Welsh Stages and Reports

A list of the Welsh stages are detailed in the table below, and beneath this, read the accounts of the stages completed.

Morton - Welsh Map

Stage

From

To

Via places named in the books

Approx miles

W1

Ludlow

Shrewsbury

30

W2

Shrewsbury

Llangollen

Chirk

28

W3

Llangollen

Rhyl

Corwen, Ruthin, Denbigh, St Asaph, Rhuddlan

35

W4

Rhyl

Bangor

Colwyn Bay, Llandudno, Conwy, Penmaenmawr

26

W5

Bangor

Bangor

Llanfair PG, Beaumaris, Llangefni, Holyhead

30

W6

Bangor

Betwys-y-Coed

Caernarfon, Dinorwic, Capel Curig

27

W7

Betwys-y-Coed

Bala

Capel Curig, Beddgellert, Ffestiniog

45

W8

Caernarvon

Beddgellert

Nefyn, Aberdaron, Pwllheli, Criccieth

60

W9

Ffestiniog

Aberystwyth

Harlec, Barmouth, Dolgellau, Machynlleth, Tal-y-bont

52

W10

Aberystwyth

Cardigan

Aberaeron

38

W11

Cardigan

St Davids

35

W12

St Davids

Milford Haven

23

W13

Milford Haven

Carmarthen

35

W14

Carmarthen

Swansea

Llanmadoc

35

W15

Swansea

Cardiff

40

W16

Cardiff

Cardiff

Merthyr

45

W17

Cardiff

Monmouth

20

 ** NOTE:- Addition to the Welsh tour:

I am indebted to Syd Cheetham for pointing out that the route booklet misses out a section of HVM’s tour in Wales.   The map correctly shows that HVM went from Aberystwyth to Llandrindod Wells (and then travelled back to Aberystwyth).  Unfortunately the stage by stage breakdown missed out this part of the journey.  Please add a new stage, W9a, which is Aberystwyth to Llandrindod Wells and back to Aberystwyth.

Having driven to Llandrindod Wells there is, of course, no need to return to Aberystwyth unless you want to do stage 10.  Driving between the two towns in either direction counts as having done Stage 9a!

Clive Button

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REPORTS

Just click on the photos to enlarge them!

 

Section W1

Date: 27th September 2014
Driver – Syd Cheetham: Passenger – Sue Cheetham
Wolseley 14/56 1937 HF7306

For section W1, we left Ludlow and continued on the A49 through Church Stretton past
Stokesay Castle a 13th Century Manor House, detouring to take in Wroxeter (Viroconium) which was the fourth largest city in Roman Britain.

Stokesay Castle

Stokesay Castle

Wroxeter

Wroxeter

Then onto to the ancient town of Shrewsbury and yet another castle, built by Roger de Montgomery in 1070. There is a lot left of the original castle, but it played its part in the Civil War and today houses the Shropshire Regimental Museum.

 

 

Total mileage: 37 miles for this section.

Syd Cheetham

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Section W2

Driver – Syd Cheetham: Passenger – Sue Cheetham
Wolseley 14/56 1937 HF7306
Date – 27th September 2014

We continued on the A5 via Chirk and of course visited Chirk Castle, more an old manor house than a castle and then continued onto Llangollen, home of the Music Eistefffod in July. A place very popular with Tourists and home to the Llangollen Railway, which has now been extended to Corwen along the Dee Valley and Estuary, although the station at Corwen has yet to be completed.

Chirk Castle

Chirk Castle

Llangollen Railway

Llangollen Railway

Total miles – 38 miles

Syd Cheetham

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Sections W3 & W4

Langollen

Langollen

A sunny morning in early September was an auspicious start to our foray into North Wales. We planned a gentle day’s touring, in what we hoped was the Morton spirit. Leaving Chester in our Six Eighty, with friends Ray and Sue Armor, we first drove to Llangollen. In many respects this has changed little since Morton’s day and we were able to take a photograph of the river and bridge.

