SOUTH WEST WALES
The Cliff Hotel & Spa, Gwbert, Cardigan, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
Monday 14th September – With Dave Scott, coach driver of Travel Wright, Newark, it was an 8.40 am start for 40 residents of Winthorpe and friends as we set off on a dull but dry morning, for a five-day holiday to south west Wales. Squally showers of heavy rain were to follow us for most of the day.
Wales, in the south west part of Great Britain, is known for its rugged coastline, mountains, its distinctive language and Celtic culture. Established in 1952, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park which is in the south west part of Wales, takes in almost the entire coast, its offshore islands and the moorlands of the Preseli Hills. Following a lunch stop at Monmouth, we set off for our destination the three-star 70 bedrooms Cliff Hotel and Spa at Gwbert. Overlooking Cardigan Bay, Gwbert is on the northern tip of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Tuesday 15th September – It was a 9 o’clock start on a dry sunny morning for our visits to Fishguard and St. Davids. Travelling along the
coast through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, we passed through the ancient town of Newport. This is not to be confused with the city of Newport, which is near Cardiff. It was now raining and because of the weather it was the only time I wore a raincoat. Passing through Lower Fishguard, up a steep hill, to stop outside the Town Hall in the main part of the town of Fishguard. This is known locally as Upper Fishguard. A tour around the Town Hall revealed in a purposely built gallery attached to the library, a wonderful embroidered tapestry enclosed in a glass case. Called ‘The Last Invasion,’ this tapestry, which is 100 feet in length and nearly two feet wide, took 80 local women four years to complete. It has a similar format to the Bayeux Tapestry, which is the story of the ‘1066 Norman Invasion.’ ‘The Last Invasion’ tapestry tells the story of the last ever invasion of mainland Britain, when in 1797, a French force landed three miles west of Fishguard. The French were defeated mainly by Welsh women, lead by Jemima Nichols, all in their national costumes. The French mistakenly thought they were the British army Redcoats.
Leaving Fishguard and travelling for about 30 minutes we arrived at St. Davids on the most westerly part of Wales.
St. Davids, Britain’s smallest city, is a small attractive town and home to many artists. This is noticeable by the many art galleries. St.Davids
is the peaceful home of Wales’s Patron Saint, called St. David, whose Feast Day is celebrated on the 1st of March. Set in a valley and overlooked by the Celtic Cross and War Memorial Garden is St. Davids Cathedral. This very large distinctive building, with its four pointed towers of purplish sandstone is built on the site of a 6th century chapel and dates from the 12th to the 14th centuries. As you enter the Nave the first thing noticeable was the sloping floor, even the pillars looked to be leaning. This may be caused by subsidence. I was intrigued to see a sundial, on the inside left hand wall of the Lady Chapel. Nearby, to the cathedral, are the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace, now an ancient monument and open theatre.
Leaving St. Davids travelling through moorland hills to Foel Eryr, a well known view point on the Preseli Hills. It is also a favourite place for walkers to begin their journeys. In English it is called ‘Hill of the Eagle.’ Standing 1536 feet high, (468 mtrs.) it gave commanding views all around. These hills are the centre of a fascinating prehistoric landscape, scattered with hill forts, standing stones and burial chambers. The hills are also famous as the source of the mysterious bluestones of Stonehenge.
Wednesday 16th September – Another 9 o'clock start for our visit to the Gwili Steam Railway at Bronwydd Arms near Carmarthen. The Gwili Railway is a Welsh heritage railway that operates a standard gauge preserved railway line. Passing an old fashion signal box, we boarded a train to take us on a one hour round journey to Danycoed Halt. The steam engine, pulling our vintage carriages with a working steam pressure of 160 lbs per square inch, was built in 1945 for the NCB. The engine was rebuilt in 1961 by The Hunslet Engine Company Ltd. of Leeds for use on operational passenger trains. It was then given the name ‘Haulwen.’ She did look well for her age. Travelling through open fields and wooded hills, all the time hugging the River Gwili, we arrived at Danycoed Halt. Waiting for the engine to change places for our return journey gave everyone time to take photographs.
