The Heartland of Wales
8th to 12th September 2019
On Sunday 8th September, nearly 30 members of the Trust set off on a Woods coach from Emsworth for Wales. The first stop was at Tintern Abbey, which was founded by the Anglo-Norman Lord of Chepstow in 1131 with a community of 13 white Cistercian monks. Monastic life continued to flourish until the reign of Henry 8th when he dissolved all monasteries. Now mainly ruins, Tintern Abbey still has impressive architecture its restoration on-going. The journey continued up the Wye Valley across the Brecon Beacon National Park with its rolling hills covered in sheep, trees and bushes silhouetted against the skies - the views were breath-taking. In the evening our party arrived at the Metropole Hotel for a five day stay in the spa town of Llandrindod. The hotel accommodation was comfortable and had a friendly efficient staff with excellent food served in the spacious dining rooms.
On Monday there was a picturesque drive through the Wye Valley to Aberystwyth. A walk along the long seafront then a ride on the cliff railway revealed dramatic seascapes and cliff views. The visit to see the Camera Obscura in operation was disappointing as the images were not clear but this was compensated by a tour of the Rheidol Steam Railway engineering works, before taking a scenic journey on the train travelling through ancient woodland to Devil’s Bridge in the heart of the Cumbrian Mountains.
On Tuesday the party visited the Royal Welsh Crystal Factory at Rhayader where several members of the tour bought crystal vases.
After visiting the Elan Valley Visitor Centre, the coach travelled along the beautiful Valley and a young ranger provided the local knowledge. A walk along the edges of one of the reservoirs revealed the scale of these Victorian creations
In the afternoon there was a tour of the Hall at Abbey-Cwm-Hir, a large house set in 12 acres. Built in 1834 in gothic revival style the Hall is now owned by a financier, Paul Humpherston and his wife Victoria who bought the house in 1997 and have restored it to its gothic splendour. Every room is crammed with furniture and artefacts including 14 marble fireplaces, Rococo and stained glass ceilings, themed bedrooms and bathrooms. The gardens are more traditional with a walled garden, lawns, terraces, a lake and woodland walks. The day ended with a visit to the National Cycle Museum at Llandrindod. The carefully displayed cycles brought back memories of their youth to members of the group.
The sumptuous interiors and renowned gardens made the tour of Powis Castle and its gardens on Wednesday very enjoyable. The Castle dates back to 1200 and has been lived in since then. Filled with fine furniture and paintings there was also an exhibition of objects associated with Clive of India who married into the family. There was a display of the way of life of young schoolgirls from a boarding school, evacuated to the Castle for safety in the Second World War, with poignant letters home and examples of their schoolwork. A walk down the garden through the four formal terraces to the bottom of the slopes revealed colourful bushes and flowers in full bloom. Fortunately there was a bus ride back to the flat grounds above. A railway journey on the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway for a 16mile journey through the Mid Wales countryside ended the day.
Although Thursday was the last day of the holiday there was a stop at Ledbury with its 7th century black and white market house and cobbled Church Lane that led to the St Michael’s and All Angels Church.
Inside the church the altar was adorned with a stunning copy of Leonardo’s painting “The Last Supper”. This colourful canvas was painted by a local artist, Ballard, in 1824 and recently restored in 2007. Late afternoon the coach trip ended at Emsworth after an informative and enjoyable five days holiday exploring the Heartland of Wales.