Sunday, 29 August 2010

St Fagan's Welsh Folk Museum , Cardiff.

St Fagan's Castle (built 1580)




About five miles to the west of Cardiff lies the St. Fagan's Folk Museum which is one of the largest open-air museums in Europe. If you like hearing about country life in Wales from the Iron Age to medieval times up until Second World War and up into the 1960s, then St. Fagan's can offer you over 100 acres of various attractions.

St. Fagan's museum has various historical Welsh farm houses erected in the grounds. Here, one can really see how the Welsh peasants used to live. Some of these cottages have only two rooms, one on the ground floor with beaten earth under foot, and a crude ladder leading to cramped sleeping quarters in the attic of a thatched roof.


Kennixton Farmhouse (built 1610)
These buildings have been brought to the museum stone by stone from all over Wales. Originally these types of cottages were erected very quickly, because the builder would probably be staking a claim on the land that surrounded it. It was his as far as he could throw an axe. He could keep the land providing he could build it over-night and have smoke pouring out of the chimney by daybreak. In the larger cottages, animals often lived inside with the occupants. These were usually built on a slope, so that the animal's waste products could drain away from the living quarters. Smelly or what?

Workmen's Institute (built 1916)
St Fagan's Folk Museum is one of my favourite places to visit and I consider myself very fortunate to be able to get there in around half-an-hour from where I live. I have spend many a day just strolling around, taking photos and video of this remarkable place often taking a picnic as I sit back (sometimes) in the sunshine soaking up the atmosphere.

Stores and workshops still carry on a trade within the grounds and there is no shortage of stories about the remarkable history of the buildings in there.


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Places to Visit in Wales: Cardiff


Cardiff City Hall
As this blog is about places in Wales to visit, City of Cardiff, the capital of Wales, must get a mention.  But first, where is South Wales and what does it offer the visitor?

South Wales, within easy reach of from most parts of the UK, has tended to be associated with coal mining and heavy industry. But now, steeped in history and legend, there are some fascinating places to visit in Wales. Well I think so anyway, but maybe I am biased. Anyway, let me tell you a little about Cardiff where I have lived since the mid 1970s up until last year when I moved to about 20 miles outside the city.  

In it's history Cardiff has been the foremost centre for the exportation of coal in the world. This may give the impression of a dirty coal-mining town, but on the contrary, Cardiff is a very attractive city to the visitor. It is an under-statement to say the architecture is very eye-­catching, with it's Norman Castle and Edwardian civic centre, surrounded by flowering trees and ornate flower beds.

Cardiff Castle
The history of Cardiff Castle goes back to the eleventh century. It was built on the site of a derelict Roman fort and many non-Welsh people settled there. This brought about many attacks from the surrounding villages of the native Welsh.   

In 1158, Lord Ifor ap Meurig, of Sengenydd (near Caerphilly), the Norman Lord of Glamorgan, together with his Countess, lived in Cardiff Castle and was kidnapped from the castle and held for ransom, for certain 'wrongs' he had inflicted on the natives.

Jumping forward several centuries to 1865, the castle underwent an amazing transformation by an architect named William Burges. He was doing the work for the third Marquess of Bute who was a rich historian, mystic, archaeologist - well you get the idea. Burges's work can still marvelled at to this day and the style can also be seen in many buildings in Cardiff and the rest of the U.K.

Cardiff Castle looks like a fairy-tale creation, that could well grace the pages of the book, Sleeping Beauty. There are guided tours around the castle, and it is full of medieval and ornate decoration, that includes: the 'Chaucer Room', based on Chaucer's works; the richly decorated Arab room; the Summer Smoking Rooms decorated with emblems of the universe, to name but a few.    Peacocks inhabit the grounds and screech-like calls can be frequently heard.

It is obvious that money was no object to the Marquis of Bute. Cardiff Castle is a magnificent place to visit, if Castles are your forte.

Shopping in Cardiff

Cardiff shopping centre is a mixture of the modern with the old. Modern shopping malls sit alongside Victorian Arcades, with the newer St. David's centre at the heart of the city that in Christmas 2009 became even larger. Adjacent to the centre is St. David's Hall. Here, we find a variety of entertainment all the year round, from singing stars like Shirley Basset' and Tom Jones to famous comedians, orchestras and opera stars.

 Other attractions in Cardiff are the National Museum of Wales, with it's fine artifacts of Welsh history and other collections and, about five miles to the West of the City, St. Fagan's Folk museum, which will be the subject of another post.