Wednesday – Caerphilly-Caerffili – This town at the southern end of the Rymney Valley is known for its castle and cheese. The Romans established an earth and timber fort just north-west of the present castle site. It was garrisoned by a unit of the Legio Secunda Augusta, the Second Augustan Legion which was based at Caerleon. Following the Roman departure of Britain, the area was a part of the Cantref of Senghennydd, bounded by the Rivers Taff and Rhymney. In 1081 William I founded the town of Cardiff but little was done to assert Norman authority over the hinterland. Around 1093 William Rufus granted Cardiff to Robert fitz Haimon. Although Robert extended control of the coastal areas, still no attempt was made to occupy the uplands. In 1217 the lordship of Glamorgan passed to the de Clare family. Gilbert de Clare confronted issues concerning the overlordship of the Welsh rulers in the northern Uplands and conflict was common throughout the period of his rule. His son Richard began an aggressive campaign to assert his authority in upland Glamorgan. By 1247 most of the area with the exception of Senghenydd was under the control of the Earl of Glamorgan. Richard’s son, Gilbert started the process of building Caerphilly Castle in 1268. This was against the background of the civil war between Simon de Montfort and Henry III. The de Clares that fallen out with Henry III’s son Lord Edward and joined with de Montfort but then argued with de Montfort and fell out with him. Gilbert’s brother, Thomas de Clare helped Lord Edward escape from detention and they then met at Ludlow with Gilbert and Roger Mortimer. De Montfort attempted to negotiate an agreement with Llywelwn ap Gruffudd, but he was attacked at his stronghold, Kenilworth. Although de Montfort escaped, a few days later he was killed at the Battle of Evesham. However, there was still discontent between Gilbert and Henry III and in April 1267 Gilbert marched on London prompting a popular uprising. However peace terms were agreed and the civil war was finally over. During these troubles in England, Llywelwn ap Gruffudd had effectively taken control of vast areas of Wales. The Treaty of Montgomery, sealed in September 1267, recognised Llywelwn ap Gruffudd’s claim to the title of Prince of Wales, which exacerbated Henry’s dispute with the Marcher Lords. Despite this Henry III summoned Lord Gilbert to his dying bedside and the Earl undertook to maintain peace until Lord Edward returned from crusade. It was now, in 1268 that Gilbert began construction of Caerphilly castle. Following Edward’s coronation, de Clare and Humphrey de Bohun, heir to the Lordship of Hereford, both pressed for their lands to be returned and in 1276 Edward II declared Llewellyn a rebel and prepared to invade. Caerphilly castle was attacked by Llewellyn. Construction recommenced around 1281 and in 1285 the north dam platform was built which created the North Lake. In 1314 the last male heir of the de Clare family died at Bannockburn and Edward II became ward of de Clare’s heiresses. A new English administrator, Payn de Turberville of Coity was installed. On 28th January 1316, Llywelyn Bren began a revolt against de Turberville with a surprise attack on Caerphilly Castle. The constable was captured but the Welsh were unable to breach the inner defences. The town was burned and the inhabitants slaughtered. The lordship of Glamorgan passed to Hugh Despenser. Edward II and Despenser were at Caerphilly, escaping just before the castle was besieged by the forces of Queen Isabella. In 1330 Caerphilly was restored that Eleanor de Clare. In 1403 King Henry IV provisioned and garrison the castle against Owain Glyndŵr. In 1593 the castle was leased to Thomas Lewis and in 1642 the castle was slighted during the Civil War. Restoration of the castle began in 1871 by the 3rd Marquess of Bute. The 4th Marquess began a major restoration in 1928 but it was halted at the outbreak of the Second World War. The castle was placed in the care of the Ministry of Works in 1950 and in 2016 CADW took over the running of Caerphilly Castle.
We approach Caerphilly Castle through David Williams Park. The castle dominates the town, only Windsor is larger. We cross the park there are geese everywhere, feral Greylags, white farmyard and Canada. We enter through the Outer Main gatehouse to the Visitors Centre. Another bridge crosses the moat into the outer East Gatehouse. Here a large store house set deep into the ground contains model dragons, to the delight of young visitors. Then through the inner East Gatehouse, a large building probably modelled on an earlier example at the de Clare castle of Tonbridge in Kent. This leads into the inner ward which is being set up for a concert by The Stranglers on Saturday. It is possible to walk around the walls looking down on the extensive moats and lakes protecting the buildings. At one point a hourd has been reconstructed. This is a wooden fighting platform resting on beams inserted through the walls so the soldiers are able to drop stones and boiling oil onto any attackers below attempting to scale the walls. The great hall and private apartments are in good condition and give a fine impression of how the castle would have been in its heyday. My aching knees only allow me to climb one of the towers. The south-east tower has been damaged to the extent that it leans outwards as a quite frightening degree. A large statue of a man stands at the base of the tower seeming to hold it up. Sand Martins fly across the extensive lakes and moats surrounding the Castle. Coots and Moorhens are on the lakes.
We wander back through part of the town. A statue to Tommy Cooper, unveiled by Sir Anthony Hopkins stands near the Twyn. Cooper was born in Caerphilly in 1921. The Twyn, featuring a distinctive tower, was erected around 1880 to replace an earlier Methodist chapel, dating from 1791. The building became a community centre in 1974 and today is also home to Caerphilly Town Council. We pass a number of large Victorian buildings. Set back behind a bank is The Court House. It was built as a court house in the 14th century on a burgage plot next to the south gate of the castle. The court was previously held inside the gatehouse. Repairs were undertaken to the roof by the Lord of Glamorgan in 1429. It is now a pub. Down through terraces of small Victorian houses. The Wesley Methodist Church was built in 1929-30 by J H Phillips & Wride, architects of Cardiff, to replace the former church in Castle Street which had been opened in July 1868 and demolished in the late 1920s, probably by the Earl of Bute as part of his remodelling of the town and castle grounds. This church is an unusual Art-Deco style chapel with Perpendicular tracery. Down an alley and past another Art Deco style building of a simple stepped gable design, housing the Caerphilly Aged Persons Welfare Committee. Back through David Williams Park. David Williams (1738-29 June 1816), was a Welsh philosopher of the Enlightenment period. He was an ordained minister, theologian and political polemicist, and was the founder in 1788 of the Royal Literary Fund.
