I been home in Denmark for more than two
months, after three months in southern Africa. Despite it is only a
from May, I am
freezing! I did NOT come home to experience 4C and snow! It is time
to go for another drive to somewhere warmer. I've never been in
Great Britain, and apparently, it is not only a bit warmer, it also offers
a lot of interesting sights, among them many botanical gardens. I
thought I could combine an exploration, search for work and ad a bit
to my professional knowledge. Oblivious, I have to visit Wales as
well! The plan is to connect a lot of
dots, following the southern coast west-on to Snowdonia, then head inland and
back to England.
Some facts about the country.
(Jump to diary)
Walsh national identity emerged among the Celtic Britons after
the Roman withdrawal from Britain in the 5th century, and Wales is
regarded as one of the modern Celtic nations. Wales was annexed by
England and incorporated within the English legal system under the
Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542.
The population is around 3.100.000. Wales
covers 20.768 km², has over 2,700 km of coastline and is largely
MONEY: The currency is Pound Sterling (BWP). 1 DKK=0,10 GBP.
With four times as much rain as Denmark, I guess packing a raincoat
make sense. Temperatures could be higher. At least, I get here in
the "dry" season.
ANIMALS and PLANTS:
Coming from Denmark, Wales does not offer that many "new"
animals. Well, some are new to me, but only because they are so rare
in Denmark - and Wales.
Botanizing will offer some more. Beside from many orchids, the
highlands are special, and I hope to find many interesting species.
From England, I enter Wales in the south-eastern corner.
Just over the bridge, crossing Wye, which is the border,
I find the huge
Chepstowe Castle. It was build on since
1000 or before, to guard the huge Wye River. Despite it
is a ruin, it is impressive, and look just like a castle
ought to. I have a great time exploring it, sucking in the
impressions and atmosphere.
The original main door from 1190 is placed in a bit of
shelter. Quite special: not only the oldest gate in
Europe, also the first using this technique. The old
sandstone window frames are intact in some windows, some
staircases can be used, but some walls have been
demolished in ancient time to prevent the use of this
Here in Wales, signs are in English and in what look
like a gathering of letters, mainly Ls and Ws. I try the
nearby large tourist office to see, if they have a
campsite list. I get several kilos of folders and books
- neither can be used at all. A short walk through the town
does not reveal any interesting at all, except the old,
white bridge over Wry.
The landscape around here is quite
similar to the English, I just left. Green
hills with hedges and sheep, rivers, scattered villages
and narrow roads, lined with walls or hedges. It is
huge, smooth hills, and no bedrock is exposed - yet. After a short drive,
Raglan Castle turns up. This huge castle is also a ruin,
and even more impressive. It have been build on later
and are more detailed and partly better preserved. The
mould are even filled with water and lilies, the many
halls and passages can be walked, and the view from the
top is fantastic. Even the dungeons can be visited.
As the sun still cooperate, I spend quite some time
here, and are pretty sure, I got all angels covered. A
great castle and really enjoyable.
From here, a steep assent leads from
70 metres up to 550. Almost at the top, the Keepers
Pound is found. The entire area is swarming with cheep,
which drinks here. The view to the lowlands are
fantastic, but too big for my camera. Boulders and
bedrock are peaking through the heather, and the wind is
A bit downhill, and Blaenavon, which should be a nice
little town, lies. I might be spoiled, and have a hard
time finding the special cosiness about it. Despite it is
only four, most shops are closed. I manages to find an
open Inn, and get internet, tea and a chocolate
It is getting too late to see the Roman amphitheatre in
Caerphilly, but I hope to find a camp-side on the way. I
chose some of the bigger roads, eagerly looking for a
sign, but I only find bigger towns. I reach Caerphilly
and find the closed amphitheatre before I find camping.
Slightly desperate, I ask several dog-walkers, and they
all have some questionable and blurry ideas. It send me out
on a hours drive - with just a few more wake ideas along
the road. Then
I try to hit the southern coast, and drive through the
large Cardiff - along with a lot others.
At half pass seven, it finally pay off, but there are no
attendants here. But there is no gate either, and I
sneak in. After
dinner, I work on the photos and impressions of the day.
Despite I write way too little for the photos I want to
present in the diary, it turns past midnight before I
1/6 The warmest night so fare,
and that is not a complaint. A light shower have hit the
campsite, and the morning is grey. I ask the owner of
the site; how do you find Welsh campsites? She can't
The Roman amphitheatre in
Caerphilly is on the other side of Cardiff, and that
make it significantly less interesting this morning. It
seems like the British authorities want people to be
gathered in the bigger cities. Their way to enforce
this, it simply to avoid making the roads, leading in
from the countryside, big enough. With a few exceptions,
there have apparently not been developed any new roads
the last couple of centuries - or since the Romans.
