25th October – Skittles Evening

What a weekend of competitive sport it was. Out in Japan the Rugby World Cup semi-finals saw the All Blacks well beaten by some team playing in white, and Wales narrowly lose a very close encounter with eventual champions South Africa. But perhaps the most keenly contested sporting event was held nearer to home at Oaklands Park Golf Club on the Friday evening. It was of course our very own CDWS Skittles Evening.

Rob Britton was the chief organiser and took charge of the evening in his best courtroom manner. Thirty seven people had booked for the evening, mostly members of our Welsh Society but with a handful of welcome guests. Two were non-players, including new member Vivienne Jack who attended despite a strained wrist. Somehow Rob managed the trick of organising everyone into six teams of six.

Each team played one after the other for three rounds. In every round each player had three skittle balls to knock down the nine pins. If the player was skilled or lucky enough to knock down all nine pins using less than three balls the pins were reset so they could score more points.

We had the Oaklands Park Golf clubhouse to ourselves, with three front of house staff to serve drinks, food and help with the computer when needed. The skittle alley was laid on the floor of the lounge, leaving plenty of room for us to sit and socialise when not “skittling”. Pam Britton took charge of the computer to record scores, which were projected onto a large tv screen.

A key role fell to Pamela Jones, the other non-player. She took a special chair next to the alley, armed with a Welsh flag. Near to one end of the alley was a red line. The skittle ball had to be rolled over this rather than be thrown over it. Pamie’s job was to wave the flag to signify any foul throw that she spotted. She took to this job with gusto and nothing escaped her eagle eye.

Graham Beavan had the misfortune to captain the first team to play. The other teams learned from his team’s mistakes in the first round, as they kept Pamela Jones busy with foul throws. Clearly not everyone had listened to Rob’s instructions despite his stentorian efforts. At least Gail Thomas’s guest Maggi Newcombe had the excuse that she had got lost on the way, arrived a little late and so missed Rob’s exposition of the rules.

A variety of techniques were tried by the players. Maldwyn started as though he intended to send the pins flying. Alan Longshaw took this a step further and almost turned them into matchwood.  On the other hand, Monica Owen sent her shots gently down the alley and still managed to knock them over. Several players made the remarkable discovery that the ball was just small enough to squeeze its way through between the pins. As a result some turns scored nothing, even when the ball was rolled almost straight down the middle. I’ll mention no names for those who suffered this misfortune.

Half way through the rounds, play stopped and we enjoyed an excellent hot meal from the buffet. Good sized salmon steaks were accompanied by new potatoes and mixed vegetables and a tasty sauce. Then we could help ourselves to coffee and mints.

At the end of the evening prizes were awarded to the top scoring lady and top scoring gentleman, and to the members of the top scoring team.

Despite being probably the smallest person playing, and needing both hands to lift the ball, Pat Chapman showed off her previously undiscovered talent for skittles by winning the lady’s prize with the best individual score of the evening.  Alan Longshaw took the men’s prize with only one point less than Pat, and just one point ahead of his nearest male rivals.

The winning team was captained by Gwyndaf, and included Anthea Beavan, Lloyd Jones, Peter Johnson, Jane Morris and Pam Britton. They won by a mere two points and the result was in doubt until the very end of the sporting contest.

Thanks were given to the Oaklands Park staff for the tasty meal and their good service. Then also to Rob, for organising such an enjoyable event and adjudicating so capably when competitive feelings were running high and a riot could so easily have been triggered. The two Pam’s were also thanked, one for her work keeping the score and the other for her sterling work ensuring fair play.

Gwyndaf John

CDWS trees at Parc Mawr

At the 2018 Christmas gathering, our hosts, Bill & Sue Jones, asked that as a gift, they would prefer a donation to the Woodland Trust for trees to be planted at Parc Mawr.

Following the Society’s Oswestry trip in June, Bill & Sue drove on to see how the trees were doing. Here is their report:

 

Parc Mawr is on the very steep easterly facing side of the Conwy valley. It is an ancient 84 acre woodland occupying a very prominent position in the landscape. Historically, the wood was managed most probably as a high forest, with gradations between upland oakwood and ash / elm with a hazel understorey. The woodland is now a valued local amenity for walking and horse-riding, boasting a network of permissive and public rights of way and fantastic views.