Groeswen – We now travel to Groeswen Chapel, set on the slopes of Mynydd Meio, overlooking Caerphilly. The graveyard contains the graves of Wales most notable preachers, musicians and literary figures, earning the Chapel the title of Westminster Abbey of Wales. Groeswen means White Cross which may refer waymarking cross on the medieval Cistercian Way. The village pub is called the White Cross, but this is a modern name. There is a farm called Pen-y-groes on the road out of the village to the north. According to a local tradition, there was an elaborately carved cross on the road below this farm, but no record of it has ever been found. The original chapel was built in 1742, the first meeting place in Wales of the Calvinistic Methodists. It was enlarged in 1766. The present chapel which seats 600, was built in 1831, and was completely renovated in 1874. From 1745 to 1789, the minister of Groeswen Chapel was William Edwards who was a native of Groeswen and was an accomplished mason and bridge builder. His most famous bridge was the single span bridge over the Taff at Pontypridd.
There are many spectacular monuments in the graveyard, although it is becoming overgrown and getting around it is difficult. A red marble monument has a copper likeness of William Caledfryn Williams who was born in Denbighshire in 1801. He began preaching after he joined the Congregational church in Denbigh as a young man, and was ordained into the ministry in 1829. He was a prolific bard, he also contributed much in the form of essays, hymns and books on Welsh grammar, as well as political and polemical works promoting the Liberal cause, world peace, freedom and industrial reform. In addition he was an outspoken temperance campaigner.
A tall pillar, erected by public subscription marks the grave of Evan Jones, better known by his bardic name of Ieuan Gwynedd. He was ordained at Saron Chapel, Tredegar in 1845. Evan Jones published many articles seeking to defend the Welsh way of life against appalling criticism from Westminster, becoming as a result a champion of the Welsh people. In particular he came to the defence of Welsh women, defending them against the Blue Books unjustified criticism of their ignorance and immorality. However, his fame at a peak, Evan Jones died in 1852 at the age of just 32 years.
Morgan Charles Morris, also marked by a red marble tomb, was regarded as a brilliant preacher, but also an accomplished poet, winning the first prize at the Pontypridd Eisteddfod in 1893 for a poem on Rhys ap Tewdwr. Another red marble scroll marks the grave of Evan Gurnos Jones, who won the chair at the national on no less than three occasions, and 20 others at local eisteddfodau, as well as many medals. Many of the bards who are buried at Graveyard are from one family – the Cosslets, who were prominent among the poets and writers of Pontypridd’s Clic y Bont, which included such notables as Thomas Williams (Brynfab) and Glanffrwd. The most successful member of the Coslett family was Carnelian aka Coslett Coslett, one of those buried at Groswen.
The most impressive monument is that of Thomas James Thomas of Brynawel, Porth, Rhondda and his wife Rachel. He was a member of a very illustrious and wealthy family of mine owners and managers. Much more about those buried here can be found here.
Llandaff – Now an area of Cardiff, Llandaff is called The city within the city owing to Llandaff Cathedral, seat of the Bishop of Llandaff. The Bishop’s Palace was an impressive building, with a large gatehouse, although the rest of the building is now reduced to a few walls surrounding a pleasant garden. It is believed to have been built by William de Braose who became Bishop in 1266. The palace was abandoned as a residence following damage in the Owain Glyndŵr rebellion of 1402-05, with the Bishops thereafter using their more secure dwelling at Mathern in Monmouthshire. The palace seems to have remained intact until around 1601, it was probably destroyed during the Civil War being slighted by Parliamentarian forces.
The cathedral is down a steep hill. St Teilo’s Well lies on this hillside, now a grating at the base of a wall beside the lane. Anglo-Roman remains have been found on the cathedral site. Llandaff probably developed as one of the first areas of solid ground north of the Taff estuary. A Christian site was established here according to tradition by St Dubricius at a ford on the River Taff and the first church was founded by Dubricius’ successor, St Teilo in the 6th century. In 1107, Bishop Urban started a new cathedral on the site. The work was completed some time in the latter years of Bishop Nicholas ap Gwrgant, who died in 1183. The cathedral was dedicated to St Peter and St Paul, St Dyfrig (Dubricius), St Teilo and St Euddogwy (Oudoceus). Around 1220, the church was extended and the wonderful west front was constructed. The building was damaged by Owain Glyndŵr in 1400. It further declined after the Dissolution. Parliamentarian troops caused yet more damage as did the Great Storm of 1703. The collapse of the roof in 1723 forced worship services to be confined to the Lady Chapel and closed the western entrance of the cathedral entirely. In 1734 John Wood, the Elder began work on a new cathedral. He produced an Italian temple style edifice, working only on the eastern portion of the building, while leaving the remaining western half in ruins. Wyatt and Prichard undertook restoration in 1841, when the damage to the western portion of the structure was repaired and all traces of the Italian temple work by Wood were removed from the cathedral. During the 19th century the bishop began to reside in Llandaff for the first time in almost 300 years. In 1857 donations were sought to undertake more restoration. The Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) and the Marquess of Bute were among those who pledged donations. The cathedral was extensively restored, the tower rebuilt and a spire added. Much of the restoration work was completed by John Prichard between 1843 and 1869. The building was extensively damaged by bombing in the Second World War and was restored by George Pace. He built the Welch Regiment Memorial Chapel and a great reinforced concrete arch surmounted by a statue of Christ In Majesty (the Majestas) by Sir Jacob Epstein.
We enter the church to the sound of the organ, almost deafening in a largely empty building. The playing is in preparation for a concert in the evening. In the north-west comer is a triptych, The Seed of David, by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, designed for use as a reredos. The body of the church is dominated by the magnificent arch. The font was carved in 1952 by Alan Durst. It has a wooden cover with a carving of a dove. There are tombs of many of the bishops of Llandaff, including William de Broese. In the south aisle is Celtic Cross. Within the sanctuary is the tomb of St Teilo, although the figure on the tomb is 13th century. Above is Urban’s Arch, a relic from the Norman cathedral. Above is a window by John Piper installed in 1959. In the Dyfrig Chapel is the tomb of Sir David Mathew, standard-bearer to Edward IV who was killed in a riot at Neath in 1480. The old mediaeval reredos, carved in stone, is on the north wall. Above the altar are porcelain panels designed by Burne-Jones. In the Choir is the Nicholson organ of 4870 pipes, still booming out. St David Chapel is dedicated to the Welch Regiment and has brass tablets set into the floor commemorating officers – there is hardly any mention of the ordinary soldiers! Outside the west front of 1220 has a statue of St Dyfrig. The north tower is 15th century, a gift of Jasper Tudor, uncle of Henry VII and holds a ring of thirteen bells. The south tower and spire was designed by Price and completed in 1869. The Book of Llandaff was written here between 1120 and 1140, under the supervision of Urban. It is believed to have been written to reinforce Urban’s claims to land under dispute between both St David’s and Hereford dioceses.
