Time Travelling in Wales

Saturday, 27th June, 2015
Sunday, 28th June, 2015
Monday, 29th June, 2015
Tuesday, 30th June, 2015
Wednesday, 1st July, 2015
Thursday, 2nd July, 2015
Friday, 3rd July, 2015

Saturday 27th June, 2015

Drop Cap bit of a bummer last night. When we wanted coffee and toast for Geoff for supper we found the gas had run out! That meant breakfast this morning was cold juice or milk and stale bread. No coffee!

Anyway we got off in good time and reached the Black Prince Boatyard by 0850. We unloaded the boat into the car, retrieved our cases from the office, paid our fuel bill (77 pounds) and bought a few souvenirs of the fridge magnet kind. They gave us another sheet of slate as a memento and we told them we still used the one from 2000 as a teapot stand.

Car Charger photograph
Electric Car Charger at Motorway Services

Drop Cap hen we hightailed it down the motorways in the direction of Wales. Despite roadworks on the M6 which caused a lot of congestion we had a good run through and stopped for a Burger King lunch at 1230 at a motorway services place. An interesting thing we have seen at several of these services places is the provision of charging for electric cars. Hasn't caught on at home yet.

Pen Fistla Cottage photograph
Pen Fistla Cottage

Drop Cap e called our hostess Ceri Evans from here , who said all was ready, come any time. So we carried on and arrived at Pen Fistla Barns on a very narrow, hedge lined country road, at about 1415. Ceri wasn't actually at home when we arrived but we were welcomed by Mwt the resident cat. Mac was overjoyed. Ceri rushed in just after us.

Pen Fistla Lounge photograph
Pen Fistla Lounge

Drop Cap he cottage is lovely! An old stone barn with beams and whitewashed walls. Two good bedrooms and a great bathroom, complete with bath and "wet room" type shower. It has a utility room with washing machine, but no drier, unfortunately. However, the house appears warm and the boiler for the central heating is in the utility room so things should dry. We have a fire as well.

Historic Cowbridge photograph
Historic Cowbridge

Drop Cap e had coffee and welshcakes left by Ceri then went off to Cowbridge, the nearest town for the inevitable shopping. Cowbridge is an historic market town, very picturesque, (also very crowded) with lots of old buildings. It looks a good place to explore on a weekday, maybe? We found an excellent Waitrose supermarket there. It was so well stocked that I don' t think we will need to go elsewhere.

Came home and put on a load of wash. Couldn't find a manual for the washer so just went for it. It will be a challenge to clean Mac's canal stained undies and shirt. The cargoes dried off alright, surprisingly.

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Sunday 28th June, 2015

Mwt the Farm Cat photograph
Mwt the Farm Cat

Drop Cap t was raining quite heavily and persistently this morning so we got up quite late for breakfast. Last night's washing had mostly dried, so that was alright. Mwt came and talked to Mac and stayed around, getting gently damp, for a while. Geoff has had the usual remoteness problem of no coverage for any of his devices, despite having Wi-Fi included in the house. This is a drag as we rely on his I-Pad for navigation and finding out about attractions like the Dr. Who Exhibition.

Entry to Physic Gdn photograph
Entry to Physic Garden behind the Old Hall

Drop Cap nyway we decided to go and explore Cowbridge and get lunch there so headed off about 1245. It was much less crowded with many shops shut but was still very attractive, even in the rain. We had lunch in a quirky modern creperie. It served nothing but filled crepes, sweet and savoury. We all had the Mexican chicken fajitas with a very spicy sauce, cheese and creme fraiche. It was huge and filling and inexpensive but very tasty (and point full) . It was raining while we ate in a new purpose built café , circular in shape, looking out over a small burbling stream with ducks!

Physic Garden photograph
Entry to Physic Garden

604 Physic Garden 2 photograph
Cowbridge Physic Garden

Drop Cap fterwards we went walking, exploring the town, and the rain cleared, leaving bright sun and blue sky. The town is historic, ancient halls and walls, tiny antique shop fronts, lots of specialty shops, pubs and café/restaurants. We visited the truly lovely Physic Garden, established behind the medieval Old Hall, beside the 16th Century Grammar School. It is a garden, traditional in style and content, with herbs and healing flowers and shrubs, like Cadfael would have known, in formal beds with little buxus hedges around them. There are arbours dripping with roses and fountains and arches. Quite lovely.

Physic Garden photograph
Mac and Geoff in the Physic Garden

Drop Cap ame home and did another load of wash while Geoff wrestled with his laptop and Mac read. There is a bookcase with an eclectic selection of books and an equally eclectic selection of DVDs. A well-equipped cottage with a panoramic view from the terrace, like in Yorkshire. Remoteness has these bonuses.

