Saturday, 1 September 2012

Getting to know Monmouthshire (and district!).

My brother lives in a remote bit of Wales; about three miles west of the Wye Valley, south west of Monmouth, south east of Raglan, and north of Chepstow. It's a delightful part of the lovely county of Monmouthshire and this week my wife Chris and myself have been staying with him and his wife.

The house... rather remote

Sue, Phil, and Chris

The house nestles in the side of a narrow but deep valley. Phil & Sue own all the land around; it's not much use for agriculture, but it'll prevent anyone building near them.

Phil's tractor shed

If there's a heritage railway nearby, I'll find it. This is a Great Western pannier tank on the Dean Forest Railway on the only wet day of the week.

Just one gauge glass, Great Western style - a bit dodgy I'd have thought

Off we go down to the Severn Estuary at Lydney. The railway was built to serve the many collieries in the Forest of Dean.

Later we visited the old Tintern Station on the long gone Wye Valley railway line. The station buildings are now a pleasant tea room and cafe, and these picnic tables are over the original (filled in) track bed between the main and island platforms.

We met some exiled Kiwis in the cafe over lunch and enjoyed some railway chatter with them. Two of them have built an 'N' gauge model railway of Tintern station when it was complete and working. The layout is displayed in an old goods waggon coupled to two ex-BR Mk2 coaches which contain a shop and some displays of Wye Valley history. The chap in the distance is operating the railway, while the other one explains it to us.

The old platforms, signal box, and in the distance the ex-BR coaches and the goods waggon

Tintern Abbey

Abbey Tintern furnace remains. The stone pillars on the right once supported a wooden channel which carried water to a water wheel which occupied the wheel pit, lower left. The water wheel powered bellows which forced air into the blast furnace in the background. The furnace produced iron used in the wire making industry, a local speciality.

The information board for the blast furnace

We drove along narrow lanes, leading to even narrower ones, and eventually to a track to the bottom of the valley beneath the house. Here was an old cider mill and a narrow bridge that carries what is still a Monmouthshire County Council maintained (not!) road.

Phil drives us back up the track from the valley bottom

Daisy, one of Phil & Sue's two cats. Affectionate, but nervous.

On the Thursday we attended the Monouthshire Show - no rain! Here Phil arrives back at our parked car having picked up the mobility scooter they hired for Sue to use at the show

One of many fine beasts competing for cups at the show

I've never seen so many different breeds of sheep

Scurry racing!

A fine dun pair! And so are the horses!

 A motorcycle stunt man performs doughnuts on a quad bike

And takes to the air... briefly!

Chris, Phil, Sue's parents, and Sue. The Wye valley down towards Chepstow is in the background.

The Monmouthshire Hunt and hounds - impressive!

Overall best in show, with a rightfully proud family

Quite a few steaks there...

Showjumping was the penultimate event in the main ring

The show closed with an exciting event I've never seen before, designed to represent the countryside obstacles encountered by the Hunt. The device above, a mas of horse-scaring foliage, was called 'The Bullfinch'. many horses refused (like the one on the left, above), some jumped it, and some (like the one on the right) just ploughed through it!

Chris, Phil, and Sue back at the house

On Friday, our final day, Phil drove us up through Monmouth to the Golden Valley, Hay-on-Wye, and up Hay Bluff. It was a glorious day with good views. Chris on 'The Bluff' above.

Chris and Phil deciding which distant peak is which, from Hay Bluff

Looking west towards the Brecon Beacons

We drove from the Bluff into the Gospel Pass, down past Llanthony Abbey (where I stayed a couple of nights back in 2008 to walk the Offa's Dyke Path on the ridge) down to here, the Crown at Pantygelli, not far outside Abergavenny. We enjoyed the last lunch of our stay here, in the sunshine with a fine view of The Skirrid hill across the valley. And it was excellent.....

.....Not least because of this - Wye Valley Brewery HPA (Herefordshire Pale Ale). Light, golden, and hoppy. A lovely pint!

Phil & Sue dropped us off after lunch at Abergavenny station, where we caught the Arriva Wales class 175 train home to Wilmslow. Two hours later, we were home.

It'd been a boozy week, what with lots of different ciders to try, and some lovely real ales. So on the journey home why not continue? A miniature bottle of White from the Arriva Wales trolley fitted the bill perfectly!


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