Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Ugly House

Just off the A5 between Capel Curig and Betws-y-Coed is this most curious building which is known locally as 'Ty Hyll' or 'The Ugly House'

I don't think it is ugly at all in fact it is quite charming!  Legend has it that it was  a 'ty-unnos'  or 'a house built overnight '  constructed in the 15th century by two brothers who were supposedly outlaws.  I had heard of these houses that were built over night the rules being that if you could build a house with roof, walls and a smoking chimney between the hours of sunset and sunrise you could claim the freehold.

There is of course another explanation for the existence of the building and that is that the cottage was built in the early 19th century when the art of the 'picturesque' was fashionable and given the picturesque movement was deeply into ruins, follies, mountains and rivers and also knowing that the area in which the cottage was built is close to Capel Curig and Swallow Falls this does seem quite feasible.  Another explanation is that it may have been used and added to haphazardly by navvies working on the new Telford roadway and bridge being built nearby and abandoned as soon as it became too far away from the work.

Whatever the explanation of its origins may be it was certainly listed as a curiosity in tourist guide books of the nineteenth century.  In 1929 it was bought by a well known local couple called Riley who turned it into a home and used to entertain both friends and curious passers by with stories.  After they had both passed away the cottage became an antique shop and tea room.  In 1988 it was bought by the Snowdonia Society and used until recently as their headquarters.  What makes the cottage even more enchanting is the woodland walk and pond, which was teeming with little frogs and damsel flies and garden which is planted to encourage honey bees.  There is also a project to encourage, by using bird boxes, birds such as pied flycatcher and tits.  We saw a couple of pied flycatchers taking food into the boxes for their young and the garden was humming with bees.

So what is the interior like?  We were able to go inside and found a lovely, newly opened,  tea shop with charming ladies serving pots of tea in mis-matching vintage china cups and saucers and plates full of the most tasty Bara Brith.   I wish now that I had taken a photo of the interior but it just seemed too intrusive at the time.  There was also a small shop selling local produce especially preserves and honey.  This is a joint project between the Snowdonia Society and the National Bee Keeping Centre for Wales.  I hope it is successful for the bees and pied flycatchers of course but also for us curious visitors in need of refreshment.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Way up High

To the top of Snowdon!

There should have been three of us on the trip but only two of us made it to the top.  It has long been a wish of my sister's to go to the top of Snowdon and this year we had hoped to finally make her wish come true but this little lady intervened.

My sister had been on the waiting list for a guide dog for about 18 months and had lost one possible  dog because she had to go into hospital and couldn't start her guide dog training.  When she was offered the chance to train with Ishka she decided to go ahead so had to miss out on her long awaited trip.

So when the day dawned for our trip on the mountain train there was just the two of us.  The little train waiting at Llanberis station was absolutely full.  There were eight carriages with eight people in each.  Four on one side, four on the other.  I have to admit I didn't really enjoy the ride up very much as I was in the middle of the row travelling backwards so I didn't take any photographs of the upward journey.  We were asked as we left the train to swap seats on the way down so that those who had been in the middle were at the window side so I did take some photos on the way back down.

We passed lots of walkers and hikers along the way;  many of them stopping to wave at our little red train.  It took about an hour to reach the top and there were some spectacular views along the way.

Trains were running up and down the mountain and they timed their passing in the two stations situated on the mountain side.  One of the stations was called Halfway.

The train pulled into the station near the visitor centre where you could sit indoors and look out through huge windows over the scenes below and drink coffee at the same time.  We had 30 minutes at the top so we went out the other side of the centre and up to the summit.  Paul ventured up the steps but I stayed down below.  Some of the people in my photo were from our train others had walked.  

There were wonderful views in every direction and the mists of earlier in the day  had lifted so visibility was quite good.  All too soon the train driver was calling us back to the train to make our descent back to the station and the village of Llanberis.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Welsh Wanderings

I'm back!  We've had a few lovely days away in Wales and as you can see from some of the photos it wasn't always raining!