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Monday 29th June, 2015

Drop Cap oday we accomplished the two main objects of our trip to South Wales, the Doctor Who Experience and Cardiff Castle. Both of these attractions are in Cardiff itself and we were a bit wary of driving in. But any other option, like trains or buses, seemed such a hassle for those ignorant of the local geography that we decided to follow the amazingly detailed directions on the website to leave the car at a multi-story carpark ten minutes walk away from the Doctor Who Experience. This proved remarkably easy, compared with accessing Sydney by car, and we found a spot on about the ninth floor of the parking station, no time limit, you just put your credit card in the machine when you got back.

606 Norwegian Church Cardiff photograph
Norwegian Church Cardiff

Drop Cap t was an easy ten minute walk to the Dr. Who Exhibition. During the walk we passed the old Norwegian Church, which is now a coffee shop and exhibition space, apparently used by the Norwegian community in early days when Cardiff docks were extensively used by all nations. Roald Dahl the children's author was born and lived here.

Daleks at Dr. Who photograph
Daleks at Dr Who Exhibit

Drop Cap e arrived at the Doctor Who Experience just after it opened at 1000. We bought tickets for 1030 and got some morning tea for Geoff.

Dr. Who  photograph
At the Experience

Mac in the Tardis photograph
Mac in the Tardis

Drop Cap he Experience took the form of an adventure monitored on screen by the current Doctor Who, Peter Capaldi, and led by a costumed Gallifreyan guide. We had to find three crystals at various places in the universe. The first was among Daleks, (of course), the second among Weeping Angels, and the third was in a 3D zone. It was very well done, I suppose having the expertise of the BBC helps but the lights and sound and other effects were terrific. It lasted about twenty five minutes, then we were free to spend as much time as we liked in the exhibition.

Sixties Tardis Control Room  photograph
Tardis Control Room (sixties)

Geoff in 90s Tardis Control Room  photograph
Geoff in Tardis Control Room (nineties)

Drop Cap his held costumes, props, monsters, companions, lots of Tardises and several different control panel rooms. I was happy to meet one of my favourite characters,
K-9, outside an old Tardis.

Rosemary and K-9  photograph
Rosemary Meets K-9

Weeping Angel photograph
Weeping Angel (Don't Blink)

Drop Cap t was a very good exhibit, giving time to the older doctors as well as the more modern series. They had even brought Bessie, the third Doctor's old yellow car from Llangollen where it used to be and we saw it in 2000.

A great exhibit. When we left, through the shop (of course) Geoff spent a huge amount of money on gifts and presents for himself as well, and I bought a T-shirt and a badge.

Cardiff Old and New  photograph
Cardiff Old and New

Cardiff Waterbus photograph
Cardiff Waterbus

Drop Cap e had a light lunch at a little café called the Lockkeepers Cottage, situated beside an enormous set of now disused locks, then walked past the Norwegian Church to Roald Dahl Plas in the modernised port area, with its mixture of old and modern buildings, to catch a waterbus to the City Centre and the Castle. This was a pleasant twenty minute ride to rest our feet somewhat and landed us two minutes walk from the castle.

Cardiff Castle Exterior photograph
Cardiff Castle Exterior

Still Outside Castle photograph
Still Outside Cardiff Castle

Drop Cap r it would have been had we taken the road to the Castle but we thought we could access the Castle from the extensive grounds, which now form a great city park. It turned out that we had to completely circumnavigate the castle to reach the entrance but we would not have seen much of the outside if we hadn't, so it didn't matter.

Cardiff Castle Mound photograph
Cardiff Castle Mound

Original Walls CC photograph
Original Walls and Mound

Drop Cap aving paid admission we then wandered around the precinct inside the walls. It is hard to know what is original and what was a Victorian fantasy built by the Earl of Bute. He took over the ruins of the old castle and transformed it into what it is today. Some of the old walls are still there, truncated, and a traditional-style mound and keep rise in the grounds.

Cardiff Castle Interior photograph
Cardiff Castle Interior

Ceiling at Cardiff Castle photograph
One of the Ornate Ceilings at Cardiff Castle

Drop Cap e paid a bit extra for a house tour and it was amazing. Very like Mount Stuart in Scotland (since it was owned and planned by the same man) which we saw a few weeks ago (much to the envy of the young guide) with fabulous decoration, although on a somewhat smaller scale, I thought. Our guide was very enthusiastic, and we enjoyed the tour.

