llywela: peacock in front of Cardiff Castle Keep (Castell Caerdydd)
[personal profile] llywela
Rush hour in Wales!

Picture taken at 5.30pm yesterday on the A483 a few miles south of Newtown in Powys. Of all the stereotypically Welsh things that could have happened on a road trip through mid-Wales!

But, you know, just picture the M25 at the same time, and it's not as if we were in a hurry - this was just the start of a very long drive back to Cardiff after a truly lovely day out, so we were quite happy to take our time and watch the farmers and their wonderful sheepdogs at work, mustering the flock from one side of the road to the other.

We had just spent the day at Powis Castle, which is at Welshpool in the north of Powys. It's a long way, there and back in a day, but I've wanted to go for ages, and I've got to say, it was totally worth it - we even had glorious sunshine on a day that saw drizzly dampness across most of the rest of the country. Just look how beautiful!

And I'll say this for the A470, which took us most of the way up – winding up through the mountains makes for some stunning views along the way. We weren't really paying that much attention to the names of the villages and towns we passed through, too busy chattering and singing along to the radio (when we could get reception, which is not great in the wilds of mid-Wales), but at one point we looked up and said, "huh, wherever this is reminds me of Bath, looks like a spa town…" and then it turned out that it looked like a spa town because it was a spa town. We were in Llandrindod Wells. So, our powers of locational observation might be a bit patchy, but our spa town recognition skills are bang on!

Okay, so two-and-a-half hours is a long way to drive just to see a castle, especially considering that Wales has more castles per square mile than any other country in the world, there are a heck of a lot of other castles within much easier striking distance - I mean, there are two just within walking distance of my house, even (three if you count the very tiny, sad little ruin of what was once a small fortress known as the Bishop's palace in Llandaff village just up the road). But Powis is different. The vast majority of the castles in Wales were built by the English to consolidate their conquest - every time they captured another patch of land, they built a castle on it, both as a very high profile and visible statement of conquest and also as a necessary means of defending their gains. Powis Castle, however, is a native fortress, built not by an English conqueror but by a native Welsh ruler as a stronghold from which to withstand the attacks of his acquisitive neighbours - and the castle has seen almost 700 years of continual occupation (not to mention re-modelling) since that time.

There are a few other native Welsh castles dotted about the place, mostly up in Gwynedd, but, with its mellow red gritstone walls and gorgeous garden terraces, Powis is definitely the prettiest!

This stone-walled castle was first constructed by Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn around 1283, replacing an earlier wooden structure that had been burned to the ground by Llywelyn ap Gruffydd of Gwynedd. Easy to see why Gruffydd and his predecessors chose this spot for their fortress, the view is amazing...but of course, while I'm admiring it for its beauty, I guess for them the clear sight lines across the valley were probably a bit more significant.

I hope this guy appreciates what an amazing view he has!

The gardens are amazing. The terraces were hewn from the rock in the early 1670s, but their current appearance owes a lot to the 4th Earl of Powis and his wife, Lady Violet, who redecorated much of the castle and brought the garden back to life in the early 20th century

I'm only sorry I missed seeing the wisteria in full flush – this was the only bit still flowering, and even this is starting to go over

But the dominant feature of the gardens are the enormous clipped yews, some of which date back a good few hundred years - talk about yewtopia-ry!

The bothy is available to let for holidays - I'm seriously tempted!

There is also a really pretty woodland area to wander about in

Looks like a bad case of athlete's foot here!

And I don't know what this lass is up to, but it looks like mischief to me!

All in all, a great day out - 10/10 would recommend!

The zen of the lovely day out yesterday was then much needed for dealing with the alarums and excursions of today! A car crashed right outside my office this afternoon. It was a really loud bang, brought people running from all over the building to see what had happened. It didn't look that bad from the vantage point of my window, no one seemed to be seriously hurt, but...our street is one of two main arteries north from the city centre, and we had an emergency response vehicle, two ambulances, police, fire service, all sorts - a nice little blockage just as rush hour hit.

