Southerndown and Newton

Looking east towards Ogmore-by-Sea and Nash Point from Newton, Porthcawl.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

Today, Liz and I had a jolly day out to the Glamorgan Heritage Coast.

The sun was shining beautifully in clear blue skies with just a few puffy white clouds floating above us. The sunshine was most welcome after what seems like weeks and weeks of wet weather here in South Wales, UK. We both got a full day’s dose of Vitamin D, that’s for sure.

It was also an opportunity for me to use my new Nikon DSLR camera. I’d be the first to admit I don’t consider myself a photographer, but it’s nice to get some snaps to remind myself of days out, and of things that have caught my interest too.

The wind was, however, rather fierce and piercing. Bracing, some would call it. We called it fecking freezing.

We drove the pretty way towards Southerndown, our first planned stop. This route took is through Pontyclun, Cowbridge, and past Llandow.

We made a very sudden stop at Bramble’s Tea Room at Meadowvale Nursery on Cowbridge Road for a second breakfast. I had toast and marmalade with a lovely pot of tea. Liz opted for a toasted teacake with a mug of coffee. The food and tea were freshly made. The people running the cafe were lovely and friendly, the premises lovely and clean. We’ll definitely return another time we’re in that area.

From there, we wended our way to Southerndown. We could see snow on some hills to the north; a lovely contrast with the clear blue, sunny skies and the warmth of the sun beaming in through the car windows.

Looking towards Porthcawl from Southerndown.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

The car park was really rather busy at Southerndown, but we found a space that was just right for Binky, my lovely little SmartCar. We gathered our cameras and went for a walk towards the beach.

The tide was out far enough to walk on the beach. However, the stormy weather had thrown boulders around and destroyed the end of the walkway onto the sand. We decided we weren’t in the mood for clambering over slippery boulders to get on the sand, so took a walk across the rock ledge.

Boulders and layers of rocks, Southerndown.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

I’ve always loved Southerndown and the dramatic and fascinating rock strata there. I love the patterns and textures of the rocks. Today wasn’t a day to wander looking for fossils, however. Carboniferous limestone is the dominant rock here and layers of it contain ammonites and belemites, along with fossil molluscs. As a child, I was always fascinated to see them, even the ghostly imprints left by a fossil, the fossil long since either collected or destroyed by the rolling sands and pebbles in the waves.

Looking across to Witch’s Point, Southerndown.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

The sun was warm when we were out of the wind, but the wind stole away any warmth from the sun and a bit extra from our bodies. Soon we were quite chilled, despite being bundled up. My fingers were feeling quite numb. So, we headed back to the car.

We drove through Ogmore-by-Sea, on to Ewenny, then Porthcawl. We went to Newton and had a lovely walk along the long, sandy beach there.

There were lots of people walking their well-behaved dogs there, making the most of the sunshine, just as Liz and I were. The views were lovely in the midday sunshine. Again, I was fascinated by rocks, and also by the behaviour of some members of the corvid family.

Corvid surveying his kingdom.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020
Interesting rocks…
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020
Rock pools at Newton.
©Angela Porter 27 Feb 2020

By now, we were feeling rather windswept and chilly, so we drove into Porthcawl to see if we could find somewhere to park and get something to eat. Not a space to be had!

So, we drove off from Porthcawl. I took a wrong turning at a roundabout which lead us to the Cornelly-s (North and South). Liz made use of Google Maps to find a cafe in North Cornelly – Season’s Cafe – where we had a rather late lunch.

I enjoyed a cheese and onion toastie with some chips, while Liz indulged in fish fingers, peas and chips. Tea for me, coffee for Liz.

After a long, rambling chat, with random interjections and facts and information by me (we did think I should have a blog called ‘The Randomness of Angela’), we decided it was time to head home.

So, we went on a road through the Kenfig Sand Dunes, towards Margam, then on towards Pyle. A brief jaunt eastwards on the M4 , exiting it at Sarn to head towards Bryncethin, and onwards via Gifach Goch, Porth and then to my home once again.

Again, it was wonderful to see the world bathed in the golden light of late winter sun, but this time hills and valleys, rural and built up areas, contrasting so beautifully with the flatter lands of the coast.

What a lovely day we have had!

National Botanic Gardens of Wales, Llanarthne

Today I paid a visit to the National Botanic Gardenof Wales (NGBW) in Llanarthne. My last visit there was over ten years ago now and it was interesting to see how it has changed.

The gatehouse is the same. You can just make out the inverted ‘pyramid’. this funnels rainwater from the roof and it’s mesmerising when it rains. Today was a mostly sunny and non-rainy day. It still makes an interesting and unique entrance to the garden, either when the weather sunny or raining.

My first trek was to the British Birds of Prey Centre. This has been added since my previous visit to NBGW. I was just in time to see an owl flying demonstration.