Our Terrace photograph
Geoff on our Terrace

Drop Cap e had afternoon tea at the Castle teashop, then the return trip on the waterbus, and the walk back to the carpark. It did not take long to find our way out of Cardiff and back to Pen Fistla.

I grilled some chops and made a salad and we ate outside on our terrace in the warm and windless evening. Lovely. Most of our cottages have had the facility to eat outdoors, but so seldom is it a viable option. This was a real bonus, especially as our hosts were away for a couple of days. On most evenings they have barbecues outside their part of the buildings, often with friends, so we feel a bit awkward.

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Tuesday 30th June, 2015

Drop Cap oday was almost Australian in its warmth and sun. Geoff and I found ourselves seeking out shade, it was so warm. We started out at Cowbridge, where we bought some of the usual consumables, milk, bread, soft drinks etc., then looked for a Post Office, only to be told there wasn't one. For a town the size of Cowbridge, I find this quite surprising.

Tin Sculpture Aberdulais photograph
Tin Sculpture at Aberdulais

Drop Cap nyway we brought the shopping home and refrigerated it, then packed our picnic bag and set off for Aberdulais in the Vale of Neath. Aberdulais is a former industrial site and had been used for various purposes since the 16th C. Its last incarnation was as a tin works whose power depended solely on the waterfalls which drove waterwheels and all sorts of mills.

Ruined Aberdulais photograph
Heritage and Ruins at Aberdulais

Disused Bridges Aberdulais photograph
Disused Waterways, Roads and Bridges at Aberdulais

Drop Cap here have been a number of industries here over the centuries: copper smelting, coal and tinning iron. All depended on the river and its waterfalls, so without them there would have been nothing but nature. As it is, there are remains of all kinds, former canals and roads, stables, even a school, which is now the tea room.

Waterwheel at Aberdulais photograph
Waterwheel at Aberdulais

Aberdulais Falls photograph
Aberdulais Falls

Drop Cap e had our picnic in the sun (and looked for some shade as well) and went off to explore the site. There is a massive waterwheel which I understand (I have seen it on TV) can generate electricity. I don't think it actually does, these days, but the National Trust (who run the site) says that all their power here is generated by the falls.

The falls are quite picturesque and it was an interesting place, but we were glad enough to have an iced lemonade in the tea room and head for home.

Drop Cap e discovered later that the maximum temperature today was 36 degrees C. Very Australian, and the players at Wimbledon were very heat affected. You would think it was the Australian Open!

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Wednesday 1st July, 2015

Drop Cap ure enough, apparently yesterday was the hottest in Britain for decades! So it wasn't just us feeling it!

However, this morning dawned overcast and cooler and by the time we were ready to go out it was raining, very gently. It cleared mostly as the day went on but there were still patches of damp from time to time.

Farmhouse St Fagans photograph
Farmhouse at St Fagans

Drop Cap e headed for St. Fagans, Welsh National History Museum, situated some four miles north of Cardiff, although the way to get there was far from straightforward.

Farm Garden St Fagans photograph
Farm Garden at St Fagans

Drop Cap t. Fagans is a very large open air museum on the lines of Beamish and the Weald and Downland. Old buildings under threat have been rescued and relocated here in no particular chronological order but arranged to give the appearance of a village surrounded by farms and craftspeople like smiths, potters, millers and weavers. The site is divided in two, separated by a road and an enormous building site where a grant from the National Lotteries is being spent. This rather curtailed some of the walking routes but a lot is still viable.

Farmhouse St Fagans photograph
Another Farmhouse at St Fagans

Drop Cap e only got to the first half but we saw most of it. Several farmhouses of varying degrees of age and affluence, the cornmill, the village with stores, hardware and groceries, a portrait photographer, baker, tailor and a dainty tea room above the shops where we had lunch.

Rood Screen St Teilos Church photograph
Rood Screen at St Teilos

Drop Cap ne of the more interesting buildings was the church of St. Teilo. This was originally a Catholic church, very old, which reverted to Protestantism after Henry VIII and of course, the Puritans. The church was mouldering away in its original location until the roof was so bad that the rain came in and washed off the whitewash on the walls, revealing 15th C wall paintings, previously unknown.

Inside St Teilos photograph
Inside St Teilos Church

Drop Cap ome of them have been removed for safe keeping, but the museum has reproduced the type of decoration originally in place and it is quite remarkable. Especially the brightly painted wooden rood screen. It was really worth seeing.

Post Office at St Fagans photograph
Post Office At St Fagans

Drop Cap mong other sites there was a working men's institute, quite large and impressive, a terrace of mine workers' cottages furnished separately as if from 1805 to 1985 - amazing differences in spaces exactly the same. There was an old post office, and a Tudor merchant's office and a purpose built cockpit with a sanded circle and tiers of seats. Something different at every turn.

