The Skirrid Inn. Clickhowell, Raglan and Monmouth. (Abergavenny day two)

17 Aug

This post covers day two of our trip. See below for day one.

We pitched up and rolled out the awning, putting our chairs out for some map reading. We wined and dined at the Rising Sun ( very good it was too) then fitted the insulation and settled down for the night. The temperature dropped dramatically in the late evening and the faithful Propex blown air heater came in handy once more.

Breakfast was the Angel bakery croisant , baguette , butter and jam. Then the free showers behind the pub and we were ready for another day’s adventure.

Tipped off by our friendly neighbour (in his 28ft long motorhome) we called in to photograph the Skirrid Inn, about a mile or so towards Abergavenny. Supposedly the oldest Inn in Wales and having used to house a courtroom where hangings too place, this atmospheric wonder had been the subject of many paranormal investigations and TV programs including “Most Haunted” i believe. Better than Jamaica Inn in the South West dare  I claim ?

We detoured along the A40 to Crickhowell. Another very pleasant town with floral pub fronts, historic relics and good old fashioned shops. The sign above tha arch at the Bear Inn says “Post Horses”, a reference to Mail Coach times?

Sadly I have no information about the stone tower above which is part of a garden wall now ! The other castellated building is part of a very old perimeter stone wall too. If you go down the hill just before this “white castle” you will find a caravan site at the base of the valley. More than the 400 yards on the sign but still a nice walking distant to the town, it’s pubs, cafes and shops. We bought some lamb pasties and a few bottles of my favourite Porters made in Wales. Different brewers and strengths. One was a hefty 10 % BV ! A winter’s night treat methinks…

Raglan castle was built to a very high finish. There is just so much to see, I cannot do it justice here. The inner moat and main tower outside the inner defences is unusual and follows the French fashion at the time. Incredible history to the place. Massive wealth and wheeling and dealing at Royal level. I just loved the place! Soaking up the atmosphere.

Tales  of intrigue and that’s my tolerant good Lady above ,standing at the watergate where many Ladies have previously stood after alighting from boating on the moat. It was a short drive to Monmouth next.

We lunched at Monmouth then walked through the long main street to the Nelson museum. Spotted a rare large “Gruffalo” soft toy for our grandaughter and could not resist it.

Saw this shop sign and just had to photograph it. NV200s  rule OK ! Eventually we headed back to the A49, Hereford and home but still managed a quick walk around Berrington Hall , a National Trust property enroute. A long chat to a volunteer about the “War and Peaces” art display in the dining room plus the family history of loss in WW I.  Then tea and shared cake before we made the run home.

berrington hallwar and peaces

The artwork,made from ceramics and sugar ,portrays war over the years. The centre piece is obviously a Nuclear bomb mushroom cloud. Not my favourite topic and not my favourite artwork but interesting nonetheless.

 

 

Abergavenny. Castles, Inns and lovely town visits

17 Aug

We decided to take heed of the weather report and drove down to the Abergavenny region of Wales fairly early on Tuesday. We went solo, leaving the caravan at home. We were rewarded with a very sunny all the way. Using mainly the A49 from Shrewsbury, it really is a pleasant way to travel. Much preferable to the M6 and M5 mayhem alternative. We went “oldstyle”, not booking anywhere but armed with a couple of back up contact numbers. At Pandy, on the A49, we stumbled upon The Rising Sun Inn and Campsite. A delightful young Lady booked us in and we headed for Abergavenny Castle and Museum. “If you should see a red dog running free………. and all that”

Abergavenny was so much better than we anticipated. We found it a lovely town, enhanced by the sunshinewith an interesting indoor market and some nice shops. We still forgot to buy tea and coffee resulting in my rescuing a rather elderly cupasoup for my next day breakfast lift. Couldn’t face hot chocolate!

The castle had an interesting history. Click on and zoom the pictures above to read of Christmas murders and more.

After some shopping and a rummage around the market, we eventually returned to the campervan with our local butter, homemade damson jam and bread from the Angel bakery. On our way back to Pandy we stopped at Skenfrith Castle and what a treat it was!

The late afternoon was warm and still. The delightful, quiet village of Skenfrith welcoming and calm. Inside the castles walls we were surprised by several children in wet swimming costumes, drying their towels on the warm stones of the interior. We headed through the beckoning arched doorway and found the River Monnow where the children were swimming. An absolute treasure of a place in warm weather. A walk around the village revealed St Bridget’s Church and cottages still showing their age-old windows , doors and features.

Dragging ourselves away, we hopped back into the kampa and returned down some very narrow and winding Monmouhshire lanes to The Rising Sun where we pitched on our previously given hardstanding next to a huge twin rear axle motorhome which dwarfed our little campervan. I joked with the friendly owner (from Liverpool) that we could park in his “garage”. There is more about this trip in the posting above.

Three very different Castles in North Wales

11 Aug

Alongside the River Dee estuary in North Wales is the town of Flint. It is thought that the name stems from a rocky outcrop on which King Edward I  had built a Castle to quell the Prince of Wales whose lands lay around Ewloe nearby. Castell y Fflint is strategically placed in North East Wales and originally had access to the estuary and the sea for ease of supply to the troops stationed there.