Bartok the Ural Owl

The first owl was a five month old Ural Owl called Bartok. He was amazing and loved to fly around. The picture is of him sitting on the bench in front of me. However, his handler did put him next to me a couple of times. I love their feather feet so much, and the rest of them too. Being able to see him swoop just over my head or in front of me was absolutely awesome!

Lily the Little Owl

Next up was Lily, a little owl. And she was little. She’d decided that she’d moult all her tail feathers at once; usually they moult just one or two at a time and let the new feathers grow back before they moult the next feather. Obviously Lily never got the owl post memo about that this year! So, she didn’t fly very far, but it was fascinating to watch her in action. She bobbed close to the ground, whereas Bartok glided above head height.

Allan the Barn Owl

The last owl flown today was Allan the Barn Owl. He was a real character and flew the way he wanted to from his perch back to his handler, sometimes landing where he wanted to. Barn owls are one of my favourites and it was a delight to see Allan fly.

Allan in flight

This very poor picture of Allan in flight was taken moments before he flew right at me and his wing feathers brushed against my hand holding my camera. That took my breath away in joy, delight and wonder.

Leaving the demonstration still smiling I made my way to the Birds of Prey centre. I always find it sad to see animals in cages, no matter how big they are. I know all the birds here are flown; I saw jesses on most of them, if not all of them. I don’t remember all the species they had there, but all were beautiful.

From there I walked towards the domed Great Glasshouse which houses a collection of plants from Australia, South Africa, California, the Mediterranean Basin, the Canary Islands and Chile. This is the largest collection of Mediterranean plants in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Great Glass house is also the largest single-span great glasshouse in the world, designed by Noman Foster and Partners. It sits like a raindrop on the landscape; you can make it out in the background of the above photograph.

I stopped at the cafe in the Great Glasshouse for a late lunch – Earl Grey Tea, black, and a rather delicious beetroot and onion sandwich. I took some time to write in my journal, sketch some flowers and put on some sunblock before wandering around the Glasshouse.

Inside a network of paths wind their way up and down through the various regions of the world. I took many, many photographs of flora and foliage. Many bees were seen busy gathering pollen and drinking nectar; the NBGW has many hives.

It was very warm in the glasshouse, so I was relieved to return to the cooler air of the outside world. I wandered up to the Physician’s Garden. Here I also saw some butterflies; however, they refused to stay still long enough for me to get a photo of them.

Finally, I wandered around the double walled garden and towards the Butterfly house. I didn’t go into the butterfly house on this visit. Maybe my next one.

On my way back to the gatehouse, I passed some fountains. One you’ve seen in the photograph of the glasshouse. Here are a pair of them and in the distance you can make out the roof of the gatehouse.

There are many water features around the garden. I love the sound of water. The gardens are able to stimulate most of our senses – smell, touch, sight and sound.

One of the textile pieces in Y Pot Blodyn Cafe

Taste is taken care of by the various cafes in the NBGW. I stopped in Y Pot Blodyn as I exited the garden. I was ready for another cup of tea! This time it was a traditional black tea, with milk. I also indulged myself in a scone with clotted cream and jam.

On the cafe wall were two textile pieces representing the plants found in the Great Glasshouse. They have been created by members of the Garden’s stitching group. Embroidery, needlefelting and felting along with crochet and knitting were evident.

I took over 170 photos today, many of which will be sources of inspiration for artwork from me I’m sure.

I know I will be returning there again. The autumn could be fun and I may be able to add photos of seeds, capsules and seed pods to my collection.

I also know that I didn’t visit every part of the Garden, so there’s more to explore on another visit.

Glyntaff Cemetery and Crematorium

I live not very far away from Glyntaff Cemetary and Crematorium. When I was 11 and 12 years of age, I used to walk too and from school through the cemetery as it was the shortest route to take

This walk never ‘freaked’ me out. Indeed, I often used to take my time on my way home to wander around. I was fascinated by the variety of gravestones, and also with the stories of the people they commemorated.

These wanderings laid the foundations for my life-long love of cemeteries. Not just the social history contained within them, but the peace and stillness and the wide variety of nature that is there.

I also like the relative lack of the living in cemeteries. I’m not good in ‘people-y’ places; I get anxious, panicked, and can become startled and hypervigilant. These are some of the delights of living with CPTSD.

Cemeteries are one of the few places I know I can visit and walk around without any anxiety or panic. Well, other than that worry that perhaps I shouldn’t be there. I do tend to forget, when I know I need to go for a walk or when I’m trying to convince myself that I need to go for a walk, that cemeteries are good places for me to go!

Today, I managed to convince myself that it would be good to take a walk in my local one, which is quite sizeable for sure. You can see an aerial photograph of it here –

This photo only shows part of the cemetery. It extends to the left.

Now, for a little history…

The cemetery in Glyntaff, Pontypridd, South Wales, UK was opened in 1924. It was the sixteenth to open in Great Britain, but for almost thirty years it was the only crematorium serving the whole of Wales.

