When my dear friend, Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells, heard we were joining Tonbridge U3A’s holiday to Wales, she gave me some invaluable tips on how to approach such a venture. This report is written in the light of her advice.
The journey started on a miserable misty, cold day.The wonderful views we expected on the M25 were invisible, so had to resort to get on with my knitting. The journey was broken at the National Arboretum which proved to be a most interesting place, with charming chapel, wood carvings, and embroidery. We barely had time to explore the numerous memorials to the brave men of various regiments on the feeble excuse that there was still a long journey ahead of us. So more knitting had to be done until we reached our destination.
Hotel very nice, although it was a bit of an insult that I was given a double bed (implying my size required it) while ‘himself’ had a single one.Oh well down to supper. Delicious fish with plenty of vegetables and without doubt full of micro beads of plastic to upset our insides!!
Then we set off on our visits.Must say the castle builders had no consideration for the needs of visitors. Uneven steps, crumbling parts here and there muddy grassy areas. Even had large slabs that had to be assembled to make a model of the castle.Luckily we had a family party with about 5 children to help us and the end result was truly impressive.
We had visits to industrial sites, both old and new. The electric mountain impressed all of the party.It was difficult to get our heads around the idea of being able to generate power within just a few seconds to help the national grid during surges in demand. This was made possible by the ingenious use of water. We saw it and yet could hardly believe it. Still, a bit cruel to make the same water do this over and over again, almost like slave labour. The water wanted to flow out to sea, and here it was trapped for ever.
We could have spent all day looking at The National Slate Quarry, with a charming collection of workmen’s cottages, a glimpse of the steam train that moved the worked slate long ago and the enormous water wheel that provided energy to power the various workshops (once again an illustration of water abuse). This and the visit to the Copper Museum and its open cast, rainbow coloured quarry site was Industrial Heritage on steroids.
On to some gardens: the Secret Garden planners created a charming place, but had no consideration for our poor driver who had to find it. Bodnant Garden was beautiful, but was spoiled by the noise pollution from calling pheasants, twittering birds and the very intrusive sound of water bubbling over stones in the crystal clear brook and even more intrusive cascades.To make matters worse when we got to the far end of the gardens in need of a hot drink, the refreshment booth did not have organic yak milk crappucino and so had to make do with fresh filter coffee and cows milk. I ask you! Still we coped well and had our drinks watching birds fluttering in and out of the many feeders and were, of course, bombarded by more noise.
Beautiful sunshine and warmth charmed our visit to a village nestling on a hillside with pretty gardens, houses painted in a myriad of pastel colours. We were in heaven having lunch by the water’s edge watching the receding tide disturbing the water.The organisers claimed this was Portmerion, but really they allowed aliens to transport us to a seaside village in Italy. This must have been the case because the Welsh weather was very unsettled and windy on all the other days.
I cannot deny that Telford’s bridges over the Menai strait and in Conwy were spectacular as was the Stephenson’s Britannia Bridge.Pity the former did now allow for the size of coaches, and the latter was made of materials that even children could set on fire. The toll houses were no longer collecting fees, a squandered opportunity for tax collectors who now only have the Dart charge for revenue.
Our week was soon up and we had to head for home.We witnessed workers exposed to unbearably hot conditions. It was so upsetting to see the perspiration on the face of the glass blower from the furnace in his workshop and the hot, red face of our hostess who had to put up with the heat of the oven and frying pan at the pub where she served us with delicious fish and chips and pie. It broke our hearts to see this exploitation. To completely spoil the journey home, we saw only two red kites flying high near Stokenchurch. We expected at least seven or eight.
And now we are at home.I tremble with trepidation as I anticipate the scorn of my advice giving friend.I’ll have to own up to the fact that although I really, really tried hard to follow her advice I ended up having a marvellous holiday. Risking her disapproval we send our grateful thanks to the organisers of this trip. Truly a successful trip, roll on the next one!