Monday, June 9, 2014

Europe – Exploring Merthyr Tydfil, Wales

OH... wait.. our local meal at Bessemer's Carvery and Grill is delightful, but not quite the exclamation point to this day as we are not done yet.. Since everyone is already in the car and Pip's husband is done working for the day, he decides to take me on a driving tour of some areas around town.  Always ready for an adventure let's get this tour started.
We drive  through some of the neighborhoods of the town passing by churches, stores and the usual town buildings.  We soon decided to stop at a beIMG_3652autiful area with walking paths for miles.  Although our journey today has included hours and miles of walking we did finish our meal with ice cream so  a little more walking seems appropriate.  We stroll along the path where steam locomotives once passed which have now been transformed into wonderful recreational paths.  Through the beautiful countryside of Wales.    About thirty minutes later we come to an old viaduct which used to take trains overhead.  I cannot help but think back to the time when this was built.  Today it is not as much of a wonder with the machines and advanced technologies,  but these structures were put here in a time when moving Earth was definitely a more difficult task.  We admire the structure and the vegetation which surround it for a bit.   Pip's IMG_3657oldest son Nial  finds a dirt path which traverses the hill leading to the top of the ravine.  We decided to leave the asphalt and make the hike up the dirt path and partake in the amazing views on top of the viaduct.    Rolling hills as far a the eye can see.  We cross the viaduct and continue looking around.  It is a wonderful evening and we don't want to waste any daylight so we head back towards the car and jump in.  Down and up through the winding hills just outside Merthyr Tydfil we travel.  Stopping to take a closer looks at an beautiful Spanish influenced home built on the side of the hill.   The home was started and has never quite gotten finished but it is truly spectacular and we leave wishing we knew more of the structures story and later I am disappointed I did not take a photo of the home.   The hills are filled with old run down Inns, pubs, and homes like this,  each with their own story and history.
IMG_3700When were walking around Merthyr Tydfil earlier in the day, I had spoken of my desire to visit a real castle while in Europe and so it is decided we will try and find our way to the remains of Morlais Castle.  Built in 1288 A.D. the once prominent castle sits in ruins not far away so we begin our quest to see it never making it there before getting distracted and the sun setting.   Yes distracted by a little plot of land where the congregation at St Gwynno's Church and the haunted Inn sits deserted next to it.  The small country church with its rock bell tower  is surrounded by overgrown vegetation half covering ancient graves.   Stories of rich and poor people being buried here alike, one of them being the great iron master Robert Thompson Crawshay.  Manager of the mines and iron works for years and in 1879 he passed away leaving his company and fortune to his son.  His tomb is said to weigh over 10 tons and has  "God Forgive Me" inscribed on it. IMG_3684 2 Some say he had these words inscribed on his grave because he was asking repentance for closing  Cyfarthfa Works and leaving so many families destitute and others say it is because of the way he behaved towards his own family.  I guess no one will ever know.
IMG_3682 2We explore some more and soon come across a plaque on the wall of the church building.  Although the congregation is called St Gwynno's the actual church is Vaynor Church.  Funded by Robert Crawshay after the original church here came close to collapse.  The congregation has called this building home for many years.  It is said that the bell tower was used as a prison and local legends say a thief once took refuge in the tower and found one hundred plus skulls scattered inside.   Today the doors are locked so we will not be looking around inside for any proof of this tale.  Speaking of folklore,  across the graveyard lies the old vacant Vaynor Pub.  Believed to be haunted,  this well known structure has a long history in local folklore as many a Welsh man and women have wandered the halls and rooms of the old structure.IMG_3662 2
As we head back to the car, we give up on our quest to visit the castle remains and decide to head back toward Potsarn viaduct.  Another of the area's great train bridges where we plan to watch the sun hide behind the horizon.  As we drive along we have time for a quick stop at Potsheticill reservoir to enjoy the sound of water and the orange and yellow reflections of the evening sun off the glistening water.  But it is a quick stop and soon we arrive at the viaduct, park the car and walk the 1/4 mile to the middle.  You can see Cyfarthfa castle from earlier today and other parts of the city.  We watch as the sun begins its journey towards the horizon.Enjoying the cool evening breeze and reminiscing about all the walking we have done as we wait for the last light of the evening to approach.  The views from atop are simply spectacular and it has been a wonderful journey,  but tomorrow will be another day and soon the sun has set behind the horizon.  Nothing more to see tonight except the lightning bugs and stars above as we walk back to the car and head back into town.

I feel like I am getting caught up on my writing as we are almost a year away from this journey.  I hope to catch some more writing time to continue this exploration of Europe with you.  

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