South Wales Trip: Part 1

After a couple of months at home (very unusual for us!), we set off on a short trip to a few of the many parts of the UK that we’ve never previously visited. This time, we decided to head down the Welsh – English border to South Wales.

Our first stop was Oswestry Hill Fort, an iron age hill fort that was in use from around 800BC until Roman times. It’s a good thing that there was a sign showing what it would have looked like – the ramparts are still very visible but it would have been difficult to get a real overview of the place from the ground:

Then Shrewsbury…. We’d planned one night here but as it turned out, Mark had come down with a bug and didn’t fancy moving, so we had two nights at the very well situated Coton Hill Farm CL:

The reviews online are correct in that it’s a bit tight getting in (a tight turn through high gateposts: would be a problem if some numpty were to park a car too close on the opposite side of the lane) and even tighter getting out down a one-way residential street with cars parked either side. It’s a fantastic location for visiting Shrewsbury though – a ten minute walk, much of it along the river, into the town centre:

Shrewsbury Castle:

Lots of really nice old buildings:

The town centre is almost an island, situated in a loop of the river Severn. Right at the bottom of the loop is a really nice park:

The local museum was interesting and really well presented, starting with displays from the nearby Roman city of Wroxeter and then tracing the history of Shrewsbury itself:

Heading further south along the English / Welsh border, we had a look at the small town of Knighton. The Offa’s Dyke centre there had a few displays and there is a short section of dyke visible nearby – though you needed to know it was there or you really would have missed it!

King Offa – a man on a mission! Back in the late 8th century, you had to have some imagination to come up with the idea of a 20 metre wide dyke (a ditch on the Welsh side and bank on the English side) running the full length of the border (150 miles plus).

We’ll have to do some research to find out where the best-preserved sections of the dyke are and incorporate a visit into a future trip….

A small car park near the Offa’s Dyke Visitor Centre that we’ve mentally filed away for future reference:

We had an overnight stop at Hay on Wye on a car park there that we’ve used before.

A quick stop at Abergavenny. There isn’t a huge amount left of the castle:

Mark discovered Spit Turning Dogs in the small castle museum. Apparently, these were very popular in Tudor times, with two dogs taking turns to run in a “hamster wheel” to turn the spit. It wasn’t unheard of for hot coals to be thrown in to make the dog run faster! This breed of dog was a nasty little piece of work (as you’d imagine it would be after a few generations of turning spits) and so was allowed to die out in Victorian times. This is the last one:

Moving swiftly on to Raglan Castle… Warning: there are a LOT of castles in this part of the world….

Raglan Castle was turned into a particularly sumptuous stately home in Tudor times.

It even had a very trendy long gallery added, the remains of which can still be seen looking out across the countryside in the photo below (the second photo is one side of one of the fireplaces in the long gallery):

No rest for the wicked – our next stop was the town of Monmouth. There’s a castle here too, although there’s not a huge amount left of it:

Monmouth is the birthplace of Henry V (of Agincourt fame). The ancestral home of Charles Rolls (one of the founders of Rolls Royce) is nearby, hence he’s also quite well represented around the town:

Rolls was also a pioneer aviator, hence the plane in the photo above (a dangerous business – he was killed in a flying accident in 1910).

We stayed on a little site in Monmouth called Monnow Bridge Caravan Park. When Mark ‘phoned them a week before, they said they didn’t take advance bookings for single nights but to ring up the night before and it’d be fine….. Sure enough, we were the only ones there….

This was another really well situated site, just round the corner from the Monnow Bridge into the town centre.

Apparently, Monnow Bridge is the only surviving medieval river bridge in Britain with its gate tower actually on the bridge.

The next day’s stop was at Tintern Abbey, further down the Welsh – English border. A very wet day indeed! The abbey church has survived pretty well, as these things go:

We were now in South Wales proper. Our plan was to park up at Caerphilly for a couple of nights before heading to Cardiff…..

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