And this was not a good day to block up one of only two main arteries north of the city centre, since the preparations for the Champions League finals have hit a fever pitch, with the four day football festival about to kick off tomorrow. And, you know, I love my city, I'm really glad it's got the chance to host such a prestigious event, and I hope it all goes off smoothly and successfully. I have no doubt that the couple of hundred thousand people flocking into the city for the festival will have a great time…but as a local resident, I'm starting to get a bit frustrated with the mounting disruption and inconvenience. It'll be okay once the road closures and diversions kick in properly, I daresay, it's the preparations that have been so disruptive - key roads narrowed by the fencing and bollards going up ahead of the road closures, but without any mitigation in place, and the centre gets congested enough at the best of times without adding new bottlenecks to the mix.

What really annoyed me today was that the main westbound road out of the city centre was closed, putting the central bridge over the Taff out of action, and by closed I mean closed to pedestrians as well as traffic, which had not been previously communicated - and it's a bridge, it's not like you can just nip down a few side streets and come out in the same place! To get from where I work to where I hoped I might catch my detoured bus meant a huge detour, so huge that it simply wasn't worth it. So I just gave up and walked the whole way home, over an hour's walk, and the congestion I saw along the way was so awful I knew I'd made the right decision, way beyond our usual rush hour jams - not surprising, given that we had westbound road closures, that accident on the northbound road, and the state funeral for former First Minister Rhodri Morgan going on in the Bay to the south!

Speaking of which, RIP, Rhodri, I'll miss bumping into you in Tesco in your shorts and sandals, you always said hello, were the most down-to-earth politician imaginable, and the perfect choice for the very first leader of our devolved government in Wales.

I do sometimes choose to walk home from work, but ordinarily I'd walk through the parks, only on this occasion I couldn't face all the fences and tents set up ready for the football festival, so I stuck to the main road, and along the way actually caught up with and overtook a bus, that's how bad the traffic was. I did consider waiting for it at the next stop, but I'm glad I didn't, since having overtaken it, it then never caught up with me again! And I'd even stopped for an ice cream along the road, and had to wait ages for it because the people ahead of me were chatting to the sales person about the black market price of tickets for the game on Saturday, so the bus had plenty of time to catch me up, but it never did!

Yeah, the traffic disruption caused by the road closures is pretty bad. Sue, Carol – we really, really made the right decision, changing our plans for this weekend! No wonder the roads were gridlocked! Honestly, the difference between 5.30pm in Cardiff today and 5.30pm up in Powys yesterday couldn't be starker!

I just hope there are no more bangs or crashes tomorrow, when the football festival kicks off. Our building has been put into lockdown for Thursday and Friday – staff can get in and out through the access controlled doors, but the main door is to be kept locked, so we can better control who comes in and out of the building. I'm expecting it to be really quiet, though. A lot of our staff will be working from home to avoid the disruption and road closures, and although after the events of last week it is wise to be cautious, I really think this event is too high profile to be considered a soft target. Security is really, really tight, there's been a lot of effort gone into making this a safe, fun event for all the visitors. Here's hoping it goes well!

Date: 2017-06-01 09:01 am (UTC)
lost_spook: (OUaT - belle)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
Oh, dear! I hope the congestion eases off a little now it's not the first day and also not a state funeral, but these things are such a pain!

The photos, though, are gorgeous - thanks for sharing! I'm glad you had a nice time.

talk about yewtopia-ry!

That's a terrible, terrible pun!!!

(I am 2 and a half eps through Hinterland now - I don't want to finish it, though. :-( )

Date: 2017-06-04 08:08 am (UTC)
lost_spook: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lost_spook
I finished it! And, yes, you're right, that was a fairly satisfying ending, but what am I supposed to do now?? :-(

Date: 2017-06-02 07:51 am (UTC)
i_am_an_anathema_device: (Default)
From: [personal profile] i_am_an_anathema_device
So what you're saying is, that you picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue :)

Lovely photos!


llywela: (Default)

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