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!

2019 AGM

CDWS AGM Coleshill Village Hall May 17th

A good turnout of over fifty members set the scene for an informative, interesting and illusionary evening.

Our Chairman, David Powell got off to a good start (this being his first year as Chairman and hence his first chairing of the AGM) by welcoming us all. In particular Thelma and John Lusher who had traveled all the way from the New Forest. The reports for the year were encouraging; membership strong at one hundred and sixteen; finances in good shape; two new members of the committee have volunteered their services – Merle Davies and Peter Chapman; and there has been strong support for all the events over the year. Particular thanks were directed towards Graham Beavan on his retirement after a long tenure as Treasurer.

Jonathan Pegler had briefly taken on the role of Treasurer to fill the gap and so he presented the Accounts for the year. Under his watch the magnificent sum of £20 had been dealt with. Peter Chapman has now stepped into Graham’s shoes.

The formal part of the evening was, as ever, well presented and short and was followed by a meal. The caterer was Anne Tennant who clearly knows exactly what the members of the CDWS enjoy, and on this occasion was like a human dynamo. The rest of her team were at an event catering for the mayor of Beaconsfield so Anne was chief cook and bottle washer and everything in between. Well done Anne! The choice of desserts was particularly appreciated. Bread and Butter pudding and custard, Chocolate mousse, cheese and biscuits, Fruit Pavlova and I spotted a fruit salad for someone dairy intolerant. The gentlemen on our table made a bee-line for the Bread and Butter pudding, and then when Anne explained that she really didn’t want to take anything home, they were happily also tucking into Pavlova. No doubt belts were loosened.

After the meal came the entertainment. This year it was the place of Bertie Pearce whose web site says that he “…brings wonder and laughter to your event”. We were not disappointed on either count. The theme was “Now you See it-Now you Don’t, The Art of Visual Deception”. This was a whistle-stop tour through Surrealism, Trompe L’eoil, Ambiguous Imagery, Optical Art and Camouflage. Fascinating, thought provoking, puzzling, entertaining, amusing and all delivered at a pace that kept you on your toes, engaged and surprised. A particular ripple of amusement occurred when Bertie said that in America artists had used illusionary methods to paint potholes on the road which appeared to be 3D in order to reduce speeding. Here in Buckinghamshire we have no need for artists’ illusions. We have the real thing.

Interspersed with the artistic journey were a number of magical moments. Ably assisted by our very own Ann Lawrence, Kay Day and Gwen Hill, Bertie performed mysterious and inexplicable tricks. Ann, Kay and Gwen have clearly been sworn into secrecy as they were reluctant to share any explanations afterwards. Perhaps they could be prevailed upon at a future event to offer magical entertainment?

 

The evening closed at 10 pm everyone having been well entertained and well fed. Thank you to all.

Janet John

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

BBC & Fullers Brewery plus Brecons tour

Early morning, 16 October 2015: a party from the Society set out for London to visit both the BBC and the Fullers Brewery.  The coach dropped us in Portland Place, outside the BBC, in good time for security checks and a coffee; and in New Broadcasting House we formed two groups to start our tour.

The first stop was above the news floor, a familiar view for TV watchers.  Having seen how UK and World news services are produced, we moved to the One Show studio, which was much smaller than it appears when the TV show is transmitted.  It’s quite amazing how they get so much done in this limited space.

CDWS at the BBC

CDWS at The One Show Studio

 

In contrast to the TV facilities we visited the beautiful Art Deco Radio Theatre, which not only is the venue for many music concerts but also has been the home for famous comedy programmes ranging from The Goon Show to the News Quiz.

In order to encourage us to participate in “live TV” our guides allowed volunteers to present news reports and weather forecasts.  And then, to ring the changes, we saw some items of historical and artistic interest; and were reminded of some past events which highlighted the BBC’s important place in UK history.  By this time we had been outside in the impressive courtyard and had now reached the creatively named “Old Broadcasting House”!

Back to participation, we took roles in a scary radio play, with sound effects and a gruesome climax.  It gave the volunteers a chance to experience microphone technique and instant acting.

Overall the time seemed to go quickly although our guides always seemed to have time to answer our questions and give us context.  At lunch afterwards there was general acclaim for the enjoyable tour.