We return to The Green up the Dean’s Steps. The War Memorial is at the top of the steps, erected in 1924, sculpted by William Goscombe John RA, on plinths designed by J P Grant. Nearby, the Deanery is late 18th century. An older deanery was in the vicinity but not on this site. The ruins of the 13th century bell tower stand on the north side of The Green. The City Cross is of uncertain date. It is possibly 13th century in origin, but was added to at some date then restored in 1897 as part of Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. On the green is statue by William Goscombe John of James Rice Buckley (1849-1924) who came to Llandaff in 1878 and served the parish as vicar until his death in 1924. We walk round to the High Street past Georgian and Victorian houses. St Andrew and St Cross were built in 1859-61, by Ewan Christian, architect to the Ecclesiastical Commissioner, as a pair of houses for Minor Canons of the Cathedral. Out onto Cardiff Road. The National Probate Registry for Wales was built in 1860-3 by Thomas Williams of Canton to the design of John Prichard. Next to it is the Old Registry built at the same time. Opposite is St Michael’s College. It was probably begun in the early 1880s by Prichard as his own house and office and left unfinished at his death in 1886. The unfinished building was taken over for St Michael’s Theological College, and greatly extended in 1905-7 by F R Kempson. The college buildings were extended in 1920 but most of the new work was destroyed by bombing in 1941 and the Chapel was added in place of one of the two lost ranges in 1957-9 by George Pace.
Thursday – St Fagans, Sain Ffagan – We are staying in this village to the north-west of Cardiff. Down the steep Castle Hill to Michealston Road and the River Ely, Afon Elái. A drinking fountain from the late 19th century is set into the wall of the castle stables at the top of the hill. A small park lies next to the railway. St Fagans’ station has gone. It was here that Victoria alighted when she stayed at St Fagans Castle. Nearby is the site of one of the last battles of the Civil War when a Parliamentarian army of 3000 under Colonel Horton beat a Royalist army of 8000. We then re-climb the hill to visit the church of St Mary. It was built in the 12th century, with its first rector recorded in 1301. The church underwent major alterations in the 14th century and a porch and new waggon roof were added in the 15th century. The tower was rebuilt in the 1600s and repaired and heightened in 1730. In 1859 G. E. Street began extensive restoration and added a vestry and north aisle, paid for by Baroness Windsor. Inside several Norman features, such as the larger doorway have been revealed on the walls. A triple sedilla and piscina is 15th century. Its arches end in carved heads – a king, a Celtic bishop and monks. Between the arches is a tailed and a winged monster. The font is 15th century. There is an excellent series of glass, almost all by Hardman & Co of Birmingham and dedicated to various members of the Windsor-Clive family of St Fagans Castle. An exception is by the porch, a window depicted The Good Shepherd, designed by Colwyn Morris, a traditional stained glass artist of Glantawe Studios, Morriston, Swansea.
We sit under a large Lime tree until the castle opens for the day. A 13th century castle existed on the site. Peter le Sore raised a ringwork fortification here after dispossessing the Welsh lord Meurig ap Hywell in 1091. In the early 14th century the castle passed to the le Vele family by marriage, and in 1475 it passed to David Mathew when he married Alice le Vele. By 1536 it lay in ruins. Part of the D-shaped medieval boundary fortifications remain, forming a wall around the current house. In 1563 the site was sold to Dr John Gibbon. He built a new house but may not have finished it or ever lived here. It was purchased by Nicholas Herbert in 1586. In 1616 Sir Edward Lewis of The Van, Caerphilly, bought the house and the interior dates partly from then and partly from after 1850, when it became the summer residence of the Windsor-Clive family. The property was part of the estate of the Earls of Plymouth and, in 1833, was inherited by Lady Harriet Clive who proceeded to restore the building. The house became a convalescent hospital for soldiers during World War I, with the banqueting hall containing a ward of 40 beds. In 1947 the Windsor-Clives gave the house and grounds to the Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales and the grounds subsequently became the site of the Welsh Folk Museum, now St Fagans National Museum of History.
We wander around the extensive gardens which are terraces created for the Windsor-Clives in 1865–6 and extended in the early 20th century. Below are a series of lakes. Through a long tunnel of Beech into more gardens, all laid out as rooms. Large vines are in greenhouses which have lost their glazing but it is planned to restore them. Along to the Italian Garden where we chat to a gardener who is clearly pleased with his large pots of aliums. He has just used an organic mixture to clear the large water feature of pond-weed. Orange trees are in Versailles planters which have doors in the sides to enable root pruning. Down to the boathouse. It contains a couple of small boats used for salmon netting in the 19th century. We then start visiting the more than forty different buildings which have been moved here from all over Wales. There are small cottages and farm houses from different periods. The medieval parish church of St Teilo, formerly at Llandeilo Tal-y-bont in west Glamorgan has been restored to its pre-Reformation state, its walls adorned with paintings. In contrast is Pen Rhiw Unitarian chapel, a simple place of worship. Maestir School comes from near Lampeter. Oakdale Workmen’s Institute is from Oakdale, Monmouthshire. Hawk and Buckle Inn cockpit from Denbigh, Esgair Moel woollen mill from Llanwrtyd, a terrace of Rhyd-y-Car ironworkers’ cottages from Merthyr Tydfil, several shops and numerous other fascinating buildings. A large modern centre has a café and galleries of the history of Wales. It takes most of the day to take in these examples of the history of ordinary people and we are exhausted by the end as it is very hot! We finally pay a visit to the castle. The Tudor house is busy. The kitchen is a classic Victorian layout. Most the other rooms are part of the servants’ work places.
The museum has just been declared The Museum of the Year.
