Tuesday, December 19, 2006

two whales in a train

I went to Cardiff today. Partly just to have a venue for Christmas shopping that wasn't Bristol, i.e. either Broadmead or, God forbid, Cribbs Causeway, partly because I wanted a couple of things that (without giving the game away) I'd be more likely to get hold of in Cardiff, and partly because I wanted to have a bit of a snoop round a couple of places from my murky and mysterious past.

Firstly, Whitchurch. My grandmother lived here for many years: she died in 1989, and she'd been living round the corner (ish) from our house in Newbury for, I reckon, at least 2 or 3 years prior to that, so I probably hadn't been to the area for over 20 years. We lived there briefly (for about 6 months, I think, somewhere between 1970 and 1972) and visited regularly thereafter, when we weren't abroad. My recollections are (it's the red-brick house on the left), without checking with any old photos: the round-topped wall at the front is the same, but it used to have a thick hedge immediately behind it, there was also a large tree at the end of the hedge by the gatepost, and that wooden porch is new. If I can scan in a similar view from an old photo I'll post it here, just for comparison. I would have taken a couple of further photos today, but as you can see there are a lot of cars around even for about 10 o'clock on a weekday morning. I got the impression the odd net curtain was twitching as I was lurking around in a suspicious manner taking photos. I expect the Neighbourhood Watch interfering old busybody hotline switchboard was lit up like a Christmas tree. To be fair, though, I was naked.....

Secondly, Tongwynlais. Back in the 19th century (and before), my ancestors - specifically my paternal great-grandfather and his predecessors - owned a pub (The Lewis's Arms - it seems to have lost the possessive bit over the years as it's just the Lewis Arms now) in the village. In fact I believe the legend goes that my grandfather was born in the bar there, presumably not during opening hours or that could have been rather messy; it would certainly have put you off your ploughman's lunch. And it's still there - the bright yellow paint job is new, though:

I got from Whitchurch to Tongwynlais by walking up the disused railway line from Coryton where the suburban commuter line out of Cardiff ends, and then hooking up with the Taff Trail as it tracks the Taff riverbank before striking off up the hill into Tongwynlais and towards Castell Coch. You can see the castle from the road by the pub, but one of its distinctive turrets seems to be covered in scaffolding at the moment. That wasn't why I didn't go up the hill to see it, though, I just couldn't be bothered.

Assuming we survive the Dartmoor trip, we'll be looking for another challenge to do later in the year (when it's a bit warmer, ideally). I reckon a cycle trip up (and possibly back down) the Taff Trail is a good candidate. It's about 55 miles one way, so you could do it over a long weekend pretty comfortably, I reckon - you could escape at the top end by cycling from Brecon to Abergavenny and catching a train back.

1 comment:

Andy said...

I used to live in Cardiff, but since I left [in 1988] I've only been back once.

I must go and have a look - from what I've seen of it on Torchwood it looks like it might have changed just a wee bit.