We left Central London for Chiswick in order to do our tour of the Brewery.  Again, in two parties, we saw how water, barley, hops and yeast are skilfully combined to produce London Pride and a range of other beers, exported now to over 60 countries.  Fuller Smith and Turner, the full name of the company, is still a family run business which recently acquired Gales Brewery in Sussex.

Inevitably the tour ended in the bar for a trial of the products – what a hardship!  It was then left to Derek our coach driver to cope with the Friday evening rush hour traffic and get us safely back to the Gerrards Cross and Amersham drop-off points.  Well driven; and the tour was very well organised and led by Graham Beavan, who certainly deserved all our thanks.

David Bevan

 

Trip to the Brecons

Colin, our coach driver, picked each group up at the allotted time and we set off for our five day trip to Brecon. We made good time and were able to stop in Burford for a quick look around and a coffee. Then on to Monmouth, which proved to be very rain swept, for a longer lunch stop. The local conveniences proved to be an excellent place for us to shelter, while waiting for the coach to return to take us to Tretower  Court and Castle. This was a beautiful medieval building, all the more atmospheric in the swirling mists. We were given a lively talk and then allowed to stroll around for a while before heading off to the Castle Hotel, Brecon, where we were booked to stay.P1040691 (2)

During the coach journey, Jonathan began to enlighten us with the varied stories of some of the historic families we would be following during our tour, in particular, Sir David Gam and his lovely daughter Gwladys.

Not everyone knew of The Castle Hotel’s illustrious past, having been chosen by Alex Polizzi  of Hotel Inspector fame to turn it around! The most infamous room was Number 18 and by coincidence, Colin and I were the lucky guests to be allocated this room! All however, was well!

The following morning, after an ample breakfast, we set off for Hereford Cathedral, where we had the opportunity to see the famous Mappa Mundi, the Chained Library and a copy of the Magna Carta. We had also all been given the chance to choose either the tower tour or the garden tour, both of which were wonderful. Whilst here, we had the opportunity to listen to an organ recital or to continue looking around the cathedral.

From there we travelled to Talgarth Mill for a tour of the working flour mill and an opportunity to have afternoon tea. Here the guides were both very enthusiastic and knowledgeable but at times had to admit defeat due to the ‘Barry effect’, when one of our group, who was just so curious to know all about the mechanical workings, plus accurate measurements, made them struggle for  answers!!

P1040641 (2)The following morning we departed for Hay on Wye where we had ample time to explore the town with all it’s many retail opportunities. From there we travelled back to the Regimental Museum of the Royal Welsh in Brecon and we had a lengthy talk by one of the resident regimental historians.

 

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Most of the group then walked down to the Monmouth and P1040652 (2)Brecon canal to the narrow boats where we cruised part of the way along the canal, through peaceful countryside at a very gentle speed! For the return journey several of the group decided to walk swiftly back, to work up an appetite for dinner!!

 

On Thursday morning we set off for Aberglasney Gardens, via Llandeilo, which happened to be the birth place of one of our party, strangely we couldn’t find the blue plaque! Aberglasney Gardens were beautiful in their early autumn splendour. To begin with, we had an enlightening talk from one of the guides, then were able to explore at our leisure before continuing to Newton House and Dinefwr Castle.

Here we had two enthusiastic young guides who, with their lively repartee, informed us of the history of the house, the castle and grounds.  The brave, or foolish, were allowed to climb up onto the roof of the house to get a wonderful view of the estate, including the famous white cattle and the deer. Some even managed the climb to the top of Dinefwr Castle, which was close by, for more wonderful views.

Our final day took us to Abergavenny, where we visited St. Mary’s Priory and saw the remarkable carved Jesse Tree and the Millenium Tapestry and finally put a face to the name of Gwladys, as she lay serenely carved in marble, in the chapel.

P1040719 (2)The next stop was Raglan Castle, where we were able to climb towers, explore dungeons and enjoy the wild, windswept scenery and take many photos.

 

 

 

The final visit which Jonathan had organised was to a wonderful vineyard, Ancre Hill. Here the owners gave interesting talks about growing grapes, wine tasting and their vision, which has allowed it all to happen. Extremely interesting plus the wines and cheeses were quite delicious.

So back on the long road home which became even longer due to local accidents and excessive Friday traffic. However everyone was agreed that we had enjoyed our Brecon trip due to excellent planning by Jonathan and the friendly company of the Chiltern Welsh members who attended.

 

Di Thomas