 

 

Dinas Bran Castle

Dinas Bran Castle

The drive from here to Corwen and then Ruthin was delightful. The roads were almost empty and were surely little changed from the 1920s. Leaving Llangollen, we photographed the ruins of Dinas Bran as Morton had done. We stopped for lunch in Ruthin and what a lovely place this is. It has what must be the most beautiful and historic NatWest bank anywhere – a former court house built in the fifteenth century. We also found the half-timbered house that Morton had photographed, which was formerly Judges’ Lodgings. Our car attracted the attention of a local who turned out to be a rich source of information on Ruthin and we chatted to him for a while, rather as Morton did on his travels.

Natwest Bank in Ruthin

Natwest Bank in Ruthin

House in Ruthin

House in Ruthin

 

 

 

Wind turbines in Colwyn Bay

Wind turbines in Colwyn Bay

If Morton would have recognised the Vale of Clwyd, he would have been in for a shock when we reached the coast at Rhyl: acres of static caravans and, to our eyes, a distinct lack of charm. Colwyn Bay was much better but the countless wind turbines just off the coast struck an unhappy note. We drove West, through Llandudno, Conwy and Penmaenmawr, all pleasant in their way. With a fast, modern road, sticking to the original route was not entirely straightforward. This same new road, the A55, tries to take all traffic onto Anglesey via the new Britannia Bridge. I say ‘new’ but actually this is Stephenson’s nineteenth century railway bridge which was modified to take cars as well in the 1970s.

 

Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle

We were determined to get onto Anglesey as Morton had done, via Telford’s bridge, and after a confusing drive through Bangor we finally did this. We had a pleasant dinner in a hotel near Beaumaris, with Syd and Sue Cheetham who had arrived in their 14/56. We stayed overnight and the next day wandered around Beaumaris, which is lovely, and visited Plas Newyd, the home of the Earls of Anglesey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clive and Debbie Button

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Sections W3 & 4 (parts)

Driver: Mike Schilling
Car: Wolseley 1500, reg. YRL 510
August 18th 2014

Having travelled 400+ miles to the National Rally, I decided that I’d take my time travelling home to Glasgow. I called on my Mum in North Wales and on the way decided to take some pictures of the parts of the route that HWM travelled.

RHUDDLAN:-

Rhuddlan Castle

Rhuddlan Castle

The castle – HVM describes the ‘ivy-covered shell’. This is now owned by Cadw.

 

 

 

 

Old Parliament House (below) – The ‘Statute of Rhuddlan’ was signed here. The Welsh equivalent of the ‘Treaty of Arbroath’?

Rhuddlan

Rhuddlan

Rhuddlan

Rhuddlan

Rhuddlan

Rhuddlan

 

RHYL:-

Rhyl

Rhyl

Rhyl

Rhyl

HVM ‘liked windy Rhyl (and the) gold sands’, but the ‘Skytower’** wasn’t there when HVM visited!

[** fromRhyl Life: http://rhyl-life.blogspot.co.uk/2010/09/skytower.html
on Wednesday, 8 September 2010:
‘The Skytower opened on Rhyl promenade in 1989. It had originated at a garden festival in Scotland; we bought it for around £825,000 (not a bad price bearing in mind we’ve had 21 years of use so far). The revolving cabin rises to a height of about 240 feet/73 metres. The following photographs were sent by George Owen. They were taken by John Price during the erecting of the tower. John is an ex-Pilkingtons employee who went to work for a small local plant hire company. The pictures are unique; we’ve never seen them before.’
You might recall: the first Heseltine-inspired Garden Festival was in Liverpool (1984); the second was in Stoke on Trent (1986) and then in Glasgow (1988). That’s where this tower originated.]

COLWYN BAY:-

Colwyn Bay

Colwyn Bay

Colwyn Bay

Colwyn Bay

Colwyn Bay pier

Colwyn Bay pier

In 1932 HVM suggested that Colwyn Bay was ‘one of the most popular places in North Wales’. Here’s the pier today (about to be demolished, I believe). The wind farm wasn’t there in Morton’s day!)

LLANDUDNO:-
HVM asserts that ‘the sweep of its bay is as fine as that of the bay of Naples.