Following the journey back to the Bronwydd Arms, we had a talk on the railway’s history, enjoyable refreshments and a tour around the carriage’s workshops. I was intrigued by the large number of glass jars, sitting on shelves above the work benches, each containing small nuts and bolts, screws, cotter pins, circlips etc. The exciting morning wasn’t yet over as we all had a short ride on the companies miniature railway. Pulling the train, and using a petrol engine from a Honda lawn mower, was ‘Ben.’ Nearby, painted grey and waiting to come into service, was engine No 6407. This was going to be called ‘Bill.’ The driver jokingly told me he was called ‘Little Weed.’ The names are taken from the 1950’s BBC children’s television programme ‘Bill and Ben, the Flower Pot Men.’
What an exciting morning I had.
Our lunch stop, and a short ride, away was at The National Botanical Garden of Wales, near Llanarthney in Carmarthenshire. The garden covers a massive 568 acres of the beautiful Carmarthenshire countryside. Besides being a big attraction for visitors, it is a centre for botanical research and conservation. The main attraction in the garden was the glasshouse. It is the world's largest single-span glasshouse with the best indoor display of Mediterranean climate plants in the Northern Hemisphere. The walled garden was full of vegetables of all descriptions, fruit waiting to be picked, perennial plants, climbers, etc. The steamy Tropical House, whilst making photography difficult, was magical. It was full of orchids, bromeliads and palms. The main garden had many borders of perennial plants, lakes and woodlands. The water rill starting at the top of the garden, twisting around the many borders of perennial planting schemes, ended up forming a pond at the bottom.
Wonderful. I loved this garden.
What a great day out this has been.
Thursday 17th September – Another sunny morning for our coffee stop at Saundersfoot, a popular yachting and fishing holiday village, in the Carmarthen Bay. The harbour was full of small boats and yachts. A stroll along the beach revealed many shells and a dead dogfish, which my friend John proudly held for a photograph.
Our lunch stop was Tenby fours miles along the coast. Sometimes known as ‘Little England beyond Wales,’ it is a delightful seaside town. Perched on headland with sandy beaches either side, it is an artists and postcard-makers dream. Houses in narrow streets of pastel colour are mixed with large white Georgian ones. The pastel houses remind me of similar ones along the sea front at Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. The main part of the town was partly surrounded by a Norman-built wall with many small gates. These gates funneled holidaymakers, through medieval streets lined with pubs, ice-cream parlours and gift shops, to the old part of the town. The large sandy beach, perfect for making sandcastles, seemed to stretch for miles along the Carmarthen Bay. Just off shore stands a Victorian fort on St. Catherine’s Island. During WW2 the fort had an anti-air craft battery. This battery has now long gone. The island, which is now privately owned, can be viewed by the general public but only at low tide. A long cold period awaits you if you are trapped by the tide. In the distance Caldey Island, about four miles away, was clearly visible.
The 13th century Church of St. Mary’s on the High Street had a gracefully arched roof. The panelled ceiling had 75 bosses carved with a variety of foliage designs, grotesques, fishes and a mermaid. Time was short for me to see more. What I saw, I liked.
Friday 18th September – Today was departure day. Another 9 o’clock start for our long journey home. Following the coastal road and travelling north a coffee stop was made at Aberystwyth.
Aberystwyth, a historic market town, is a popular holiday resort and the administrative centre for West Wales. It is also home to the University of Wales, which caters for several thousand students. The nearby surrounding hills looked down upon two beautiful beaches and harbour. The seafront, with its wide promenade, had many Victorian and Edwardian buildings, mostly four or five storeys high, all highlighted in the bright sunlight. It was a shame we had to leave such a beautiful town. Continuing our journey, following the River Severn and passing through Welshpool, a lunch stop was made at Shrewsbury, birthplace of Charles Darwin. The town centre had many black and white timber-framed houses with steep narrow streets and alleyways.
After a short comfort stop we arrived back in Winthorpe at 7.45pm.
Pat Finn. October 2015.
The Cliff Hotel & Spa at Gwbert is one of the best of the 17 hotels I have stayed whilst on the village holidays. It had friendly staff, superb accommodation, first class food and a knockout view. The west facing restaurant, which was at the rear of the hotel, gave commanding views of a setting sun over Cardigan Bay. This setting sun was enjoyed by everyone, whilst having evening dinner. Added to this enjoyment were skeins of honking geese flying southwards to their roosting grounds. During breakfast, these geese were seen flying northwards to their feeding grounds.
I have enjoyed this holiday. The coast of west Wales was stunning especially the south west corner at St. Davids.