Woodland Trust’s focus is on thinning the exotic species introduced by humans and restocking with native woodland.

We walked up the steep path along Grove 1 which is where the 6 CDWS trees were planted. Our path went roughly North South along the steep slope and was therefore a little more manageable, crossing an old byway leading to the ancient Llangelynnin church. This is the North Wales Pilgrims Way (linking Basingwerk Abbey with Ynys Enlli (Bardsey Island)) and passes through the site from the south: a further information panel is provided near this route, at the bottom of the byway.

Along our walk we had glorious views over Conway Valley including to Dwygyfylchi (where Kay Day hails from), and Conway Castle.

The Woodland Trust had forewarned us that the trees were already planted and that they did not mark the trees in any way to preserve the natural beauty of their woods. We saw very many young trees but none that could be specifically identified as saplings.  Therefore, in the event we could not identify the CDWS new trees since they were interspersed with existing trees and growing rapidly.

So, having walked over a mile in and then back again, we did not specifically see our trees but had a glorious walk through lovely fresh woodlands listening to bird song and looking out on to wonderful views in the sunshine. Here is a map reference for the site at Parc Mawr.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@53.2474083,-3.859518,2605m/data=!3m1!1e3

Bill Jones

WWT Slimbridge 12th September 2019

Slimbridge is situated north of Bristol, very close to the Severn estuary, and is home to many different types of birdlife. It was founded in 1946, by Sir Peter Scott.

Our coach arrived at Slimbridge at 11:15, giving us time to meet the others of the party who had arrived by car, to have a coffee or have an initial look around the reserve.

We split into two parties of twelve for the guided tour of the Scott’s house. The volunteers told us about Peter Scott’s earlier life, as a hunter and painter, his wartime career, as an Olympic sailing medallist, but he is best known for his passion for preserving wild life, founding the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, and especially for creating the World Wildlife Fund.

Scott’s whole house borders a man-made lake, where Berwick Swans and many kinds of other waterfowl were only a few yards from the windows. I looked down, and there was a snipe only four or five feet away.

We were shown the Scott’s kitchen, looking very much of the 1950’s, with its range and an old-fashioned Belling 2 ring cooker. There were hand-written notes inside the cupboards and in notebooks and it looked as though the family could return at any moment.

The Scott’s kitchen

We saw the dining room with its one long table, but were told that the Scotts usually ate on the small formica table in the bay window, where they could watch the birds.

We were also shown the study, where Lady Phillipa Scott had most of her effects and paintings.

Perhaps the most interesting room was familiar to any of us who had seen Peter Scott’s programmes on the television, with its painting easel, the wide panoramic view across the lake, and the extraordinary window which was built out in front of the house and extends about 8 feet in each direction, allowing an additional 6 of 7 people to enjoy the view, but not be in the room!

The tour took about 1 hour, and, as we were heading back to the main visitor centre, the guides asked us what we thought – as we were the first visitors to the house since the renovation! We have Peter Day (as chairman of the WWT) to thank for that privilege.

After the tour some of us went off to hear a talk about the re-introduction of the European Crane into the country (a couple of them could be seen skulking about on the other side of the pond) and then on to watch the otters being fed and playing in the water. These were North American otters rather than European, as European otters are nocturnal.

European Cranes

Other members of the party were more adventurous and walked across the flat site to one of the hides, where knowledgeable WWT volunteers pointed out interesting sites across the panorama.  These included cranes beyond the sea wall, godwits, curlew, knot, dunlin, linnet with it’s distinctive “puppet on a string” flight pattern, an array of ducks and a fantastic fly past by a skein of geese at eye height and within metres away.

The coach left Slimbridge at 3:30 and we had a swift and pleasant journey back. Jonathan Pegler thanked Peter Day and David Powell for arranging such a successful trip.

Welsh Marches Trip 2019

Oswestry Trip 17th June 2019

We had an early start at 8am in Gerrards Cross, picking up the rest of our party at Amersham. After a brief stop on the M42 we drove on through the countryside and to Presteigne to visit the Real Wine Company for a wine tasting and paella. The company was established by Mark Hughes, who used to live in Gerrards Cross, but followed his dream to create his own specialist wine company. We sampled up to 12 delicious wines, and many of us ordered a few.

After lunch we drove north along swollen Severn. The previous weeks had rained pretty continuously and river levels were high. As we passed we saw that many of the fields were flooded.

