Tintern Abbey, Wye Valley, South Wales.

Thursday 3rd September 2020, will mark the 484th anniversary of the dissolution of Tintern Abbey on the orders of King Henry VIII..

Visiting Tintern Abbey

When I was a child, being bundled into the back of my dad’s Zephyr Zodiac and taken to Tintern  Abbey was a regular day out for us, particularly on bank holidays as is was only about 2½ hours drive from where we lived .

Dad used to meet up with one of his friends who was a photographer taking shots of the tourists there. With the wonderful photo/video technology these days, professional photographers working with tourists are not seen so much.

History of Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey was the first Cistercian Abbey built in Wales and was founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepsow who had granted it to the monks in 1131.

Tintern Abbey is quite an awesome structure and was built in the early 12th century. In 1348 the Black Death visited the area and many of the monks at Tintern perished. The Abbey then stood for a few hundred years until the 16th century when Henry VIII ordered its destruction. The Abbey then went from bad to worse, having the lead stripped from its roof which eventually collapsed completely and becoming overgrown with plant life, as nature took over the grounds.

In the 1700s the 4th Duke of Beaufort, Charles Somerset began restorations of the grounds removing all weeds and debris and the transformation of this wonderful building became the tourist attraction that it is today.

Even  in its ruins, it manages to look quite majestic nestling in the Wye Valley right on the banks of the River Wye. One can see the practicality of the setting the Abbey here back in the 12th Century, and added to that is the wonderful view of the Monmouthshire countryside framed by its huge windows. 

The Ghostly Legend of Tintern Abbey

Well, there has to be a ghost story!

Tintern Abbey, Wales
Ghostly Knight Figure
supplied by
Photolitherland from Wikimedia Commons
Some time back a few hundred years ago,  a group of mischievous young men went into the Abbey hoping to find some buried treasure. However all they managed to dig up was a couple of human skeletons – that would be enough these days to make many a person run for the hills, but not these men who were quite amused by their find. They decided to hang around the abbey grounds and started making jokes about monks coming out of their graves.  Suddenly darkness fell around as storm clouds gathered overhead and a storm thunder and lightening began – typical ghostly weather!

Gradually in the lightening flashing through an eerie mist, a huge knight in armour appeared with his visor up revealing an enraged ghostly face, and a group of monks appeared around him.  Our group became so petrified they were frozen to the spot, and a realisation must have come to their minds that they had disturbed the monks and their protector , Glibert de Clare. But they were shaken out of their paralysis when de Clare raised his crossbow and took aim in their direction.

The men took to their heals and ran. The ghosts transformed into a tornado and chased the men out from the Abbey and a good way beyond it.

Wales has many legends and ghost stories surrounding old ruined castles and old buildings.  Having a very active imagination, it is something that I love to sit and think about when visiting these sites,  I have not ever seen anything other-worldly, but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to..  Easy to say I guess,  but seeing such things, would probably change my curiosity.

482 years ago on 3rd September 1536 that Tintern Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII’s commissioners as part of what he termed the ‘dissolution of the monasteries’, so that he could break away from the Church of Rome, and form his own church, the Church of England and expand the Royal coffers.  Makes one wonder whether any of the ghosts would be observing the date!

Vale of Glamorgan Agricultural Show

liver-chestnut welsh mountain pony.
My First Pony
Liver Chestnut
Welsh Mountain Pony
Being an avid horse-rider as a kid, I grew up around farms and farmers and always loved the feel of the countryside, fields and stables. I am not sure where I got my passion from, but it probably came from watching the local blacksmith shoeing different breeds of horses .  I was around my 10th birthday that I was granted my wish for a pony of my own. He was liver-chestnut Welsh Mountain Pony gelding of 11hh.

A few years later my Dad who was a property developer, purchased a run-down small-holding of around 38 acres and we went on to breed ponies and kept some pigs.

Anyway, enough of reminiscing so I’ll  fast-forward to 2018 and my first visit to the Vale Agricultural Show on August 8th 2018 that brought back some fond memories of those by-gone days of my youth and the wonderful experiences of attending similar shows around South West Wales.

