Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

A trip to Wales

On Thurday July 3 we came home from work and packed.

On the 4th of July, a shuttle picked us up and took us to the airport.  We checked in at the check-in machine using our passports. Our plane took off on time a bit after Noon. We flew some 8 1/2 hours. During our flight, I watched the movie "Bumblebee", which I enjoyed. We landed at about 9:15 a.m.
We passed through immigration with a minimum of time and trouble. We walked to an appointed spot outside the W.H. Smith shop in the London Heathrow Airport. Our driver, Mr. Heath, soon greeted us there. We drove on the freeway. Soon we crossed the Severn Bridge into Wales. Our driver turned off the main highway to Cardiff onto a different highway into southeast Wales. Soon we pulled up at the Angel Hotel in Abergavenny.

The Angel proved to be a very nice hotel.  We found the exchange rate quite favorable, so we could stay in a nicer place than we might ordinarily choose. The hotel kindly admitted us to our room as soon as we arrived.

After we put our bags away, we had a pleasant lunch at the hotel's outdoor cafe. Then we set out to see some of the local things to see. We visited the Church of St. Mary's Priory.  It had a number of statues, most of which had been spared both in the times of Henry the VIII and in the time of Cromwell. A nice woman chatted with us, explaining that she had moved to Abergavenny from Connecticut. Her accent was appropriately mid-Atlantic. We visited the Tithe Barn next door and picked up some tourist information.

We walked up to Abergavenny Castle, near our hotel. The castle has been a ruin for hundreds of years, but its remaining ruins include substantial sections of the castle. We toured the castle museum, which was informative. We tried to sort out how to get from the castle to the Linda Vista Garden, a short while away.  A kind young woman who walked two dogs showed us the way, along the Castle Meadows footpath. Our time in Wales was enlivened by lots of particularly friendly and kind people we met along the way.

We walked in the Castle Meadows, a city park in a meadow by the River Usk. Lots of people walked dogs there, almost all of whom were unleashed. I saw a Kingfisher flash by near the river.

Saturday morning we ate breakfast at a Morrison's supermarket. Then we walked over to Bailey Park. The South Wales Shire Horse Show was on offer. We arrived some minutes before the show began. There were all sorts of little stands for this and that, a bit like a small county fair. The shire horse judging occupied one ring, while a miniature horse show occupied the second ring.  In the background, we could see one of the three mountains that surround Abergavenny. We stayed a couple of hours and enjoyed the show.

We stopped again at the Tithe Barn so that we could see the museum information upstairs. A nice man named Sir Trefor (a recognized retired police official, I later learned) gave us a tour of the tapestry upstairs. This tapestry was the kind of community endeavor that I like to see.  Several local women had worked for some years on assembling a tapestry about Abergavenny. There were historical references to the events in the town's long history. The tapestry, which occupied a long space of wall upstairs, was very well-done, as was a video of its creators.

Sir Trefor explained that he had a Texas connection. He had been awarded some kind of honorary Texan award through a connection he had in Texas. I had been carrying a small pocket-sized book. I explained to him that I had discovered that I had multiple copies of a small volume called Birds of Texas [the National Geographic book]. I had kept it with me to give away when I found the right person. In my mind, I would meet a local birder. When I heard of Sir Trefor's Texas connection, I knew that he was the right person. Sir Trefor explained that he was a "bird man".

After we toured the Tithe Barn museum parts, we headed back to our hotel room. My wife wanted to get some sleep. I took a walk in the Castle Meadows while she slept. Our plan was that she would call me when she woke up. I walked through the meadow to the Llanfoist Bridge. It was a bridge that includes a substantial medieval touches. I wandered through a residential neighborhood in Llanfoist. Then I found my way toward the Parish Church of St. Faith's. At the town center car park, I took a left onto a road that directed me to Blorenge, the small mountain that towers above Llanfoist. After I turned, I saw the parish church. I had read that it had lovely stained glass, but its front door was not open.

I walked up the path that said Blorenge. After a quarter mile or so of climbing in lovely shady areas, I came upon a sign for the Monmouth and Brecon Canal. This canal, once an industrial waterway used for the mining industry, now serves as a scenic and well-shaded  tourist attraction.  The Llanfoist wharf had a couple of the long narrowboat house boats that people rent to spend a week on the canal.

I walked the canal path, which was wooded and shady. I hoped that a trail would branch off to go to Abergavenny.  My hope was rewarded. I came upon a sign for a national cycle trail that led back to Abergavenny. I took a right and walked on that trail.  I passed a woman walking her dog. She explained that her elderly dog was looking to see if I were her husband. I was not her husband. We talked a bit about this and that. I told her that I thought it was a good thing that Monmouthshire , the county in which we stood, now taught Welsh in the schools. She agreed, but informed me that this was controversial. She herself had worked for years trying to learn Welsh, with little success. She gave me directions for how to walk back to Abergavenny.

I found myself walking past horses in a field. The adult horses were standing,but their colts were lying down.
I  took a wrong turn, and found myself in the a cemetary. I saw a huge hare standing by a tombstone. I went to see an old little prayer chapel there, but the door was closed.

I walked back on a side footpath to the Llanfoist Bridge. My wife called--it was about 4 p.m.--and let me know she was awake. I walked back across the Castle Meadow. We went to dinner at an Indian restaurant.

Sunday we got up and walked to morning service at the Methodist Church, about a block from our hotel. We found it a warm and welcoming place. Reverend Cath gave a good sermon, in which she invoked a Methodist conference meeting and the Glastonbury rock festival. After the service, we stayed for tea with the congregation. We met some nice people who are running a charity in Zimbabwe. A linguist explained that she was going on holiday by train rather than plane due to climate change.

