Sunday 29 October 2017

An October anabasis

There is a campaign to record all the SY23 postboxes since the LBSG records can sometimes be unreliable. An October opportunity gave a bike-borne chance to pinpoint some of the remoter instances up toward Cwmsymlog, but the highlight was without doubt the Victorian lamp box at Banc Y Darren.

But, as ever, it's what you find on the way.

  1. At the outset, the mesospheric radar station at Capel Dewi. Photos abound.
  2. Our country was once thronged with public phone boxes, but these have all now been moved 20 yards sideways into somebody's garden.
  3. It can be difficult to know quite what to think about abandoned cottages. I think there is an old sundial high on the south wall of this one - it doesn't work any more, even when the sun shines.
  4. Strangely, a man was hanging in effigy nearby.
  5. The whole area was a mining hellhole, of course. Many miners' cottages survive as twee country residences.
  6. So do the chapels. I liked this egregious extension on this one, where the gateway survives.
  7. To Penbontrhydybeddau, where there was a super Welsh signpost ...
  8. ... and a splendid shelter in the playground [sic].
  9. And thence to Cwmsymlog, intended destination and one of the country's premier silver sources in its day. It proved impossible to find the purported postbox, but there was ample compensation in the industrial remains and the disused chapel. Other highlights were a remote beehive and a tanker whose driver was lost. I mean really lost.
  10. Homeward through Penrhyn: how pretty is their Neuadd?
  11. Via Gogerddan, where the university are protecting their newts, and making sure that nobody occupies four eminently usable houses.
In all, 7 boxes sighted.

Thursday 21 September 2017


An ad hoc trip to Oswestry (Croesowallt), which spun some interesting surprises.
  1. There is no rail station in Oswestry, but there were once two, separated by 50 yards. It was a big rail town, now teeming with relics.
  2. Apparently people have been doing this to coffee for years, but I had never seen it before.
  3. The Michelin Man lives on in Oswestry.
  4. What's in the container?
  5. Wow! A custom built post box used for torching love letters.
  6. Little Chef's become scarce, but there is a fine example in Oswestry, keeping up the best of their traditions.

Tuesday 18 July 2017

The Hartpury bee shelter

A deviant route from Aberystwyth (Welsh: mouth of the wiggly river) to Wokingham ('Wocca's people's home') can take you past the Hartpury Bee Shelter. It's down a road beside Hartpury church, some way from the village.

Not perhaps a 21st century approach to bee husbandry, but how fascinating - a rack of skeps with beekeepers "looking out" for swarms to capture and re-skep.

I met two beekeepers there on the same mission - they told me something about foundation that perhaps is best not published.

The church is an ancient gem. In the graveyard is buried, lavishly tended, a victim of the 1999 Ladbroke Grove train crash, which was really a very sad thing to behold.

Tuesday 13 June 2017

Discreet history in Catalonia

During an extended stay in Catalonia in and around several sites heavily involved in the Civil War, we found memorials few and understated (although, to my eye, Catalonian sympathies were pretty clear). In the scale of things, that ghastly business is all still fairly recent so it is not hard to understand sensitivities.

There is a relatively recent programme of establishing memorials. The Girona cemetery has an imposing long metal memorial naming an unhappy number of local-born Republicans who are somewhere in unmarked graves, most being post-war executions - it's less than 10 years old. There's stuff about this to be read.

We went on an outing to the old France/Spain frontier between Portbou and Cerbère, which commands stunning views and offers various ghostly ex-border buildings. Low-key signage pointed us to some display materials on the refugee plight in 1939, a surviving Francoist memorial (these are very rare - it was pleasantly defaced with red paint), and a 2016 Catalan plaque commemorating the International Brigades.

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.
John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1624

(I sang a bit of The Red Flag, but it seemed a little inadequate).

Monday 1 May 2017

The Celtic Challenge

I think the Celtic Challenge must be one of the most undersung endurance tests I have witnessed. Open boats (Celtic longboats) are rowed by crews of 4 and cox from Arklow to Aberystwyth; journey time is between 18 and 30 hours, with teams of 12 spelling the boat duties. The sea is cold and quickly becomes rough. Additionally, it is dark at night.
Vartry coming through the harbour trap, to Irish delight

The race is run every 2 years: weather cancelled the 2016 event which was postponed until this year. About 15 crews left Arklow on Coastguard advice at noon, Friday 28th. Tracking software predicted the winner arriving at Aber harbour at 6am on Saturday, and I actually thought about getting up to see this happen. But then I thought "stuff it", which was good as overnight the weather had been unkind and the prediction had become 10am.

Aber coming through the harbour trap

First over the line was the Irish Vartry crew, with Aber men coming in just 30 minutes later, both boats receiving enormous applause. The very unkind conditions caused all but one of the other crews to retire: third in was a women's boat.

Brave boys and girls embark on a mid-ocean rescue trip

It is, of course, event of the year (well, every other year) for the longboat clubs and so very well known in some communities. But Aberystwyth town makes little of it: no sign of the BBC, S4C, Cambrian News, or even the ubiquitous Keith Morris. Well, I'm doing my bit.

Other pictures exist.

Wednesday 12 April 2017

PAU Canolfan Chwaraeon/Sports Centre

Three helpful people staff the reception desk.

Me: Do the lockers take the new pound coin?
Person 1: Yes.
Person 2: I don't know.
Person 3: The man from the company came and did something to all the locks a few weeks ago. So they might.

Thursday 26 January 2017

Great Expectations of Newcastle Emlyn

It was one of those days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.

Newcastle Emlyn - Castellnewydd Emlyn yn Gymraeg - means "new castle"; "Emlyn" was one of the seven cantrefi of Dyfed. It has a castle alright, but to my untutored eye it doesn't look so new.

  1. The GWR once ran a rail spur into Newcastle Emlyn, closed to passengers in the 50s and freight in the 70s. There is effectively no trace of it in the town, unless you look really hard.
  2. There are many food outlets to be found; I used the Number 11 coffee shop in the morning (a splendid 1950s experience, and you can get free Wifi from the Barclays branch opposite). For luncheon, whereat pie and chips, Tŷ Croeso1.
  3. It's easy to see what Newcastle was once like, although I think most of that is [nearly] history. Of especial note was the charity shop devoted to whippet rescue (bugger labradors and dalmatians, eh?).
  4. Very nearby is Henllan, where there was a WWii Italian POW camp. Many lovely traces of this can be found, although I suspect the buildings were probably admin. (inhabited by British persons) rather than cell blocks (inhabited by Italian persons) for the simple reason that they are still standing.

    I still seek an opportunity to enter the block that was painted up as a chapel by one of the Italians.

  5. Likewise nearby is Caws Cenarth where you can spectate on the making of award winning cheese. A jolly good outing!

Other pictures exist.
No post boxes of note were seen.

1. Later, The Harbourmaster in Aberaeron for apple crumble.