Despite the threat of heavy rain-showers, the 2018 Vale Show had a wonderful atmosphere with everybody so helpful and friendly in getting in and parked up.   It was a great visit and we have only one shower of any significance when we were in the horticultural tent looking at prize vegetables and other plants. 

Below are some of the video/pictures we took so as they say, “a picture can paint a thousand words”, a video perhaps more...

Over the the first jump
Clear Jump

equine show jumping
Another Great Clear Jump.

equine show jumping
Excellent Jump on the Turn

Best in Class Welsh Mountain Ponies

African Verreaux Milky Eagle Owl
African Verreaux Milky Eagle Owl

Aplomado Falcon
Aplomado Falcon


Eagle Owl
Eagle Owl

prize-winning cucumbers
Prize Cucumbers (very straight)

 The Vale of Glamorgan Show is always held on a Wednesday every August and is a one day event. It is a great day out with something for all the family. The gates are open from 8:30am until 7:30pm.  It is a very popular even in the Vale of Glamorgan and has been held in the grounds of Fonmon Castle since 1998. I took many more photographs, and will upload them at a later date in another post.  Below are a few more photographs that tell the tale of the show.   For details of next year's show, please click here

welsh beef cattle
Prize Winning Beef Cattls

prize milking cow
Prize Milking Cow

Sheep Shearing Competition
Sheep Shearing Competition

Big Pumpkins!  Prize Winners
Big Pumpkins!  Prize Winners

Merlin in Wales. Legend of King Vortigern.

Cotton Claudius B VII f.224 Merlin Vortigern
Merlin Giving the
prophecies to
King Vortigern

King Vortigern was a warlord that lived in the 5th century AD just after the Romans had left the British Isles to fight invaders back in Europe. It is suggested that he historically existed, but that Votigern was his title rather than his name. What follows in this story has not been proven as historical fact so considered to be a legend of betrayal and sorcery.

Briefly the legend goes that Vortigern was not very popular with his people because he arranged for the Saxons to migrate into Britain to help drive back the Picts and the Scots that were a threat to England, This the Saxons did but then one day, they turned on the English at a conference with Vortigern attacking them with hidden knives. Vortigern managed in one way or another to get away with his life, but his arrangement with the Saxons had backfired on him.

 There is a story that the Saxons got him drunk, seduced him with one of their women, and tricked him into getting lands. I don’t know the truth of this, but I guess it sounds more interesting than to say that the Saxons just merely went out and grab the lands and set up their own kingdoms. From here the story enters the magical world of Arthurian legend.

 King Vortigern had a group of magicians or wise men who advised him, and he called them together and asked them what he should do next. They told him how treacherous these Saxons whom he had invited into the lands of Britain really were and that they would probably stop at nothing to kill the King and take even more of his lands. The best thing he could do was to move to the far reaches of his kingdom and build himself a fortress to wage war on the Saxons.

It was probably months or maybe years they travelled looking for a suitable place in which to erect a citadel, but eventually came to the Mountainous land of Snowdonia, known in Welsh as the mountains of Eryri. They came to a high peak, Dinas Emrys an ideal place to build a fort, but then strange forces began to thwart the building of the fortress.

Some stories say that any building erected by the end of the day, mysterious collapsed over night, and other stories claimed that all material collected and stored to begin the build, vanished without trace. Whatever happened there was obviously some sort of sorcery at work, so the magicians were consulted once again.

 This time the sorcerers told Vortigern that the site would need the sacrifice of a young boy who had no father and his blood sprinkled over the ground to kill the spell that was thwarting Vortigern’s plans of a new fortified city. The king ordered them to go and find such a boy and the search was soon underway.

Eventually they found a fatherless boy in Bassaleg, a town existing in North Wales to this very day, but fate was not to be kind to the King’s magicians, as their magic would prove not to be near as powerful as the boy they intended to kill. For this boy was destined to be known as Myrddin Emrys – Merlin in England, the greatest magician who ever lived. If the King’s magicians had realised the power of this boy, they would have left him well alone!

Merlin strongly suspected his fate at the hands of his captor and asked Vortigern what was to happen to him. Vortigern told him the truth, that he needed this fortress and that the boy was to die there to destroy the curse that was obviously on the site.