Phil, our coach driver, drove us on to Montgomery, where we had 10 minutes to stretch our legs and to explore the market square and the Norman church with the tomb of Sir Richard Herbert (dating from the 16th century).

There followed a somewhat sleepy trip on to Oswestry as the effects of lunchtime’s wine made themselves known. We drove to Oswestry’s Premier Inn through stunning countryside, avoiding floods which had been prevalent only a few days before. That evening, some ate locally while others walked to Oswestry to sample the local restaurants.

Tuesday 18th June

The coach picked us up from the hotel, and we drove to Llanfair Caerinion station, where Jonathan had booked two carriages on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway. The railway dates from 1903 and has an unusual 2’ 6” narrow gauge. We had time to look around the station and watch the engine (‘Countess’, one of the original engines) being prepared.   The first part of our journey followed the path of the valley of a small river (the Afon Banwy neu Einion), where, Jonathan said, otters and king fishers lived.  It took about 45 mins to cover the 8.5 miles to Welshpool. We crossed streams and small roads, with or without level crossing gates, admiring the countryside as we chugged along. When we arrived in Welshpool we had another chance to admire the train getting ready for the return journey. (More railway pictures.)

Our coach had driven on to meet us and we all climbed on to travel to Powis Castle. On the way there, Jonathan, acting as the most knowledgeable tour guide, gave us an extraordinary level of detail of the history of the castle, built in the 13th century by the Welsh prince (Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn), loyal to Edward I. By 1587 the castle was sold to the Herbert family. In 1784, heiress Lady Henrietta Herbert married Edward Clive, son of the famous Clive of India.  Their son inherited the castle, on condition that he changed his name to Herbert.  The castle remained with the Herbert family until it was passed to the National Trust.

A really impressive structure, the castle was built of local red sandstone, with wonderful views over the surrounding countryside. It was easy to see that the building was not only a castle but also a home. We entered smart drawing rooms, elegant dining rooms and formal bedrooms, all decorated with paintings of family members through the ages from the 17th century to the present day. A separate room was set aside to display some of the riches brought back from India by Clive, including Indian weapons and fine jewel encrusted figures.

The castle has beautiful gardens set within steep slopes and terraces revealing wonderful flower beds.

In the courtyard of the castle was a male peacock displaying and protecting his mate with one chick, the last remaining of clutch of 5.  (Additional photos of Powis Castle in the gallery.)

That evening, after the bus had dropped us off, Jonathan took us on a conducted tour of Oswestry including the remains of the castle which was torn down during the English Civil War. In the memorial gardens we saw a statue to one of Oswestry’s famous sons,the poet Wilfred Owen, who was tragically killed in the last week of World War 1.

The whole party then met for an evening meal in the Wynnstay Hotel, making our own way home after discussions in the hotel bar. (More pictures of our evening here.)

Wednesday 19th June

We set off early to visit ‘Jones the Boats’ on the Llangollen Canal, where we all boarded a canal boat to take us across the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct – the highest aqueduct in the world.

The bridge was built in 1805 by Thomas Telford, and stretches for 336 yards above the River Dee.

It was a strange experience to be in a boat on the canal and to be able to look down over 120 feet to see the river and fields below with the drop just inches away from the side of the boat.

Looking down from the boat on to the Dee
5 Ann(e)s on a boat

  We traveled on until we passed through the Chirk tunnel, 460 yards long, turning around just before the Chirk Aqueduct. The tunnel is narrow, with only room for one boat at a time, and boats must show lights so that they can be seen by those coming from the other direction.

(More canal pictures here)

After the canal trip, we once again boarded the coach to visit Chirk Castle. The castle was originally constructed in the late 13th century by Roger Mortimer de Chirk under the orders of Edward I, in order to guard the Dee and Ceriog valleys. It was expanded and remodeled over the years and was bought by Sir Thomas Myddelton in1595.

The interior of the castle was varied in style. It was interesting to see the different tastes in different rooms and to see areas where the Victorian designer Pugin had made changes to restyle the Georgian features into what was then considered to be a more authentic new Gothic.

The gardens at Chirk are extensive, with clipped yews, herbaceous borders, a ha-ha and views over the Ceiriog valley. As we left Jonathan had two more sights for us.

