Monday, 25 August 2014
Abbeydore Holiday :: Days 4 - 5
Hello! And welcome to Blaenavon Ironworks. This was where we were bright and early on Tuesday morning. They had a really cool interactive bit in one of the red topped buildings with sounds and a video and a floor that lit up unexpectedly to show you how the hot metal would be poured into moulds to make pig iron. Basically iron rods that will then be sold on to blacksmiths and factories turning the rods into products. The 'pigs' would be put into carts, often still hot, and wheeled over to the huge lift contraption so that it could be taken up the hill and on to the railway. The lift really was massive- its the big structure in the below photo.
People were still living in the accommodation built for the iron workers up until 1967!!! Although the ironworks weren't open then, just the houses. We got to see inside some of them that had been dressed up to show different interior styles through the ages. It was really interesting- they are absolutely mInIsCuLe!!!!
We could see The Big Pit from where we were as they are right next door to each other in the Black Mountains. We went there a few years ago whilst on our Pembroke Holiday, it was really cool. There was the funniest man guiding us around- an ex-miner with a fantastic sense of humour.
When we had finished wandering around the ironworks, we made our way onto the Black Mountains in search of a view and somewhere to have our picnic lunch. I very bravely had to get out of the car and get the sandwiches out of the back- I say bravely because we were bombarded with hopeful sheep who came right up behind me and would have probably ended up in the boot itself if I hadn't given them a sound telling off!
It was very beautiful up there (if a trifle wet and windy) with the purple Heather in full flower. We were in a carpark right next to a huge pond that had been built by miners some time ago as a regular water source.
In the afternoon we tried to go to the White Castle, although it wasn't open on a Tuesday (which we and several other people discovered only when we arrived at the gates!) so instead we went to Skenfrith Castle which is part of a collection almost of three castles- White, Grosmont and Skenfrith. The White Castle is the most preserved of the three apparently, although there is also a lovely Church standing next to Skenfrith which we explored as well.
On Wednesday I was allowed to choose a place to go and I suggested the Wye Valley Butterfly Zoo. We haven't been to one of these in years!! I think the last place was in Eastbourne but that shut down ages ago.
It was amazing!! So lovely to have these beautiful insects fluttering around and be able to see them up close. There were all sorts of colours and shapes and sizes. Even one with transparent wings!
There were some lovely flowers and plants in the zoo as well. Lots of palms and a few orchids as well.
The butterflies were very cheeky and had a habit of landing on people, especially their bottoms! There were quite a few guests wandering around with some butterflies hanging on to their back pockets.
It was fascinating to see all of the different kinds of caterpillars (some were tiny and looked a bit like bird poos, and others were massive and looked like leaves), and then to look into the glass cases at the chrysalises and the newly hatched butterflies still drying their wings.
Just as we were leaving this iridescent (and slightly raggedy) blue butterfly landed on me and pretended to be a broach. Such a lovely colour! The people working at the butterfly place believe that it is lucky for a butterfly to land on you and that you should make a wish if one does. I wonder if this will be my lucky butterfly?
Afterwards we drove to Symonds Yat Rock which is basically a viewpoint right at the top of a cliff overlooking the River Wye. It is famous for its incredible view and also as a place for bird lovers to go and watch nesting Peregrine Falcons, Buzzards and Sparrowhawks. You can look through the binoculars and see them really close up! Very impressive birds.
After walking to the top and looking down, we took the trail than went very steeply down the hill to the river at the bottom for a cream tea. Dreading the walk back up again (which was almost vertical for about 10 minutes), us ladies were very pleased when the boys said they would take the challenge and then drive the car down to us! A much more relaxing end to the day.