After fifty years tolls have been removed from the Severn bridges which link England and Wales. As we can cross the river Severn for free we decided to revisit a couple of our favourite places in Monmouth, Tintern Abbey and Caerleon Roman camp this Easter. Both are managed by CADW, the organisation which looks after historical sites in Wales. If you enjoy visiting historical sites it is a good idea to take out an annual membership which allows free entry to all the CADW sites. For senior citizens like us it is £28.50 a year. Once in Wales both sites can be accessed easily from the M4 and are well signposted.
Carleon Roman Fort
Our first outing was to Caerleon.
Carleon which is just outside Newport was known as Isca by the Romans and is on the banks of the river Usk. Founded in A.D. 75 as the headquarters of the second Augustan legion. it was one of only three permanent legionary sites in Britain and unlike the other two in Chester and York it has not been built on. This means that archaeologists including the BBC time team have been able to make significant finds.
At one time almost 5,000 Roman soldiers were quartered here. The Roman museum is shut for repairs until the Autumn but Caerleon is still worth visiting. As well as the most complete remains of barracks any where in Europe we were able to see the amphitheatre where soldiers would have trained and gladiators fought. This is the best preserved Amphitheatre in Britain.
For me the most impressive part of the site are the Roman baths. They were more like a modern sports centre with an indoor exercise hall and even changing rooms with underfloor heating. They also had hot and cold swimming pools. The remains are covered and have been enhanced with digital technology and impressive lighting. Children can take part in interactive quizzes.
To find out more click here Cadw Carleon Roman Remains
The amphitheatre and barracks are free to visit but there is a small charge for the Baths. CADW put on special events throughout the year when we visited staff were blowing up duck balloons for an Easter hook a duck game in the Baths.
Our second outing was a trip up the Wye valley to Tintern. The Wye river marks the border between Monmouth and Gloucestershire or to put it another way between England and Wales. The deep wooded valley is a favourite destination for tourists and the river itself is popular for canoes and Kayaks. There is also a long distance footpath for walkers.
Our destination was Tintern: the site of a ruined Cistercian abbey. The Cistercians were a monastic order from France. The monks combined prayer with labour on the fields and the order became very rich thanks to the wool trade. The abbey was built in the gothic style between 1361 and 1550. Like many monasteries in Britain it was dissolved by Henry VIIII but the fact that so much of the stonework survives is a tribute to the skill of those early builders.
The site is now cared for by CADW who organise a programme of activities. When we visited a handler was giving a falconry display.
Tintern itself is a small village with several gift shops and restaurants.
To find out more. click here Tintern Abbey
There is a small charge for entry. We parked at the nearby Anchor inn and were able to claim the cost of parking against the cost of an ice cream.