Llandudno & Great Orme

Llandudno & Great Orme

Llandudno & Great Orme

Llandudno & Great Orme

Llandudno Bay

Llandudno Bay

 

 

 

 

 

 

Llandudno & Little Orme

Llandudno & Little Orme

CONWY

Conwy

Conwy

HVM thought that ‘Conway (sic) is exquisite. No other town in the kingdom lies so snugly within walls … York and Chester have outgrown their walls’.

 

 

 

 

HVM described the road from Rhyl to Caernarvon as the ‘Welsh Corniche’. He described the Sychnant Pass (Conwy to Penmaenmawr) as a ‘little model of Glencoe’!
That’s to whet your appetite: the bits I didn’t have time to complete.

Mike Schilling August 2014

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Section W5

Bangor – Bangor – 8th/9th September: Mileage 62 miles.
Driver – Syd Cheetham: Passenger – Sue Cheetham.
Wolseley 14/56 1937 HF7306 .

We completed the above route over 2 days but in reverse order due to the locality of where we live. We started in Holyhead and drove down the A5 to Rhostrehwfa and joined the A5114 to Llangefni and then went along the B5109 via Pentraeth to beautiful Beaumaris. We stopped to partake refreshments in the Ye Old Bulls Head Hotel of which parts date back to 1452, admired the seafront, and of course Beaumaris Castle.

Morton - W5 - 1 Ye Old Bulls HeadMorton - W5 - 2 Beaumaris Castle

Morton - W5 - 3 Chateau Plas RhianfaAfter having our thirst quenched, we proceeded along the A545 towards Menai Bridge to
our lodgings for the night to meet Clive and Debbie Button in their smart Wolseley 6/80,
completing Section W4 along with their friends Ray and Sue. We stayed at the Chateau Plas Rhianfa on the side of the Menai Straits, what a glorious setting. In the evening during dinner we watchedthe moon shine onto the Straits, in the morning we watched the sun rise over Snowdonia from our bedroom window (thank you HV Morton). The Chateau was built in 1849 so HV Morton would have passed it.

The next day we carried on the A545 and then onto the A5 and crossed over the Menai Straits via the Menai Suspenion Bridge and into Bangor, coming back over the Straits again and continuing on the A5 through Llanfair PG and back to Holyhead.

Syd Cheetham

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Section W6

Driver – Syd Cheetham: Passenger – Sue Cheetham
Wolseley 14/56, 1937, HF7306
Date – 27th September 2014

This section was completed in the reverse order as we journeyed from Worcester.
We drove along the historic A5 (London to Holyhead) completed by Thomas Telford.
The scenery was breathtaking with the changing of the colours on the trees, passing Swallow Falls, which is best seen in Winter when the water levels are high. This area has been made famous by artists from the 19thcentury because of its majesty, colours and sheer beauty to paint. Passing through the spectacular Snowdonia National Park and onto Capel Curig, turning off the A5 and heading for Pen -y-Pass.

Lake at Capel Curig

Lake at Capel Curig

Pen-y-Pass

Pen-y-Pass

The area was awash with cars and walkers, (though you would not think so with the photos) and having driven along the Pass we came into Llanberis, past the well known slate mine and the Snowdonia Mountain Railway and Dinorwic, where there is a power station. We continued onto Caernarfon , where there is yet another castle and on into Bangor along the Menai Straits.

Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

Total mileage for this section was 51 miles.

Syd Cheetham

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Section W7

Driver – Syd Cheetham: Passenger – Sue Cheetham
Wolseley 14/56, 1937, HF7306

We set off on a very dull day and continued for part of the day in mizzle*. The whole of the journey was completed against the back drop of the autumn colours of yellow, brown, orange and reds on the ferns and leaves, all of which were a beautiful site.

Morton - W7 - 2 - LLandderfelWe set off from Betws-y-Coed along the A5 to Capel Curig turning left onto the A498 which leads to Beddgelert, passing through the Snowdonia National Park which dominated most of this route. Being a Saturday it was really busy with walkers and runners in the rain and mist. After passing through Beddgelert we drove through the spectacular Aberglasfryn Pass which now has the Welsh Highland Railway route running along the opposite side of the river to the road. We then carried onto Llan Festiniog and over the tops down into Bala.

We had not traversed this route previously and were captivated by its beauty and remoteness, watching the Buzzards on the wing and then diving for prey. It reminded us of
Northumberland and North Yorkshire. We then stopped for lunch a wonderful pub just outside Bala, before setting off home, a very enjoyable day – thank you Mr.Morton.

Morton - W7 - 1 - Bryn Terfeill Public House*P.S The word mizzle is not a misspelling but is used by the ex England Cricket Captain Michel Vaughan and perfectly describes the conditions very often found in the hills. i.e. a mixture of mist and drizzle.

Syd Cheetham

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Section W8

Caernarvon – Beddgellert – 2nd September – Mileage 80 miles
Driver – Syd Cheetham: Passenger – Sue Cheetham.
Wolseley 14/56 1937 HF7306.

Commenced stage W8, Lleyn Peninsula Run, in Caernarfon on a beautiful summer’s day taking the A4085 to Rhyd Ddu into the Snowden National Park and stopped at Rhyd Ddu station where we came across two Garretts on the Welsh Highland Railway. We then took the B4418 over to Penygroes through spectacular scenery in the Park and the beginnings of the beautiful Lleyn Peninsula. (No other way across to A499.) Onto the A499 to Pwllheli, taking in the wonderful mountain and coastal views and back onto the A497 to Nefyn and down the B4413 to the tip of the Lleyn Peninsula at Aberdaron, where we had lunch at the Ty Newydd Hotel on the terrace overlooking the beach. After lunch we headed back onto the A4433 to Pwllhlei, passing the old Butlins Holiday Camp (now modernised) and Haven Holidays, onto Criccieth, past the the castle, through Tremadog and back into the Snowdon National Park and onto the A498 to Beddgelert.

(Apologies – we had taken some spectacular photos of the area, but unfortunately our computer decided to lose them).

Syd Cheetham

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Section W9

Driver – Syd Cheetham: Passenger – Sue Cheetham
Wolseley 14/56 1937 HF7306
25th September 2014

Harlech Castle

Harlech Castle

We had watched the weather on Sunday Countryfile and it showed the weather cooler
and clear for Thursday to Saturday. Thursday arrived and so did the rain. The journey from Ffestiniog passed Maentwrog Power Station, Harlech Castle and on through Snowdonia National Park.

 

 

Machynlleth Clock Tower

Machynlleth Clock Tower

We passed through a very busy Barmouth, Dolgellau and onto Machynlleth and over the Cambrian Mountains into Rhyader. The scenery would have been spectacular if we could have seen it, all we saw was horizontal rain. Our stay for the night was the Elan Valley Hotel just outside Rhayader. This area is very popular with ramblers and a general visiting area for coaches and cars. On Friday the weather had turned cooler but sunny for the remainder of the journey to Llandrindod Wells along the A44.

Elan Valley

Elan Valley

Outside Elan Valley Hotel

Outside Elan Valley Hotel

W9 Mileage: 112 miles

Syd Cheetham

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Section W14

Driver: Mansel Lovering, passenger: Mrs Lovering
Car: 1300 Mk2.

From “Coracles to Sospans, Cockles, Clergy and Shell’s”. (That is from Carmarthen to Llanelli,Swansea, The Gower and Llandarcy, with H.V.Morton).

I’ve read my “Wild Wales” by George Borrow, followed Bradshaw’s Guide alongside Michael Portillo, but H.V.Morton puts them all behind him as a literary genius when he introduces the people he meets on his journey around Wales in his excellent travel book “In search of Wales”. Here is a genius who can bring not only the towns and villages to life as it was in the early thirties, but also put life into those fellow citizens he meets on his journey. So we meet those who speak only Welsh, those who are bilingual and even those, who like him are fluent in English alone. Undeniably the best read I have had in years, so much so that I bought two copies of his excellent journal, from 1932 and 2008. But why did he not write as if he were keeping a diary? His stay in Carmarthen, with a coracle thrill, to his visit to the great steel and tinplate works of “sospan” (Llanelly as it was called in his days), to Swansea and The Gower, and his visit to the largest oil refinery in Europe, obviously took him more than one day. Where did he stay in Swansea, or The Mumbles, or on The Gower, we shall never know. But his travels are recorded without reference to his own rest and comfort as he puts pen to paper and introduces us to his world of the early 1930’s. His aim was to introduce all men, women and children to Wales that they may be encouraged to travel on the well worn roads of North Wales into the mining valleys of the South. This he has done in my case, as I followed his routes from Carmarthen to Swansea and Llanmadoc (the Church of St. Madoc).

To begin at the beginning: Carmarthen:

Coracle fishermen

Coracle fishermen

Photo 1 showing the “gigantic” beetles walking on their back legs! The salmon fishing coracle men, hunting in pairs with a net slung between them, propelled by one oar and accompanied with a wooden mallet to put the caught
fish to sleep, called a ( I”ve forgotten !).

 

 

 

 

A 2014 coracle

A 2014 coracle

Photo 2 shows a 2014 model coracle complete with
the “knocker”, (although there is another name for it).

 

 

 

 

 

Carmarthen's monument

Carmarthen’s monument

Photo 3 shows the monument erected to honour
Carmarthen’s hero Nott, who fought with Wellington.
 

 

 

 

Towy old bridge

Towy old bridge

Photo 4 shows the old bridge over the Towy at
Carmarthen, over which Morton left a town which he found to be full of
character.

Next on his journey was Llanelly, as it was spelled in his day. A black town with smoke over all of it and chimneys rising over rows of grim, slate – roofed houses. What a transformation now, after 82+ years Gone are the steel works and the tin plate works which produced the great masses of steel for railway engines, ships and the like, and the salmon tins and saucepans four of which adorn the posts at the Parc y Scarlets, home of the Llanelli Rugby Team, The Scarlets. Incidentally Swansea supporters call Llanelli people The Turks, while Llanelli people refer to Swansea folk as The Jacks! Almost opposite the Parc stands a shining huge factory. This is Trostre, the modern tin plate works. Yes, Llanelli would be unrecognisable to Morton nowadays. Much has been done over the years to improve Llanelli, including new shopping centres, a theatre, cinemas, a great Rugby team which beat the All Blacks, and over time has created seaside pleasures to satisfy all tastes. The local Wild Fowl park, the Country Park, and many other places of interest would have been included in Morton’s book had he returned since the demise of the metal industries.

Old car......

Old car……

Old tractor......

Old tractor……

Photo 5 could have passed Morton on his next phase to Swansea. From Carmarthenshire into Glamorganshire, about 10 miles on the old road. Today just minutes via the M4! Could it be that he saw a tractor just as in Photo 6 ploughing on the route through fields of luscious green meadow turf, filled with black and white cows, or Welsh browns gone rusty in the Welsh rain? Now on to Swansea and the delights of Gower, unspoiled except for the “Ugly, Lovely town of Swansea” to quote Dylan Thomas, who was about 18 when Morton visited. Swansea bore the weight of many German bombs, including incendiaries which burned and shattered the old narrow streets and the beautiful St. Mary’s Church, now rebuilt. Morton would not recognize the town. But The Gower would welcome him in the same way as he would embrace the bays, the people and the cockle industry so much changed from his days. Swansea itself was Copperopolis, a town built up on the copper industry, and Morton learned much about the process of smelting and the bringing of copper ore to the town from Chile and other copper ore producing countries around the world. All this has gone nowadays although as part of its heritage much time and money has been spent on the preservation of the industry.

It was The Gower Peninsula to which Morton turned his attention. Gower is just about the size of the island of Malta. 25 miles by 10 or thereabouts. To the North was, and is the “industrial” side. To the South the beautiful tourist beaches and bays, the common and farms with various crops and animals to be seen. And Morton brings the complex side of The Gower to our attention as only the trained eye of a journalist genius can. Starting with the cockle gathering women of Penclawdd he describes the donkey riders as like a Bedouin tribe as they race up to four miles across the sands of the Loughor Estuary to scratch at the cockle beds.