We've seen lots of ......


 and Abbeys

We've walked along a few of these........

and seen lots of.........

 hills and mountains

and even been up one of them

on this little train

I've don't think I've ever seen so much Valerian

or so many Foxgloves on roadsides, on the edges of fields, by stone walls  and down by the sea

Hopefully, I'll be back with more later!  I'll also try and catch up with all your posts that I've missed whilst I've been away over the next few days but first there are piles of washing to do and we have to get ready for our old conservatory, which has a leaking roof, a damp wall and rotting window frames, to be taken down and a new one put up in its place, I'm not looking forward to the mess!  I may be gone sometime.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


On our way back home from a few days away in Bedfordshire a couple of weeks ago we  thought we would like to re-visit Rockingham Castle  We'd last visited in the 1980s so it was high time for a return visit.  As we'd taken a laptop with us we decided just after breakfast in the hotel we'd use their 30 minutes free Wi-fi and check the castle opening times on line.  It was a good job we did as we found out that they didn't open on Saturdays!  So we revised our plans and went to visit another place we hadn't seen for a long time, the lovely village of Fotheringhay.

I took this first view of the church from the old bridge over the River Nene.  It stands majestically on its hill in the centre of the village.  It looked beautiful in spite of the morning mists and slight drizzle.  If it had drifted away down river I wouldn't have been at all surprised as it did indeed look as if it was floating.   I'll take you to the church later in this post because the first place we wanted to see again isn't far away from the church.

Still getting quite wet in the light rain we set off to find the mound on which had stood first a wooden Norman mott and bailey castle, built by Simon de St Liz c. 1100,  about two centuries later it was rebuilt in stone and then refurbished in the early16th century by Katherine of Aragon who, after her divorce from Henry VIII,  lived at nearby Kimboulton Castle. According to records it seemed to be still in use and habitable until around 1625 when it was reported to be 'meetly strong'  but ten years later it had been abandoned.  The castle passed by marriage to King David I of Scotland when he married Maud the widow of its builder Simon de St Liz.  It was passed down several generations of Scottish Kings until William the Lion gave it to his brother David, who later became Earl of Huntingdon.  In the 14th century it came into the hands of Edmund Langley, Duke of York one of the sons of Edward III. 

It looks quite an unprepossessing mound but it was here that a King of England was born and a Queen of Scotland died.  The castle came eventually into the ownership of Richard, Duke of York and his wife Cecily Neville  and it was here that their youngest son Richard was born on October 2nd 1452.   This Richard became Duke of Gloucester during the reign of his elder brother Edward IV and later for such a short time a king himself. Perhaps, knowing my Yorkist and Ricardian leanings, you can see why I wanted to visit again?

The castle stayed in the hands of the York family until Richard, now Richard III was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485; from then the castle and manor became the property of the Tudors.  During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I her cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots, was tried and found guilty of treason here in the of October 1586 and executed in the great hall on 2nd February 1587.   If you look closely at the photo above you will see one piece of stone left from the building in a little protective pen down by the river.

As we walked back along the main street towards the church we saw this wonderful building which we hadn't noticed on our first visit all those years ago.  I do wonder why because it was a gorgeous old house.  It is now called The Garden Farm but was previously know as the New Inn and was built on the instructions  of Edward IV between the years of 1461 and 1476 to accommodate further visitors to the castle.

The church of St Mary and All Saints was built on the site of a Cluniac nunnery.  It was built in the early 15th century to house the Collegiate Chapel or college which had been founded by Edmund Langley in the chapel of the castle.  Edmund of Langley was killed at the Battle of Agincourt and was buried in what was called the Quire of the college and church.  Later the bodies of  Richard, Duke of York and his son, the Earl of Rutland who were killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 were brought to rest in the Quire.  Most of the collegiate buildings were dismantled in the 1540s leaving the church that can be seen now.

When we entered the church it looked as if it was decorated ready for a wedding and indeed as we walked around a couple of people arrived to make last minute preparations.  They seemed quite happy for us to continue to look around.    Below is one of the Yorkist tombs.  When Queen Elizabeth I visited Fotheringhay in 1566 she was appalled by the desecrated tombs of the members of the York family buried in the old college Quire and ordered that they be brought into the church and fitting commemorative  monuments be built. 

In this tomb lie Richard,3rd Duke of York and his wife Cecily Neville known as The Rose of Raby.
In another monument exactly the same to the right of the alter are the remains of Edward, 2nd Duke of York who killed in 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt.

The York Window is in the Richard III or York Chapel and was a gift from the Richard III Society and dedicated in 1975.  In the window and around the chapel are other symbols and images of The House of York including some of these below.......

 The White Rose of York on kneelers...........

 and in flower displays

Another kneeler decorated with a white boar, the insignia of Richard III.

I loved the richly carved and ornamented 15th century pulpit newly restored to its original colours.

After a walk around the churchyard it was time to leave this pretty little village and set off to our next destination passing back over the old bridge on our way.