The ruined walls are simply massively thick. An immense amount of work went into building this impressive testament to subjugation of the proud people of Wales. We had a good look around and then ate lunch in the campervan which was parked very close by. Adjacent to us was an allotment style garden. This too was in a state of ruin. So sad to see the greenhouse full of weeds and a bush growing up through the roof. Blackberries had gone wild but a large flock of sparrows were enjoying the protection offered by the myriad of barbed runners . Rather like the town of Flint which grew up around the King’s outpost.

After lunch, we made the short drive to a layby near the little town of Ewloe. We followed the sign and took the fenced path across the fields to the Castle hidden in the woods. Literally submerged in a steep sided valley and now surrounded by huge trees, it was a compact but impressive little motte and bailey above a quiet stream. As usual it was built  in the Welsh fashion, using a natural rock outcrop for at least part of the foundations. One of the last constructions of the sovereign, native Prince of Wales.

There was a lot of double dealing and switching of allegiance over the centuries and each of these castles experienced very violent times. The first hanging, drawing and quartering of a man was said to have been made after an incident at Flint. Flint was also burned to the ground to prevent falling into Welsh hands.

As we walked back, uphill to the campervan, we discussed how many journeys must have been made carrying baskets of rock and materials for making mortar all those years ago. Another impressive, massive structure in very atmospheric setting.

The short drive further South to Caergwrle took us past an easily missed sign pointing out the pedestrian route , up the steep climb to Caergwrle Castle. We looped around the village , noting all the double yellow , no parking lines before spotting a free car park protected by a 7 feet high height barrier. We sneaked under it just fllicking our radio aerial a little in the process. The height barrier at the car park at Flint had no height listed, hence our parking on the adjacent road.  Sadly,no easy motorhome parking is very evident near Caergwrle Castle.

We had the place pretty much to ourselves. We only met with two other climbers, a lady and then a gent walking his dog. I was pleased to find a wreath (shown below) left in honour of the Welsh Prince. Nationalistic in a nice way, in my opinion, I liked the historic pride shown.

The wreath had been left over the post to the right of the picture and after photographing I replaced it.

Some of the rock had been robbed from the walls in the 17th Century to use in buildings in the village, far below. There is also evidence of quarrying right at the top of the hill, so close in later years that the walls of the castle at one end were undermined. Whoever left the wreath would have waged war against such activity no doubt and rightly so. Nobody likes a vandal !

Caergwrle Castle is at quite a height above the village and the views are excellent.

Three very different Castles. The day gave us an incite into the struggle between the Princes of Wales and the Kings of England. We would now like to see some of the more well preserved Castles of Wales  which we have not visited before. So we must next head South towards Brecon Beacons and the Severn Estuary. Watch this space, the Kampa is ready to roll.

Lots of Castles to see in Wales.

9 Aug

I have a personal list of almost thirty Welsh castles to visit. This is Newcastle Emlyn. I have listed the postcodes for my faithful little Garmin Sat Nav. We are making the time to visit a small group of 3 and possibly 5, to see very soon. The rest will be picked off one by one later in August. Then, still planning to do the NC500 too.

This is Ewloe Castle near Chester. Some of these sites are close enough for a day trip but we intend to stay overnight in the campervan for the vast majority on our chosen list.

This is Nevern Castle, near Newport, South Wales. Guardianship for each Castle lays with different organisations. Some cost as little as £4 to visit, others more than double that amount and some with additional parking charges.

Criccieth Castle overlooks a lovely, old seaside village. We camped there when we were just out of our teenage years. A favourite spot and our return visit long overdue !

I am shortly having a simple medical procedure to remove a heart monitoring device which, after three years has found no clinical problems. So pleased that the battery outlasted the horrible , leaky, gel oozing batteries we used to get in our Christmas present Robots and the like from Hong Kong. Anyone remember them ? After the Titanium has been whipped out to ease the NHS funding, we shall be out and about once more. Oh yeah………….

English Heritage. A pleasant couple from Sheffield and a belated Father’s Day dinner

5 Aug

Four of us went to Craven Arms, Shropshire today to visit Stokesay Castle and found the sun. Maintained by English Heritage , we each followed  their very well presented Audio tour. We spent quite a sum at the little gatehouse cafe for coffee and cakes and had a great time !

We had been greeted on the car park by a lovely couple from Sheffield who were interested in the Kampa, so I gave them a swift tour of it. They were looking for a campervan for when they retired shortly. A compact campervan was the order of the day and I hope that our little chat helped! I love it when people approach us.

 

The visit was just lovely ! We joined English Heritage in March this year but they screwed up the Direct Debit which is still not sorted out yet. Our cards have been accepted at each visit we have made, albeit with some questioning, but we have managed to continue with our visits. Should be sorted out shortly and payment will be made.

On the way back to Staffordshire, we stopped off for an hour’s wander around the shops of Church Stretton before heading for an early dinner at The Lord Cumbermere in Audlem. Very nice it was too ! Recommended !