Special thanks must go to the holiday organizer, Peter Foden, our coach driver Dave Scott, who together with their detailed planning and organization made this holiday both enjoyable and safe. I must not forget our chief head counter, Peter’s wife Jean, who gave him her full support. Thank you Jean.
The mileage for the coach holiday was 800 miles.
This south west Wales holiday is the end of an era. A story that started in 1988, when the late Maurice Harvey had a vision. He was returning home after visiting Monet’s Garden in France when he said to his wife Kath, “I wondered whether the Winthorpe Art groups and Gardening Club would be interested in visiting the gardens in an organised coach holiday.”
With Kath’s approval and great enthusiasm, Maurice approached David Wright of Travel Wright, Newark with his idea. Little did he know what he had let himself in for?
The following year, with the help of David Wright, a full coach set off for a tour of Monet’s Garden and France.
Maurice had now given the coach holiday a name:-
‘Harvey’s Coach Holidays in conjunction with Travel Wright.’
This highly successful coach tour lead to more, until after seven years Maurice had organised
On the death of Maurice on the 23rd of June 2005, Peter Foden of Tall Trees, The Spinney was asked by Kath, Maurice’s widow, to bring to a conclusion the last two coach holidays that Maurice had started planning, southern Ireland and western Scotland.
Peter carried out this task magnificently. Since then he has continued where Maurice left off running the coach holidays under the name:-
‘Winthorpe Village Holiday Group.’
Peter has organised 14 holidays.
2005 – Southern Ireland. 2005 – Western Scotland. 2006 – Hereford. 2006 – Scarborough. 2007 – Isle of Man. 2008 – North Devon. 2008 – Edinburgh Military Tattoo. 2009 – Northern Ireland. 2010 – Royal Deeside, Scotland. 2011 – Lake District. 2012 – Suffolk. 2013 – Hampshire. 2014 – Dorset. 2015 – South West Wales.
Many thanks to our coach drivers who with their safe driving skills, knowledge and sense of humour helped to make these holidays enjoyable.
John Allen, Gary Alvey, Glyn Bowers, Alex Machin, Malcolm Sargent, Dave Scott, Peter Seymore, Pat (Patricia) Todd and the late Norman Mee and Ben Wiltshire.
Finally many thanks to David Wright of Travel Wright and his office staff.
Over many years with the village holidays I have visited many places of interest.
Who cannot forget The Laxey Wheel on the Isle of Man. The Falkirk Wheel in Scotland. The Giant’s Causeway in northern Ireland. The Mary Rose in Portsmouth. The Chapel on the Hill in Illfracombe and the haunting sound of the Lone Piper playing a lament high up on the Castle ramparts at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Those puffing, hissing, fire-eating steam locomotives. ‘Kissack’ on the Isle of Man, ‘Statford’ in north Devon, the Indian red-coloured ‘River Mite’ in the Lake District and many more.
I mustn’t forget the ‘Mountain Goat’ in the Lake District.
These and many more are Wonderful, Wonderful Memories.
Are they your memories too?
Finally, I leave the best memory of all.
Old friendships renewed, new friendships made and lasting memories.
The rugged Pembrokeshire Coastline, Gwbert, Cardigan Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
14th September 2015.
Boarding the train at Bronwydd Arms on the Gwili Steam Railway, near Carmarthen, Wales.
16th September 2015.
The group enjoying a ride on the minature railway, Bronwydd Arms Station, near Carmarthen, Wales.
16th September 2015.
Mediterranean climate plants in the world's largest single-span glasshouse at The National Botanical Garden of Wales, Llanarthney, Carmarthenshire, Wales - 16th September 2015.
St. Catherine's Island. The fort is on the top left hand side. Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
17th September 2015.
The RNLI barometer outside the Harbour Master's Office, Notice the coin collection slot at the bottom.
Tenby, Pembrokeshire, Wales - 17th September 2015.
John Nelson holding a dogfish that he found lying on the beach, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, Wales.
17th September 2015.
Holiday organizer Peter Foden and his wife Jean taking in the sea air at Saundersfoot harbour, Pembrokeshire, Wales 17th September 2015.
'Sun Set on Cardigan Bay.'
The photograph was taken from the balcony of The Cliff Hotel & Spa, Gwbert, Cardigan Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales - 7.47pm, 16th September 2015.
Group photograph taken outside The Cliff Hotel & Spa, Gwbert, Cardigan Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales
17th September 2015.