The original gates included the Myddelton crest featuring a sinister looking red hand. There are several stories about the significance of the hand, most of them somewhat gory. The coach then took us back via the Llangollen canal, where we could walk down to the tunnel we had been through that morning, and then walk across the Chirk Aqueduct, crossing from Wales to England. This is another Telford bridge, this time crossing the Ceiriog valley, 710 feet long and 70 feet above the valley, this aqueduct runs alongside a later viaduct carrying the railway.

More pictures of Chirk Castle.

Thursday 20th June

We set off to Brymbo Heritage site, which is really two sites in one. Brymbo is close to Wrexham, and is the site of an old iron works dating from about 1790. We split into two parties and were shown around the site where we were given a brief history of the development of the industry as well as being shown the original furnace and the old ruins of an even older coal mine.

Interestingly, Brymbo had another aspect. Recently, when the coal was being extracted by open cast methods, they found an ancient petrified forest beneath the coal. This originally grew as gigantic ferns and mosses over 300 million years ago, when this part of Wales lay on the equator! While walking over the site, we met some of the paleontologists working on the site. As we were talking to the leader, Dr Tim Astrop, another of his party picked up a stone lying on the ground and showed us a fossilised plant stem from 300 million years ago, saying that we were the first people ever to see this fossil specimen!

We were then driven over to Erddig Hall, another National Trust site. It was built in the late 17th century for Josiah Edisbury, but in 1733 it passed into the Yorke family. We were met by one of the guides who entertained with stories of the Yorke family (mostly Stephens and Phillips) who threw very little away, which was why the site had such a vast collection of artifacts. One of the last of the line became almost a hermit who removed the phones and the electricity. He used to sleep at night guarding the silver with a shotgun and a burglar alarm fashioned from carnation milk tins.

The Hall is also famous for its paintings, poems and stories of the servants who worked there. From the early days, portraits were made of some of the serving staff, maids, gardeners, gamekeepers and housekeepers and together with these there were descriptions or poems, often in a child’s hand, to describe the individuals.

The gardens at Erddig are extensive, based on the original 18th century formal garden. They contain a lake and a canal in addition to rose gardens, fruit trees, walled gardens and herbaceous borders.

(More Erddig pictures here)

Friday 21st June

We said goodbye to those of us who travelled by car and set off on the first leg of our journey, to Shrewsbury. We were met by our guides, who took us on a conducted walk around the town, looking at taverns and houses with connections to the Tudors, then a led us on a tour around St Mary’s, Shrewsbury’s oldest church, dating back to Norman times, to see the stained-glass windows. We completed the tour by looking at the medieval trades areas, after which the streets were named, and at the centre of the high street, where David III, Prince of Wales, was executed in 1283.

After lunch we boarded the coach and David Powell thanked Jonathan Pegler for all the planning and the incredible amount of information he had provided us with about the places we passed through and visited.

We finally arrived back home at around 4pm all feeling quite tired.

Thanks once again Jonathan!

Bristol Trip – 20th September

CDWS Trip to Bristol 20th September 2018

The coach came to pick us up from Gerrards Cross at 7:45 – an early start! After picking up the rest of the party from Amersham, we set off for the two-and-a-half-hour journey to Bristol. Jonathan Pegler had planned and organised the event, and gave us an overview of what to expect and what to look out for as we travelled along the motorway.

Rain started falling as we headed west along the M4, but we were very lucky as it held off for the rest of the day, until the return journey.

Muriel & Ann with Suspension Bridge in the background

Our first stop was at the famous docks, stopping at the Cumberland Basin, in front of two massive bonded warehouses built in the style known as ‘Bristol Byzantine’ which were used for storing tobacco. Jonathan had taken us to see ‘Brunel’s Other Bridge’. Now disused, it was a swing bridge across the Avon in 1849 and predates the famous Clifton Bridge.  Jonathan explained that the floating docks were created by digging a man-made ‘cut’ to divert the Avon, and putting lock gates across the original river to create a harbour where the level of the water could be preserved.

We walked around the Basin to reach the Underfall Yard. This is a small museum, originally a boatyard, then the centre of a sluice system (the underfalls) which helped remove silt and mud. It now contains exhibits showing how the docks were used, how the locks worked and how water pressure was utilised to work cranes, locks and other machinery.

Sue & Bill Jones at the Underfall Museum

The party spent a happy half hour or so examining the exhibits and playing with the models.