Its crematorium is the oldest in Wales. Also, it has links with Dr William Price (1800-1893), who lived in Pontypridd and was actively involved in getting cremation legalised as a way of disposal of the dead.

Following the death of his son Iesu Grist in 1884, he followed his Druidic beliefs. He refused to bury the body; instead, he conducted his own cremation service on a mountain near his home in Llantrisant.

The police intervened, believing cremation to be illegal. Dr Price faced a court hearing. During this hearing, he argued that while the law did not say cremation was legal, it didn’t say it was illegal.

The judge agreed with Dr Price and freed him. This case set a precedent that led to the Cremation Act of 1902. It was under this act that Glyntaff Crematorium was opened.

My first stop – the columbarium.

I was so happy to see that the columbarium is, at last, reopened. I used to look in there on my walks home from school from time to time. It fascinated me. The last time I went to the cemetery, the columbarium was closed. I’m so glad that it has been repaired and reopened.

A columbarium is a room or building that has niches and shelves where urns can be stored. Sometimes photographs, flowers or other tributes to or personal belongings of the deceased are left with the urn or memorial plaque.

The one in Glyntaff is a building that is separate to the crematorium but is nearby. You can walk through the columbarium to and from the rose garden. It is a symmetrical building with two wings leading off the entrance hall. Each of these wings has three sections with lovely mosaic floors.

The west wing houses urns, drawers with ashes and tributes/belongings in, as well as memorial plaques. The east side has plaques on the walls.

I had a lovely look around there, and I want to go back sometime soon and look again. It’s going to take many visits to look at all the memorials and so on that are there.

My wander around the cemetery

It took me a good 40 minutes to stroll around the old part of the cemetery. Also, I didn’t walk every single roadway that I could. To the south of this section, there’s another part of the cemetery that is almost as big. I saved that for another day. Today it was quite sunny and humid, so I appreciated the shade cast by the trees in the old part of the cemetery.

The diversity of styles of gravestones is fascinating. I also find the symbolism used on headstones interesting, particularly those of the Victorian era. Little stories about the family are contained within those symbols.

Every time I visit, I notice different headstones. But there’s also the variety of nature too. It’s high summer here, so the grass is mostly sere. Also, I visited during the middle of the day; the wildlife was, quite sensibly, resting. Still, a few butterflies were fluttering around. I also had a chuckle at the jackdaws playing around some graves.

Dr Who and Glyntaff Cemetery

You can find out from which parts of the cemetery were used in Dr Who and Torchwood.

Catching up on some jolly days out

Well, I’ve had some jolly days out in recent months. However, events have got in the way of me updating this jolly little space on the interwebs.

Worcester – 25 October 2018

Medieval floor tiles at Worcester Cathedral 25 October 2018

Liz and I had a lovely day out to Worcester in chilly weather but with bright sunshine.

Our first stop was to a medical museum based at the hospital in Worcester. Well, we are both retired science teachers! Neither of us took any photos there, but it was an interesting little exhibition with many comments such as ‘They did WHAT with that?’ and ‘How on earth did that fit there?’. Some of the history was very gruesome, and some very sad indeed, particularly around child mortality and so on. The one thing that I think I found the weirdest though were the death masks of prisoners hung at Worcester Gaol.

A long leisurely lunch was had in the Cathedral Cafe, which isn’t in the Cathedral itself but is at 7 Severn Street. The surrounds were lovely and calm and the food was nice too, as were the staff.

Then we just had enough time for a whistle stop look at the Cathedral itself before the parking ticket ran out.

Liz hugging the Romanesque door into the Cathedral

I loved the Cathedral very much. But then I tend to do so with most old ecclesiastical buildings. Lots to look at here, lots of effigies and little side chapels to investigate, and the tomb of a King of England – the infamous King John, Google just told me.

We also crept down to the crypt. Well, not so much crept as made a noisy entrance. I don’t think creeping is something Liz or I do. The crypt is the only part of the Anglo-Saxon cathedral remaining.

It’s definitely a cathedral on my ‘must return to with sketchbook’ list sometime in the future!

I know we drove home via Hereford and then wended our way past the Malverns and on to the Honey Cafe in Bronllys where we stopped for a break. Then, it was back along the lower edge of the Brecon Beacons and we reached this point on our journey just as the sun was turning the grey skies gloriously smoky shades of red. This light was just catching the tops of the mountains and setting them afire. A beautiful autumnal evening journey home.

St Mary’s Kempley – 8 November 2018

Medieval Wall Painting at St Mary’s Kempley

This was a crazy kind of day. First, finding somewhere for my first breakfast and Liz’s second breakfast in the Wye Valley was bonkers. We ended up backtracking to Tintern and having something in the White Monks Tea Room. White Monks because it’s next door to Tintern Abbey and that was a Cistercian abbey until Henry VIII dissolved the abbeys. The Cistercians wore white habits, hence white monks! Once refreshed we decided to head up to Kempley to visit St Mary’s Church.

