Footsteps To Pontypool

We started from the Pontypool active living centre. Soon we were walking through Pontypool park to climb up to the shell grotto (groto cregyn) and the Folly tower.

It was uphill to the grotto. As we climbed, we had good views of Pontypool behind us. The grotto itself was closed (coronavirus restrictions) but even from the outside it is an unusual building. It was built in 1794 and many improvements were made by Molly, the wife of Caple Hanbury-Leigh in about 1830. The inside is much bigger than the outside suggests. It is circular and built of rough stone with a conical stone tiled roof. The ceiling is vaulted and supported by 6 pillars decorated with stones and shells. The floor is reputed to be deer bones, but closer inspection reveals a mixture of backbones and teeth from a variety of animals. The grotto fell into disrepair at the end of the last century and was painstakingly repaired in 1996 with funds from Cadw and European aid.

This is arguably the first proper mountain spur in Wales. It is certainly a geographical fault line between the prosperous agricultural lands of Monmouthshire and the radical mineral belt of South Wales.

Continuing north along the Cambrian Way we glimpsed the Bristol Channel glistening in sunlight and the hills around us. Arriving at the Folly tower, we had an early lunch. The 230-year-old tower was rebuilt in 1994 after war time destruction. The views were brilliant in all directions: the channel sparkling in midday sun, Skirrid and Sugar Loaf shaping the horizon and Pontypool nestling in the valley. It had been showery with coats on and off throughout the morning but now the weather settled, though clouds returned briefly as we finished lunch.

The route took us towards Mamilhad via a Roman Road, it was a rough stony track leading downhill through woods and quite slippery after the rain. We were glad to reach the bottom of the road but admired the construction and longevity of the Roman Road.

At the bottom we came across a badge on a stone wall for the Brecon Beacons National Park. Now we turned onto the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal which was built between 1791 and 1812 to transport stone and lime to Newport. After decaying into stagnant disuse, it was reopened in 1970 and today is a vibrant leisure waterway. Navigable from Brecon to Pontypool and walkable for most of the rest of the route to Newport.

We followed the canal for about 3 miles and were bathed in sunshine the whole time. The Folly tower stood out on the hill above us and we passed the old 1960s British Nylon Spinners works at Mamhilad.

The flat canal enabled us to stride out and we were delighted with the local wildlife. There were lots of fish in the water – one of our group thought they were probably roach. Moorhens and ducks busied about the water and a heron, stood stock-still, in the field on the opposite bank, flying up just after we passed it. A large raptor took to the air along the canal just in front of us, reminding us that we had seen 3 buzzards at the Folly at lunchtime. Then best of all one of our group spotted a kingfisher as it flashed along the canal, the rest of us were sorry we had missed it but then we came to an area where the canal widened and there was a kingfisher perched on a metal railing – brilliant. A local told us that this is the kingfishers favourite fishing spot and he regularly sees two birds. A plant with arrow shaped leaves grew in the water, probably arrowhead.

Now we approached Pontymoile Basin, where two canals merge connecting Brecon with the coast in Newport, cause for much celebration in 1812. It was the Merthyr Tydfil ironmaster Richard Crawshay that pushed the project to completion, eager to ensure his iron reached Newport docks more competitively. We left the canal at bridge 52, Pontymoile junction, where there is a picnic area and small café. After a short walk along the main road we re-entered Pontypool park through the ornate Pontymoile gates, the original main entrance to the park. The gates are grade II listed and affectionately called the ‘Sally gates’ – Sally was the Duchess of Marlborough and legend has it that they were a present to the Hanbury family for help with the execution of her late husband’s will. Of particular interest on the pillars are the vines and bunches of grapes which originally, would have been gilded along with the acanthus leaves and finials of the gates. A short stroll took us back to the cars.

Map OS 152. Walk 7 miles.



Christopher Columbus’ Carers

Christopher Columbus’ Carers

On September 23rd 1493, Christopher Columbus embarked on his second expedition to the New World, setting sail with a fleet of 17 ships. On September 23rd 2000, members of the Carers walk, discovered one of Columbus’s ships in the Old Harbour at Barry Island! The ship was certainly a colourful sight and looked like it had survived many voyages on the seas, as can be seen in the photograph.

Our voyage around Barry Island took in both Nells and Friars Points and a stroll across the almost empty, freshly groomed golden sands. We are lucky to live in the Vale and during our local lockdown to have such a wonderful beach to walk on. Come and join us.



Offa’s Dyke To Cardigan Bay

Offa’s Dyke To Cardigan Bay

In the 1960s, the war correspondent and journalist Wynford Vaughan Thomas was persuaded by the BBC to climb on a horse and ride from Pembrokeshire to North Wales, with no previous experience. He described the journey in “Madly in all Directions” in 1967, with an account superbly interspersed with personal anecdotes from his life and work, and the many people he had met, interviewed and befriended.

