Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Another Foray into Carmarthenshire

So, I was walking along Llandeilo High Street with the head of a Cyberman in my hand.... as you do....

Brian offered to take me out for the day again, and we went back to Llandovery and Llandeilo. Even though we'd been there the previous week, we still found new books to buy - and a Cyberman mask, and an action figure of the 11th Doctor (the ladies in the Red Cross shop had no idea who the man in the tweed jacket and bowtie was supposed to be, so they let me have it for 50p!). I also found a stack of 1970s Marvel comics at Trecastle Antiques - and Brian found a device for making paper logs. He's planning to go into mass production over the winter months.
This time, at Llandeilo, we had a bit more time, so we went down to the other end of the high street, where the church is. The church itself isn't all that interesting architecturally - the tower is medieval, but the rest of it seems to have been totally rebuilt probably in the early Victorian era. However, it has recently been re-ordered inside, and they've done it very well. One aisle is now a kitchen and toilets below and a meeting room and offices above, with access near the font by a spiral staircase. It could have looked quite ugly, but this has been made into a sculptural form of the Crown of Thorns, and looks quite spectacular.
There were flower arrangers at work in the church, getting ready for a music festival which is still going on, and at the front of the church a stage had been put in, and a pianist was practicing on a grand piano.
St Teilo himself was a saint of the Dark Ages, around 500 - 560AD, and founded the monastery at Llandeilo. He was also Bishop of Llandaff, and built the first church there, and was reputed to be a cousin of St David.
So Llandeilo Fawr was a place of learning, and in the tower we found some computers running that showed images of the Llandeilo Gospels - which contains the earliest surviving example of written Welsh. The story goes that the Gospel book was presented to the church by a man called Gelhi, who had swapped a good horse for it!
The book may be better known as the Lichfield Gospels, as the book was later given to the King of Mercia, and has been kept in Lichfield Cathedral ever since. It's very similar to the more famous Lindisfarne Gospels.

The previous week, I'd said that I'd never been to Carreg Cennen Castle. Brian used to take the dogs up there fairly regularly - there are some good walks around the valley - so that was where we headed next.
We stopped first in the little village of Trap (one pub, one house that used to be a post office, several "Best Kept Village" signs). As it was a hot day, we took the dogs down to the river there for a splash about - and noticed that there had once been a bridge straight to the post office, just a few yards from the present bridge. We met a couple of local ladies at the Castle later, and they said that they thought that the Post Office had been isolated from the rest of the village originally, and that was why the bridge had been built.
It wasn't the only odd bit of industrial archaeology in the village though. There's a building which looks as if it was once a mill, and just down the hill from it there's a wall built parallel to the river, about the height for loading and unloading carts. The modern drive to the house cuts across it now. It would be interesting to find out exactly what was going on there.

Back at the car, we looked up through the trees.
Imagine a fairytale castle atop a high crag. No, higher than that.
That's pretty much what Carreg Cennen looks like from a distance.
I wouldn't like the job of besieging it!
Nowadays there's a decent visitors' car park (though the toilet block was padlocked shut), and you walk out of that into a farm yard. The odd thing about this castle is that it is owned by the local farmer, thanks to a legal error when the farm was bought from the Cawdor Estate. They tried to buy the castle back (for the grand sum of £100!) but the farmer wouldn't give it up and now the family run the visitor centre as well as farming longhorn cattle, and CADW maintain the castle fabric. There's a huge barn with fully stocked bar that they rent out for weddings and corporate events, with a stunning view over the valley. There's also a newly built visitor centre (they seem to get a lot of school parties) and an 11thC longhouse full of agricultural implements and with an 1820s living room on one end of it. And swallows nesting among the rafters.
We had lunch there - the chicken pie with new potatoes and salad looked very nice. The beef they serve is from their own longhorns, and the cakes (I had rhubarb crumble cake and ice cream) are home baked. A sparrow hopped down onto the table to watch us eat.
Then we took Denzil up the hill, past a meadow full of butterflies, to the entrance to the castle, where a gate leads to a pathway down the hill on the other side. Denzil loves this walk, though we didn't go far as we'd left Belle in the car (she'd had all the exercise she wanted for the day and didn't want to budge). The woodland is partly on sandstone (oak trees) and partly on limestone (ash trees), and the limestone goes right under the castle, where there's a cave that can be visited - you can hire a torch at the gift shop/cafe. The cave also provides the water source for the castle, which is why they could build it in such a commanding position.
It was a marvellous day out, and I was delighted to be able to pick out the Bronze Age cairns on the opposite ridge before I looked at the information board that showed their positions!

1 comment:

Annie B said...

There is a tunnel under the churchyard in Llandeilo with a well in it -worth a look -the castle & its park are a good day out too .