I’d been there once in gold spring a decade or more before. Kempley is in the Golden Valley and when I first visited the grounds were covered with daffodils, jonquils and narcissi, painting the ground in glorious shades of gold. Not a hint of them in November, however.

We stopped at a curious looking church on our way into Kempley –The Church of St Edward the Confessor. This church was described by Sir John Betjeman as ‘a mini cathedral of the Arts and Crafts Movement’. It’s pretty, and we both had a good mooch around, but then it was on to St Mary’s.

Medieval wall painting at St Mary’s Kempley

St Mary’s is a Grade 1 listed building and is said to have the most complete set of Romanesque frescoes in N Europe. It is a simple Norman church – Romanesque, which is my favourite kind of church architecture.

It was like visiting an old friend and it brought back fond memories of a couple of peaceful hours sitting and drawing while I was doing my A level art over 10 years ago now.

Liz was suitably impressed with it too.

Another medieval wall painting at St Mary’s Kempley

The inside of the church was colder than outside, so we didn’t linger long and were glad to be back in the car which warmed up quickly.

Our journey again took us back towards Hereford and then the Honey Cafe at Bronllys for a pit stop, before driving back in the dark of late autumn.

Aberglasney Gardens – sometime in December 2018

We chose a very, very wild and rainy day to visit Aberglasney for lunch! We broke our journey in Dunvant for a late morning drink and snack. It was raining fair fierce then, but by the time we got to Aberglasney it was an absolute deluge!

We sheltered in the cafe there and had a lovely long and leisurely lunch while the rain passed over, and then we took a little stroll around the gardens and into the orchid ‘house’ before a good browse around the shop and a drive home through country lanes and lots of different terrain – rolling hills, highland marshes/bogs and the mountains of the Brecon Beacons. We passed through Myddfai, somewhere I wanted to visit since reading the books of the Physicians of Myddfai a long time ago. They were medieval doctors to a King of Wales. Then we headed towards Llanddeusant, Trecastle, Sennybridge and home.

Along the homeward bound journey we saw loads of buzzards and more than a couple of red kites. These birds always fill us with a sense of awe, especially when they choose to glide down low above the car as we pass by.

We were home not long before dusk, not tarrying on the way back.

RSPB Newport Wetlands – 25 January 2019

RSPB Newport Wetlands

Today, I had a little trip out by myself. Yesterday I’d had quite an emotionally draining day after giving an anti-stigma talk as a Champion for Time to Change Wales to a group of police officers from the South Wales Police.

I woke up still headachy and tired and by mid morning I knew I needed some fresh air, a walk and a change of scenery and the one place on my mind was the RSPB Newport Wetlands.

I’ve visited here a number of times before, but not for a couple of years. As it’s familiar to me, I knew I’d have no problem actually getting out and taking a walk there.

It’s been such a mild day, temperature wise. The sun was out and though I was carrying a coat I didn’t even put it on once!

Yes, the sun was out, but the skies were also filled with bands of leaden, dark clouds. When the sun struck the tall, sere marsh grasses they positively glowed against the sky! Very dramatic, even for someone who’s not a photographer, like me.

It was lovely to just walk in the fresh air. There was a constant background low drone with clanks and clangs of industry, but overlaying this were the pleading cries of gulls, the raucous caws of members of the corvid family, and the noisy tweets and whistles of the little songbirds gathered in large numbers in hedges. There was also the rustle of dry leaves in the breeze.

Lots of things caught my eye on my walk and photographs were taken as references for later on. One thing I do want to do this evening, while the colours are fresh in my mind, is to create a color palette, or a series of colour palettes, for the different things I saw, particularly the dramatic colour combinations.

I enjoyed watching mallards and coots bobbing in the water. I think I also saw a heron, though it could’ve been a stork, at the end of the pond you can see from the cafe at the visitor’s centre.

Yes, I had a lovely mug of tea and a nice open sandwich there, writing up my thoughts in my journal and watching the ducks go by!

Looking towards Nash Lighthouse

I didn’t walk towards the lighthouse at Nash this time; there are plenty of little walks for me to explore here, and no doubt I’ll settle on my favourite ones. I expect they’ll change as the seasons change too. I think my next visit there will be a walk to the Lighthouse though, and a look down to the shores of the Severn Estuary. Not far from there is Goldcliff where footprints of prehistoric (mesolithic) humans have been found preserved in the mud.

Fungi festooned log

I like nature in winter – it has an architectural quality. It’s the time of year when I can see the underlying structure of the world without leaves and so on in the way. I get to see things that usually lie hidden, and that includes colours and textures.

Despite it still being very much winter, even though today was a mild 13ºC, there’s still signs of spring ready to wake the world up. There’s still signs of life continuing.

Final words … for now

I don’t think I’ve covered all the little trips out in the past few months, but I have covered the ones of some interest. I do know these won’t be my last, that’s for sure. As the days lengthen and grow warmer then the desire to venture forth tends to grow too. Today was one of those days, bright with the promise of spring and the warmer days to come.

