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Published: August 25th 2016
The BBA V3 is ripping along towards its final days and our three days in West Wales has gone in a blur.
The wind and the rain really performed overnight and it is not that often we are awoken by weather events going on outside but last night was one of them.
The wind has died away a bit but there are still showers passing by as we get ourselves ready for the relatively short drive to Selsley West near Stroud in the Cotswolds for another three night stop.
Checking the weather ahead though is interesting as the weather office is predicting up to 30C for next Wednesday in London!
We have been very comfortable in the loft above the garage at the rear of Clive’s property. The Air BnB page showed he had a wife called Catherine but we never saw or met her so not sure what was going on. He was a nice chap though with an excellent Welsh accent which is always lovely to listen to.
His house is like many in the town probably built in the early 1900’s, very solid looking stone and front door almost on the street. What
is probably different to his home to others in this ex-coal mining town is the rear section was huge and that was where his large garage with the loft above was located.
The sky was quite overcast with a little light rain as we headed away although there is a promise of the weather improving during the day.
It is hard not to break into singing when we read the town name of Abergavenny.Marty Wilde, a bit of a one hit wonder, wrote and released this catchy song in 1968 and in 1997 the Abergavenny Chamber of Trade paid 50 pounds for the rights to the song to promote the Welsh border town.
So with Abergavenny in our track as we head towards the Cotswolds we started out on the A483 switching briefly to the M4 as we drove eastwards.
This was the same way we had driven on our way to the Brecon Beacons and the ex coal mining towns looked rather bleak under the heavy overcast sky. It is hard to see some of these towns looking brighter unless there is some housing renewal as many of the homes have not been that well
maintained since the money generated from the coal industry has gone.
As we drove along we spotted one large open cast coal mine of the hillside near Hirwaun and we wondered whether this was the one that might soon be closing down which we had briefly about on the TV the other night.
Gretchen named the early part of our drive as ‘The BBA V3 Scenic Tour of ex-Welsh Coal Mining Towns’ as each of those we passed through had features that were easy to pick out dating back to those coal mining days. Sometimes it was a deserted or dilapidated Labour Union Hall, Workmans Hall or Social club.
We were now on the A465 or ‘Heads of the Valleys’ road which runs along the foot of the Brecon Beacons and our minds went back to that wonderful All Black tour of 1963-64 when the team played the combined club teams of Abertillery and Ebbw Vale winning 13-0 on 6th
November. The AB’s lost the third match of that tour to Newport 0 – 3 and had Scotland come the closest they ever had to beating the AB’s drawing 0-0 at Murrayfield on 18th
January. Those were the days when an All Black tour of the British Isles was just that and they played 36 matches including 2 in Vancouver on the way home after being away for 4 months.
We passed by Ebbw Vale and then the quaint town of Abergavenny with a picturesque river on the outskirts was ahead of us. We were looking for the ‘red dog’ and the ‘paradise people ‘mentioned in the Marty Wilde song but couldn’t pick them out on the streets of the busy downtown area.
Shortly afterwards we crossed into England and although we expected to remain on the A40 Serena had other ideas and switched to a road that didn’t have a number but turned out to be a very pleasant drive through rolling countryside that just had a look that was more prosperous than what we had viewed on the Welsh side of the border.
It is hard to see whether Wales could make a go of it as an independent nation outside the UK such as Scotland recently voted on and could do again once the UK exits Europe. Wales just seem to have the industry and farming at a level that could sustain its population whereas of course Scotland has the oilfields off its coast.
We had hoped that we would miss Gloucester city but a wrong turn and we were in the ring road system with no easy way out other than following the flow. So rather than just skirting the outsides of the city we travelled all the way around it and came out the other side and back onto the road where we had missed the turn in the first place.
Then with just a short distance to go to our destination driving got very interesting, in fact possibly the most interesting of the BBA V3.
The rural lane Serena took us onto had a sign at the start that we should have read but we were a bit too eager to test out the road ahead.
The first kilometre went well but it was clear that there was going to be nowhere to pass any opposing vehicles should one suddenly come into view or as we rounded one of the many corners. To make things more challenging was the fact that the hedgerows, which are a familiar part of UK rural roads/lanes, were at least 3 metres tall and there was no way you could see ahead.
The first vehicle we met coming towards us was about a kilometre from where the GPS had suggested we would get back onto a two laned road. And it gave us a bit of a surprise.
The vehicle was a tractor with a driver dressed in a very white shirt with a gaily coloured bow tie and wearing a straw boater on his head. Not at all like what you would expect of a tractor driver.
However, he was towing a trailer with half a dozen other people all dressed the same way, three male adults and three young boys. We decided that they were heading to a wedding somewhere nearby and wondered whether the wedding party would be leaving the ceremony in the same fashion!
Luckily we met the tractor on a sort of a Y in the road and we backed back enough to allow the tractor to cross in front of us and we were on our way again.
With just a hundred metres to go to the two lane road we met one just one but two cars and absolutely nowhere to pass without us backing back 20 or 30 metres and putting the two left wheels up on a slight bank which meant the downhill cars could just squeeze by.
After that Gretchen gunned the Skoda to the intersection with the two lane road as she had no desire to go through that again! As we turned onto the two lane road we read the notice at the start of the rural lane, it read ‘Not suitable for HGV or Skoda’s’!
We eventually found our apartment in Selsley West on the hill above Stroud after knocking on a couple of doors of other homes that looked like the place we were staying at only to find that we should try the place next door! Each seemed to know of ‘the American woman ‘who owned the property with the apartment but weren’t actually sure who she was and exactly which property was hers.
The apartment was located under a substantial home built of the almost only building material around, Cotswold stone which is sort of an ash colour with a yellow tinge to it. It was very spacious with a very comfortable settee to sit on and relax as well as a closed in area with glass looking out over the lawn.
A quick trip down to Sainsbury’s at the bottom of the hill, that we would have walked but drove instead, because of the light rain arriving just as we were about to leave and we filled the larder for the next 3 nights here. Although we do anticipate at least one more pub meal out probably on Sunday when there will almost certainly be a Sunday roast option at a local pub.
Tomorrow we are back on the ancestry trail again as we check out some places that the Grimes family lived (my mother’s side of the family) in Kingswood which is a small village not too far away.
PS:really we couldn't give this blog any other name than after that great song by Marty Wilde.It really is a catchy tune so enjoy as usual on Youtube
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