back on track, until we came to the brow of a hill, we had obviously climbed up a lot higher than we initially thought and spectacular views down over the valleys. However, the navigator decided this wasn’t the best place for him to be and he just wanted it over with as quickly as possible, we were in fact going over the hills of Snowdonia. Due to the photographers lack of desire to take pictures, these few are from later on and will have to suffice.

Rolling hills

Waterfall

Sheep

Our arrival into the outskirts of Welshpool was a welcoming sight, now we started to look for somewhere to stay. Our first choice of hotel was unfortunately it was fully booked but the very helpful receptionist rang a couple of other places for us and we were soon booked into a lovely B& B a few hundred metres up the road.

Buildings across the street from the B&B dating from around the 16th Century.

The Royal Oak

Canal through the town

Stones in a circle

These circles are called Gorstedd Stones and used for the celebration of Eisteddfod, a welsh tradition of celebrating literature, music and performance. Some stone circles are very old, dating back centuries, but we suspect this may be a later one, dating from when there was a revival of the celebrations in the 1800’s.

The Mermaid Inn was just a few doors away from our B&B

The Stone House B&B where we were staying had parts of its building dating back to the 1200’s, amazing stuff.

We had a little time to explore the town and get some washing done before we went back to our original choice of lodgings, the Royal Oak Hotel, where we had a wonderful evening meal.

Yummm, liver and bacon!

Again we had great service from the friendly staff, before we returned to our B&B for a good nights sleep.

The following morning we decided to have a day off driving, instead taking the train into Shrewsbury. We had read about a scenic boat trip on the River Severn which we thought would be a fun way to see the sights.

View from the train

The train trip was quick and pleasant, and we were there in no time at all. It was a short walk to the river where we were told the boats would be leaving. However, in usual fashion our luck was not on our side and we were greeted with this sign.

The sign says it all

Oh never mind, instead, we found a very nice looking pub across the road that looked very busy with lots of happy punters, so we headed off to drown our sorrows. The food looked fabulous too so instead of a boat trip we stayed on for a late lunch, which again was amazingly good fare.

The following are a few sights from around Shrewsbury.

River Severn

Street view

This sculpture, named Quantum Leap, was erected on the banks of the Severn to celebrate the the bicentenary of the birth of Charles Darwin, who was born in the town in 1809. It also celebrates Shropshire’s diverse geological history which covers 10 of the 12 geological eras. Soon it was time to retrace our steps and return to Welshpool.

Allotments along the train tracks, on the return journey

Our time in Welshpool was coming to and end, but the next adventure is all rather exciting!!

Caernarfon Castle and Moelfre

June 22, 2019

We left Betws-y-coed for a days outing, we thought we would venture toward Anglesey for the day. Who knew that there were three different routes that we could take in and out of Betws-y-coed, and in the space of a day we inadvertently used all three. We are trying not to venture over the same road twice and today we mostly managed it.

The route

The countryside is very reminiscent of parts of New Zealand, and although the navigator is also supposed to be the photographer, he has to be reminded often!!

The picturesque route

We passed through many quaint villages before we stopped for morning tea at Glynllifon, purely by chance, as we saw the impressive main gates before taking the opportunity to turn around further down the road to head back through the gates.

Morning tea and a rest stop was in order before a quick look around the complex.

Stonehenge in miniature?

Whilst looking through the on site shop, we got chatting to one of the staff who then proceeded to write out a list of places for us to see and visit on our days travels. She was brilliant, told us of good places for parking, places to eat and things to see. We heeded her great advice which I must add was spot on.

Off on our journey again, the next stop was purely a quick rest stop in a little village called Clynnog-Fawr, but it did have an impressive church which was apparently burnt by the Vikings in 978AD, so it has been around for a wee while.

Church at Clynnog-Fawr

Onto Caernarfon next where we were told there was a castle.

Caernarfon Castle

We had parked the car away from the castle entrance and enjoyed the walk up to the main entrance through cobbled streets.

Entrance street to the castle

Interesting sign on pub wall.

The weather wasn’t looking too promising for wandering around for any length of time so it was soon back to the car and off to the next point.

We traversed the Menai Bridge, the main bridge which links Anglesey Island to mainland Wales. It was a very pleasant drive from there through to Moelfre, a pretty little fishing village.

Our first port of call was to the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) Museum where we were to discover a link to New Zealand.