To Hay (on Wye) and back again

Angela Hay on Wye 11 Oct 2018
Market place, Hay on Wye

Today, I took a little jaunt to Hay on Wye.

I wanted to drive through the Brecon Beacons as summer turns to autumn. I needed to visit Bartrum’s, the stationers in Hay on Wye and to have a bit of a walk around.

Typically, after a couple of days of gloriously sunny autumn days, I decide to go on a wander on a day where the skies were leaden and rain was threatening.

However, the sullen grey backdrop of the sky helped the autumnal colours to shine against it, especially on the way home. The colours of nature had changed with the rain. Reds were clearly apparent in the brown reeds at the foot of the mountains. Water darkened the bark on the trees so the glorious colours of autumn seemed more vibrant. Wet foliage always seems brighter in colour.

I cursed myself for not being able to take photos as I drive, and there was nowhere to stop safely so I could take quick snaps of the glories of autumn.

I travelled the A470 between Merthyr and Pontypridd on Tuesday, and the change in colours of the trees and the land was noticeable indeed.

More trees seemed to be crowned with their autumn gold. There are more fiery flashes of trees resplendent in their autumn finery. The brown bracken and reeds on the hills had more red, magenta and purple tinges to it than just a few days before.

I felt quite sad that some trees have already lost their leaves, missing out on joining in the great, colourful celebration of the turning of the seasons and another productive year.

There’s more changes to come and I hope I’ll find the courage to visit Westonbirt Arboretum this year to wander through the woods in their autumn beauty.

I also enjoyed seeing the clouds forming mantles around the heads of the mountains of the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountains. There’s something mystical, secretive about it, and a lot of power in the strong winds today and the eddying and swirling in the low clouds was particularly visible today.

One particular highlight of the day was when a red kite swooped in front of my car, turned and returned in the direction it had come from. Seeing them close up always takes my breath away!

When I got to Hay, I popped quickly into Satori to have a look at their pretties (crystals, jewellery) and did pick up a piece of hypersthene to add to my collection.

Angela Porter Lunch Hay on Wye 11 Oct 2018
Oscar’s Bistro, Hay on Wye

My next stop was Bartrum’s for a look around. I do have a bit of a thing for stationery. I did restrain myself from visiting the downstairs area of the shop where they have soooooooooo many beautiful fountain pens. I did have a good look around the upstairs section where there are pens and pencils, notebooks and sketchbooks. They have a huge selection of Moleskine and Leuchturrm notebooks, as well as other brands, along with all kinds of other stationery supplies. They do have a small selection of sketchbooks and I picked up a 25cm x 25cm Blue Acorn sketchbook (I’d forgotten to pack a sketchbook to take with me).

After that, it was time for lunch and I thought I’d revisit Oscar’s Bistro.

Liz and I went there before our trip oop t’Dales and we had a pleasant lunch in nice surroundings.

Today, I had a big pot of tea all to myself and for lunch I ordered a veggie burger with cheese and some chips. I forgot to ask them to leave out the bread bun, which I left anyways (my preference, I’m sometimes not in the mood for bread). The veggie burger was delicious. They make them themselves and I could detect mashed swede, parsnip, leek, onions carrots in my burger. They were beautifully seasoned and not at all bland, unlike so many commercial vegetable burgers.

The chips were lovely; hand-cut, still had the skin on (which I like), and golden and crisp, freshly cooked.

I did say that I would’ve been more than happy with two veggie burgers (no bun) a scattering of chips and some salad.

The time I was there with Liz, I had a vegetable curry and it was delicious too. A little spicy heat but not so much that you couldn’t taste the other spices or the veggies.

It really is a lovely little place!

I sat there and made some notes about my thoughts on my drive there and started drawing my illustration for Inktober 2018 day 12 (the prompt is ‘whale’) in the sketchbook I’d bought in Bartrum’s. Well, I mean, you just gotta try out a new sketchbook!

Once I’d finished my pot of tea (which was also lovely and much needed), I planned on a wander around Hay, but as I took the quick pic of Oscar’s it started to rain, and the heaven’s opened as I took a pic of the market.

On my way back to the car I stumbled upon a little shop called The Thoughtful Gardener and I just had to have a wander.

As well as pretty flower pots and cards and so on, they had a range of soap, scented candles, room fragrances and skin creams made by themselves.

I had a sniff of some of the soaps and creams and ended up with a pot of Wild Mint balm which is deliciously minty and the tiniest bit softens/smooths the skin. I’ve tried it on the touch of very dry skin I have on my forehead to see if it’ll help. I couldn’t resist some soap ‘flavoured’ with patchouli, and delicately done too.

I’ll certainly be visiting The Thoughtful Gardener again!

I had thought to wend my way towards Hereford, maybe visit Kilpeck before returning home, but the dark, dark glowering clouds suggested I should think otherwise. So, I made my way back home, driving through strong winds, heavy rain and the start of the rush hour traffic!

