As we left on the M4, the heavens opened and rain washed the coach, but when we approached the majestic Severn Bridge, the heavens cleared, the sun shone and we were in God’s country, Cymru, once again!
First stop Dewstow Gardens, Caerwent. We were not disappointed. Fortified by soup and/or other foods we explored the Edwardian gardens, complete with remarkable grottos and waterworks put there by Henry Oakley in the early 20th Century, but covered up with soil ca 1940 until rediscovered by the Harris family in 2000; a truly great experience of magnificent trees, lawns, flowers, water features and plants in an undulating landscape and in excellent sunshine under a blue sky!
Then, back on the coach, we turned in the direction of Cardiff for a visit to the Senedd scheduled to start at 3:00 pm.
At the Senedd, we were met by Gareth Coombes, a young enthusiastic Welsh Guide who enthralled us with the efficiency of the 61 seats of the Assembly, the marvelous architecture of the Chamber, debate in the Welsh language, educational policy for teaching Welsh, accompanied by a knowledge and wit which successfully parried the diverse questions about the Assembly and its business we fired at him. Our first day finished in central Cardiff at a modern Premier Inn; well chosen, comfortable, excellent breakfasts and totally co-operative staff.
The next day saw a martial start for a visit to Caerphilly Castle built by Gilbert de Clare over just 3 years in 1260/70 at a then cost of £19,000. Jonathan provided an excellent running commentary on everything we saw from the coach and what we were about to see with considerable historic detail (at all times we were travelling in the coach!). The Castle did not disappoint with its ramparts, towers, 500 year old gates, green lawns, fantastic views of the surrounding hillsides, the massive moats, and visions of a green lady ghost!!.
We were conducted around the Castle by a lovely Scottish Lady who pointed out architectural detail, an open Guard robe complete with seated man and sound effects (!!), and the significance of the Castle to protect the South from an advancing army of Llywelyn ap Grufydd, which threat was removed in 1282 when he was killed. Not even with the assistance of men in the party could the massive leaning tower be pushed back into a vertical position!!
Next, we set off to Penderyn Whisky Distillery with a stop for light lunch at the charming Country Hotel “Ty Newydd” near Hirwaun. Here Ken the coach driver showed his experience by safely negotiating the narrow gate and road up to the Hotel, a skill he repeated magnificently at the Glyndwr Vineyard and Castell Coch!
At the family-run rapidly expanding Distillery we were treated to an excellent account of the process by the daughter of the owner, followed by a delightful tasting of the different products convincing us all of the merits of the Whisky, and purchases of this liquid Welsh gold!
Next stop was the Brecon Mountain Railway: carriages drawn by a 4-6-2, 47 ton American Narrow Gauge steam locomotive “No 2” (2 foot gauge, made by the Baldwin Company of Philadelphia in 1930) complete with bell and two-tone whistle steaming through part of the Brecon Beacons National Park alongside the large Taf Fechon reservoir. This experience was topped with a cornet of Sidoli’s Ice Cream on the return journey!
We ascended the coach once again and arrived at the Fig Tree restaurant on the sea front at Penarth with a view of the Severn, the Holmes and the Pier, for an excellent meal and further camaraderie before returning to our Hotel in Cardiff.
A relaxing start to the next day at 9:30 am saw us in the Market Town of Y Bont-faen (Cowbridge), again in great weather, to enjoy the picturesque buildings, the fine Physic Garden with its herbs and medicinal plants, and antique memorabilia.
Soon we were on our way to the family run Glyndwr Vineyard for a fascinating talk on grape culture and husbandry, an explanation of how semi-dry champagne is labelled “brut(e)”, a walk in the vineyards, pest control for the grapes, and a sample of some of the wines that are produced there topped with a quality buffet lunch. More bottles were added to our collections for consumption in safer surroundings!
In the afternoon we went to Dyffryn House and its splendid Gardens and Glasshouses to appreciate this property of John Cory; its willful dilapidations but colossal potential now being dealt with by the National Trust. The evening was free: some went to distant eating places in the City, some to the Theatre and the weather held up!
Early morning start on the last day saw us up and about, and with the coach fully loaded, a drive up the valley to Castell Coch, created by the 3rd Marquis of Bute at the end of the 19th century. Decorated somewhat similarly to Cardiff castle with painted walls and gilded ceilings, it was a truly fairy tale chateau nestling in the woods with great views.
Then back towards home, but firstly a stop at Chepstow, and in sunshine and under a blue sky we visited the Castle, had tea, coffee and lunch in the delightful array of shops, and bought strawberries from a barrow on the concourse whose sellers were ably assisted by the vocal powers of Eilwen!!
A delightful, educative and enjoyable tour well organised and led by Jonathan, with a camaraderie between members of the group that formed a firm base for success!! Diolch!
Barrie Reece 13/09/2013
Next Event: The Magic Circle on November 5th
The Magic Circle runs a regular evening of mystery and laughter provided by some of the club’s top magicians for members of the public. “Meet The Magic Circle” lasts for about 3 hours.
If you have never experienced this attraction before it is a wonderful evening’s entertainment. And also one that is worth repeating as the performers and their magic constantly changes.
The coach will pick up from Amersham Community Centre at 5:30pm, then the Wildwood at Gerrards Cross, and the Denham bus stop (if needed). The doors open at 7 for a 7:30 start and it will finish at 10:30pm. A meal at the venue is included.
We have booked 20 tickets, so please respond as soon as possible to secure a place. Cost will be £34 for the ticket plus £13 for the coach.
In the first instance please email or phone Gwyndaf John (Tel: 01753 884490) to confirm that you want to go on this excursion. You will be asked to pay for the event after you have been advised that a place is available for you.
London Welsh Male Voice Choir at Eton College on 16th November 7pm
See attachment below: