Yesterday started off with a nice stroll along the tow path of the local canal. The Tennant canal was completed in 1790 to transport coal from a pit at Glan y Wern near Crymlyn the river Neath, where it was transferred to larger boats. It fell into disuse after only 20 years but was restored and enlarged to carry barges of up to 50 tons in 1818 by George Tennant. I pass it often, crossing by a bridge at Jersey Marine, and I’ve equally often promised myself a visit one day.
Part of the path was closed due to engineering works on the nearby electricity pylons, so I was forced to head north towards Briton Ferry. But on the tow path, it was impossible to work out exactly where I was. And that was great. Minutes before I’d been driving through the suburbs of Swansea and suddenly I was transported nearly 200 years back in time.
As I walked, the landscape changed from a valley, in which acres of reeds grew, to a more industrial one with the remains of storage depots and little engineering sheds, now in ruins. I passed under several bridges, ironic symbols of the canal’s demise as they carried rail and road over the water. I passed horses content to graze and watch me with no concern. Eventually, I got to the motorway bridge, a vast modern construction completely out of place in my little world. Just beyond the modern concrete bridge, a smaller stone bridge contemporary with the canal stood, signifying an early track across. I turned around here as I had other plans for the rest of the day.
I went with friends out to Carreg Cennen castle. The Medieval castle sits on an outcrop of rock and is by far the most impressively set fort I have visited. It reminds me of Dryslwyn’s castle near Carmarthen, but is much grander. The views from the top take in the Brecon Beacons and the Black Mountain, with Carmarthenshire off to the west.
We explored the castle, and ventured down into the natural cave that winds its way under the castle courtyard. It was dark and narrow, with a slippery floor but we came prepared with torches and squeezed the stooped our way down to the very end. There we found a natural spring, which would have been a useful water supply for the castle occupants during a siege. Evidence was found here of pre-historic occupation and, more recently, finds of two Roman coins suggests at least a prolonged visit by the Romans.
After a delicious lunch in the cafe, we drove along the northern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. We spotted signs for the Red Kite feeding centre and decided to take a look. We were so fortunate, because just as we parked, one of the staff told us we were just in time to see the feeding. For the next 45 minutes we watched from the hide as around 50 Red Kites wheeled and swirled in the air currents, dropping en mass every so often to swoop and pick up the meat that had been left for them. It was a magnificent sight, and even more special for being totally unplanned. Definitely one to return to.