Oh, strong winds – that reminds me, flurries of autumn leaves were fun to drive through! Far nicer than snow as far as I’m concerned.

A little jaunt to Neath

Approximately once a week I have an appointment in Neath. I enjoy driving, but today I wished there were places on the way there and back I could pull over and snap a few piccies of nature.

The places I could pull over and stop were places where I lost the view I wanted to catpure.

So, instead of pictures, I’ll try to use my words to paint a picture of my journey.

My route was from Pontypridd, up the A470, past Merthyr Tudful to join the A465 which I then followed until I reached Neath.

Along the way I get to see the mountain tops of the Taff valley. They currently look like a rich tapestry of abstract patterns in a rich russet tinged with purple, dull yellow-greens and straw-yellow.

The trees that line much of the road are no longer the uniform green of summer. There’s flashes of yellow, brown, orange, magenta and purple along the way that break that unformity up. Rowans and hawthorn are so bedecked with berries that they already appear bright red-orange and red in colour.

Traces of morning mist lingered about the trees beside the A465 in the Vale of Neath, and low cloud wreathed the moutain tops to the east. Definitely an autumnal view.

I got the sense that nature is trying on her new wardrobe, working out what looks best in different places, what colours work well together.

I feel the anticipation of seeing nature in all her glorious, majestic, blazing autumnal colours in the coming days and weeks. All to celebrate the end of the year’s harvest, the warm, glowing colours clothe the world like a snuggly quilt laid down to help it ease into it’s winter slumber.

The colours also act as a memory to remind us in the cold, dark, bare days of winter the world will wake up once again.


Drive Around t’Dales – 25 Sept 2018

Road towards Parceval Hall Gdns 2 for blog

On the road to Parceval Hall

It’s hard to believe it’s only a week since I had the awe-inspiring experience at Coldstones Cut followed by (after some tea at Pately Bridge) the wonderfully majestic Fountains Abbey before returning back to Pately Bridge for a late lunch.

We had a lovely drive around some of the Dales after lunch, Liz eager to show off the natural beauty of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The route we took last Tuesday, the 25th of September, was :

  • Pately Bridge to Greenhowe and then on to Bolton Abbey, passing by Parceval Hall. A quick trip past Embsay followed before dashing on to Skipton. Then, it was up the A65 towards Settle and then onwards to Langcliffe. From here we headed to Malham Tarn Nature Reserve follwed by Arncliffe and passing Kilnsey Crag before going through Threshfield back to Cracoe.

The changes in the landscape as we travelled from one Dale to another was quite remarkable. I absolutely fell in love with the more rugged landscapes where limestone seems to erupt out of the ground like the worn molar teeth of giants discarded by a very big tooth fairy.

I also loved the drystone walling, and how it seemed to rise vertically with the sides of valleys, rising relentlessly upwards to meet the sky. Perfectly straight too; so straight a Roman soldier would be proud of it!

There were sheep just about everywhere, of so many different breeds. And cattle too.

The steepness of some of the ghyls and valleys was quite astounding and breathtaking when you don’t expect to see the land fall away from you as you top a hill.

The photos show how quickly the weather can change over the Dales, from bright sunshine to quite overcast. I’m not a photographer; I use my Huaweii P10+ phone, in most of these from a quickly moving Freelander. There are very few places to pull over and let me get out to do a better job of photography, but I think you will get the idea of the vistas that were on display that day.

Of course, photos that I take can’t convey the amazement, wonder, awe, pleasure, fascination, intrigue that I experienced even when dashing past them. That’s what my words are for, though I still don’t have the words fully yet.

Road towards Parceval Hall Gdns 1 for blog
A bit further along the road to Parceval Hall

Reservoir on way to Embsay for blog
The reservoir on the way to Embsay

Not far from Victoria Cave which overlooks Langcliffe for blog
Near Victoria Cave which overlooks Langcliffe

Looking towards Keighley for blog
Looking towards Keighley

Ingleborough in distance and Pen-y-Ghent to right for blog
Ingleborough off in the distance with Pen-y-Ghent just creeping into view from the right

Burnsall Road blog
Somewhere along Burnsall Road

Trollers Ghyll for blog
Trollers Ghyl

The Old Barn Tea Rooms, Ponsticill

This photo of The Old Barn Tea Room is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Not all journeys involve a lot of travel. We often forget to visit or mention places of interest that are close to home. We think they’re ordinary, uninteresting, familiar, but to others they may be of great interest.

Today was one of those days where a short trip was taken, around 25 miles in total.

I needed some time with Liz to sort out details of our journeying around the Yorkshire Dales, so we decided to meet up for lunch and went to the Old Barn Tea Rooms at Ponsticill, Merthyr Tydfil.