Kate shows how the locks work

 

 

 

 

 

 

We then all trooped off to board our sight-seeing boat for a tour of Bristol harbour. This was fascinating. Our guide took us right through the city from the Cumberland Basin to Temple Meads Station with many detours going through crowded shopping streets, quiet residential areas and some areas where the harbour had not been developed.

SS Great Britain

 

Most of us crowded into the front of the boat to get the best view of exhibits like Brunel’s SS Great Britain, old dockside warehouses, breweries and churches, whilst we were told about the history of Bristol and its trading past.

 

 

 

 

 

The boat dropped us off at Welsh Back, which was the area which used to be where Welsh goods such as slate were traded.

Jonathan led the party up to St Nicholas Market, where we dispersed for an hour or so, grabbing a bite to eat at one of the restaurants or from the street food stalls or making the trip over to see St Mary Redcliffe church with its soaring gothic columns.

Corn Exchange Clock with 2 minute hands

 

At 2pm Jonathan re-convened the party and led us around some of the sites of central Bristol including the famous Corn Exchange, with its two minute hands showing both GMT and local time, and the ‘nails’, small columns or tables where deals were transacted, hence the term ‘paying on the nail’.

 

 

View of Bristol from the Suspension Bridge

After the tour, we climbed back onto the bus and travelled on up to Clifton, to walk over the suspension bridge and wander around the village, enjoying the coffee shops and large number of interior design studios.

 

We started our journey home with a ride around the Clifton Down area, a large open green space with great views over the Avon and across to the port at Avonmouth and some very impressive looking houses.

We set off back along the M5, with views of both Severn Bridges in the distance, and with Jonathan completing his story of Bristol with details of other sites that we hadn’t managed to fit into our schedule.

We arrived back at about 7pm and Colin Picton proposed a vote of thanks to Jonathan for putting in so much effort and planning for our trip, making it so informative and enjoyable.

 

 

An Evening at the Races

Windsor Races Monday 6th August

Everyone got the message to arrive for the coach 15 minutes early, and almost thirty members of CDWS set off for Windsor. On the journey, our treasurer, Graham Beavan, surprised us by distributing a refund of £5 to each of us – the additional numbers reducing the individual cost per person and supplying funds for the first race.
We arrived at the Royal Windsor Racecourse in time for the first race at 5:30, with plenty of time to buy programmes and acquaint ourselves with the layout of the course.
The course itself lies in a bend of the River Thames bounded by water on two sides, but from the main paddock area, that is not at all obvious.

For many of us, this was the first time that we had attended a race meeting. Rob Britton had arranged that our tickets covered entry to all areas, so we wandered through the paddock lawn and got our bearings, discovering the sites of the parade ring, the grandstands, finishing post, bookies booths and bars.

It was a glorious summer’s evening., and many of our party took shelter from the sun on chairs beneath a large marquee on the paddock lawn.
It was difficult to see the whole of the circuit, even from the stands, as it stretched around a corner, but there were several big screens showing all the action.

 

We studied the racecards, which gave details of all the horses, riders, past form, owners, trainers, heritage, and weights. We checked the odds given by the bookies, then chose our horse based on its name, looks or the rider’s colours.

It was possible to get very close to the horses as they walked round the parade ring, seeing them gallop past at the winning post, and then seeing the winners steaming and sweating and being cooled down and attended to in the winners enclosure.

Many of our party were able to pick a winner in one of the seven races that were run that evening, however some (myself included) had to be content with keeping the bookies in business.
Stalls sold food and drinks, most of it reasonably priced, but even the winners were surprised at the cost of a glass of Pimms!
The last race finished at around 8:45, leaving enough time for either a last ice-cream or a slow saunter back to the coach, as a Queen tribute band began to play on a stage in one corner of the Paddock Lawn.

Rob made sure that there were no stragglers an that everyone was on board and we set off back, arriving home before 10pm.

Thanks to Rob Britton for arranging such good weather, and organising the trip.

Trip to Aberystwyth  18-22 June, 2018

Chiltern Welsh Society – Trip to Aberystwyth  18-22 June, 2018

An early start for the Society – 8 a.m. saw the Gerrards Cross Group welcomed by Mike- our driver from Mid Wales Coaches. Once all on board with pickups from Little Chalfont and Amersham the 20 + souls motored West. The first stop was Ludlow. What a brilliant medieval town. Everywhere the architecture was impressive. Our visits to various lunchtime hostelries confirmed that most of the interiors of the buildings were somewhat ‘higgledy piggledy’ ……. a reflection of the 15th century.

