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Published: January 12th 2017
It's 9 degrees and overcast when Ben dropped me at Worle Station just before 7.45am this morning. Today I'm heading to Cardiff in Wales to catch up with a friend. Only an hour and 40 minutes away by train, via Bristol, it's an easy trip with a return fare of £23 ($38).
A section of this trip is through the Severn Tunnel which runs under the estuary of the River Severn. Completed in 1886, it was the longest under water tunnel in the world until 1987. On average, around 50 million litres of fresh spring water are pumped from the tunnel and released into the River Severn every day.
My friend Annie and I first met in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in 2013 when we were both working as volunteers with English charity Globalteer. We were working at different projects but both living at Globalteer House. We've had no chance of a face to face catchup until now, but have stayed in touch via facebook.
Annie was at Cardiff Central station to met me, 2 train tickets in her hand. 'We're heading down to the beach via train', she says, 'and walking back to town'. I'm happy to fall
in with her plans as I had none myself, and as a local, Annie knew her way around.
The beach was looking cold and grey from our higher viewpoint, it was hard to tell where the horizon was. Certainly not a day for getting our feet wet, had the tide been in. I snapped a couple of photos and we continued on our way, past a church with century old grave stones standing haphazardly in the graveyard, down stone steps and on towards the Cardiff Bay Barrage.
The idea of constructing a barrage across the mouth of Cardiff Bay was put forward in the 1980's, as part of a scheme to revitalize the area. The problem was the tidal nature of Cardiff Bay meant that unattractive mud flats were exposed except for 2 hours on either side of high tide. The barrage would impound fresh water from the rivers Taff and Ely, effectively creating a non tidal permanent lake. With the dock area now more appealing, it was hoped more investment would be attracted.
We walked around the barrage, though there wasn't a lot to see. The area would be more popular in summer with people enjoying
water sports and picnics on the grassed areas.
Captain Robert Falcon Scott and members of his British Antarctic Expedition, who aimed to be the first to reach the South Pole, sailed from Cardiff's docks in June 1910. There is a memorial to him on the barrage along with a book shaped seat constructed in honour of another famous Cardiff citizen - Roald Dahl. Born in 1916, this famed children's author wrote 19 kids books including 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory'. Last year the city celebrated his 100 year centenary.
After lunch at Las Iguanas, a Latin American bistro overlooking the bay, we did a quick visit to the Wales Millennium Centre, to photograph the buildings impressive facade. We also passed by the Dr Who Experience, a must visit exhibition for Dr Who enthusists. It's an interactive exhibition of props, custumes, and film clips from the popular series. Outside, balanced perceriously over a path to the bay is a blue Police Box, surposedly the time and space machine from Gallifrey, Dr Who's home planet, which he travelled around in. Eventually we reached the city centre shopping precinct and Cardiff Castle.
Cardiff Castle is one of Wales' leading heritage
attractions and a site of international significance. Located smack bang in the centre of the city, with lovely parklands within it's walls, the castle has 2000 years of colourful history.
Once a Roman fort, an impressive Normanby castle and a Victorian Gothic fantasy home, Cardiff Castle is a fascinating place to visit. Tickets cost £12 with a self guided audio tour and map so you can explore at your own pace. The highlight of my visit was visiting the gloriously decorated rooms inside the castle. We didn't pay the extra £3 for a more comprehensive guided house tour, which gives you access to more rooms, but I loved the rooms we did see which included The Arab Room, The Small Dining Room, The Banquet Room and Lord Bute's Study.
Within the walls of the Castle are tunnels which we walked through. These tunnels came into their own as air-raid shelters during the Second World War, offering shelter to up to 1800 people. In the centre of the parklands is a 12 sided Norman Keep, the finest in Wales, which is known as a 'shell keep', as the outer walls offer protection to smaller buildings within.
Dr Who's Blue Police Box
Outside the Dr Who Experience
was owned by the Bute family, from 1767 until 1947, when the Castle was given to the City of Cardiff. The Bute family brought power and prosperity to Cardiff, which they turned from a sleepy backwater into one of the greatest coal exporting ports in the world. They transformed the Castle into the gothic fantasy we see today, as well as revealing the Castle's Roman past. A very interesting visit!
Misty rain had started by the time we finished our castle visit and the cold was closing in. It was time for me to head back to the train station for the homeward journey, and for Annie to return home and get warm.
Annie, diolch i chi am ddiwrnod hyfryd!
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