The drive there was lovely, in bright, golden autumn sunshine along tree-lined country lanes once we left the main roads. Part of the trip was along the edge of the huge Ponsticill Reservoir and we had tantalising glimpses of the water through the trees that lined the road.

A little earlier in our journey, we’d driven over the road that goes along the damn that holds back the water that forms the reservoir; I always feel a little nervy as my mind worries that the dam may fail with me in a car on it. There was a fab view of the water treatment works from this road, however; something that can fascinate a pair of retired science teachers!

The Old Barn Tea Room is, as the name says, in an old converted barn. The decor is simple and charming, in fitting with a tea room in the countryside

We were greeted as we entered the door and given a menu and asked to choose a table and someone would be over soon to take our order.

As a vegetarian I was heartened that there were some interesting choices for me. When our waitress came to take our order I inquired about the fresh, home-made soup and was told it was carrot and parsnip, so I plumped for that along with a hummus and roasted vegetable sandwich along with a pot of Assam tea.

Later on, I indulged in a slice of lemon cake, which was very light and had just enough lemony yummy-ness to make it totally delicious.

Liz went for their lighter afternoon tea and she had half a tuna sandwich, a plain scone with cream and jam and Welsh cake. She had a cafetiere of coffee.

There was a group of three men there, one of whom played the harmonica from time to time and the others sang softly. That was rather nice and atmospheric.

We were not rushed at all during our visit, which was great as I needed Liz to help me name the places I took photographs of as well as mentally retracing the tyre-tracks of our daily journeys around the Dales.

I even managed to do a little knitting as we finished off our second pot of tea or cafetiere.

It really was a lovely setting for a tea room, off the beaten track, set in the countryside and today it was nicely quiet.

My sat nav took us on a slightly different route back home. We had a fantastic view of the face of a quarry, the old limestone streaked with dark grey and flashes of white.

As we made our way back along the A470 we passed Trago Mills opposite the Cyfarthfa Retail Park. Liz said it was on her list to visit out of curiosity. I asked her if she wanted to pop in and had the time to. She said, ‘why not!’. So we did.

We both ended up with more knitting yarn and we had a wander around completely perplexed by it all. However, we can both say we’ve been there.

I will be making more posts about our Yorkshire trip, once I get it all sorted out in my head (and with the photo labeling and editing too).

Stokesay Castle and the drive home

Stokesay 03Yesterday I had to say goodbye to the Dales to make the long journey back home to Wales.

Liz decided that we’d travel back to Stokesay Castle in Shropshire as quickly as we could so that we didn’t get stuck in the crazy traffic on the motorways around the Manchester area.

The skies were clear with puffy clouds floating in them. The sun was warm through the glass of the car, but the wind was still a tad parky.

We made good time as I annoyed Liz a little with an app I’d newly downloaded onto my phone – iGeology 3D. It helped me to answer the questions I had about the underlying geology of the different landscapes we passed as we left the Dales and carried on home.

We made good time and Liz stopped for a bacon butty at a little caff in a layby; I think it was called Lone Johns or Long Johns, but I could be very long. She really enjoyed her butty. I enjoyed my mug of tea and a little piece of ginger cake.

Stokesay 01
Then it was on to Stokesay Castle for a break from driving. We headed to the tea room there for a comfort break and a drink and something light to eat. Liz had a chocolate pudding and I had a rather nice bowl of tomato and basil soup. Once refreshed (and I finished an an angel wrap I’d started knitting on Thursday with yarn I’d bought in Settle) we visited the castle.

We had to go into the gift shop to get our admission, and we had a wander around. Liz spotted a cuddly raven, which of course had to be added to my little collection of things of a ravenly nature. Anyone who knows me knows I have a bit of a passion for corvids, ravens especially. So, to add a second cuddly raven to my little collection was something I was happy to do, as well as contributing a little more to the coffers of English Heritage.

Stokesay 02The castle was nice, a bit modern for my liking, though the textures and patterns in the many carvings caught my attention for sure, as did the lovely flowers and foliage in the gardens.

I baulked at going up a narrow, dark flight of uneven steps to the top of the tower, however. My panic attack in a narrow and short entrance and increasingly narrow corridor/tunnel at Forbidden Corner was still very much with me, so I went and explored the flowers instead.

Liz said, ‘ I couldn’t believe it; we stop at a castle and you’re more interested in taking photos of plants than looking at the castle’.

Stokesay 05I’d looked at the castle. I’d taken lots of reference pictures to use to inspire my kind of art in the fulness of time. But I like plants as well!

Stokesay 04We looked at the church next door to the castle, which was nice too, a lovely arch on the way in.  Well, I think it’s lovely and interesting, but then I do like a nice well rounded arch! I like pointy ones too, and the more ornate tracery filled gothic arches as well, but there’s nowt quite like a sturdy, well-rounded arch.

After a wander around the graveyard (I find them rather interesting too, especially the older they are and the changes in fashions in the style of gravestones and the kind of information people put on them – these say more about the living left behind on the Earth than they do about the dead) it was time to continue our journey along the Welsh Marches then across towards the Brecon Beacons.