A bit back is the
Dyffryn Gardens, which should be a
spectacular botanical garden. It have been neglected for
some years, but the National Trust have done a
magnificent job, and they are still working on the last areas.
It was created in the early 19ths, by son number two.
His father got extremely wealthy on selling coal to the
world, and his son used the empty ships to bring plants
from the rest of the world.
Here are many different gardens; The heather banks,
fernery, rockery, panel garden, archery lawns,
lawn with crocket, a huge arboretum, a vine walk, heart
garden, lavender court & fully, the "wild" area with
Rhododendrons and alike, Pompeian garden, rose garden,
theatre garden, physic garden, Mediterranean garden,
herbaceous border, walled garden and of
cause a kitchen garden. Further more, a brand new
reinstated greenhouse with a vine house, a large cacti
house and a rainforest with many orchids.
I think I get
to see it all, and have a long talk with a gardener.
They have time to both renovating areas, maintaining
remaining and changing the large beds in front of the
house monthly, making them colourful all the time.
The house, on the other hand, have some restoration to
come. Some rooms are opened, but few are finish rebuild.
And the 1920 are not that interesting anyway. I have
spend more than three hours here, and have to finish
with a pot of tea and a local made Tiffin cake.
North of here, I find the
Castle. It is from around 1250,
and huge! It was partly restored in under the depression
in the 1920, and some of the rooms are partly brought
back to their original state. Besides from having
actually being attacked, it have been tried destroyed
several times, and one tower is leaning drastically.
Despite the lack of sun, it is a warm day, and I enjoy
walking around these massive buildings. While some areas
are nearly completed, others are rugged ruins. The mould
around it is a popular place for different gees and
swans. Here are only a few people, mainly locals with
I find some dinner for later, on the way back to the car,
and can't really decide: Go back to the former
camp, or head on and hope for the best?
I end up heading for Henrhyd Falls (Sgwd Henrhyd). The
tour is through plenty of steep forests
and green fields. Many of
the steep, tree-covered hills, have quite some houses
scattered over them. Only the top of the roof is
visible, and it reminds me a bit of Bavaria.
The last bit of the stretch is on real narrow trails, with
grass in-between the wheel-tracks. Several creeks and
rivers are passed on ancient stone bridges, the few
houses equal ancient, and I enjoy the drive. The last
fall I saw was the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, and I
don't expect to be overwhelmed.
The walk leads down through a narrow and real deep slate
gorge, and it is filled with mosses and ferns, and look
awesome. It is a
special feeling, looking down into the crown of an old
oak tree. Then I see a small creek, and it does have a
few falls, although they are below one meter. Could that
The trail pass a larger creek, and continues up the
other side of a larger gorge by a staircase. Then the 30
meter falls reveals itself. It is fare from massive, but
it sure look nice. A fantail of water leads down pass a
open cave, and one can easily walk behind the fall.
The light have gone, but being there is a great
experience. I do my best to capture it, and suck-in the
calmness of the area.
It is getting late, and I have not
seen a single camp-sign all day. This area; Brecon
famous for its walking trails, and here
ought to be plenty of camps. I ask a dog-walker, and he
actually not only know a camp, he
can explain how I get there.
Well, first I end up at another place, but when I ask
for a hot shower, he have to pass. His hotwatertank is
mend for 50 campers, and he don't feel like firing up
under it, for just one.
I find another camp, just a few kilometres down the
road. Here are no office, but I just find me a spot, and
While trying to read up on tomorrows events, I realises
my new guidebook is strictly England - not Wales.
Planning is over fast....
Time to make slideshow
with the first general Wales photos
The South-East corner.
2/6 It is a fantastic
day, and I hurry out to
Brecon Beacons. It is actually a
family of fifteen national parks, but here are also
roads, farms and villages. Above 500 meters, it seems to
be mainly heather and grass. Sheep, rock-walls and
endless views dominate the area - along with a chill and
rather persistent wind.
I zigzag up through the area, stopping wherever I see
something interesting. The major views are fantastic,
but way too big for any camera - or computer screen.
long walks a few times, when the landscape is more abort
or wild. Besides from the sheep, I only see black
sloughs and hear larks. In one area of waste grassland,
a strange hedge of huge beech trees seem so odd,
although they are thriving fine.
A old quarry offers a great 380 degree view to more
green hills with stone-walls and sheep, along with some
forests. I try to sneak into some sheep, but that is
real hard. It is easier when I drive. The roads are cut
into small bits by cattle grits, and the sheep rules
I do a breath stop in Llandovery,
which turns out to be be Llandeilo. The parking lot at
the foot of an old castle is empty, and I can't see the
greedy meter machine. The search for food end with only
candy, but I get a few good pictures of the coloured
houses and the castle. Way later in the day, I find out
it was actually the
town and castle I had on my list. I
have several things around here, and their precise
location is in the wind. Even the National Trusts map
are real in-precise. The addresses on most is just postal
codes, some covering 5-10 square kilometres, and my GPS
does not recognise the last 3-4 digits.
the less I drive straight to
Dinefwr, which is a huge
area with a small 12th century castle and a 1850 or so.
