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!

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

June 2016 visit to North Wales

Castles and Gardens, Mountains and Sea

The team

Nineteen CDWS members assembled in Caernarfon on June 6 for the fourth expedition to Wales organised by Jonathan Pegler. We had warm, mostly sunny, weather and three full days of interesting activities which flowed on seamlessly from morning to evening, thanks to Jonathan’s meticulous research and planning and to Dave, our coach driver, who whisked us conveniently between each one.

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We saw four castles, including three of Edward I’s “big four”. (We weren’t close enough to Conwy).

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle itself was the highlight for me, because of its size, its completeness and the CADW guide who was a medieval history specialist and gave us instructive insights into what life in and outside the Castle would have been like in the 14th century.

Maldwyn Pugh and Jonathan Pegler at the top of Twt Hill above Caernarfon

Maldwyn Pugh and Jonathan Pegler at the top of Twt Hill above Caernarfon

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

 

 

We looked down from the towers of Harlech Castle at modern settlements built on what would have been the sea when the castle was reliant on ships for its provisions.

 

Beaumaris_Castle

Beaumaris Castle

 

 

We also saw Beaumaris Castle, perfect in its symmetry and elegant design but incomplete, as we were told several times, because also in those times, governments ran out of money and could not afford big infrastructure projects.

 

 

Criccieth Castle

Criccieth Castle

Then there was Criccieth – a Welsh castle, not an English one, although Edward expanded it, and from where we could look across Tremadog Bay and just make out Harlech in the late afternoon misty sunshine.

 

Gwyn Owen at Criccieth Castle

Gwyn Owen at Criccieth Castle

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Hankerchief Tree

Hankerchief Tree

For our gardens, we had Plas Newydd, given to the National Trust in 1976 by the 7th Marquis of Anglesey, although he continued to live there until his death in 2013, with its gardens sloping down to the Menai Strait. The first Marquis was one of Wellington’s senior officers and he lost a leg to French shrapnel in the closing hours of the Battle of Waterloo.

 

Plas Cadnant - hidden gardens

Plas Cadnant – hidden gardens

Cadnant Also on Anglesey was the hidden garden of Plas Cadnant, a gem of a small early nineteenth century garden brought back to all its former charm, tumbling down wooded slopes to a stream in a rocky ravine.

 

Ann and Peter Lawrence enjoying a rest on "Ann's Seat" at Plas Cadnant

Ann and Peter Lawrence enjoying a rest on “Ann’s Seat” at Plas Cadnant

Portmeirion 2

Portmeirion

When we visited Portmeirion, we enjoyed the eclectic mix of buildings and the gardens with picturesque views across Portmadog’s estuary.

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DinorwigThe tourist office calls our mountain the “Electric Mountain” and we didn’t go up it but inside it to visit the Dinorwig pumped water storage power station. When the Dinorwig slate quarries closed in 1969, a project was conceived to use the site and the workforce to create a hydro-electric scheme in which water descending 500 metres through tunnels inside the mountain generates electricity during the hours of peak demand. The unique feature of Dinorwig is that all the equipment is capable of going into reverse and pumping the water back up again in the middle of the night using the surplus electricity of nuclear and coal fired power stations which have to run constantly 24 hours a day. Although it consumes four units of electricity for every three which it produces, it generates electricity when, for example, millions of people all switch on a kettle simultaneously at the end of a TV programme. When in standby mode it can react in 12 seconds to produce the electrical output of three nuclear power stations and switch off again just as quickly. We had an excellent tour guide here who helped us understand its important role in aligning electrical supply to demand over the whole of the National Grid.

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Camouflaged Gull chicks

Camouflaged Gull chicks

We enjoyed the beauty of the Menai Strait at sea level with a boat trip from Beaumaris Pier out to Puffin Island just off the eastern tip of Anglesey, where we saw plenty of cormorants and guillemots and a few puffins and seals.

 

 

 

We came back to view the fine nineteenth century iron work of Bangor Pier and looked up at Thomas Telford’s beautiful 1826 suspension bridge which conveyed the A5 to Holyhead and cut several hours off the journey from London to Dublin as the traffic increased substantially after the Act of Union with Ireland in 1800.

We had already crossed and recrossed to Anglesey several times on the modern Britannia Bridge. Originally built by Robert Stephenson to take just the railway to Holyhead in 1850, its wrought iron box section was destroyed by a fire in 1970 which took hold of the tarred wood inside. It reopened after reconstruction as a road bridge on a deck above the railway lines.