In the afternoon, we cast about a bit for something to do. The buses did not run on Sundays. We asked our hotel for help in calling us a taxi. But in this small town, all the taxi cabs were booked up.  So we set out to walk the path I had explored the day before.  This time, though, we did not stop at the canal. We set out the climb the mountain called Blorenge. 

The Blorenge is one of the three mountains that ring Abergavenny--Sugar Loaf and Skerrid being the others.
We set out to climb it. At first, we walked up a path in a shady area. We came to the place above the tree line.
We met two nice women who said that we would soon be taking a left. I had seen them come down from a trail to the left. But somehow we missed the trail to the left, which was apparently steep but less steep than the trail straight up the mountain. We instead took the trail that went straight up the mountain.

We were surprised to see that the open spaces were filled with ferns. There was also blooming foxglove. As we got higher, we came near some of the Welsh Mountain Sheep that live on the mountain. We did not see any of the wild ponies who also live in the mountains. As we climbed, we saw hang gliders soaring in mid-air. They had jumped from the top of Blorenge, and headed to the meadow far below. I enjoyed the vista of Llanfoist and Abergavenny below, and Sugar Loaf and the Skerrid in the distance.

At the top, we met people who had driven up and walked a short way from the car park. We hoped to find out about a gentler trail down. They did not know. I know now that there was that gentler trail, but we instead
climbed slowly back down the steep trail.  It was something we did very slowly, but as we did it, a hill runner dashed down it as if he were jogging on rocks.

We met a nice couple down by the canal who were locals bicycling the canal. After we all chatted a bit, the
woman offered to give us a ride from the church back to our hotel. We thanked her for her kindness. That saved us about two miles of walking. My wife was very pleased.

Monday we caught a bus to Gilwern, where we exited the bus at an unmarked stop called Glenbaiden Lodge. A Google map sent us exactly in the wrong direction. Soon we were lost in Gilwern. We called our intended destination, Hopyard Cycles. The proprietor picked us up in his SUV vehicle. Back at his shop, he rented us bicycles and drew us a map. Then he kindly drove us to Bridge 98 of the Monmouth and Brecon Canal.

We bicycled from our starting point in Govilon to Bridge 115, the bridge for Llangattack. The ride was quite lovely, on a shady path. We sometimes met pedestrians who were all very pleasant. Many people were walking dogs. Our entire time in Wales featured lots of dogs who were off-leash, energetic, non-aggressive and happy as happy can be. I think that Wales may be an epicenter of canine happiness.

We rode and largely walked our bicycles on to Crickhowell. I was surprised here, as elsewhere, at how busy the roads there proved to be. We made it the High Street.  This High Street is a bit traditional--it won an award as "best" in 2018.  We made our way to the Bear, a hotel and restaurant. We ate in the back garden, where I had a ham sandwich with cole slaw and crisps. After lunch, I went to the bookstore. I asked about a new book about which I had read on the internet. The book was by a local author, about wildlife in the Brecon Beacons. The store keeper was able to go find me the book. 

I stopped by Askew's Bakery, where I got a gingerbread man. I picked up some cash at the town ATM machine.

We bicycled back to Hopwood Cycles, after we largely walked our bikes back to the canal path.  Then we walked to Govilon, where we caught the 6 p.m. bus back to town. We ate dinner in the Oak Room at our hotel, where I had a very good cauliflower and lentils steak. It was not much like a steak, but it was tasty.

Tuesday we got up and headed to the train station. We had wanted to see some of the countryside by train.
So I mapped us out a trip to Craven Arms in Shropshire. The train ride was lovely, in a two-coach train. When we arrived, two helpful people in the Community Center gave us directions to the Shropshire Discovery Center. This was a great nature center with a nice walking meadow outside. We took a walk, where we found lovely scenery. We saw a Robin in a woodland. We saw a Ringlet butterfly. We enjoyed the meadow very much, as well as the historical film showed in the museum about Shropshire. We ate lunch at the little cafe in the museum, which was very good. I found a Birds of Britain book for 3 pounds 98 pence.

We went next to the Museum of Lost Content. This nostalgia museum featured 4 floors of relics of popular culture.  The whole thing was less a deeply curated collection than a subdivided set of categories done in a kind of assemblage. I liked the museum, though I think the collection would benefit from showing less of its exhibition with more explanation. However, the collection was displayed as it was for effect.  I respect the curator's right to do things her way, of course.

We next tried to find our way on the trails to nearby Stokesay Castle. We took a wrong turn in what I believe was a barley field. We found ourselves on something called the Hills and Dales trail. We ran out of time and walked back to the discovery center. As we crossed a bridge over the River Onny, we saw a Grey Wagtail running from rock to rock  by the river. We caught our train back to Abergavenny.

We declared Wednesday a kind of "down day". My wife spent the morning and early afternoon shopping.
I walked in the Castle Meadows,and enjoyed my walk. A small cocker spaniel on a leash by his owner turned out to be the only aggressive dog we met in Wales.

Thursday our driver drove us to Reading. We left our bags at our hotel, the Malmaison Reading. We toured the charming Reading Museum. Then we looked at the ruins of Reading Abbey. It is sad that such a place was laid waste.

Friday we caught our plane back to Texas. We arrived at the end of the afternoon on Friday. The line at immigration was quite long, as several flights arrived at once. It was good to be home, and to hang out with Beatrice.

I fell asleep early Saturday. On Sunday, I attended Weight Watchers. I was down 5 pounds from my vacation. In the afternoon, I walked in Allen Station Park. We ate dinner and watched 2 episodes of Grantchester.

  from Dreamwidth, because two posts of the same text are twice as nice

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