April 2, 2017


We have now reached Day 4 and this day we have planned a trip to Trellech, Monmouthshire, Wales. Our great great grandmother, Sarah Watkins, was born in Trellech in 1794. Her parents were William Watkins, born about 1767 in nearby Dingestow, and Sarah Farr, born around 1775-1778.


We had planned to leave Bristol early and first go to Trellech, located across the River Severn about an hour north of the city. From there we would do the tourist thing and visit Tintern Abbey along the Wye River and then south to Caldicot Castle. As fate would have it, we zigged left when we should have zagged right. The next thing we knew we were on the M48, a divided highway equivalent to our interstate and so had to proceed several miles to an exit to correct our mistake. When I saw that the exit was at Magor, I realized that we were very near to Caldicot and so we decided to reverse our route.


Caldicot Castle is a medieval castle built by the Normans around 1100AD. The original castle was a simple Motte and Bailey until 1170 when the stone Keep and curtain walls were added. The castle passed to the Crown in the late 14th century and then into neglect. In 1185 it was in the hands of the Cobb family who did extensive restorations. In 1964, Chepstow Rural District Council bought the castle from the Cobb family for £12,000 where it remains to this date.


Due to my recent knee procedure, I was limited to climbing only regular stairs. The winding stairs of the Keep and the Tower I had to leave to John. (This was probably a blessing as about 10 years ago on a visit to Melrose Abbey in the the Boarders of Scotland, I followed Amy up one of the winding towers. My thigh muscles hurt for three days thereafter.) Just before leaving we had a lovely conversation with the three ladies at the small snack bar. They attempted to teach us Southerners some Welsh, but failed miserably in their effort. The subtlety of the language cannot be appreciated in the few minutes we had to invest. However, they were gracious in putting up with us and submitted to a photo beside the fireplace.


From Caldicot we proceeded up to Tintern Abbey. Now being 12:30, we decided to go there next as there were several options for lunch. While the ladies at Caldicot had recommended the Anchor Inn, it was packed and we wound up at a small tea shop, The White Monk. Here we had some excellent soup and sandwiches on a local brown bread.


We took a brief walk of the Abbey grounds and ruins. The Abbey was built in 1131 by Walter de Clare and was only the second Cistercian Abbey in Great Britain (Cistercian monks being known as White Monks), the first being the aforementioned Melrose Abbey. In the mid 14th century, the area was ravaged by the Black Death which began its decline. However, it was at the hands of Henry VIII that monastic life was ended. Much of the wealth of the Abbey was confiscated by the Royal Treasury and the lead from the roofs was sold. Thus began the decay of the buildings resulting in the ruins you see today. We in the States probably know the Abbey from our English lit classes in the poem by William Wordsworth written in 1798 "Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey”.


   Five years have past; five summers, with the length

   Of five long winters! and again I hear

   These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs

   With a soft inland murmur...


From Tintern, we took a winding B-road to Trellech. For those not familiar, in Britain, M-roads, as stated above, are similar to our interstate with limited access and a median, often with guardrails in the median. A-roads can be likened to our large highways, often multilane. B-roads on the other hand can range from lovely tree lined country lanes to narrow lanes just wide enough to fit one auto at a time. While the road to Trellech was not that narrow, it was still a challenge when meeting on-coming traffic whilst driving on the left side of the road. Let me say, for those who have spent their lives driving on the right side (and I do believe it is called the right side for a reason), you have somewhat of an inherent idea of where the right side of your vehicle is. However, when driving on the left, the left side of your auto might as well be on Mars. This resulted in many flinches and expletives from John as I drove.


We arrived at Trellech without a single wrong turn. There we found our way to the The Church of Saint Nicholas. It sits on the site of a wooden church that was built in the 7th or 8th century. There is a stone preaching cross in the churchyard that probably dates back to the same time. The present stone church was probably erected in the 13th or 14th century.


We walked through much of the churchyard looking for Watkins; however, the stones older than the middle of the last century were so worn as to not be legible. The church was open so we took the opportunity to enter and were greeted with an exquisite example of a medieval church. Eventually we took leave of Trellech and made our way back to Bristol.


For dinner we decided it was time to branch out – so we had Indian cuisine. I had a lamb dish while Cissy broke her curry tabu for a fish curry dish and John had a chicken dish that had been marinated in buttermilk for over a day.

The Smokies from near Taig an Drama Wales Watching Caldicot Castle The Ladies of Caldicot Castle Tintern Abbey The Church of Saint Nicholas Looking toward the Keep at Caldicot Castle Looking across the Bailey from the Keep at Caldicot Castle Looking toward the North Transept of Tintern Abbey A panoramic view from the South Transept to the Nave The ancient Preaching Cross at the Church of St. Nicholas, Trellech, Wales Royal Coat of Arms for King Charles II dated 1683 The Alter from the Nave Headstones in the Churchyard Southern Wales is much like the Boarders of Scotland Day 5 - A Day of Churches