The Journal of a Journey,
UK and Ireland 1999
Day 10Saturday, October 9
On to Nantyglo
Our genial host at the Loranda Lodge B&B in Rosslare Harbour (telephone 053-33804) also got us breakfast, cooked to order, with side servings of juice and cereal, as is usually the case in B&B's and guesthouses, though the wives are more often the cooks and do the hosting. One other pair of men had checked into the B&B after we'd gone to bed, but they also had to catch an early ferry and were up relatively early in view of their late arrival. Our host rushed us to our 8:15 a.m. ferry and then returned for the other guests, who apparently were catching the 8:30 Irish Ferry (our Britrail passes were good only on the Stena line) to Pembroke, Wales (ours was to Fishguard). We tipped our host £2 each for all the running around he'd done, not sure it was adequate but feeling that under the circumstances he could hardly expect to get business from the railroad and ferry trade if he wasn't willing to pick up and deliver, his facility being too far from the terminals for access on foot, and he had assured us it was "in town" on the phone. His was one of the few B&B's willing to accept credit cards, good to know if you're out of Irish pounds and about to catch a ferry out of the country.
We had learned the night before that Stena had discontinued its summer season use of catamarans between Rosslare and Fishguard on September 30 and we would be crossing on one of the older, larger but slower ships that make the trip in three and a half hours. We boarded immediately and were underway shortly, and the three and a half hours seemed to go quickly over a smooth sea. Tom spent most of the time shopping in the large onboard store, and I did some as well, and then had a pot of tea. Unlike the catamaran, we were able to get out into the open air on this ferry and get some video of the crossing.
We were in Fishguard, Wales, on the last leg of our journey to our main destination, Nantyglo, County Gwent. Our home town of Nanty Glo, Pennsylvania, shared not only a name but a similar history of industrial expansion and later contraction with its Welsh namesake, and for the past two years I'd been doing a page on the Internet worldwide web for the Pennsylvania town. The Nanty Glo Home Page had expanded to offer information on Nantyglo, Wales, as well. I called Jeff Jones, our Nantyglo contact who had offered to show us around, from the ferry terminal to get details on how to get to Nantyglo from Newport, and where we might stay. I was especially hopeful we could stay away from the city as Cardiff, a few miles west of Newport, like Edinburgh the week before, was hosting a world cup rugby game. Jeff wasn't home, but his daughter was expecting our call and asked me to call back in a few minutes. She then gave directions on which train to take from Newport to Abergavenny, the station nearest Nantyglo, and said that he would pick us up there if we would call again on our arrival.
We had time to kill in Fishguard while waiting for the train to Swansea, where we would transfer to the London line for Cardiff and Newport. While waiting, I got video of our ferry sitting at dock. Like most of our days in the islands, the weather was quite variable, but while we were waiting it was mostly sunny. There were some heavy drizzles as we proceeded east, but also lots of views of the beautiful countryside and the south coast of Wales.
Before coming into the station in Cardiff, the Welsh capitol, we passed the stadium where the rugby game had just ended, and the area surrounding it was mobbed with people, as was the main street of the city a few blocks farther on. We noticed lots of extra police in the Cardiff station, but our stop there was brief so the fans leaving the game didn't have time to reach that train before it left the station.
The next city to the east, Newport, about 20 miles beyond Cardiff, was where we left the mainline toward London to transfer to the northern rail route to Manchester, through Abergavenny. While we waited the station filled up with rugby fans from the game, and by the time the Manchester train was ready to take on passengers, there were enough people to more than fill it. We had to stand the whole distance to Abergavenny, which is only about a 15-minute ride. The sun came out brightly on the way and while we waited at the station there a large patch of blue opened in the sky.
Jeff and Lynne Jones arrived to drive us to their home in Nantyglo, where Lynne had a sumptious buffet waiting for us. Trevor Rowson, Nantyglo's historian who lives a short walk away, arrived just after we finished eating and as night was falling, loaded down with literature and gifts. He gave us each a necktie bearing the Nantyglo coat of arms, and a stainless steel ballpoint pen inscribed with "County Borough of Blaenau Gwent," as well as copies of his latest published book, Blaina, Nantyglo, and Brynmawr, a photographic archive, and a load of brochures covering all the local attractions, postcards, even covers of three books written about the area by Alexander Cordell. We talked for an hour or so, Trevor amazing us not only with his knowledge of his hometown and its environs, but with knowledge about our Nanty Glo and its environs, as well. He knew of Vintondale, and Blacklick Township, and even had a theory about the origin of the name Blacklick as having to do with an outcropping of a coal seam along the creek banks rather than a saltlick, as we'd believed.
Jeff offered to let me use his computer in his study upstairs to send an email to my Nanty Glo forum list, which I gladly did...a real treat, indeed, to send a message to the "new" Nanty Glo from the older one. (Though many towns in this part of the world are ancient, Nantyglo, Wales, as a named place, dates from only about a century before our Nanty Glo, starting at the beginning of the 19th century with the Industrial Revolution, whereas ours started at the beginning of the 20th century.) Trevor, though never having visited our Nanty Glo, had been in contact with William Martin, Nanty Glo, Pa.'s, unofficial historian and bureau chief of the Nanty Glo Journal.
Plans were discussed for Jeff and Trevor to show us around the area the next day. Finally it was time to call it a day. Jeff drove us to the B&B where he had booked our room earlier, The Ysgubor Fach Bed and Breakfast (Jeff said even he doesn't know how to pronounce it), where Joe and Pat McDonnell were our hosts (telephone 01495-290413). A reconstruction from two 300-year-old cottages on a sheep farm 1000 feet above sea level, it's a lovely building with ancient beams and fireplace, and modern facilities and appliances.
Next station: Nantyglo by day, and Bath
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