We stopped at the Honey Cafe in Bronllys. This is a lovely place for a stop, and it’s somewhere you can get tea and piece of cake until 9pm at night. We didn’t have cake this time, in fact, I didn’t have much cake this week at all! We did have a bowl of thick cut chips and one of curly fries to share between us as well as a big pot of tea.

It was nice to break up the long journey home this way. I think we were both tired from our busy days in the Dales and the journey home felt longer than it really was.

After leaving Honey Cafe, it was down towards Brecon, to Storey Arms, Merthyr Tydfil and finally back to Pontypridd at around 7pm. After dropping me home with my luggage, Liz made her way to her home too.

I really enjoyed my week away. I did miss spending time wielding pens and pencils and having to make do with my poor photography skills to try to capture glimpses of things that caught my attention on our travels. I have a lot more photos than I’ve shared so far. Before I share any more, however, I need help from Liz to help me name the places I’ve taken photos of!

I do want to go back there, maybe in the Spring when the new leaves are just beginning to show. I’d like to go back to Fountains Abbey with my sketchbook in hand and an ample supply of pens and pencils. I’d also like to visit Rievaulx, Ripon Abbey and other places of both man-made and natural beauty and interest.

I know that as our days were so busy as Liz wanted to show me as much as she could of her favourite places and things I’d find interesting, I often felt very much a sense of sensory overload where time was needed to just sit and let my mind digest and organise it all before adding more to it.

I’m an introvert, even if those who think they know me think I’m an extrovert. I have a very well practiced mask of an extrovert nature which developed to allow me to be noticed in a family of rampant extroverts.

Being an introvert a lot goes on internally and it can take a long while before I can make sense of emotions or experiences; writing is a way that I can do this, once I have had that time and space.

Having said that, I laughed a lot and there were a lot of vocalised, enthusiastic expressions of ‘oooh’ and ‘wow! look at that!’ and variations on the theme (sometimes with a sweary word or two in exclamation added in).

But, there’s a lot more going on inside me than I acknowledge outwardly.

It took me to write a blog about my experience of the Coldstones Cut to recognise what it was that had been internalised.

So, in the coming days or weeks. I’ll be adding blogs about my Yorkshire Dales break – and it’s a lot easier now I have my home superfast fibre internet connection rather than the intermittent, unstable wifi connection at the Devonshire Arms Inn or elsewhere this week.

I’d like to say that my stay at the Devonshire Arms Inn at Cracoe was lovely. The staff were fab, and their triple cooked chips and onion rings were divine! I rather enjoyed my meal there on my last evening, with Liz and Jack for company.

Last, but not least, I’d like to say thank you to Liz for doing the driving, putting up with my ambling pace, my achy joints and my weirdly silly outlooks on life and for indulging me with trips to Fountains Abbey and Settle and Coldstones Cut. I look forward to more shared trips in the future, day or a little longer in length.

Some more travels oop t’Dales today

Ribblesdale 01
Ribblehead viaduct with a very moody sky over the fell in the distance.

Today’s journeys around t’Dales included a trip to Ribblehead Viaduct. It’s amazing piece of construction; the photo doesn’t do it’s immensity justice. As we were there, the cloud descended over the peak in the distance, which I can’t remember the name of now. Very atmospheric. The wind was fiercely blowing along the valley floor and through those arches. Sheep were wisely sheltering from the relentless wind.

Funniest thing of the day was wondering if there should be road signs warning of low flying sheep, with the sheep with resigned expressions on their faces; expressions that suggest the thought is ‘Oh no, here we go again’. Made me giggle at least!

Before Ribblesdale we visited a shop in Skipton known as The Coffee Exchange. Liz stocked up on coffee, I on various teas – South African Rift Breakfast tea, Irish Breakfast tea and a deliciously spicy smelling Winter blend.

After Ribblehead, we stopped at Heather’s tearoom for a light lunch on the way back towards Settle for a wander around and a stop at a yarn shop so we could both pick up some knitting yarn.

Next, was a drive to see Malham Cove and a stop for more tea (coffee for Liz), before going on a journey to see the limestone pavement above Malham Cove. Spectacular scenery and finding a source of geological maps is important to me. We drove past lumpy bumpy drumlin landscape on the way to and from Ribblesdale.

After Settle it was a trip to a Farm Shop to have a look-see and I have a selection of chutneys to enjoy when I get home.

Tonight, Liz, Jack (the farmer who owns the site where her caravan is situated) and I are going to be having dinner at the Devonshire Arms.

It’s been a fantastic couple of days here in the Yorkshire Dales. Tomorrow it’s the long journey back home to South Wales with a lot more stuff than we came up with for sure.

I really want to return at some point; there’s so much to see and experience.

On my return, I will post more information about our trips; I can’t remember the names of places or the routes we took, but Liz has said she’ll help me sort that out.