Fishing boat

Fishing boat

Grazing ponies

Grazing ponies

The estuary has silted up, leaving only a small stream to be filled up at full tide. In what was once a harbour for dozens of small fishing boats I saw just one. Photo 7. Ponies graze quietly in photo 8 – – a different scene to the times when the donkey brayed as the cockle women boiled the cockles, shelled them ready for market, doorstep selling in the near and far villages and towns, for Penclawdd had a railway connection to Gowerton and Swansea, Cardiff and Bristol, as well as the mining valleys of South Wales.Imagine two hundred women going out to pick cockles on a grand scale, with donkeys, carts and sacks, armed only with the scrapers and sieves. And singing for all she was worth was a young girl named Miriam. If Morton had revisited Penclawdd just a little while ago he could have met up with her. Sadly she passed away just a few years ago, but her son still lives in the family home.

Selwyn's Cockle Factory

Selwyn’s Cockle Factory

Brian Jones

Brian Jones

Today no cockles may be picked, for pollution has reared its ugly head. Instead cockles from England, France, Ireland, Spain are imported and treated at Selwyn’s Cockle Factory, established over 60 years ago, and run now by Brian Jones, Selwyn’s son. Visited by the Queen and Prince Phillip the Royals probably enjoyed the best cockles in the world, if I am the judge. Plans are afoot to export shellfish products to Japan from this hive of activity which probably produces more cockles nowadays than all the two hundred women of 1932. Morton tastes a plateful and experienced the “Ah so!” which Japanese customers will shortly exclaim!! Photo 9 shows Selwyn’s Cockle Factory. Photo 10 is of Brian himself with cockleshell mountain behind him, and in Photo 11 he sits in Mansel’s 1300. Incidentally Brian was given a Wolseley 1300 on his 18th. birthday by his uncle. He still loves the car, but no longer has it. Now onwards and upwards!

Brian in Mansel's car

Brian in Mansel’s car

Jorja at Arthur Stone

Jorja at Arthur Stone

Brian at Arthur's Stone

Brian at Arthur’s Stone

The high ground of Gower beckons for Morton’s next stop. What a view from this spot- the whole of Gower is visible, North and South, East and West.Five counties of Wales, together with two from England – Devon and Somerset. At this spot stands Arthur’s Stone, Photos 12 and 13. Mansel’s great granddaughter Jorja and the man himself. On again to Llanmadoc itself. Dunes, sand and more dunes! See photo. 14..”H.V.” doesn’t record any of his thoughts on this desolate area, and so to the South and Port Eynon.

Llanmadoc

Llanmadoc

Port Eynon's old rectory

Port Eynon’s old rectory

Pert Eynon's lifeboatmen memorial

Pert Eynon’s lifeboatmen memorial

Here he encounters the Rector of Port Eynon, who lived in the Old Rectory, photo 15, although it was fairly modern in 1932! Photo 16 shows the Port Eynon Church with the Lifeboat Memorial reminding all who see it of the tragedy of 1916 when lifeboatmen were lost, and photo 17 the stone itself, although I cannot say whether Morton saw it or not. Photo 18 shows the sea washed Church at Port Eynon, much loved by H.V.Morton.

Billy Gibbs

Billy Gibbs

Port Eynon Church

Port Eynon Church

Thus ends my many days of wandering with H.V. Morton by my side, or at least his “In search of Wales.” Mileage is unimportant, for who dares stain the bygone meanderings with facts and figures. Morton did not, and I can only guess that in his travels he did 35 miles from Carmarthen to Swansea, 20 from Swansea to the Western tip of Gower, each way, and before leaving Swansea altogether another 10 miles to Llandarcy, the largest Oil Refinery in Europe in his day. There he saw the “fireless” steam injected railway locomotives running around on railway track made in Llanelli! And who knows, driving one of the locos, but my grandfather Jack Lovering!. The loco now stands rusting outside the Swansea Industrial Museum. A piece of History, which in 1932 and after that, deserves a mention and a lick of paint. Morton would agree, I am sure!

Mansel Lovering.

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