Two CADW sites to visit near Chepstow

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.

A plan of the carleon barracks
Part of the remains of the barracks

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.

The Amphitheatre at Carleon
Part of the amphitheatre at Caerleon

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.

A holograph of a swimmer in the baths
Digital technology is used to give the impression of a swimmer in the Baths.

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.

The Wye

The river flowing through woodland
The river Wye. England is on the left and Wales on the right.

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.

The footpath through the woods
Part of the long distance footpath along the Wye.

TIntern Abbey

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.

Stone columns inside Tintern Abbey
The interior of the abbey. The figures give some idea of the scale of the building.

The site is now cared for by CADW who organise a programme of activities. When we visited a handler was giving a falconry display.

A falconer with a long white beard holding a kestrel.
A falconer with a kestrel.

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.

Cardiff Review of the RHS flower show

Crowds queuing to enter the show ~RHS cardiff

 

A visit to the RHS flower show in Cardiff.

This weekend we visited Cardiff, the capital of Wales. It is a short hop across the Severn bridge from Bristol and we were able to catch a bus from Bristol to Newport and change for Cardiff.

We wanted to go to the RHS flower show which is held annually in Bute Park next to Cardiff Castle. The Royal Horticultural Society is a charity  which was set up to encourage an interest in gardening.  Cardiff flower show is the first show of the season and is held in April  This means that you have a chance to buy plants in time for the summer. It is smaller and less crowded than the more famous shows like Chelsea.

Cardiff 2019

I was disappointed that there was only room for a couple of show gardens. There were lots of trade stands and a wide variety of stalls selling different types of food. As there was not enough seating  we bought fish and chips and had a picnic on the grass. Luckily the weather was warm and sunny.

Children’s competition

A happy gardener with a collection of plants.
My favourite. The gardener looks so happy.

 

The children have built a boat inside the wheel barrow.
Another of the school entries

 

Each year the RHS holds a competition to encourage  the next generation of gardeners. Local schools have the chance to design a garden in a wheelbarrow and we were able to vote for our favourites.   This year the theme was discovery.  There  was also a children’s trail based on the book “the very hungry caterpillar” by Eric Carle.

We spent a long time in the flower marquees enjoying the scents and vibrant colours of the displays.  Keen gardeners could ask RHS experts questions as well as listen to talks by experts.

A display of succulents
The winning entry in the floral marquee

I especially liked the winning displays, The overall winner was a beautifully arranged display of succulents and the winning nursery displayed a  vast collection  of different types of daffodils.  The daffodil being the national flower of Wales. I resisted buying any thing but many people had very full shopping carts.  At the end of the show on Sunday growers sell plants more cheaply.

A dragon in the middle of a rockery
As we are in Wales you must expect a dragon or two

Cardiff for tourists

Cardiff  attracts a lot of tourists.   Bute park, where the show is held is right in the centre. From there you can catch the ferry  along the river Taff to Cardiff bay and see the Doctor Who exhibition or catch the red hop on hop off tourist bus and see sights like the Welsh assembly or the millennium stadium home to Cardiff city football club.

Visitors walking around the grounds of Cardiff castle
The Norman keep at Cardiff castle complete with dragon.

The enormous Cardiff castle is by the side of the park. It is well worth a visit but we did not have time on Saturday. Entry to the souvenir shop is free so I was able to take a quick picture of the keep. If you want to find out more click here Cardiff castle

The Museum

After admiring the displays in the flower show we went for coffee and a chance to sit down in the nearby Cardiff Museum and art gallery. Until the 6th of May they have a collection of Leonardo Da Vinci  Drawings owned by the Queen and loaned from her own collection. 144 drawings are on display at twelve venues round the country including Bristol museum. However as my husband had already seen them we opted to look at their collection of French impressionist paintings including this impressive Renoir. Entry to the museum is free but they encourage donations and there is a small charge for special exhibitions like the Leonardo drawings.

A smart Parisien lady wearing a blue gown
Lady in Blue by Renoir

If you liked this, you might enjoy another Welsh post Visiting the Royal Mint at Llantrisant

This post will be added to link parties for blogging grandparents. As always if you have any tips for visitors to Cardiff or questions please add them in the comments below.

 

 

Visiting the Royal Mint at Llantrisant

Croeso I Cymru  Welcome to Wales

This week Bill and I went on a coach trip to the royal  mint at Llantrisant which is near Cardiff in Wales.  I have been a coin collector for a number of years and was keen to learn a little more about how they were made.  The visitor experience centre was opened in 2016 and cost nine million pounds so we were hoping for an interesting visit.

History of the Mint

20190112_134053
The first British coin

Coins have been minted in England for over a thousand years. The earliest coin found with a London mark has the head of King Alfred.  From about 1100 A.D. coins were minted inside the tower of London and  until 1970 coins were still minted in London at a site close to the tower.  However the government decided to introduce decimalisation. In 1971,  pounds, shillings and pence were replaced by 100 new pence to the pound  and  a larger site was needed to produce the new currency.

The site chosen was  in  South Wales. It may not have been a coincidence that James Callaghan the chancellor of the exchequer was M.P. for the nearby city of Cardiff. The new mint at LLantrisant was opened 50 years ago in 1968  and over 200 million coins were struck in preparation for D day.  At the time I was at university at Bangor in North Wales and I remember the excitement of getting the new coins. Predictably people were less impressed when they found that prices tended to go up.

Visiting the mint

Gromit covered with new pence.
Still on the Gromit trail. This one has been covered with new pence.

The royal mint is on a 35 acre site and is the largest in Western Europe.  It has an interesting visitor centre which is open every day from 9.30 A.M. to 17.30 P.M.  Tickets cost  a rather hefty  £13.50 for adults and £11.00 for children and  a family ticket for two adults and two children costs £40.00.  Concessions and group rates are also available.  There is free parking and a small café.  It is four miles from junction 34 of the M4.  For more details click here:  The Royal mint visitor experience

Part of the energy used is generated by a wind turbine painted to resemble a daffodil, the Welsh national flower and named Delilah in honour of Sir Tom Jones who was born nearby.

Our visit

After a security check we saw a short film which introduced the new range of coins for this year.  New coins depict Paddington bear and James Cook as well as a series of 10p pieces with letters of the alphabet. There will also be a commemorative coin with “New Pence” like the original decimal coins.

In the next room our guide showed us a display of tools used to mint the coins. She  also pointed out  some of the details we should  look out for when examining our change. For example the two pound coins have an appropriate slogan round the edge. The London underground £2.00 has “Mind the gap”.

Next we glimpsed a little bit of the production process. I was a bit disappointed to learn that no British coins will be struck this week. Demand has dropped considerably with the increased use of debit and credit cards. However the mint produces currency for about 60 other countries and we were able to watch Egyptian pounds being minted. Our party were  suprised to learn that coins are packed in cardboard boxes ready for transport.  For obvious reasons we were not allowed to take photographs of the production area.  You will also never see a lorry with Royal Mint on the side.

After the factory tour we had time to explore the exhibition area.  The mint also produces medals. All the medals for the 2012 London Olympics were made at the mint and copies were on display. There was also a cabinet devoted to the most famous master of the mint Sir Isaac Newton.

The mint has a small shop where you can purchase collector coins and other souvenirs including the largest chocolate money I have ever seen.

Our visit took about two hours including coffee and  rather tasty Welsh cakes in the café.

A famous car

20190112_120456
The Penny lane mini.

In 1967 the Beatles released the single Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields forever. Two minis were covered with old pennies to promote the record and this one has been carefully stored and preserved for 50 years.