We left the rather bland hotel in Caerphilly just after 8:00, and went to have a look at the castle in daylight. I was interested in Caerphilly and Whitchurch because my great great grandmother, Catherine Harris, who married James Andrew Hayes, was said to have been born in Whitchurch, and her mother Sarah was born in Caerphilly.
We drove north, up the Rhondda valley stopping at Brecon for breakfast at a small cafe, as the hotel breakfast was optional and rather expensive. The town was full of secondhand bookshops, and if we’d had more time and money we might have spent a couple of days there, but instead we went to W.H. Smith and got a couple of extra films and a map of North Wales.
We had just left the town and gone about 10 miles when Val discovered she had left her bag behind, so we went back to the cafe and looked for it, and they hadn’t even cleared the plates away. There was a lot of traffic on the major roads, so we took the minor ones, which were winding and twisting. We stopped at the Clywedog Reservoir to take some photos.
We reached Blaenau Ffestiniog just after noon. It was quite a big town, but mostly winding and twisting along the main road. When we originally planned our trip we had hoped to meet Father Deiniol, the Orthodox priest there, whom I had met in Albania a few years previously (see here for that story). But it turned out that the time we would be there, he would be away in Turkey. Even though Father Deiniol was away, we looked for the Orthodox Church, but could not see where it was, though we stopped to look and just about every building that looked vaguely church like. Most of them were abandoned and derelict, or were being used for something else.
We drove on to Betwys-y-Coed, which seemed to be full of tourists and tourist accommodation, and turned off just before Caernarfon to look for Deiniolen, where Viv and Geraint Jones lived. We missed the turn off were looking for, and could not go back as a lot of cars were following and there was no place to turn, so took the next turn off and got lost. We drove through some villages, and found ourselves on a hill above a village we thought was Deiniolen, but were not sure about, because there was no signpost saying that it was. Viv Jones phoned, and suggested that we should stay were we were and that they would come to look for us, but that was not a good idea, as they got lost too, but eventually they found us and led us to their farm Blaen Ce Uchaf, just outside Deiniolen, where we had tea with them and their daughter Alison, 24 years old, who was doing a PhD in Chemistry at Bangor University.
Their farm was 70 acres, and they had cattle and sheep. Geraint said it had been in his family for four generations, and it seemed rather sad that they had no other children who could work it for them, and to whom they could leave it. They worked it all themselves.
Viv and Val were second cousins on the Ellwood side of the family, and Norah Pearson (of whom more later in this series) once wrote to us saying that Valerie, Vivienne and her own daughter Maxine were all born within a few months of each other in 1948, and she recalled making matinee jackets for the three of them. Their maternal grandmothers were Martha, Bridget and Margaret Ellwood, daughters of Thomas Ellwood and Mary Carr of Whitehaven, Cumberland.
Geraint’s sister was ill, and he and Alison went to see her in hospital, while Viv led us down to Caernarfon stopping on the way for us to book accommodation at a “Grill and Tea Room” at a traffic circle,
and then to Caernarfon Castle, where there was an Orthodox Church in the city wall. It had a sign saying that it was in the care of a monastic community that lived outside the town, but did not say what time there were services, or where the community was.
Viv left us to join the others at the hospital, and we walked round the castle, and across a pedestrian swing bridge over the river, taking photos. and as seemed usual when we reached the water, the tide was out.
We drove back to the tea room, but they were just closing the dining room as we arrived, and so we drove on to a pub up the road, and had lamb curry for supper, and I had Newcastle Brown ale, my all-time favourite beer, which I had not had for many years. The second best, Lion Ale, is no longer made. When I was in England to study 40 years ago, I had often eaten at Indian restaurants in preference to English ones, because Indian food was so much better, but now the pubs are offering Indian food, though they still made rather watery curry-flavoured stew, and offered it with chips as an alternative to rice.
When we got back to the tea room Viv and Geraint Jones were waiting for us there, and Viv brought a sampler which had the name Mary Barker, and the date 1814 on it, which she had inherited with her
mother’s things, and wondered if the Mary Barker was related, but we did not immediately recognise it. Her mother, Elsie Fee, was Val’s mother’s first cousin on the Ellwood side. They then took us for a ride over the Menai Bridge, which was quite famous, to the island of Anglesey.
On the Anglesey side there was also the place with the longest place name, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, and Geraint took great delight in saying the name for us.
Then we went to Bangor, to see the cathedral, and Geraint and Viv dropped us back at the tea room at 10:30 pm.
- Continued at UK trip 8 May 2005: Davies family at Gobowen | Khanya
- Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005