Menai_Suspension_Bridge_Dec_09

Menai Suspension Bridge, with snow

However on the last evening of our fascinating stay in North Wales, our wonderful coach driver Dave brought us back over the Thomas Telford 1826 bridge. We had time to get great views from above of the strong tide flowing out through the Menai Strait, because there was only 5 cms clearance between the wing mirrors of the coach and the stone arches over the road deck, so we went through rather slowly!

Peter Chapman

Visit to Abertawe, September 2014

And yet again, a visit to “Mae hen Wlad fy’nhadau”– but this time to Abertawe.sea The Coach arrived on time at the picking-up points and then this joyous crowd of Welsh Supporters, seeking fun and knowledge, enjoyed a trip down the M4 in magnificent sunshine, over the Bridge, paid the entrance fee (no reduction for indigenous natives) and arrived at Porthcawl, much tortured earlier in the year by gigantic waves breaking over the sea wall. There, close to the front, near Rest Bay for the agile, was the Pegler Mansions! How envy poured out from everyone!!

buildingHaving received sufficient sustenance, the M4 was re-joined and shortly we arrived at the well-appointed Premier Inn on the Water-front where we met our charismatic and vocally gifted Guide, Annie From Wales.com Haden who introduced herself so well, that we were sure there might be an embarrassing family connection somewhere!!

Up at the crack of dawn after a good night’s rest and a hefty breakfast (for some), it was a walk along the river to view the Old Dock that Docksoperated in the 18th Century (1700+!!) and now picturesquely showing its Norwegian Church, an Ice House with landmark Chimney and a rather large Shed! As we cantered along the waterfront to the National Waterfront Museum we passed the Dylan Thomas Museum which was closed!! Undaunted because we knew that Dylan appeared elsewhere on our programme, we lunched in the Waterfront Museum, enjoy-ed its very local exhibits of boatWelsh Life, and then off to Brangwyn Hall, part of the Guild Hall to be greeted by The Rt Worshipful Lord Mayor of Swansea, Alderman Ceirwen Thomas. As she accompanied us around the building she explained how in the WW2 extensive bombing of the City, Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to towerleave the Guild Hall and its tall tower groupunscathed as he proposed to locate his Welsh head-quarters there!! (Hitler was already taking Welsh lessons in anticipation!). The Mayor showed enormous warmth and charisma towards us and we were treated to a sumptuous tea when all was done.

houseClose of day saw an exhilarating visit to Dylan’s birth-place at 5 Cwmdonkin Place complete with writing desk. We plaquesavoured the place where he met up with his friends. Here he spent 23 years of his short life writing 2/3rds of his works: the house had been beautifully restored by volunteers that included Annie and her ex-husband.

booth

 

An early rise with a glorious sun the next day saw us being bussed by Lyndon to Swansea railway station where the excellence of our Tour Organiser, Jonathan, ensured that the train to Carmarthen arrived on time. Some people noticed the Customs’ Booth at the station: clearly reserved for English Visitors!

busViews from the train as we journeyed along the Towy estuary in such beautiful weather were accompanied by Annie’s witty remarks, her commentary  and anecdotes.

pub

 

 

At Carmarthen, some of our party left to tour the town and sample Dylan’s tastes at the Boars’ Head Hotel where he was thrown out on many occasions!

 

greenhouse The rest went on to the National Botanic garden at Llanarthne to view the excellent plant culture, magic Botanic Dome (largest single span glass Conservatory in the World!), the Tropical House, and a plantsplethora of interesting Buildingssign(even a lovely “cwtch” for us to cuddle together!!).

 

 

 

 

 

 

viewSurmounting all was Middleton Hall with magnificent scenery and the ubiquitous Folly (Paxton’s Tower – referring to Lord Nelson and his flirtings – such days of yore!!) built in the distant hills as a constant phallic insult to an annoying neighbour.

 

cottagecoupleNext stop: Laugharne with Dylan’s and Caitlin’s Boat House overlooking the sea and the Towy estuary with the famous Pendine Sands in the distance and a pair of welsh wool long-johns drying on a tree!!.