Cockpit at St Fagans photograph
Cockpit at St Fagans

Drop Cap ll in all we saw quite a bit of the first section but completely missed the other half which includes a castle (manor house actually) ponds and cafes. We were getting quite tired and footsore so came home for afternoon tea. We are going out to dinner later and are planning to try the Mughal Emperor Indian Restaurant as we have not had Indian yet this trip. The book of things to do in the house here says it is very good.

Drop Cap t was indeed very good. The place looked fairly undistinguished from the outside, like a suburban bungalow, but it was sumptuous inside. The menu was large and the food and service very good. Quite inexpensive too!

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Thursday 2nd July, 2015

Drop Cap t rained again, quite heavily this morning, so I decided on a rest day. I did a load of washing for Geoff and found that Wimbledon was on the TV.

Drop Cap e went out to Cowbridge in the rain, for lunch which we found at a tapas bar called Bar 44. It was quite interesting - we had a couple of dishes each and shared them. Each dish was very small and the meal was quite expensive, but, as I said, quite interesting. Its good to try new things when you travel.

Drop Cap e came home to watch more Wimbledon and the sun came out. The weather in this country is crazy. Mac went for a walk, but I stayed to watch the tennis.

Drop Cap omorrow we plan to go to the seaside, so I hope the sun continues. I made another of my superburgers for dinner. We are starting to pack up for Saturday. Only two and a bit weeks to go. As usual I think I will be glad to get home. Things are getting a bit tense as we are all tired.

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Friday 3rd July, 2015

Drop Cap e had planned to spend our last day visiting Penarth, a Victorian seaside resort rather like Llandudno. But on the way we stopped for diesel and the car started beeping. It gave us a message that a tyre had lost pressure and should be reinflated. Luckily we were at a service station that had a machine for compressed air, so we checked and Mac found a large concrete screw in one of the tyres. We have no idea where we could have picked it up.

Anyway we decided to return home to see what could be done. Having done that we discovered that the so-called spare tyre was one of those damned silly "space saver" tyres, only designed to get you to the nearest repair place. Since we have to drive about two hundred odd miles tomorrow that was not really an option. So Mac called Europcar and reported the problem. They directed him to the nearest Tyre Repair place, Quik-Fit in Bridgend, seven miles from here, so he and Geoff set off.

I stayed and finished my book and watched some tennis on TV. They didn't get back until after 1300 and brought me some lunch, having had it themselves while they waited. After which we set off again for Penarth.

Waterlilies at Comeston Lake photograph
Waterlilies at Comeston Lake

Drop Cap n the way we passed Comeston Lake and Medieval Village so went in to see what we could see. This turned out to be extremely interesting. We walked along a boardwalk over marsh wetland, past a pond with lovely waterlilies until we reached a thatched lych gate leading to the reconstructed medieval village.

Comeston Medieval Village photograph
Entrance to Comeston Medieval Village

Simon Swineherd Comeston photograph
Simon Swineherd at Comeston Medieval Village

Drop Cap e decided to take the guided tour, led by the "swineherd" in medieval costume. This was very good, he was a fun leader and told us lots of interesting stuff, none particularly new to me (I read a lot) but good. The village was an archaeological dig site where they uncovered the foundations of all the buildings and reconstructed them in exactly the same places as they had been.

Comeston Medieval Village photograph
Comeston Medieval Village

Drop Cap here was a large Reeve's Hall, byre and home, a tithe barn, several cottages, the swineherd's pig pen and butchery, ale house, baker and bread oven. Plus experimental plantings of medieval grains and vegetables to show what people ate and to use to make meals as well. It was a very worthwhile stop, even though it made us very late for getting to Penarth.

Penarth Promenade photograph
Penarth Promenade

Penarth Pier photograph
Penarth Pier

Drop Cap e found our way to the Promenade, very Victorian with a pier overlooking one of those uncomfortably shingly beaches. We had a stroll on the pier and had a late afternoon tea of coffee and muffins (tsk tsk) at the Pavilion Cafe.

Then we had a look at the very crowded rush hour centre of town. It is generally Victorian with some lovely and very large villas (mostly with For Sale signs out the front) and ornate buildings with uninteresting modern shopfronts, but the upper floors were beautiful.

Drop Cap e made our way home and I got dinner. We have some post boxes now, purchased in Bridgend this morning, so will pack those too. Tomorrow we head for the Cotswolds and our last two weeks!

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