Tuesday, 26 August 2014


First image of the holiday was not what we were expecting – we were treated to a display by this biplane which took off from a small airfield behind Membury Services on the M4 near Swindon where we stopped for elevenses!

We stayed at Coed Adam, a traditional 3 bedroom former farmhouse dating back to around 1800.

It was full of traditional features - thick stone walls, an inglenook fireplace, low ceilings and creaky floorboards!

The farmhouse is about 3 miles from the village of Llanddarog and 20 minutes from Carmarthen - overlooking the beautiful Gwendraeth Fach valley.

It didn’t take long to realise the weather at Coed Adam was going to be changeable…the remains of Hurricane Bertha paid us a visit on Saturday evening into Sunday Morning.

By mid-morning on Sunday the weather was bright enough to make us venture out to the sea – we went to Llansteffan on the River Towy Estuary.

Lots of sandy beaches.... 

.....and above the ruins of a 12th century castle.

The centre of the village is dominated by the Church of St Ysteffan which was founded in the 6th century.

Stray animals were impounded in the village pound which appears to have also served as a grocery and general provisions store in the past.

Monday’s weather forecast was heavy showers but we managed to miss them whilst going on a railway, climbing a tower and visiting a castle.
The railway was the Gwili Steam Railway  - we caught the train from Bronwydd Arms Station where the young man in the booking office was kind enough to ask me if we were  eligible for a senior citizen discount….I declined.

The railway climbs steeply through open fields and wooded hills, following the River Gwili. The end of the line is Danycoed Halt which resembles those built by the GWR on their country lines. Here the engine runs around its train ……..

…..and then  heads back down the line to Llwyfan Cerrig. This station was opened in 1988 and is built on the site of an old loading platform for stone which came from the quarry across the river.

 The train waits here for half an hour for those who just want a quick trip on the Miniature Railway.

An amusing sign in the waiting room.

After returning to Bronwydd Arms Station we then went the tower – Paxton’s Tower.

Paxton`s Tower was built sometime between 1805 and 1808 probably to a design by Samuel Pepys Cockerell.  It is a triangular building, two storeys high, with a hexagonal castellated roof.  On the ground there are three arches (to accommodate carriages).  On the next storey there was a banqueting room and on the upper storey a prospect room, with an upper apartment with stained glass windows showing Lord Nelson and scenes from his life.

The views from the the top of the tower were amazing....

- you could also see our final destination -Dryslwyn Castle.

Dryslwyn Castle sits on a  hilltop location above the Tywi valley. The site is forever associated with the princes of Deheubarth, the kingdom in south-west Wales.

It is thought an Iron age fort may underlie the medieval castle. However evidence suggests the history of Dryslwyn Castle is entwined with the rule of the Lord Rhys (d. 1197). Over time the castle changed hands between the princes of Deheubarth and gradually evolved into formidable fortresses. It eventually fell to the English Crown from 1287, serving as centres of royal administration and authority. By the end of the Middle Ages the castle had become ivy-clad ruins.

 If you look carefully on the horizon in the next three photos you can see Paxton's Tower.

This looked a special kind of place

On Tuesday we did catch the heavy showers – we went to Aberglasney to visit the restored gardens.

Aberglasney Gardens have been an inspiration to poets since 1477 but by the end of the Second World War the house was in ruins and the garden was overgrown.

A programme of restoration resulted in the gardens opening in 1998.

Highlights include the pond garden

The upper walled garden

The garden whose name I can't remember

The bog garden

 and finally the Cloister Garden.

In the afternoon we went to the National Trust’s Dinefwr Park and Castle. According to the NT website, people have lived at Dinefwr for more than 2,000 years. Buried under the parkland are an Iron Age farm, two Roman forts and an 'English' town created by Edward I about 700 years ago.

Still standing is the castle, created by the Lord Rhys and rebuilt over the centuries to leave the great building we see today. Edward I destroyed the power of the Welsh princes and in 1276 the English crown took over the lands of Dinefwr. The castle survived, and by 1425 was once more controlled by a powerful Welshman: Gruffydd ap Nicholas.

The view from the castle included Paxton's Tower again.

Within in the park is Newton House, (or Plas Dinefwr), the 'new' castle. Although the present Newton House dates back to 1660 and Sir Edward Rice - the great-great-great-great-great grandfather of the present Lord Dynevor - the house has substantial 18th-century and Victorian Gothic additions.

Good weather was forecast for Wednesday and in the main it wasn’t too bad. We went to Pembury Country Park on the coast. It was ‘bracing’ walking part of the eight miles of the storm beach, Cefn Sidan.

It was also a day to take silly pictures ….

On the way back we stopped briefly in Kidwelly to look at the 13th century castle. It had a concentric design with one circuit of defensive walls set within another to allow the castle to be held even if the outer wall should fall.

The great gatehouse was begun late in the 14th century but it wasn’t completed until 1422

Thursday started dull but brightened up so we went to the National Botanic Garden of Wales which was only a few miles up the road from where we were staying.

The idea for a National Botanic Garden of Wales originated from the Welsh artist, William Wilkins and the Garden was opened to the public for the first time on 24 May 2000. The garden has been developed on the site of  Paxton’s 18th century Middleton Hall Estate and extends to 568 acres.

The Broadwalk starts from the `Circle of Decision` fountain, shaped like the cross section of an ammonite and extends 220m with a rill that runs through a geological display of welsh rocks.

