Last Saturday I was to meet friends in Porthmadog for a ride (and more – watch this space!) on the Ffamous Ffestiniog Railway. Porthmadog is a very long drive from Leeds so I was very happy to know about Gladstone’s Library and to secure a room there for two nights.
On a previous visit to South Wales I picked up an older edition of this leaflet. My original copy has no date and listed only 15 churches. The new leaflet now includes 17 the additional 2 being Wernffrwd, St David’s and Penclawdd, St Gwynour. Both in north Gower and neither of which we visited. Quotations, in italics, are taken from my Churches Trail leaflet.
On Monday I arrived in Wales for a few days’ visit with a friend and former colleague who returned to her home country after spending most of her adult life in Leeds. I’m having a very relaxing few days interspersed with an expedition each day. Tuesday was most glorious. The sun came out and the temperatures rose and spring seemed definitely in the air. We managed a couple of short walks in “Waterfall Country”.
Sgwd Gwladus near Pontneddfechan, Neath Valley
St Mary’s Church, Ystradfellte
Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, near Ystradfellte
By yesterday spring was over and it was winter again – misty, wet and cold. No problem, we thought, for today we have the pleasures of Hay-on-Wye, Wales’s own Book Town, in store.
On our journey to Hay we took two very short detours. The first was to visit the Maesyronnen Chapel. Fortuitously, the adjoining former minister’s house is now a Landmark Trust property.
Here is an extract from the History page from the LT’s webpage for Maesyronnen Chapel:
“A Chapel Founded just after The Act of Toleration
Here we have taken on the neat and tiny cottage, built before 1750 onto the end of one of Wales’s shrines of Nonconformity, the Maesyronnen chapel. This chapel, converted from a barn in 1696, dates from Nonconformity’s earliest days, when any suitable building was made use of for enthusiastic worship. It was probably used for secret meetings even before the Act of Toleration legalised such gatherings in 1689, which explains its isolated position. Services are still held in the chapel, which is cared for by Trustees, who asked for our help. By taking a lease on the cottage we hope we have helped give both buildings a future.”
Francis Kilvert Memorial in Clyro Parish Church
St Michael’s Church, Clyro
From Maesyronnen it was a short drive to Clyro and the former home of the Reverend Francis Kilvert famous for diaries recording his daily life and walks in the area. Kilvert was curate at Clyro when he began writing his diaries but he only lived there between 1865 and 1872. He lived at Ashbrook House which, until recently, had been an art gallery but currently the garden looks rather overgrown and unloved. Two plaques on the wall of the house record the fact that Kilvert lived here.
Ashbrook House, Clyro
Read an interesting article here about Kilvert, the man, and his diaries.
It ends : “Sadly, it’s difficult to find copies of Kilvert in bookshops today. The one-volume abridgement, published by Penguin, and subsequently by Pimlico, has fallen out of print, while Plomer’s three-volume edition has long been unavailable. To celebrate the 70th anniversary, Cape should consider authorising a critical edition of the diary, drawing on the surviving manuscripts, as well as on the background information amassed by the Kilvert Society in the years since its foundation in 1948. That way we might have the opportunity to gaze afresh on the radiant, picturesque world of the Rev Kilvert.”
Well, all that has changed and we saw several versions of the diaries in Hay book shops in the full 3 volume format (for around £130+) as well as reissues of the abridged version, above.
Clyro is also the location of the Jacobean-style mansion built by Sir Thomas Mynors Baskerville a friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who borrowed his friend’s name when writing The Hound of the Baskervilles. The house is now a hotel and needless to say there is also a pub of the same name.
And so on to Hay itself. Despite planning in advance which shops to visit and preparing lists and so on I found that I was rather overwhelmed with choice. I realised that I am so dedicated a library user these days that I have less and less need to actually own books. It also seemed to me that in each shop we visited the value of each book was known and there was very little chance of a real bargain. However, that said, it’s an extremely pleasant way of spending a cold, damp Wednesday afternoon in March.
Richard Booth’s Books
Inside Addyman’s Books at Hay on Wye
The Honesty Bookshop, Hay
I bought only one title and that was from the Honesty Book Shop in the Castle precincts – all hardbacks £1 and all paperbacks 50p. It is a hardback copy of The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp. It’s in pretty good condition and I’m pleased with it.
I’m taking a brief trip away from the Boudoir to spend a few days here in Wales between Christmas and New Year. I have managed to include a gentle walk in the Brecon Beacons. We parked the car near Craig-y-nos Castle and approached the Beacons Way after a meander around the Craig-y-nos Country Park.
Craig-y-nos Castle was the former home of the world famous nineteenth century Italian opera singer Adelina Patti (1843-1919). It stands above the steep ravine of the River Tawe.
Simon Jenkins, in his book ‘Wales: Churches, Houses, Castles‘, writes of her “She performed before emperors, tsars, monarchs and tycoons and was paid 5,000 gold dollars for one performance of La Traviata in Boston … The daughter of a Sicilian and a Roman, she first married Ernest Nicolini, Napoleon’s equerry, then a French tenor, then, at the age of 56, a 30-year-old Swedish ‘nobleman and masseur’.” Jenkins then asks “So how did this remarkable woman come to live in a dark and wet corner of the Brecon Beacons, in a house with Wagnerian name of the ‘rock of the night’?” This came about through her friendship with Lord Swansea who brought her to the Tawe Valley where she fell for the house. In 1878 at the age of 35 she moved in. The fresh air was good for her lungs. Ten years later she had a theatre built at the house and enjoyed entertaining locals and the famous alike. She died here in 1919 but is buried at Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
The house fell into disuse, was for a long time a geriatric hospital and is now a wedding hotel. The theatre still exists and is occasionally used for operatic performances.
Our walk took us through the country park which had once been the pleasure gardens of the house. It appears that these may be gradually being re-established. There are a couple of small meadows, a lake and a fishpond in the park but mainly it consists of woodland – beech woods, conifer stands, rhododendron walks and pine woods. Once out of the park the land, and the Beacons Way path with it, rises gradually and the view opens to reveal the Brecon Beacons at their finest.
Before returning to the car we called at the shop where I spotted an interestingly titled book about about Adelina Patti!