Friday – Tonypandy – We head back home up the Rhondda valley, stopping off at Tonypandy. The name of Tonypandy, which actually means the pasture of the fulling mill has gone down in history as the place where striking miners, faced with starvation wages rioted in 1910, leading Winston Churchill, then Home Secretary, to send in the Army. The valley has been occupied from the Bronze Age. Farms developed on the hillsides and sheep formed the main income. A fulling mill was built in 1738. It closed in 1912. The coal boom lasted only 80 years. There are several chapels along the main street where the weekly market is in full flow. The Ebenezer Welsh Independent Chapel is the largest. Independent Cause in mid-Rhondda was established in 1865 under leadership of Charles Jenkins, William Jones, David Thomas. The chapel was built in 1867-8 by William Richards at cost of £1000 and remained the centre of Cause in the Rhondda.
Midway along the street is an evocative sculpture by Howard Bowcott in the form of a tapering column precisely 4.6 metres high: every millimetre represents 1,000,000 years in the evolution of the Earth; a two-foot-nine inch band of slate represents the height of the coal seam beneath the town, and the words of Menna Elfyn sum up the Rhondda’s relationship with its greatest industry, Ynom ni bydd glo o hyd – In us, there will always be Coal – a message reinforced by the recreation of fossils in the paving stones. At the top of the street is the Town Hall of 1892 in a very sorry state.
Friday – Leominster – From indoors I can see a sawfly walking down the window but by the time I get outside it has gone so I am unable to identify the species. It certainly had a long ovipositor.
My leg is still too painful for long walks so I wander across the car park to the Grange. The Hornbeam the Civic Society planted for the Millennium is more of a bush with the lower branches touching the ground. Down past the old school now the Community Centre. It was built as a National School in 1848 in warm red sandstone. Creamy white moth flutters by. Two cottages at the foot of the Priory by the footbridge have twin gables. The front range is 17th century whilst the rear range is 19th century. Beautiful Demoiselles (apparently now called Calopteryx virgo) with black wings dance along the edge of the Kenwater.
Lesser Black-backed Gulls circle high over the town. I have not found out why they have suddenly become resident here although their screeching throughout the night is really quite annoying. A few Swifts chase past. Dark clouds pass over but hold on to their moisture. I sit for a while outside the great Norman west door of the minster church. I really cannot imagine that lives of the craftsmen that worked on this building; stone carvers stone that made all the decoration, the labourers that heaved the blocks ashlar in the place in this magnificent church and the architects whose vision designed these great buildings when most people were living in what we now regard as hovels. The graveyard is like a park, large areas of mown grass with trees carefully spaced and a few tombs left. The great acreage of headstones were taken down some years ago. It now seems unimaginable that under this verdant lawn are hundreds and hundreds of skeletons.
Saturday – Bewdley – The Hereford and Leominster Civic Societies have a joint outing to Bewdley. We start with a talk by Richard Perrin, the Chair of Bewdley Civic Society who gives us the history of the town. He then guides us on a walking tour of the centre of the town. I have described much of what we see previously in these notes however there are a couple of interesting places I have not visited before. Firstly we admire a brand new statue of Stanley Baldwin who was born in the town. Up Load Street where a former hotel, now a club has a carriage entrance with iron guides in the drive for the wheels of the coaches. Past St Ann’s church into the High Street, somewhere which for some reason I have not been before. Many buildings are early to mid 18th century. The Bailiff’s House was built between 1607-10, a splendid timber-framed building, now a restaurant. A large house with extensive garages to the rear was the workhouse in 1737, then becoming a horn works, Sadly it is very poor condition. Across a yard is the Roman Catholic church of the Holy Family. It is a circular building erected in 1778 as a Presbyterian chapel. It was later taken by the Unitarian church, then became a Baptist then Wesleyan Methodist place of worship before passing out of religious use in the early 20th century. It was then a builder’s store and workshop until purchased by the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham in 1952. Inside the circular body of the church is gallery and brightly lit by large diamond glass windows.
Opposite is Redthorne House, recently purchased by the Vice-President of the Civic Society who takes into the house. He has furnished it with many items from his family seat at Astley. The house was built for the Bewdley and Bristol merchant William Prattinton. He took advice from Thomas Patey, the famous Bristol architect and designer for the details of the size and plan of the house that he wished to build. It would appear no expense was spared with Mahogany from Jamaica and Oak from the Baltic as well as Pine from Russia were bought and transported in trows up the River Severn. His son was the famous Worcestershire Antiquary Dr Peter Prattinton, whose studies of Worcestershire are one of the most valuable resources on the history of the area. There are a number of family portraits including one of Frances Ridley Havergal, a great composer of hymns, known as Little Quicksilver in the family. Further along the road is the Methodist church and the Quakers meeting house. The former was built in the early 19th century. The wife of Abraham Darby, the iron master, is buried in the small graveyard of the meeting house. On along the road is the former Free Grammar Schools, now a community hall built in 1861 by Henry Day of Worcester. More houses are probably 16th century but re-fronted in the 18th and later buildings. We pass the house were Stanley Baldwin was born, but he only lived here for 3 years but is still the adopted son of the town as he was the MP for nearly thirty years. We turn down to the River Severn. The riverside is busy with people enjoying the sunny day. On the far side are at least a dozen Goosander, the drakes still in eclipse.
We leave Bewdley and drive up to Highley engine shed. This is the museum of the Severn Valley Railway. A BR Riddles 4MT, number 75069 passes as we enter the museum. The engine was built at Swindon in 1955 and worked in London and the South-east before being withdrawn in 1966. Ten engines are on display in the museum including a wonderful WD War Austerity class 2-10-0, a 4MT built in Brighton and 7819, Hinton Manor, one of the wonderful GWR engines I used to see during train-spotting trips in the mid 1960s. Inevitably there is a royal coach it seems every railway museum must have one of these. As we prepare to leave, Hall Class 6960, Raveningham Hall, steams past.
We then travel to Morville Hall a National trust property that is rarely open as it is tenanted out. It is a large grey stone mansion with projecting wings, once part of the Aldenham estate. The house stands on the site of the abandoned Morville Priory. Morville Hall was originally an Elizabethan country house dating from 1546, at the time the site was acquired by Roger Smyth, who married into the local Cressett family. It was enlarged and expanded around 1750 by Arthur Weaver, MP for Bridgnorth. Either side of the main house are two other buildings in the same grey stone. One was formerly stables, the other the Dower House, home of Katherine Swift who opens the gardens to visitors. Slightly down a gentle slope from the house is the church of St Gregory the Great.