Altogether a memorable and thoroughly enjoyable Summer day out in the Kampa. The rear seat passengers did not complain about comfort but did say that the view forwards is a little restricted as they sit quite high. I had to drive somewhat less spirited than usual as the rear sofa does not offer as much sideways support as a Recaro bucket seat to which certain persons have become accustomed. LOL. The rear seat belts function just fine though.

After a rather special dinner, we strolled along to the Canal at Audlem but only went as far as the Shroppie Fly pub.

A picturesque end to a super day !

The heart of Cheshire. Castles, Canals and Ice Cream.

3 Aug

Beeston Castle is maintained by English Heritage. We almost did not get access to day despite our membership cards and Direct Debit payments made early this year (still to be sorted  out.)

This hill top fortress is set on a sandstone protrusion with 360 degrees views over the Cheshire plain. Evidence of habitation since stone age times and defences around the base of the hill dating from bronze age times. Latterly it became a hugely fortified Motte and Bailey type Castle. A challenging climb from the car park if you push yourself a little for the exercise, which we did. A rabbit populated grass bank studded with beautiful pine trees leads to a sharply sloping modern bridge over the huge, partially natural moat or chasm. Spectacular !

We dropped into the Tattenhall Marina Cafe-Bar for a very good cup of coffee. I almost got thrown out by referring to narrow boats as barges. Finding the correct entrance was somewhat difficult but worthwhile. The place is most attractive and the bar welcoming. The workshops had a great method of dragging a narrow boat out of the water. Hydraulic rams fitted to the trailer rear wheels lift the entire vessel for working on the hull. Hope that they have some form of safety device to protect against hydraulic failures though.

Drawn by a huge replica of Peter Rabbit, made from straw on a metal frame, we next stopped at Snugbury Organic Farm Ice Cream.

This promotional Icon is the latest in a long line of other well made and proportionally artistic creations.

Previously here are just two:

Here is our review of just some of the huge range of flavours of Ice Cream made at Snugbury Farm.

Salted Caramel.  Excellent. Not too sweet. Deep caramel flavour.

Liquorice and Raspberry. Initially a massive hit of natural raspberry with lingering aftertaste of liquorice.

Damson and Sloe Gin.  Again, not too sweet, as in all those tasted. Natural full damson flavour.

Ameretto.       Subtle, mild almond ameretto . Creamy. Best eaten as a single flavour to best enjoy it.

We came away with Christmas Pudding and a Clotted Cream Vanilla stashed into the Kampa fridge. Still to try, but from those we tried, if they match the excellence of the four above then they will be top notch !

These are premium quality, from an Organic family farm business. Compared to Ben and Jerry or Haagen Dazs, they are less sweet (and all the better for it !) more naturally flavoured in my opinion with a wonderful creamy texture. You will not be disappointed !

A much better day than of late !

London, bad Karma, delays and more damage to the Kampa

31 Jul

Some religions of the World believe that a person’s actions reflect what happens to that person. Good deeds ultimately result in returned positive actions and vice versa. Bad deeds bring bad experiences.

So not quite sure what I may have done do deserve a short string of negativity the past few weeks. Nothing health hindering or serious, I may add but negative nonetheless.

Just back from another family visit in South London and very plasant it was too. Then , on Sunday afternoon we made the mistake of trying to head back via inner London and Chelsea Bridge.

Somehow we had missed the fact that the huge and laudable, “Ride London” event was taking place. Bridges over the Thames were simply blocked off and road closures extended beyond and into Surrey. We followed our slow thinking Garmin Sat Nav and eventually trecked out down the A3 towards Portsmouth and then the clockwise M25. Traffic was just horrendous especially London bound from the M25. But there was more……..

In very heavy, slow moving and in my case, stationary traffic somewhere opposite Chelsea Harbour, a very young Pizza delivery rider (NOT the one above, I stress………)  shot up a narrow gap twixt Kampa and granite stone curb narrowly missing my offside mirror. But then, to my amazement, this inexperienced excuse for a biker, suddenly swung left in front of our Kampa striking the front with his huge double decker Pizza delivery box or footpeg whatever. He ignored the collision and headed off between two lanes of stationary traffic before stopping out of range of the wasps nest of “whupass” vibrating loadly in my ” incredible hulk” alter ego. The situation was far too busy to check for damage and anyway the nasty little twerp was long gone.

I pulled onto a Garage forecourt and took a look at a map. Yes, a paper map. Useful beyond belief when you are truly lost and recognise no road signed place names. Only a few easily polished out marks on the front bumper could be seen. Probably a rubber footrest ? But ! There was more to come………..

Now, anyone who has ever replaced a body panel knows that on decent motors, the gaps between panels can be quite narrow and are very precise. The gap to the front of the cab doors on the NV200 for example are tight, being just a few millimetres wide.

How unlucky therefore (or terribly bad karma ! gulp……..) for something to have been flung at an angle into that tiny door gap. The projectile must have been extremely well matched to that gap with such force to have crushed the metal of the door panel somewhat and chipped the door paint. It must have happened during one of our runs up to 70 mph. I imagine that whatever did the damage was metal itself, perhaps a metal strip, nail or such like to have so precisely damaged the tiny area on the offside cab door. Bizarre!

see more about Body damage in a posting below.