From Bath to Cotswolds to London

Friday 16 May 2014

From Bath to Cotswolds to London

From Bath to Cotswolds to London

Memorable Bath YSA Hostel

Memorable Bath YSA Hostel

We got out of Bath by 10am this morning, grateful for a little extra rest after a midnight cessation of activities.

After much ado about the popularity of touring the picturesque villages of the Cotswolds of Gloucestershire, we found that the native tourists were out in force, occupying tea rooms and gaily enjoying their paradise, but I have to confess that it was all a bit over-rated. My favorite part of the day was experienced as we down between hill and hollow in the downs between Cirencester and Stow. Along narrowing tracks, we passed through gleaming fields of mustard and green, into deep hollows, through new forests of distinct trees planted too dense, and around little hamlets with few homes. These were the kinds of places to walk and ride, but it all passes too quickly in a car, and although lost for a while, we eventually found our way back to the A429 heading towards Stow. Stow-on-the-Wold passed in a blink of an eye when we failed to turn into the maze of the City Center.

Content at Moreton-in-Marsh

Content at Moreton-in-Marsh

Colorful toy shop

Colorful toy shop

Quaint Cotswold villages

Quaint Cotswold villages

Chipping Campden country homes

Chipping Campden country homes

But we did park and explore Moreton-in-Marsh, poking our heads into knick-knackery shops, stopping for ice cream at the Sweet Shop, and exploring a delightful toy shop where Rachel found a prize. A pass by Boureton and passing through and back in Chipping Campden completed our Cotswolds tour, making more of the elegant thatched roofs and other quaint architecture that my quest for adventure craves. Indeed, the road, with its challenges to navigation, was fulfillment enough. Also, the passage was enhanced when the road was viewed through the rose colored spectacles of a new mystical fantasy about stone mages (Kelli Swofford Nielsen’s Journey to the Fringe) that played on our imaginations on CD. This story, as Rachel was so correct in proclaiming, would be something that Daniel would love, due to its claim to magical powers enhanced by gem talismans.

But the day was warm and clear which made for a jolly good time in what could have been dismal and damp. At 1:00pm, we turned our boat out of the Vale of Evesham onto A44 towards Oxford, circumvented that great destination without time to explore its enchantments, and pursued our course onto the M40, A40, and all the traffic headed into the center of London. It was with some trepidation that we just followed our nose because our navigational Mapquest aids were wholly incorrect until we reached the end of the road at Marylebone and followed that road into dense traffic onto Euston, confirming at last that we had overshot our mark. Returning whence we came, we found Seymour Place and after a few trips around the Harrowby block, found street parking on Bryanston off Shouldham where I left the girls and endeavored on foot to find Richbourne Court, encountering Miles pushing a new wheelchair purchased for Ralph.

And thus ended the 1,500 miles 5 day countryside tour of rural southern England.

London views from the backseat driver

London views from the backseat driver

Devil’s Bridge & Falls

Thursday 15 May 2014
Borth, Ceredigion, Wales to Bath, Gloucester, England

Devil's Bridge & Falls

Devil’s Bridge & Falls

Rheidol Gorge

Rheidol Gorge

Having traversed Wales from south to north, we now steered a course from the Irish Sea eastward across Wales to the Brecon Beacon highlands and down to the Severn Estuary and back into the midlands of England.

Reaching a sign to Devil’s Bridge (Pontarfynach), we enjoyed a pleasant diversion as we followed narrow roads into high villages. The trail down to the falls down in a very steep and deep little gorge of the Rheidol and Mynach creeks was accessed by slate steps to view stunning falls and bridges built upon bridges. Following a side track, I found that the undergrowth beneath the forest wash soft and deep, a wonderful wild place of many unfamiliar plants.

Searching for Sarah Bunton’s Luxury Chocolates, we searched high and low to no avail in four directions from Y Caban, the village adjacent to Devil’s Bridge. The search, though unfruitful, gave us purpose and was fulfilling in that it allowed us to appreciate the splendor of this splendid highland with its isolated hamlets and farms.

High Pastures in the Brecon Beacons

High Pastures in the Brecon Beacons

Turning into the visitor center at Brecon Beacons National Park was a bit of a letdown. There isn’t really much to these “mountains”, but to hear a local Welshman rave on about the majesty of the heights to his foreign mates made me salivate. The nearby peaks were only just over 800’ in elevation, with gradual prominence, and even the glacial valleys of the Black Mountains above Crickhowell were scenic, but not at all wild or awe inspiring. Heading off the main highway in the valley of the Usk River we wound through narrow lanes past Pencelli Castle (Penkethli) and around a picturesque village at Talybont-on-Usk before returning to the highway and continuing past Bwlch (Bulk) to Crickhowell (Crug Hywel). There, I sought higher ground in the longest vale that penetrates the Black Mountains (Mynyddoeff Duon), threaded along Gwyne Foch to the head of glacial valley past tiny creekside outposts at Llangenny and Llangenau. Though steadily climbing, the vistas obscured by flowery hedgerows along narrow roads got narrower and narrower and ever winding until still 8 miles from the end of road and the Priory, I lost heart and turned around lest the lane, barely wide enough for a single car, would require backing down 300 yards. This would have been a wonderful for a bike ride, but not a fit passage for an automobile, and I’m sure that Susan approved of my turnabout.