A collegiate church or minster at Morville, dedicated to St Gregory and served by eight canons, existed in the reign of Edward the Confessor and possibly earlier. The canons were supported by eight hides, perhaps divided between them in something like a prebendal structure. After the Norman Conquest the church was within the territories of Roger de Montgomery, the Earl of Shrewsbury, and he granted some of the lands to his own chaplains. He gave the entire church to Shrewsbury Abbey some time between its foundation in 1083 and the inauguration of monastic life in 1087. There is a fine Norman tub font, although some think it earlier. A chest is made from a hollowed Oak trunk, the straps are 13th century but may be later than the chest itself. High on the walls of the nave are four wooden carvings each depicting one of the evangelists, probably 17th century. Each holds a white quill. The interior remains essentially Norman but was restored in the 19th century. Most of the glass is Victorian with one window in the chancel containing mediaeval pieces.
Thursday – Blakemere – The village of Blakemere is tiny, and lies about half way between Hereford and Hay on Wye. There is no early record of the village and it is recorded in Domesday. In the 13th century it was in owned by the Le Strange family. Blakemere House is Georgian. Church Farmhouse is a large early 17th century building, enlarged in the latter part of the century. The old vicarage stands on the south side of the churchyard and is 16th century. St Leonard’s church is a simple two-cell building of coursed sandstone rubble with a triple bell-cote on the west gable and a timber south porch. It was rebuilt in 1877 by G Truefitt, who reused the 12th century doorways to both nave and chancel, and the 12th century chancel arch. The font dates from the same period. Over the altar is a naïve painting of the risen Christ looked upon by Mary beside a cowering Roman. Three small windows contain coloured glass. Outside is a 14th century cross restored in the late 19th century. One claim to fame for Blakemere was an exceptionally large turnip, grown in 1844 by John Matthews on his farm, which grew to an amazing diameter of sixteen inches.
St Margarets – This tiny village is in the hills above the Golden Valley accessed by narrow, winding roads. St Margaret’s church is a real
My own memory of the perfect Herefordshire is a spring day in the foothills of the Black Mountains and finding among the winding hilltop lanes the remote little church of St Margaret’s where there was no sound but a farm dog’s distant barking. Opening the church door I saw across the whole width of the little chancel a screen and loft all delicately carved and textured pale grey with time.
gem. It is probably 12th century in origin but largely 15th and 16th century. The door and doorway are typical of the 13th century but may be later. On entering the church one’s eyes are immediately drawn to an amazing oak rood screen. It is extensively carved with an acorn theme, fleurs-de-lys, men’s heads, lions and other foliage and devices. Very few screens of this quality escaped the destruction of mid 16th century. Steep steps in the chancel lead to a door that is locked. It is the entrance to the stairs to the rood loft. The small east window contains stained glass by Archibald Davies. Wall texts were restored in 1974. The bell
turret is of coursed rubble above apex of nave roof, above which is weather-boarded bell-chamber jettied to west. It is surmounted by pyramidical stone slate roof topped by copper weather-vane in the form of an arrow. In the churchyard is a large pedestal tomb, reportedly of the Beavan family, but all inscriptions have eroded away. This erosion applies to many other stones in the churchyard. There is a group of brick built tombs with large slabs on top but none have any legible inscriptions. A sun-dial, base, shaft and platform are probably 18th century and again very eroded. The grass has been allowed to grow across large areas of the churchyard and it is a dazzling splash of purple from Black Knapweeds and, what I assume are Common Spotted Orchids, although the spotted leaves are not obvious – maybe a MarshxSpotted hybrid?
Saturday – Leominster – Down to the old A44 railway bridge. Swallows but no Swifts feed overhead. It is overcast and breezy but still warm. We have finally had some rain which has refreshed everything. Buddleia is flowering by the rails no there are butterflies attracted to its long spikes of purple blossoms. Evening Primroses flower all along the scrubby waste ground beside the track. A plume of steam in the north is followed by the sight of 70000 Britannia steam locomotive pulling a special southwards towards Hereford. It toots its whistle as it passes under the bridge. There is a diesel locomotive at the back – insurance! I had the Hornby model of Britannia when I was a teenager and the sight of the real thing brings back memories.
Sunday – Leominster – High wispy clouds do nothing to stop the steady rise in temperature. There are thicker grey pillows of cloud to the west, maybe bringing rain later. Wood Pigeons coo and Swifts scream. There is little bird song in the riverside woods. The water level of the River Lugg remains low. Along the river bank Himalayan balsam has come into flower. Small Tortoiseshell butterflies flit to and fro. A tall umbellifer flowers at the top of the river bank near the confluence of the Kenwater and Lugg. It looks like one of the Water Parsnips but I am unsure. The market is a good size but they may be trouble ahead for the stallholders as it is clouding over and a fast stiff breeze is rising. Four Mallard descend onto the Kenwater.
Home – I balance precariously on the top of step-ladders to try and stop the progress of White Bryony and Brambles coming over our high walls from waste ground on the other side. At the same time, I cut off the many shoots of our vine which are heading in the opposite direction. Russet, the hen has been broody for the last fortnight and refusing to leave the nest but she has finally got over it. However, there is a bad infestation of Red Mite in the hen house. Jeyes Fluid and Red Mite powder seems to have little effect on the pests, so I am awaiting a delivery of a concentrate I have used successfully in the past. For once, it seems there will be a second crop of lettuce, I usually fail with crop succession. In the week we had our first tomato, this one from the hanging basket. More are ripening and there is a decent crop in the greenhouse. Green sweet peppers are developing. Unfortunately some of the callaloo is already flowering, having grown only a foot high. The runner beans have plenty of scarlet flowers. The clouds have passed over and there was no rain.
Tuesday – Home – Air is flowing straight out of Africa, over Europe and on across our land. It is hot and humid air. The sun blazes as I again wobble on the top of the step-ladders to cut another Bramble which is coming over the wall. The other side of the wall is a thicket of Brambles and Elder. The Bramble is thick and vigorous with vicious spikes which soon draw blood. Despite the heat I decide to mow the lawn. First the stalks of the grape vines prunings that were given to the hens are raked up and put in the compost bins. Then the numerous fallen Gladstone apples are swept up. Most have been attacked by Blue Tits and Blackbirds. It is a shame their texture is so soft and woolly, the flavour is not too bad. After mowing and distributing the clippings between the chicken run and the compost, I water the courgettes and pumpkin. Everything could do with a large amount of water but I hope the threatened thunderstorms arrive and save me from the task. Yesterday I dug a couple of rows of potatoes, not a great crop but some decent sized spuds! More tomatoes are ripening. Gooseberries are close to ripe on the west wall bushes. The temperature hits 33°C.