Boat on display in the RNLI centre

But why is there a toy kiwi sitting on the bow? I went into the shop to ask why and we were directed to take a short walk along the coastal walkway to the Lifeboat Station.

At the lifeboat station we went inside where sitting on the slipway was –

RNLB Kiwi

The very nice volunteer told us all about the background to the boat.

Mr Clark, a New Zealand merchant seaman, was torpedoed three times during the war, and on one occasion was rescued by the RNLI. He must have never forgotten that experience.

After the war he moved to the UK and farmed in the south of England, when in 2004 it was revealed that he had left the RNLI £2.2million in his will. The Moelfre station was the fortunate recipient of a new lifeboat. The Lifeboat is self righting, which means it is watertight allowing it to self right with up to 60 persons on board with the capability of taking 120 people without the self righting capability.

As a nod to Mr Clark, all the staff wear black polo shirts with a gold kiwi embroidered on the right sleeve and the emblem of the RNLI Lifeboat “Kiwi” on the front pocket.

After a good hour or so at the station we walked back along the coastal walkway into the village to have some lunch at the local pub.

Moelfre

View from the village

Time to head back to Betws-y-coed for our last evening here. We enjoyed a fabulous pizza in the village before settling in for the night. Tomorrow we are off to…? Well, we are not sure as yet. Watch this space.

Onto North Wales

June 19, 2019
We left Selby on Saturday morning, heading somewhere into North Wales, although we weren’t really sure where. After travelling for a while, trying to avoid the main roads and motorways as much as possible, it was time for a rest break and a bite to eat. We found a pub near Penistone and Hoylandswaine where we stopped for lunch. Pie, mushy peas and chips were on the menu, but why do they insist on putting everything into little dishes, you then have to empty them onto your plate to eat them!

Pea, pie and chips

It filled the gap quite successfully and we were soon on our way again, this time with a destination in mind – Colwyn Bay in North Wales. It was an unadventurous drive but a good way to get used to the car and the controls – think lights, windscreen wipers, sat nav, indicators etc.

Colwyn Bay

Our first task was to find somewhere to stay the night, we settled on a hotel within a short walk to shops and the beach etc.

Wind farm out in Colwyn Bay

By the time we got into our room and settled ourselves in, neither of us were particularly hungry so we had a quick trip across the road to the supermarket for a bit of cheese, fruit and crackers as a light snack. The following morning we walked up the road a little to a local cafe for breakfast. Nothing flash, but good honest food with very friendly and helpful staff. So far we have found Welsh folk to be friendly and helpful, many going out of their way to assist and partake of some good banter. We were soon on our way again, this time we decided to head inland a little, just to see what we can see and find.

First stop was not too far away, Bodnant Gardens, we had fun reading the sign!

We had fun trying to pronounce Welsh!

Lovely gardens, cafe, bee displays and farm shop complete with more helpful staff. We asked at the shop if we could buy some ice as we had a few bits and pieces in a chiller bag we needed to keep cool. No, sorry no ice we were told but just a moment sir, soon he was back with a frozen ice pack perfect for our needs, and no there wasn’t a charge.

As an interesting aside, we noted that one of the plaques on the main buildings noted that the complex was established with assistance from the European Union Regional Development Fund, we were to find a number of these properties along our travels.

EU plaque

We wonder if those who voted for Brexit realise that a number of these developments would not be flourishing without funding from the EU.

Along our route we spied a familiarly named hotel – this is the name of the Lodge we owned in Oamaru – so we just had to stop for a photo.

Another Pen-y-bryn

That’s where we are heading.

View from the B&B

Once settled in, we went for a walk into the village following a path along the rivers edge

Walk into Betws-y-coed

Before crossing over the railway line where locals also run a children’s train.

Child sized train

Looking across from the main station to the small gauge track

On the station platform we came across this metal formed rhino which you are asked to place plastic bottle caps. Apparently this raises funds for a rhino sanctuary in Africa.

Roy and the rhino

We had no sooner begun our exploration of the village when the skies darkened and the heavens opened. Sheltering in a shop doorway for a while as by now most shops were closed for the day, we waited to see if it was a passing shower. It soon became evident that it wasn’t so what were we to do? Oh ok, head into the local hotel for a very late afternoon tea.

Afternoon tea or early dinner?

It was delicious. By the time we had enjoyed our afternoon tea the rain had dissipated a little so we made the dash back to our abode for the evening.

Oh and did I mention we were staying at the old Courthouse?

The Courthouse

We were in the Handcuff Room 😱.