Thursday, May 28, 2015

from here to paternity

After the arrival of our second daughter Alys at the end of March I was determined not to spend quite as much time sitting around watching Deal Or No Deal as last time during my fortnight off. In any case, having a new baby around plus an energetic three-year-old changes the situation a bit, and my duties this time revolved more around helping to keep Nia involved and occupied rather than wrangling Alys, although I bow to no man in my ability to change shitty nappies and get copiously sicked on. So we had to find some places to go to keep us entertained. Here's what we came up with:
  • Fourteen Locks: I've been up here a couple of times before, but they've done some (lottery-funded, I think) restoration of some of the locks and a general tarting-up of the visitor centre. Also, there was a kid-centric activity day on involving a sort of duck-based treasure hunt up and down the towpath that runs from the visitor centre to where the canal ducks (you see what I did there) under the M4 near junction 27. 
  • Fforest Fawr: this is the woody area up to the north of Castell Coch, not the larger area of the same name (which just means "big forest") in the middle part of the Brecon Beacons National Park. There is an interesting sculpture trail including wizards, dragons and some artefacts clearly left behind by a passing giant. Needless to say we stopped in at the Lewis Arms in Tongwynlais on the way back for a pint and some fish and chips.
  • The Newport Wetlands bird sanctuary near Nash: I'm not an especially enthusiastic twitcher, but this is a great place for a bit of sea (well, estuary) air and a run about, even if you wouldn't know a snowy egret if you were pissing on one
  • Dewstow Gardens: this is a strange little Victorian fancy, lost for half a century but dug up and restored about 15 years ago. Lots of quirky little water features, underground grottoes and the like. Great for kids, as long as you're constantly vigilant for the many ways they can fall in things and drown. 
  • Caerwent: this is one of two major sites of Roman remains in the vicinity of Newport, the other being Caerleon. Basically Caerleon was the military garrison and Caerwent was the market town; the old town walls are still pretty impressively in existence and there are a couple of other buildings whose foundations are well-preserved and on display.
A selection of photos (also including some of Nia enjoying her birthday present, a garden slide) are here. Technically the next two are places we've been in the last week or so, rather than during my paternity leave period, but I include them as they're useful things to know about if you've got kids to entertain:
  • Bryngarw House: we ended up here after an abortive attempt to go to the Kite and Superhero festival at Margam Park last weekend. To be honest the festival bit didn't sound all that appealing to me, but the park is quite a nice place for a run about. By the sound of all the subsequent media coverage we did the right thing by bailing out after sitting in a traffic jam between M4 junctions 37 and 38 for an hour or so. Frankly anything involving getting parked without too much queueing would have seemed like bliss after that, and we didn't do much more than sit on the grass, have a picnic and go on various climbing frames and slides in the adventure playground, but it was all very nice. 
  • Perrygrove Railway: this is not only a perfectly nice little narrow-gauge steam railway but also features a couple of attractions irresistible to kids of all ages (including my own age): a treetop adventure and a miniature indoor village featuring lots of little hidden staircases and secret tunnels. I'm pretty sure I had more fun than literally anyone else here regardless of age during our visit, even if I did nearly get stuck a couple of times. 

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