Wednesday – Home – The thunderstorm arrived shortly after midnight. Lightning flashed in the south and long rumbles of thunder followed. The storm passed us by, never getting particularly close. There were two bursts of heavy rain but barely enough to soak the ground.
The chickens still have a Red Mite problem and a special fluid arrives by courier. I mix with water and spray the hen house. I itch all over, I can feel mites crawling through my hair and over my face but on checking there is nothing there, but my mind still insists I am infested. A shower finally expels the illusion, but I still wash my clothes as well, just to be on the safe side.
Saturday – Home – On Thursday the temperature rises to 34°C outside the back door. In Cambridge, the mercury rose to 38.7°C, which if confirmed will be a record temperature for the country. Yesterday it was slightly cooler although it did not seem like it when I dug a couple of rows of potatoes. These rows are the best yet this year. I also cleared away the broad beans, the pods producing three containers of beans for the freezer. Somehow the chicken door opened and the hens were having a fine time in the garden. Kay and I managed to get them back although they showed their usual daftness by trying to get back into the run by any method other than walking through the open door!
This morning I spray the hen house again, the Red Mite infestation seems as bad as ever. Then I do a rapid weeding session, quickly filling a sack. The courgette plants are doing well. There are plenty of flowers on the beans – even the lablab beans are in flower. It is overcast and very muggy. Rain is in the air. Blue Tits on the seed feeder look like fledglings, almost certainly a second brood. There are only a couple of very small Ragwort plants in the garden but both have a single Cinnabar moth caterpillar on them. I doubt they will be able to grow to pupate on such limited resources. It starts to rain.
Monday – Cardiff – It is pleasantly cool as I head for the station to catch the first train south out of Leominster. Wood Pigeons coo from rooftops where a Lesser Black-backed Gull stands silently watching. A Robin ticks an alarm in the riverside woodland. Even the first train of the day manages to be late. The train heads south past Hereford. Some fields have already had their cereal crops harvested and large bales lay on the golden stubble.
I alight at Cardiff Central, still one of the great Victorian railway stations. Outside the station is a mixture of modern and Victorian buildings. And a large site ready for development. The concourse is busy with commuters heading for work. I exit pass a new building for BBC Cymru. A modern road bridge crosses the River Taff. Beside it stands the Principality Stadium. Just downriver is the older railway bridge. Into Tudor Street. A late Victorian Terrace is fairly scruffy. It is followed by a modern apartment block. Tudor Lane is behind the apartment block, a row of Victorian workshops still being used. Behind it is the railway. Carrion Crows stand on the roof of the workshops watching for any chance of food. Back on Tudor Street, it is clear from the shops that it is a multicultural area – an Arabic language centre, Chinese supermarket, money exchange and travel shop. There is also the Cardiff Bus Social Club. Victorian terraces line streets leading off of Tudor Street.
Into Clare Road which runs under the railway. The railway bridge inevitably carries an advert for Brains Beer. This area is Grangetown. Until the mid 18th century this area was Cardiff West Moor, crossed by railways and little else. The area was a grange donated to Margham Abbey by Roger de Sturmi in the late 12th century. It was in the hands of the Lewis family after the Dissolution and was a large farm. The male line of the Lewis family became extinct and through marriage, in 1730 the moor passed to the Earl of Plymouth, who were the Windsor-Clives of St Fagans which we visited a short time ago. Part of the parish of St Mary’s was bought by the Bute family. It was the Windsor-Clives who built Grangetown, despite it being on a marsh. The area was frequently extremely muddy and the standing water led to serious health problems. By the 1880s the Bute land was being developed as well.
In Pendyris Street there is the Tramshed, the former Central Workshops of City of Cardiff Operational Services, now converted into a night spot. The works were built in 1902 as Clare Road Depot for Cardiff Tram Service on the site of the Western Joinery and Box Works. By Messrs D W Davies. In 1923 some alterations were undertaken to allow trams to enter from the south instead of from the north. There were further extensions and alterations by S C Taverner of Newport in 1925. The works were converted to a trolleybus depot 1942 and closed to trams 25th August 1946. Clare Road continues, lined by terraces of late Victorian and Edwardian houses. The former Mission Hall is dated 1900; it now seems abandoned. Into Cornwall Street. It seems slightly strange at all the streets, here in the Welsh capital are named after English counties. Up Stafford Street and Rutland Street. Cornwall Street Baptist church, actually in Rutland Street, is still in operation. Back down Hereford Street to Cornwall Street, the Cornwall pub stands on the corner. It was built in 1894, Cornwall Street being built in 1888.
Cornwall Street now turns into Virgil Street. Under the railway line to Barry. Brambles hang over the fence by the bridge, there are ripe blackberries on them. The houses here mid 20th century. Opposite is the decent sized Sevenoaks Park. Next to it is the School House. Ninian Park School was built as Virgil Street Board School, opening in 1900. It became Ninian Park School in 1911. (Ninian Park was named after Ninian Crichton Stewart, son of the Marquis of Bute.) The school became a hospital in the First World War. For a time it was the Secondary School for the area but a newly built school took that role and Ninian Park reverted to being a primary school. The building was in two parts, the Infants and Juniors but is now joined by a modern reception. It is a fine example of Victorian school building with decorated plaques towards the top of the building.
Up Sloper Road a short distance then into Bessemer Road. One side of the road is industrial units every imaginable sort. The other is late 20th and 21st century housing estates then it is the Cardiff wholesale fruit market. Many of the units are no longer dealing in fruit and veg. Bessemer Road comes out into to Hadfield Road. This road again is full of industrial unit and large car showrooms. Much of this area was undeveloped until the mid to late 20th century. The air behind the the showrooms is full of gulls above the Afon Elå, the river we last saw at St Fagans. Beyond the river the land rises steeply covered in trees, Factory Wood.