The Double Walled Garden has been rebuilt from ruins, and is being developed to house a wide variety of plants, including a modern interpretation of a kitchen garden in one quarter, and ornamental beds to display the classification and evolution of all flowering plant families in the other three quarters. 

The stable block from the old hall which now contains a gift shop etc

The south facing Boulder Garden and in the distance, the Great Greenhouse.

The Great Glasshouse, designed by Foster and Partners, is the largest structure of its kind in the world. It is 95 m (312 ft) long and 55 m (180 ft) wide, with a roof containing 785 panes of glass. Housing plants from several Mediterranean climate regions, the plants are divided into sections from Chile, Western Australia, South Africa, California, the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean itself.

Principality House is the only part of William Paxton's mansion that remains today.

Paxton’s Tower can be seen framed in the metal circle of ‘Pi’, a sculpture by Rawleigh Clay

In the afternoon we went for a walk around the county town of  Carmarthen which sits on the River Towy. This picture was taken from the new footbridge. The skyline is dominated by the County Hall
which was designed in 1935 by Sir Percy Thomas but not completed until 1955. The road bridge  was built in 1937-38, replacing the medieval seven arch stone bridge.

Pont King Morgan suspension footbridge -The S-shaped deck has spans of 28m over north car park, 78m over River Towy and 44m over flood relief channel, a total of 150m suspended. It has an effective skew over the river of 25degrees from bank to bank and is supported on cigar shaped steel pylons 20m in height via 14 pairs of stays - two pairs of which are high tensile steel bars providing lateral stability from the tips of the pylons to tie down stays connecting the deck edge beams to the concrete piers.

There are few interesting buildings : The Guildhall  was built in 1767-1777 and designed by the noted architect Sir Robert Taylor – his only known work in Wales.

Carmarthen Castle was one of the largest and most important royal castles in Wales, built by Henry I in 1106-09, owned by successive English monarchs, and used to administer control of the Welsh.  The castle was briefly captured by Welsh princes in the 12th and 13th centuries and by Owain Glyn Dŵr in 1403 and 1405. Partly demolished, the castle’s remaining buildings were used as a prison.

Dark Gate is a very busy retail area of Carmarthen; this is where the medieval dark gate stood.
Look up at the corner of Guildhall Square and Blue Street - The Coffee pot is one of the finest remaining hanging shop signs in the UK, commemorating a grocery business which formerly occupied this building.

St Peter’s Parish Church is believed to be the largest Parish Church in Wales and also has the longest nave being 60 metres from west porch to east window and 15 metres wide across nave and south aisle.

Last full day - Friday  - and good weather so we headed for the beach at Pendine....only to find the tide was in. We made a brief visit to the Museum of Speed. The museum overlooks the long beach famous for attempts at the world land speed record and motor bike racing.

The main exhibit fis  'Babs', the motor car raced by J G Parry-Thomas to the world record in 1926. Babs was buried in Pendine Sands after Thomas died trying to reclaim the record the following year. She lay there for 42 years until being dug up and restored.

 As there was no sand to see we  took a detour back up the coast for a wander round Laugharne (which is best known for having been the home of Dylan Thomas from 1949 until his death in 1953, and is thought to have been an inspiration for the fictional town of Llareggrub in Under Milk Wood) [read the name backwards for an example of the poet's 'wit']
(read the name backwards for a taste of the poet’s mischievous wit) - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/read/article/dylan-thomas-centenary-to-right-wrongs-about-bohemian-bard#sthash.hdCczZd5.dpuf
(read the name backwards for a taste of the poet’s mischievous wit) - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/read/article/dylan-thomas-centenary-to-right-wrongs-about-bohemian-bard#sthash.hdCczZd5.dpuf
(read the name backwards for a taste of the poet’s mischievous wit) - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/read/article/dylan-thomas-centenary-to-right-wrongs-about-bohemian-bard#sthash.hdCczZd5.dpuf

The 12th century Laugharne Castle is quite  impressive. 

Castle House is a Grade II listed building and a fine example of a Georgian Building (having a lick of paint). This architecture is uncharacteristic of other Welsh towns in the area and was due to the fact that the Georgians began to visit Laugharne and treat it a kind of spa resort once a train line with Carmarthen was established and as a result, the town prospered....... Shame about the Sister Sledge poster.

 The Town Hall with clock tower dates from 1747 and again is Grade II listed.

Walking down the main road we came across a very strange house with paintings in all the upper windows. The house has a name plate 'The Pelican'.

However searching the web reveals
...the Pelican, the tall Georgian terraced house where Thomas would visit his father to do the crossword and chat. It was the sight of his father becoming sick that moved Thomas to write his poem Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night. It was also in the Pelican that Thomas's body was laid out when he died in 1953.

More searching finally found a reference to the 2014 Laugharne Festival in 2014 
'The festival attracted roughly 1,500 people in its eighth year which coincided with the 100th anniversary of Dylan Thomas’s birth. A sort of post-Glastonbury event for fiftysomething former razzle-dazzlers, Guardian readers and Radio 4 listeners.'
and in particular 
The national newspaper cartoonist @martinrowson was busy in the High Street.
He explained: “David Icke (top left) didn’t turn up so that’s him being rimmed by a lizard (top, middle and right).“Bottom left is Dylan Thomas’s father, the one over the door is Dylan with Caitlin and the last one is death. This was the house where Dylan was laid out in his coffin after he died.”

Back to the real world and the Market Cross

After lunch we headed back to Pendine and the beach. The remaining photos don't need a commentary.

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