I came across the book many years ago, and was fascinated by the idea of riding across Wales, but felt that it would probably be just a life-long dream. In 2020, my daughter and I rode from the English border to Borth in just over 5 days, covering 100 miles, together with three like-minded people, and lived the dream.

We drove from home early on a Sunday morning past Storey Arms, where the car park was already full, and a line of people could be seen on the way up to Pen y Fan. The holiday invasion of Wales during the summer had flooded every popular tourist spot, but still the majority of people headed for the well-known places, and I wondered how busy it would be in mid-Wales. I need not have worried.

There were 5 of us in the group, led by an experienced guide with maps and instructions. We carried all our luggage with us in saddlebags. The route ran from Clyro over the Begwns to Builth Wells, then across the edge of the Epynt, coming down to Abergwesyn. From there we rode over the Cambrians, past Strata Florida to Pontrhydfendigaid, and then to Ponterwyd via Devil’s Bridge. Then we headed west for the coast, staying in Aberystwyth, and rode up the beach to Borth and Ynaslas on the last day. As we left Aberystwyth, a family from London who were there on holiday stared at us in amazement. They had never seen a horse before! We had one rather wet day, but otherwise the weather was superb. Accomodation in country inns had been arranged for us at the end of each day, and the horses were left in a field of lush grass nearby.

Mid-Wales is not really dramatic or spectacular, but it is stunningly beautiful and so peaceful, with only sheep, skylarks, buzzards and kites for company. We rode on all types of terrain, country lanes, grass tracks, rough trackways, old drovers’ roads, under fallen trees, through a lot of water and across a few streams and rivers, and across a railway line. We stopped for the horses to drink from time to time, trying to find nice clean water, although horses are not very fussy about what they drink. Having drunk their fill, they like to splash with their hooves perhaps to cool off their feet? On some steep downhill stretches, we walked the horses for safety and to stretch our legs, and we stopped for a picnic lunch each day. The horses were Welsh cobs, not very large, but known for their strength and stamina, and always incredibly energetic and well-behaved.

The trip was an adventure to start with, but disaster struck on the third day. Our guide had eaten something that did not agree with her and was not well at all, and the stables owner rang us the next morning to say that he was very sorry, but we would have to cancel the rest of the journey. We were extremely disappointed, especially my daughter, but we held a quick emergency meeting, and asked the owner if he would allow us to continue un-guided. To my surprise, he said yes, so we took the maps and instructions from our poor guide, and carried on. Some of the navigation, especially through forestry, was not straightforward, but with great teamwork, supported by some modern GPS technology, we managed to avoid getting lost.

By the end of the ride, we were all friends for life, so we have arranged to do another ride next year!



Mike’s Reindeer Herd

Mike’s Reindeer Herd

This year’s sale of Mike’s Reindeer herd, which will take place on the weekend of 28th & 29th November 2020, will be held in the garden of our home at 29 Vennwood Close, during the hours of 10am – 4pm. Covid regulations in place at that time will be followed so please remember to wear a mask and to observe the 2 metre distancing rule. There will be a donation made from the sale of each reindeer to the Wenvoe Wildlife Group and a raffle to raise further funds for the Wenvoe Wildlife Group. We have some lovely prizes with thanks to generous friends and neighbours – bottles of various alcoholic bever-ages and chocolates and gifts. There will also be a hamper of delicious goodies which we have put to-gether ourselves and a home made and decorated rich fruit Christmas cake, a large Yankee candle and a lighted Christmas wall picture and more. There will be a table of Locally made Jam and small, local-ly handcrafted items for sale. Please bring plenty of change as we don’t have a card reader and would like to keep money handling to a minimum. If you would like to pre-order your reindeer you can do so by ringing 07922109721 or by email at pukkatucker@gmail.com. We hope we’ll see you that weekend!





As we head towards the end of this very strange year our members are still staying connected through our monthly Glamorgan Federation Newsletter and the WI Life Magazine. The WI Life is the essential link to our WI family and is extra important during these uncertain, challenging times when we are unable to gather for monthly meetings or social events. Our magazine gives us a sense of “belonging”.

The latest issue saw seven members from various WIs sharing stories of finding a home in the WI – all very different stories, but all very interesting. In the same edition there was also an opportunity for members to participate in a survey. The closing date is not until 31st January 2021 so there is plenty of time still left!

As it is the month of November we have sent our usual annual donation to the British Legion, in memory of all those who gave their lives and all those who have suffered as a result of conflict.

All members will be delighted to learn that Sandra Anstee is progressing well at the Heath Hospital, following recent heart surgery in Bristol. And so we send our special wishes to Sandra, hoping that she will be home soon.

If you have a November birthday, please accept our warmest wishes. In the meantime stay safe, stay well and if you need to have a chat “It is always good to talk”.