By late afternoon we arrived at Aberystwyth- greeted by dismal weather and high winds. The group was joined by a further 6 free spirited members of the Society – so we were 26 having the opening Dinner at Medina- the nearest thing to an Istanbul Restaurant that most of us had seen. This was the first taste of friendly staff and very good cuisine; such events and venues were repeated on all subsequent evenings at other establishments.

In the morning our first port of call was the National Library of Wales. We were treated like royalty with an outstanding guide and an endearing helper ensuring stairs were negotiated and lifts made available. The National Library is far more than ‘it says on the tin’ ; it is a wonderful archive of Welsh history, culture and indeed a repository of all things Welsh. We all had an injection of joy and pride from the visit. The 200 staff should be very proud of how they are looking after the legacy in their custodianship. We had the privilege to see the Kyffin Williams Art Exhibition. Though the paintings were somewhat melancholy (see illustration) – the mood and atmosphere of the North Wales mountains is brilliantly captured.

 The afternoon visit to The Cliff Railway and the Camera Obscura was abandoned as the railway was not working and the ONE repair engineer was indisposed- so plan B was introduced; a visit to Cae Hir, – a Welsh Garden with Dutch history. A 6-acre garden – the dream of Dutchman Wil Akkermans – now an elderly Welsh speaking gentleman. An afternoon for all of us to remember- some visitors even managed a scone (A WHOLE ONE ) tea ! We returned to Aberystwyth and enjoyed a walk around the Castle in glorious afternoon sunshine.

Wednesday morning soon arrived and we embarked on our boat trip from New Quay- to look out for dolphins and seals. To say the trip was rough would be an understatement- the sounds of all sea birds were drowned by the screams from the amateur mariners.  I do not recall if we saw any dolphins!  We returned to terra firma and progressed to Llanerchaeron House; a John Nash villa – the Regency architect responsible for the Royal Pavilion at Brighton and Buckingham Palace. The walled garden and picturesque lake were a delight – on yet another cold dank Summer’s day. On the way home Aberaeron shared its excellent afternoon teas – with the select few.

Next day the steam train to Devil’s Bridge- with a carriage totally assigned to the Chiltern Welsh. The scenic panorama is breathtaking – Wales at its best! Anyone in doubt about the beauty of Mid Wales should book a trip on the Rheidol Steam train. At Devil’s Bridge there is a choice of walk, – one of 210 steps the other nearer 680 steps. Hafod House, nearby offered refreshments – if you had enough time to wait, and wait …………We then visited Strata Florida Abbey, translated from Latin – simply ” Vale of Flowers”. Strata Florida, built around 1164, quickly became not only a site of huge religious significance, but also a natural home for Welsh culture.  You only need to admire the majesty of the huge carved West door to appreciate how impressive the building must once have been.

It is worth recording that Aberystwyth is a GEM awaiting to be found and enjoyed. See one further photo – Aberystwyth Sea Front. The entrepreneurial cocktail bars, St Paul’s Methodist Chapel – now an elegant bar, plus the BBQ restaurant, Pyscoty – boutique eatery, Ultracomida – outstanding Tapas Bar, – were all a delight and contributed to a most social ending to every evening. We will return.

The journey home was a fitting end to the Mid Wales visit,  – a comfort stop in the delightful Builth Wells and then experiencing the beauty of Chepstow – the Castle – built on cliffs above the River Wye and  an appropriate reminder of the Castle grandeur of the Principality.

Well done Jonathan for again organising such a rewarding trip.

Gwyn Owen.

 

More pictures of the trip are shown here

Tenby Trip 19th- 23rd June, 2017

Monday:
We traveled by comfortable coach from the Chilterns to South Wales, en route Jonathan entertained us with interesting facts passing by Severn Tunnel Junction, Llanwern steelworks and other local landmarks. We arrived at Llanelli Wetland Centre where the temperature hit 31 degrees and we all enjoyed a lunch stop and walk around the Wildfowl & wetlands Trust (WWT). The flamingos and threatened wetland birds were a treat to see at such close quarters including Nene goose and Laysan teal from Hawaii, and declining species swans and geese from Greenland, Bulgaria and Russia.