There was the simple green garden “work” shed perched precipitously perched on the cliff edge where Dylan roomsat, coat hotel pubon his chair, with his thoughts of the World whilst watching the waves in the distance. For some of us, there was time for a drink sitting in Dylan’s favourite window seat in Brown’s Inn, and a visit to the Castle.castle

We left Laugharne in sun-shine and stopped to pay homage to him at his (and Caitlin’s) simple white crossed grave amongst graves.grave

harbour

 

 

 

Next day saw some of us walking the Waterfront, fondly paying obeisance to Dylan’s bronze life size statue by stroking his hand, revisiting the Waterfront Museum to view such exhibits as a splendid WW2 exhibition of Swansea’s involvement. Then all a-board the SkyLark for a trip up the Tawe River to the Liberty Stadium accompanied by a knowledgeable local Guide who described the significant remains of industrial sites preserved on the sides of the River, previously scarred by unseemly deposits from ruincopper smelting but now overgrown with beautiful greenery. As we ate and drank on board the boat munching an excellent buffet organised by our very own ladies, it was intriguing to see in the middle of the river a cascade of bubbles coming from mermaids long lost below us (!!).

 

After returning to the Waterfront, we re-boarded the bus and were coastal scenetaken over picturesque moors and hills to Rhosili on the Gower: a bay now ranked best in the UK, in the top 3 in Europe and in the top 10 in the World! My, what breath-taking views! Those who ventured so far as the Coast Guard Station overlooking Worms Head saw a Grand Piano being tuned in the open in preparation for an open-P1030947 (2)air Concert!!!

king arthur hotelHaving savoured the splendours of the scenery, the bay and the cliff top, we sojourned to The King Arthur Hotel at Reynoldston where we were well received and ate with the evening sun pouring down outside: a fitting end to another magnificent day but not before Annie was thanked lunchprofusely for her excellent guiding, extensive local knowledge and banter punctuated on occasions by a few “bloody boyos” and other Welsh unmentionables!

 

 

 

 

archONext day, home! Calling at Neath Abbey and the magnificently restored Cistercian Abbey at Margam, surrounded by a picturesque Country Park surmounted by the 19th century Margam Castle with its spectacular Stone Staircases, reminiscent of Hogwarts. The Castle was built by the Talbot family using fortunes gained from the production of steel at the still profitable Port Talbot works in the Bay. Gone were the skeletons of trees seen 40 years’ ago (the trees poisoned by acid rain) and in their place a magnificent forest of colour.large mansion

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Our next stop in glorious sunshine was the Prince of Wales pub at Ton Kenfig near Porthcawl, a local for the Jonathan clan! Its Landlord, a certain Gareth Mound, talkprovided an enthusiastic talk on the area, an account of the devastation produced by a Welsh Tsunami, the discovery of a  propeller from a long-ago stranded ship, the pub’s local judicial history and sentencing of felons to be hung close by!!

lunch2This, accompanied by a super buffet and general Welsh camaraderie engaging all of us, was a more than fitting end to yet another fantastic trip with thanks to Jonathan for its organisation and to Lyndon for his safe driving!! And so to our next visit to the Fatherland to satisfy another feast of Welsh hiraeth!

John Edwards and Barrie Reece

Trip to Cardiff 9th – 12th September

Cardiff Trip

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:

Concert Flyer v7 (1)

Chairman’s Report – July 2012

Chairman’s Report
Once again it is my great pleasure to report that the Society has had an enjoyable period of very well attended events. And of course the sun shone – even on our Summer Lunch in the midst of the wettest summer on record.

At the AGM the entire committee was happy to stay in office – which goes to show that it is a pleasure rather than a chore! We were joined by Jonathan Pegler as our new Vice
Chairman. He will take the chair in May 2013.

A highlight of our programme was the presence of Roy Noble as our guest speaker
at the St David’s Day dinner. An exceptional entertainer and a lovely man too. Not only did he entertain us so well that evening after driving all the way up from the BBC studios in Cardiff, he even wrote and thanked us afterwards. Special thanks go to Hugh
Griffith for his dogged determination to get us such a special guest speaker.

The cold wet weather stopped for just a few days while a party of 23 members went to
Snowdonia in May. The glorious scenery was seen at its best in lovely sunshine and the
train journeys were a highlight. The group descending Snowdon’s PYG track managed
to keep up with Mike Stythe without mishap, whilst Margaret Broomby and Chris Thomas in the group descending the supposedly easier Llanberis trail managed to get in some acrobatics practice en-route (but survived to tell the tale). Many thanks go to Mike for the idea of the trip and for his experienced advice, and excellent choice of hotel.