Hadfield Road comes to the large complicated roundabout. On the far side the sports stadium and a vast inflatable looking like a white blue and yellow slug. Further along that road is Ninian Park, home of Cardiff City football club. To the west, the Grangetown bypass is high above the junction. Under the bypass. On the first side is a long bridge and viaduct crossing the Afon Elå and an area of ground being used by industrial businesses. Beyond the road is the start of the Vale of Glamorgan, Fro Morgannwg. Below the north-west end of the bridge is an area of Buddleia completely covered with Traveller’s Joy, wild clematis. A few Ash saplings push through the carpet of clematis along with several stands of Hemp Agrimony and one or two of Great Willowherb. Above rises Leckwith Wood, a continuation of Factory Wood. Down towards the river is an older premises attached to modern sales room. A plaque declares that Leckwith Bridge and viaduct was opened on the 17th day of April 1935 by his Majesty’s Minister Of Transport Leslie Hore-Belisha esq. MP, inventor of the belisha beacon. Below the modern bridge to the north is old Leckwith Bridge, a single track construction with v-shaped refuges at each end. It is medieval in origin, with sections being rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries. Leland recorded Leckwith Bridge as being soundly built of stone in 1536.
A path runs north alongside the Afon Elå. Great Willowherb, Greater Bindweed, Hogweed and Buddleia are in flower along the path. A Speckled Wood butterfly flutters in the dappled shade. Under the vast graffitied desolation of the main road bridge. On the far side is an apple tree covered with good-looking apples, but unfortunately they were going need a few weeks ripening yet. Teasels have purple haze of flowers but only one bee is visiting. Ragwort, Hemp Agrimony, Ribbed Melilot, Alexanders – a yellow umbellifer, Black Knapweed and the sunshine flowers of Common Fleabane are flower. A young Robin, its breast more or less red but with a speckled head watches me pass. Various paths cross this wonderful wild bit of land then join up by a playing field. I follow a path which is unmade through sea of Hogweed and unfortunately rather a lot of Himalayan balsam. The path is abruptly stopped by a vast new housing estate construction site. An umbellifer, Wild Carrot, grows by the path in the centre of each umbrel is a single purple red flower. There is also a very large rambling plant with four pale yellow petals and bullet-like seed pods; I have yet to identify it.
It is now very warm although a slight breeze has arisen. I leave the park along Sanatorium Road and turn into Ely Moors Lane. Under a railway line, the former Penarth Harbour and Dock Railway. Into Paper Mill Road. The road is lined with industrial units, a gym and a couple of martial arts centres. A path takes a bridge over another railway line, the GWR mainline. Cleverly, a metal channel has been fixed onto the steps so people can wheel their bikes up and over the bridge.
The path comes out onto the Cowbridge Road East in a busy shopping area in Victoria Park. A large bank occupies a 1930s building. The Royal Mail sorting centre also has a 1930s look about it. A railway bridge this time advertising Hancocks Beers, brings the old Penarth Dock railway line over the main line then across the road. I head the other way towards Victoria Park. Housing in the street is early 20th century semi-detached. Side streets are lined with early 20th century terraces. Victoria Park is packed with children and their parents. Opposite is a row of shops in mock timber-framed buildings. The shops have gone slightly upmarket from the rest of the street with a crêperie, burger and craft beer shop and the bakery selling sourdough.
St Luke’s church was built to designs of G.E.Halliday in two stages, 1909 and 1914. It is constructed of red brick with minimal Bath stone dressings in a simple Decorative style. St Luke’s parish hall is now a café. The Victoria Park pub is very large dated 1897. The houses in the street are built of the same small narrow red-grey stones and clearly from the same period. This is the Canton area of Cardiff. Yet again the number of streets are named after English counties. The Clive pub has a large central bow window on the first floor extended to an attic window. The Wesley Methodist church of 1925 has a large glass atrium at the front. On the corner of Grosvenor Street is The Salvation Army citadel. On the junction of Theobald Road is an ultra-modern United Reform church. Behind it is an extensive Victorian building. Salem Eglwys Bresbyteraidd Cymru was built in 1856 in Albert Street but rebuilt here in 1911 by Habershon, Fawckner & Co of Newport and Cardiff. It is a Methodistaid Calfinaidd church – Methodist Presbyterian. It is in the perpendicular Gothic style with a fine seven light main window. A short distance further on is Canton branch library erected at a cost of £5,000 given to citizens by Andrew Carnegie esquire 1906. It is still the library.
Down Penllyn Road, a street of Victorian terraces again in the grey-brown small stone blocks. Into Eaton Place where there is an island in the road, St Johns Crescent, where stands St John the Evangelist church. The church was designed in 1854 by J Prichard and J P Seddon but it was built in stages, the nave in 1854-5, the aisles in 1858-9, the aisled chancel and crossing steeple between 1868-70, the steeple to a revised design by W P James. The nave west bay was added in 1902 by G E Halliday, who probably also added the choir vestry. The style is 14th century decorated. Like all the churches today, it is locked.
Back to Cowbridge Road. This is the shopping centre for Canton with shops typically that of modern high streets – takeaways dominate along with vape merchants, nail bars and charity shops, none of the traditional town centre shops. Road comes to a large junction where major roads join. A large mid 19th century former pub faces the junction. A modern building lies along one side of the junction, opposite is a large Victorian grey stone building, the only remaining part of the original St David’s hospital. The building was erected in 1839 as Canton Union Poorhouse. It was intended to serve the poor of a union of forty-four parishes. It was greatly enlarged in 1881 and again in 1879-81 by James, Seward and Thomas. Into Neville Street. Into Despenser Street which is part of a square of houses around two gardens, Despenser Gardens, either side of Neville Street. The gardens were created by the Bute Estate and were conveyed to the Cardiff Corporation on December 28th 1889, and they were opened to the public the following spring. Prior to this transfer the Riverside Lawn Tennis Club had been allowed to play in Despenser Gardens and to place wire netting and posts there. The Club removed these in 1890, having been told by the Parks Committee that exclusive use could not be permitted now that the space was to be used for general public recreation. At the bottom of the street is Fitzhamon Embankment and the river Taff. Cross the river is Cardiff Arms park in the lea of the modern Principality Stadium. Looking out onto the river are terraces of large Victorian houses.
Back down into the ultra-modern centre outside the station. This area was known as Temperance Town. The modern Southgate House stands on the site of Wood Street Congregational church. The church started in 1858 as a temperance hall but within a year became to become a music hall and circus. In 1868 Revd William Wallace purchased the building and started a church. It was extended until it became the largest Congregational church building in Great Britain, seating 3000. The final service was in November 1971 and the building was demolished in 1973 along with the adjoining offices of the Cardiff and District Congregational Board. Wetherspoons is in the Prince of Wales, a former theatre built in 1878. Into St Mary Street, full of magnificent Victorian edifices towering up to as many as six storeys, now nearly all bars and bookies. The former Cambrian Hotel was built in 1890. A pub, formerly The Terminus, built in the early to mid 19th century has ornate stucco on red brick over three floors. On the corner leading back to the station is the Great Western Hotel, an elaborate curved building in the Gothic style, built by W D Blessley in 1875.