 Merlin asked to speak to the magicians and question them about the wisdom of what they were doing. His first question was “what was under the ground that is thwarting all attempt to build the citadel?” The magicians could not answer. Merlin asked then if they would dig into the site and find out, and the King ordered them to do this.

welsh dragon versus saxon dragonWhat they found was two sleeping dragons. A white one and a red one. The dragons immediately awakened and began a ferocious fight. Both fighting for all they were worth. The red dragon which seemed the weaker was almost overcome, but then the red dragon found a huge surge of strength and defeated the other which just vanished, never to be seen again.

Merlin asked the king’s magicians to explain the meaning of such an awesome and magical event. They were dumbstruck and had no idea what had gone on.

Merlin explained to the King that the red dragon was the Welsh dragon and would become a great symbol of the power of Wales. The white dragon was the Saxon Dragon that was defeated and banished. He then said that the site was not meant to be used as a citadel, as it was the sacred home of the red dragon who had now successfully driven the enemy away. Vortigern would need to build his citadel elsewhere in the mountains.

Vortigern was not pleased at the deceit and treachery of his magicians and so ordered their execution and burial on the mountains of Snowdonia. Merlin’s life was spared, and the mountain where these magical happenings took place became known as Dinas Emrys.

Dinas (city) of Emrys. Emrys also a name given to Merlin’s means immortal). Myrddin Emrys, Merlin’s other Welsh name means Sea fortress in Welsh – so we can add the meaning as immortal sea fortress. A man of many names. All powerfully magical.

A Trip on the Snowdon Mountain Railway

Located in the Snowdonia National Park in North Wales, Mt. Snowden attracts some half-a-million visitors a year.   The area has many associations of the legendary King Arthur and the wizard Merlin - this will be the subject of another post at a later date. 

I visited the Mount Snowdon way  back in the late 1980s and discovered that there were three ways to reach the summit.. The first, the 'hard way' – the way of the mountaineers,who climb the North Face cliff that is named Clogwyn Du’r Ardue a seriously forbidding rocky crag considered to be high-grade mountaineering in UK mountaineering standards. Not that I know anything at all about mountaineering… that certainly wasn’t the way to get up Snowdon for me!

The second way up Mt. Snowdon was the ‘long way’ - a very challenging way to walk up the slopes for around 5 miles. One would need a lot of stamina (something that I don't have!) and good weather, because it can get to be quite dangerous if bad weather sets in regardless of one's fitness. Weather can change very quickly on the slopes of Snowdon.

The third way was the 'easy way' that sounded good to me...

Llanberis Station

The easiest way to reach the summit was by a steam train that travels up a steep rack and pinion railway  track that was put in place during Victorian times. This track has a toothed rack rail, that is fixed between the running rails  which ensures that the train does not start to slip backwards on its outer rails!  

The weather was good back on the June day back then.  But walking  up the second (long) way, did not appeal at all, and climbing did even cross my mind, so it was the train for me.  Early June being out of the main holiday season in the UK, meant that there was no problem in getting a ticket, so the train-ride it was.

Llanberis is a village at the foot of Mt. Snowden. It is from Llanberis Station that we boarded this very train that took us up  the steep slopes and along the high ridges to the summit of Mount Snowden, some 3,560ft (1085mtrs) above Sea Level. 

Me at the Summit of
Mount Snowdon disappointingly
a mist had developed.

Finally at the top of the mountain there is a raised large rock platform and here I am waiting for my turn to stand on it and take in the view. From there all I was expecting to see  a panorama of  the adjacent Snowdonia hills rising up out of valleys and one or two mountain lakes some of which rumoured to have connections with King Arthur and his magician Merlin (more of this in another story). 

It had been very sunny when we had set off on the train from Llanberis but I was surprised and disappointed that up here at the summit, it was very misty and visibility beyond adjacent hills was not possible. However, I learned from a fellow-visitor who had been before, that standing on the summit one can see over to the coast of Ireland, across England to the Isle of Man and some 144 miles to Southern Scotland in the North.  But unfortunately I was not to witness this. I decided that I would have to come up to North Wales again, and get up Mt. Snowdon, but alas I have not got around to it as yet.

One of the many lakes on Snowdonia
some of which have connection
with King Arthur and Merlin.
Photo supplied by
Images by PhotoEverywhere.co.uk