In June Bob Ford organised a superb trip to the International Eisteddfod at Llangollen (see below).
Looking forward the 2012 schedule includes the Golf Day – in glorious weather again?
There are two exceptional trips in September to Buckingham Palace and to Oxford,
followed in October by the biennial Festival of Male Voice choirs at the Royal Albert Hall.
Finally, Ann Tennant has been our regular caterer at events and her meals and service
much appreciated. I am pleased to report that she received an MBE in the recent honours
list. Our congratulations go to Ann.
Gwyndaf John

Visit to Snowdonia 20th-23rd April.
“The day we went up Snowdon & returned by the Llanberis path”
Another sunny & hot morning in north Wales, & the intrepid walkers all wait in anticipation at Llanberis Station. None of the glitz of St. Pancreas or Waterloo, but quaintness personified. With justifiable Welsh pride we all await the pre-journey video – “good to get out of the sun”! What an engineering feat to think that all of this was put in place over 100 years ago – 1896 to be exact – the grand opening.

With all tickets duly dispensed we are allowed onto the platform – where a small engine & carriage glides slowly backwards to squeeze us in. The weather just perfect – we could see for ever! The engine climbed the 3,650 feet to the summit whilst we were entertained by brilliant commentary from the driver. A journey to be long remembered. A photo opportunity around every bend.

Fifty minutes & we are at the summit.

Here the party divided into 3 groups; some waited for the return trip by train; another party prepared for the Pen Y Gwryd (PYG) track – 11 kilometres with descent of 2,370
feet; whilst a 3rd group departed on the Llanberis path – 14.5 kilometres with descent
of 3,200 feet.
Despite a few mishaps (3), the Llanberis path/walk was brilliant. The silence
in the mountains “had to be heard to be believed”!!- all this, occasionally interrupted
by the screams from a fallen climber or walker. Everyone arrived back with a real
sense of pride & achievement. Even for the seasoned walkers – the Llanberis path was
’tough’ but rewarding, especially as we had views of the trains creeping cunningly along
carefully & classhcally constructed cog cortege – ah!, the alliteration – one gets
carried away !

A day to catalogue. Well done to our organisers.
Gwyn Owen

Summer Lunch 10th June
About 50 of us were exceptionally lucky with the weather. It had been raining all week, but
the rain held off for our annual garden party, held this year courtesy of Tony & Irene Glyn-Jones in their beautiful garden.

While we were tucking in to a delicious meal prepared and served by Ann Tennant, Mr
Jonathan Pegler had devised a teasingly difficult cryptic quiz – Gwyndaf’s team won (again).
John and Thelma Lusher organised an enjoyable ‘heads or tails’ auction for a bottle
of Penderyn Welsh whisky, raising £100 for the Tenovus Cancer charity.

The fine weather lasted until about 4 o’clock, by which time a fine team of volunteers had
packed everything away before the rain started.

Llangollen International Eisteddfod
We arrived in good time at the Bryn Howel hotel with luggage and much needed macs, umbrellas hats etc.

Later, on site and after seeing usual numerous stalls and stages, we took our seats for the evening performance of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert. Top artists: Alison Balsom (solo trumpeter) was fantastic, Nicola Benedetti (violinist) magnificent and Lesley Garrett excellent with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, all first class. About 9.30pm the heavens opened, heavy storms in competition with the music!
Flood and mud were everywhere, but thankfully we returned to the hotel safely.

On Thursday 5th July we toured the shops, then back on site in the Royal Pavilion we
saw fantastic dancers in beautiful costumes from different countries. At one o’clock
everyone held hands for a minute’s silence, the Llangollen message of peace, a new idea
and most moving. Solo artists and choirs followed, two outstanding ones were from
Singapore and South Africa. Weatherwise the sun shone, and it was too hot to sit in! That
evening seventeen members from the Chiltern Welsh Society assembled in the
marquee for Alfie Boe to a packed, enthusiastic audience house.

On Friday, some of us visited Plas Newydd House. It rained again but it was a delight to
see the home of the Ladies of Llangollen. All the rooms were beautifully oak panelled and it
had wonderful, manicured gardens.
That evening, we all met up in the hotel for a truly, lovely meal, good in both quality and
quantity. Thank you, Bob, for a good choice of hotel.

With purchases of a 2013 Snowdonia National Park calendar, Welsh honey and
Penderyn whisky we set off for home with lots of memories. I’m looking forward to the next
time.
Eilwen Turner.

 

Forthcoming events
Golf day at Oakland Park Golf Club, Three Households, Chalfont St.
Giles – 31st August

The annual follow up to the Open! Nonplayers are welcome at the after-golf lunch.

 

Visit to the State rooms and Gardens at Buckingham Palace on the 4th September.
A tour of the State Rooms will start at 12.45pm, last approximately two and a half hours. The Garden Tour will follow at 3.15pm and the visit should finish at 4pm.