Thai Dinner along Avon River in Bath

Thai Dinner along Avon River in Bath

Following the Usk River valley, I enjoyed this south facing slope, but I preferred the highlands and forests of the Cambrian Mountains. Dropping down to Newport through Pontypool and Cwmbran, we rejoined the motorway and soared back over the Severn Bridge out of southern Wales into Gloucestershire, circumvented Bristol, and proceeded into the midlands and the city of Bath, a university town. In this World Heritage City, famous for its Roman steam baths, sprawing over sizable hills along the Avon, and we enjoyed a fine Thai dinner at Salathai after locating our accommodations on Bathwick Hill after failing to find it on Claverton Hill. For all their Brecon Beacons National Park acclaim, it appeared to me that the prominence of the hills around Bath exceeded the gradient we had crossed through the Brecons, and I found this surprising that a city in the Midlands could have such steep elevation changes. Indeed, the altitude of the River Avon lies at about 59’ and the highest hill in Bath is at 781’, making for a 700’ prominence.

Bees, of a large black variety that were slow and curious, buzzed about our faces at the entrance to our dorm, but signs warned us to stay calm and not harm them as they are protected due to decline caused by foreign competition. After an initial bout of screaming, it took some effort to calm Rachel down and learn to ignore them.

Borth Village

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Llandudno

Llandudno


Wednesday evening 14 May 2014
After a lengthy tour of Penrhyn castle and a brief diversion through Llandudno on a small peninsula north of Anglesey, we stopped for dinner supplies at a Welsh Farm Food attraction, then pressed back on up and over the mountains past Betws-y-Coed (Betis-y-coid) back to Dolgellau through idyllic Cymru countryside, turning aside towards Borth, and finding ourselves on a seaside lane facing the setting sun in a hostel where only one other couple was residing.
Borth Village

Borth Village

My first stop was to climb the promenade seawall and approach the shore of cobblestone on sand facing west into a bright sunset on a shallow shore of calm water with minor swells. A peaceful shore, but not beachy, it was not appealing for swimming, but for dreaming. We ate well and slept well, enjoying some television viewing and Ben and Jerry’s Fish Food ice cream purchased at discount from the Family Store down the lane.

Borth Beaches

Borth Beaches

Fantasy Castle

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Fantasy Castle

Fantasy Castle


Although a newer 18th century Norman castle, it was impressive in all aspects and commanded our attention for several hours, exploring all the rooms, taking many pictures, and also hiking about the walled garden and boggy garden. Grotesque faces and motifs were repeated throughout, making it interesting, but macabre. What an enormous amount of wealth was invested into this monumental residence! Enjoy this collage of fantasy images!
Tinted Towers

Tinted Towers

Delicious interiors

Delicious interiors

Arch symmetry

Arch symmetry

Fancy carvings

Fancy carvings

Toothy grins

Toothy grins

Leering faces

Leering faces

Spiral staircases to deep dungeons

Spiral staircases to deep dungeons

Stained Glass

Stained Glass

Framing the light

Framing the light

Playing with light

Playing with light

Climbing Vines

Climbing Vines

Battlements

Battlements

Penrhyn Castle

Penrhyn Castle

Penrhyn Vistas

Penrhyn Vistas

Portraits

Portraits

Slate majesty

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Slate majesty

Slate majesty of Cenedlaethol Eryri


Stiles, slate mines, black hills, & rusty roots

Stiles, slate mines, black hills, & rusty roots


Wednesday 14 May 2014 dawned lazy so we made no rapid escape from Llanberis moody vale of narrow lakes and slate mines at the foot of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon).
Llanberis moods & campgrounds

Llanberis moods & campgrounds


I took a short walk up the lane and explored muddy sheep pastures and paths through camping grounds and on stiles over rock walls as hikers explored their maps and GPS also in search of the paths through shepherd’s fields that lead to the Snowdon trail.
Sheep &  Rams & Bonny Brook

Sheep & Rams & Bonny Brook


Fenced in cascades filled with debris were nonetheless scenic, and I appreciated seeing the green campground devoid of the many campers that will fill it in summer.
...except for death...

…except for death…


LLanberis icons

LLanberis icons


Enjoying fried eggs and orange-fig marmalade on toast, we checked out of the hostel after 10:00am, cruising through the narrow rock-hedged lanes to the crest, pausing at occasional turnouts to gaze up at the waterfalls and slate mountains.
Snowdonia waters

Snowdonia waters


At the top, we traversed the high ridges gazing down on verdant green meadows far below, then descended narrow rock-hedged passages past scenic turnouts, stopping at shallow Llyn Ogwen to nap while rock climbers scaled the granite.
Anglesey Port & Dudley Garage

Anglesey Port & Dudley Garage


I would have loved to have had time to climb these mountains, but was sleepy and at peace just viewing, so we passed the moody morning waiting for the sun. Awaking to sunshine, we dropped into Bangor to get lost searching for Penryn Castle on the University hill’s winding lanes on this scenic crossing into Anglesey, eventually getting directions to land at the Penrhyn castle that Rachel felt drawn to. It was a worthwhile tour.