blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit

blending an assortment of thoughts and experiences for my friends, relations and kindred spirit
By Alison Hobbs, blending a mixture of thoughts and experiences for friends, relations and kindred spirits.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Fragments of old Wales

A milepost on the edge of St. Fagans reconstructed village
The National History Museum of Wales is at St. Fagans (without an apostrophe) on the western edge of Cardiff. Set in parkland and the grounds of a 16th century manor house, it features historic architecture and artifacts from all over Wales. With most of the buildings moved there from their original locations, it is a similar museum to the one at Upper Canada Village in Ontario. The idea is for visitors to imagine going back in time, to different periods in the past––you can walk into old cottages and workshops and see things laid out and being used as in the old days. You can smell the old world smells: mown hay, wood or coal smoke, bread from the bakery, and there are craftsmen milling, tanning, weaving, making horseshoes and so on. Native breeds of animal are farmed here in traditional ways (don't miss the 18th century pigsty from Pontypridd!) and even the plants are carefully chosen to show what used to grow in the hedgerows, fields and gardens of old Wales.

At the beginning of May my sister, my mother and I spent an afternoon at St. Fagans. We were lucky with the weather and when Mum got tired we sat on the benches and listened to the black-caps, wrens and robins.

The inside of a thatched roof

Coal burning in an ironworker's cottage

The man who did the spinning and weaving told us all about his work

St. Teilo's from the outside
One particularly interesting building at St. Fagans is the St. Teilo's church at the far end of the museum's village. The plaque outside it tells a remarkable story: "As the building was taken down, a staggering discovery was made. Under layers of whitewash, 500 year old paintings were found. This is why we have rebuilt the church as it may have looked around 1520, when it would have been Roman Catholic. Most worshippers then could not read and would have used the images to inspire meditation and prayer." What visitors see inside the church are copies of those original, rediscovered paintings. Here's one of St. Christopher carrying the Christ child which a week later I could compare with the giant statue of der heilige Christoph in the Kölner Dom.

Tintern Abbey

Anghidi River

Ruins of the ironworks
On Thursday May 8th, Mel drove us through Shire Newton (stopping for lunch at the Tredegar Arms) to Tintern, where we saw the ruins of an even older place of worship, Tintern Abbey on the banks of the Wye. My niece lives just up the road from there, in a cluster of houses known as Chapel Hill, and further up the valley by the little (2.5km long!) Anghidi River with its fish ponds and bluebell woods, are some more ruins, the remains of an 17th century ironworks whose furnace used to burn night and day processing cast iron (pig iron), the bellows being powered by a water wheel in the river. Cooking pots and cannon fired from battleships in the American War of Independence were manufactured here. The ironmaster, David Tanner, became a Monmouthshire Mayor and Sheriff, but was also sent to prison in the 1790s, owing to a bankruptcy scandal and "...was last heard of on a boat bound for Bengal."

I saw this place for the sake of a walk with Faith, Mel, Mum, Elen, Bethan and Chris up the country lanes.

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