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.

 

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.