Fortunately we had a wonderfully air-conditioned coach for those of us who found the temperature rising to 35⁰C a tad difficult!

 

Tuesday:
Our Blue Badge guide Marion Davies took us on a fascinating walk around Tenby town. A blue plaque marked the house where ‘close friends’ Lord Nelson, Lady Hamilton and Sir Wm Hamilton visited, we were told that any impropriety had been denied by the party at the time!

 

 

A short trip by boat to Caldey Island during the afternoon was a highlight. Marion guided us around the beautiful Abbey and medieval buildings. The island has been inhabited since Celtic times, although now only 8 monks remain and they face difficulty in recruitment. We were so fortunate to be able to see and hear the monks singing and chanting (surprisingly in English rather than Latin). The Prior – Brother Gildas – a friend of Marion’s, kindly spoke to us of the monastic life on Caldey, where they rise at 3.30am every day! As the Cistercian Order is a silent Order, at least 12 hours a day are spent without conversation whilst at prayer and work.

In the evening we all gathered for a group meal, kindly arranged by Jonathan, at The Moorings restaurant in Tenby which proved to be a great success.

Wednesday:
Marion took us to Picton Castle and its beautiful gardens, where we were privileged to have an exclusive guided tour from the Director himself. A most interesting castle from the 19th century with visits to the Great Hall, White and Gold Room, Library and Lady Philipps’s bedroom, then to the Dining Room where the Queen and other members of the royal family were entertained in 2014.

 

Some of us ventured to the Secret Owl Garden, where we saw an amazing range of owls from distant shores and also a beautiful blue kookaburra from the Antipodes.

 

 

 

Our afternoon visit to St David’s Cathedral (always a joy) was so informative, with Marion bringing everything to life, with her knowledge and enthusiasm. St David’s has been a place of worship, prayer and pilgrimage since the 12th century. The medieval Shrine of St David which was restored and then dedicated on St David’s Day 2012 contains 5 colourful icons including those of St Patrick and St Andrew.
A brief stop was made at Fishguard to view the Last Invasion Tapestry, depicting the French invasion of the UK at Fishguard and the Welsh coast. The belief is that the French were deceived into thinking they were facing a large British army of Redcoats, whereas the red and black movements they saw in the distance were actually local women dressed in traditional red shawls and large black hats!!

Thursday:
A wonderfully entertaining and informative visit to Carew Cheriton Control Tower. The talks given by the ‘boys’ with their camaraderie and humour, again brought to life the atmosphere of the RNAS station during WW1 and the later RAF station in WW2. The station was home to airships in WW1, then in 1939 Coastal Command squadrons were engaged on coastal patrol duties and bombing raids along the French coast. In 1942 the airfield also became a Technical Training Radio School until it was disbanded and closed in 1945. Most memorably, Reg now aged 91, recounted his service in the RAF followed by singing whilst wearing ‘tin’ hats in the reconstructed bomb shelter.

On our return to Tenby we made a visit to the Stackpole Estate at Bosherston to view the massive and abundant water lily lakes.  An immense spectacle with the lakeside paths leading down to a magnificent beach and coastline.

Some of the party took advantage of an invitation by the Tenby Male Choir to attend one of their rehearsals. They were very impressive, and we learned that they will be travelling to Oxford to perform with the Oxford Welsh Male Voice Choir next October. Ann Evans presented the choir with a donation and certificate.

 

Friday:
With our 5 days almost at an end, a last visit was made to the National Botanic Gardens of Wales at Llanarthne. The gardens setting is perfect; however, the temperature had dropped and light rain was the order of the day!! We were treated to a Falconry display and most of us were able to wear a gauntlet and have a falcon or hawk land on our arm to snatch its food.

 

The gardens’ Great Glasshouse, a dome shaped building at the centre designed by Lord Norman Foster, is the largest (at 3,500 sq. metres) single-span glasshouse in the world. It houses plants from 6 areas of the world. Nearby the hot house contains spectacular exotic plants and beautiful butterflies from the tropics. The gardens and plants around the grounds were in full bloom and looked amazing.

We arrived back in Bucks around 5pm after a wonderfully varied and informative trip thanks to Jonathan. We look forward to next year!

Report by Pamela & Lloyd Jones
Photographs by Barrie Reece

 

Lots more pictures here