Chocolate Gingerbread Brownies with Fudgy Icing

Chocolate Gingerbread Brownies with Fudgy Icing

400g dark chocolate, broken into chunks

25g cocoa powder

250g golden caster sugar

250g butter, plus extra for the tin

1 tbsp. ground ginger

140g ground almonds

6 large eggs, separated

For the icing

100g butter, chopped

50g dark chocolate, broken into chunks

50g cocoa

200g icing sugar, sifted

few chunks of crystallised ginger, chopped into small pieces

2tbsp ground ginger

Preheat oven 180C fan. Butter a 20cm x 30cm cake tin, and line base and sides with baking parchment. Heat the chocolate, cocoa, sugar and butter together in a saucepan over a low heat. Once the chocolate and butter have melted and the sugar dissolved, remove from the heat and stir in the ginger and ground almonds, followed by the egg yolks one at a time. Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks. Using a metal spoon, stir in a couple of spoonfuls of egg whites into the chocolate mixture to loosen, then gently fold in the rest. Transfer the mixture to the tin. Bake for 30 – 35 mins until the top is set and the centre doesn’t wobble too much. Leave in the tin on a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cool make the icing. Gently heat the butter, chocolate, cocoa, icing sugar, ground ginger and 4 tbsp. of water in a pan, stirring until you have a smooth icing. Pour over the cake, [still in its tin], leave for about 2 mins to cool slightly, then scatter over the crystallised ginger. Leave to cool completely before cutting into bars. Serve with ice cream or whipped double cream.



Baked Cod with Garlicky Spinach and Chick Peas

Baked Cod with Garlicky Spinach and Chick Peas [ serves two ]

2 cod loins, about 175g each

pinch dried chilli flakes

grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp. chilli oil

1med onion, sliced thinly

1 large clove garlic, finely chopped

400g can of good quality chick peas

250g spinach, washed

Preheat oven to 180C fan. Pat the cod dry, then place them, skin side [if any ] down in a shallow, non-stick roasting tin. Season and sprinkle over the chilli flakes and the lemon zest. Drizzle over half of the oil and bake for 20 mins, until the fish is opaque and cooked through. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a deep non-stick pan or wok and cook the onion for 6-8 mins, stirring often until golden. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Tip in the chick peas and warm through for about 2 mins. Add the spinach and cook, stirring occasionaly, for two mins, until wilted. Season and serve with the cod. Serve with buttered baby new potatoes.



Hippocratic Sense

Walking Is Man’s Best Medicine.

Hippocrates lived a long time ago, but he spoke a lot of sense when he said, “Walking is man’s best medicine.” All the women who met at Cosmeston for the Living with Cancer Strollers, under a bright blue sky in glorious sunshine, would definitely agree with him.

In the uncertain times of a Covid 19 pandemic and the restrictions placed on people by local lockdowns, the certainties of the benefits of a walk in beautiful countryside can be reassuring.

In the photo accompanying this article, you can see some members of the walk deep in conversation, and I promise you this wasn’t posed! It’s what the walk is all about: relaxing in good company, chatting and laughing together, feeling the warmth of the sun (or the wet rain) on our face and feeling energised and a boost in mood when the walk is over. Come and join us!



Colourful Harvest Display

A Colourful Harvest Display

In 1866 a visitor to Wenvoe church and churchyard commented on the “churchyard being prettily planted with flowers”. If the same visitor had visited the churchyard over the weekend of our Harvest Celebration he would have seen the churchyard cross prettily decorated with straw bales and pumpkins and apples, to celebrate the limited way in which the church kept the Harvest in 2020. The cross was decorated by Mike and Glenys and Sandra, and we extend to them our thanks for such a colourful display. The COVID restrictions, now in force, meant that all our normal activities, of decorating the church and having the children of our “Pebbles” group, give us a presentation of what harvest means to them, were for this year put on hold. However Vicar Jon had decided that he would present a harvest service on Facebook, as part of our regular virtual worship. The children from Wenvoe C in W school were filmed singing and reading “harvesty” things and it was a joy to see and to hear. During the Saturday we invited offerings of tinned and dry goods for the Food Bank in Barry and we were amazed at the response, and it needed two car loads to take the items to the Food Bank, who were so grateful for the contribution the people of Wenvoe had made yet again, when the Food Bank are in so desperate need of food for those families who are finding it hard to cope at the moment.
Well done and thanks to all who made a contribution.

Jude took a photo of her car showing some of the many bags handed in during Saturday

No Memorial Service
This year because of the COVID resrictions, there will be NO ceremony at the Village War Memorial. Vicar Jon will be using his 10.30 service on Facebook as a virtual Remembrance Day service including the two minutes silence which all can join in at home. There has been much thought about this and in agreement with the Chairman of Wenvoe Community Council this is how Wenvoe will remember its sons who died in the two world wars and the many other wars since. The theme of this year’s commemoration by the Royal British Legion is to be “Coming Home” and their appeal is to help the wounded who returned home with their lives shattered in many cases. So please Support The Poppy Appeal as you have in previous years. All charities have reported a great loss of income in these difficult days, but the “Legion” has so many dependent on their help, so buy a poppy and wear it with pride.



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