Wednesday – Barnsley – I finally visit the third Barnsley in England, this one near Cirencester. It is a typical Cotswold village of warm yellow stone. Barnsley House is late 17th century, a datestone with 1697 and initials B.B is on south-east front. It was begun by Brereton Bourchier and extended around 1820/30 by the Musgrave family. The Village Pub was formerly three late 17th century cottages converted into an inn. The village hall is 19th century.
A path leads up from a house with a datestone of 1678 over the door. Through an 18th century squeeze stile into the graveyard of St Mary’s church. The church was founded in the 12th century and alterations have been identified for every century since. Between 1843 and 1847, James Park Harrison undertook a major restoration. He inserted a two-light 13th century window from Daglingworth in the west end. There are other pieces of mediaeval glass and several good Victorian windows by Thomas Willement and the Wailes company of Newcastle. The chancel arch is 13th century. A superb Jacobean carved table is in the Musgrave aisle, brought here from Thame Park by W Wykeham-Musgrave. The south aisle was added in 1876 to accommodate the organ chamber. The font has four circular sections. Two bell wheels are on the wall. Several monuments, wall and floor, to Bourchier family (builders of Barnsley House) from late 17th century. Around the eaves of the church ran a corbel table with amusing grotesque figures. The lower stages of the tower were built by the Thame (or Tame) family. A number of 18th century chest tombs stand in the graveyard.
Fairford – Another glorious Cotswold town with yellow stone buildings throughout. The first record of the town is in 850 CE, but people have been here since the Bronze Age. The ford on the River Coln was replaced by a bridge in the 13th century. The first market charter dates from 1135 and there is a market today in the town square. The town was one of the Wool Towns benefiting from the very profitable Cotswold wool trade. The High Street has a Georgian look although many of the houses and shops have older origins. The Old Bakery is a large house now but there are still shops – bookshop, stationers, butchers, art gallery etc. There is even a clockmaker, Jake Sutton maker of bespoke longcase regulators. The Old Courthouse and Police Station dates from 1860 and closed as a magistrates court in the late 1970s. Opposite the Free School was the gift of Mrs Elizabeth Farmor and Mrs Mary Barker. Built 1738, it is now the Community Centre. A large charity shop is in a building of 1901, formerly a bank. Town square is dominated by the Bull Hotel probably has a 16th century core. It was an inn by the mid 17th century. On the junction with London street, the White Hart claims to be from 1475 but the fabric is 17th century and later.
Back up to the other end of the High Street where stands Fairford’s crowning glory, the church of St Mary. The base of tower is early 15th century, but the rest of the church was rebuilt by John Tame and his son Edmund, from around 1480 into early 16th century. It was restored in 1852 and 1890. The stained glass forms an almost unique intact series of windows, installed around 1500, painted largely by Barnard Flower, Henry VII’s Master Glass Painter to a plan believed to have been devised by Richard Fox, Lord Privy Seal and Bishop of Durham. They form a stunning portrayal of the Old and New Testaments. The East window depicts The Passion and Crucifixion. The following window to the south of the altar is of the entombment and harrowing and includes a dark blue depiction of Golgotha with strange creatures flying around it. Another panel here shows three angels with swords and shields attacking demons, one with cloven hooves, the other with bat wings. Further on is the Ascension then the Twelve Apostles over three windows, the four Latin Doctors (Ss Jerome, Gregory the Great, Ambrose and Augustine) and then the Great West Window. This window is a masterpiece – St Michael in golden armour with scales, St Peter with the key, souls being hounded into hell, a blue bearded devil wheeling a woman in a wheel-barrow and in the bottom corner, Satan with a fish’s head, green tail and a torso in the shape of a second head with eyes and sharp teeth. To the top is Christ in Majesty flanked by Mary and St John the Baptist. The next window is of King Solomon, followed by the Four Evangelists. The Twelve Prophets, the Twelve Martyrs and the twelve persecutors. The window of the Wicked Priests includes Judas and a blue horned devil. High on the north wall is a painting of St Christopher, on west wall of the tower are angels and on the pillars are much faded paintings, possibly of Thomas Becket and St Edmund. Near the chancel is a large tomb of polished Purbeck marble containing the remains of John Tame. In the Lady chapel is the Lygon Tomb of Katherine, widow of John Tame and her third husband Roger Lygon. A wall tablet is a memorial to John Keble and his son, also John in whose memory Keble College, Oxford was built. The High Altar by Sir Ninian Comper, is from 1920. A 12th century lectern in south aisle chapel originally had chains and Matthews Bible of 1551; the Bible and chains have now removed for safe keeping. In the graveyard are the typical 17th century chest tombs. There are carved figures on each corner of the tower.
At the top of the High Street is Fairford Park with an early 19th century lodge. Here is a model of Maurice, the Fairford Hare. Farmor’s School stands in the park. Down Mill Street to Fairford Mill. Standing on the River Coln, it is now divided into 3 houses. Records of a mill here date back to the 11th century. The building is early to mid 17th century, extended in 1827 and altered in mid 19th century. A late 18th century bridge crosses the River Coln. Water in the river flows pure and clear. Water weeds. A number of streams enter the mill pool. Up Pitham Brook, a Mallard with her brood of ducklings. Mints, Great Willowherb and Fool’s Watercress are in flower. A flock of Black-headed Gulls stand in the meadow next to the river. A short distance further to the lane are the Oxpens, restored stalls.
I leave Fairford passing the RAF and USAF airbase. Into Whelford. Up lane is the village hall. Next to it is the Hermitage. It stands next to the little church of who knows what. The church is locked and there is no sign, notices or anything! I have to Google it to find a name. It turns out to be the church of St Anne, a chapel of ease, built in 1863-64 by G E Street. Opposite is the old forge, now a dwelling. The Thatched Cottage is only just maintaining that name, the thatch is in a poor condition.
The next part of my journey takes me past Swindon and then unpleasant motorway driving, M4, M3, M25 and finally M23. Into Sussex and the Ashdown Forest. My hotel, The Roebuck, is a greatly extended 17th century former coaching inn. There are extensive gardens surrounded by trees and it is relatively peaceful despite being on the A22, the main London to Lewes road and only a few miles from Gatwick airport.