The large area is forest, meadows, dear park and a bit
of garden. I try to get close to one of the larger grey
squirrels, which actually seem easier than the sheep.
The ancient, ivy-overgrown
castle is not that
interesting, but the 380 degree view to several valleys
are astonishing. On one field, around 200 diary cows and
feeding. Some noisy kids turn up, and I find the tiny
Walk to the castle Teahouse.
Then I find the new castle, which is a bit too modern. Though,
it is impressive how the
National Trust restore these places, The rugs are custom
made for each room and so is everything else, if not
original. There is a fine view over the tiny Victorian
garden and a meadow with a herd of deer. I do the rooms,
but I have seen quite a few by now, and more interesting
things are coming up.
Just a few kilometres away is the
large National Botanical Garden
of Wales. The area is a pleasant
mix of wild and well groomed areas. The first part is
around a lake, and is a rather new Forests of the World,
with trees from similar climates around the world:
Chile, New Zealand, central and south-west China, the
Atlantic- and Pacific seaboards
the USA and Tasmania. That will be interesting in 50
years or so...
The Rhododendrons are almost finish, but it must have
been a great sight. I find some wild orchids on a huge
area. The top soil have been removed to make it poor,
and wild plants from the above mentioned area are sown
here. I guess the orchids just find their own way here.
Way back in the area, the sheep have huge hills with
scattered large trees, and way in the back, a old tower
can be seen - and visited.
The next area is a slate garden. Small pieces of slate
is laid out in ten centimetres dept, and flowering
bushes and bulbs are thriving. And I guess weeding is a
easy job here. Many areas seem real new here, and I got
this feeling; the garden is expanding each year.
The walled gardens are an real old installation, and
have the usual ingredients. So do the kitchen
garden. Behind is a tropical glasshouse with all sort of
tropical plants. Despite they have a mist system, the
orchids are not thriving, but
the rest seems all right,
and it is a pleasant climate. The glass house is build
up against the old brick-wall, and that look great.
Outside the house is banana plants, which seem to cope
The Japanese garden have past its peak, and is partly
closed down. I see some of the beds with flowering
plants, and end up in a pharmacy from the 1900 or so. An
eager hobbyist tells me a lot about the ancient drugs
from herbs to the '50thes. Next door, I can mix my own
tea from a range of fresh herbs.
Then there are the stone gardens and a greenhouse with
endangered plants - which is
closed. Nothing real
exciting here, and all are keept way too dry, and more
dead than alive. Next to it is four raised beds with
different Welsh habitats. Well made and real thriving.
Then there is a new rood-zone facility, but I can't
figure how they think it will work.
Up on a hill, what look like a real low glasshouse turns
out to be huge. In a matter of fact, it is the world's
largest single spanglasshouse. The plants are mainly
from the dryer areas of the world, sorted by origin.
Here are California, Western Australia, Canary Islands,
Mediterranean Basin, Chile and South Africa. It is new,
and I guess they will work a bit on it in the coming
years. So fare, it is great, but it can be improved. Fun
thought to see that many annuals in a greenhouse, and
the colours are great.
I could spend some more time here, but I think this tour is
getting a bit long, and I am actually wanted at home -
for work. Further more, this absolutely perfect summer
day should be used fully!
While I drive
on to the next garden (yes, it is either castles OR
gardens), I accidentally pass a castle ruin on a small
mount. It look nice, but it is not enough to keep my
Aberglasney Gardens. A small and rather empty
mason, mainly with present day's art and a Victorian
garden in front. The strange fortress-like walls seems a
bit too dominating, and hides the lake from the house.
Several other gardens are found on the premises, and I
do a rather fast walk through. The sunken garden is with
ponds, another with herbs, one with vegetables, one with
fruit trees, a walled one and one with flowering plants.
And of cause the romantic one with a fern gorge. I have
a talk with the chef gardener. They are only three, but
have a lot of volunteers, and it look well maintained.
I am a bit stressed, and don't spend
as much time here, as this garden deserved. I have to find a
camp, and I would like it to have a laundry. I need
internet to see, if I can get away with
touring a bit
longer and I need food for diner. Back in
Llandelio, I have better luck finding food this time, and I try
the local Inn for internet - and a pot of tea and a
sample of local cakes.
At six, I find a camp, although without laundry. It is
still a fantastic summer day, and after dinner, I just
have to go for a walk. The river is four metres away,
and small tracks leads into the forest and out on the
But; I have diary and pictures to work on.
Special slideshows with all four sights of the day.
From the southern Wales, I am now
heading out to the western part in