Sunday, 9 December 2018


There is enough left to imagine how glorious Llawhadden Castle was in its heyday, the 13thand 14thcenturies. The entrance towers soar above you, impressive, imposing.

The Bishops of St David’s built this castle. It was a sort of second home, or third or forth. They were keen out putting places up so there had somewhere to stay when they were touring their patch. Each bishop made Llawhadden grander as the years rolled on.

However in the 16th century the place was abandoned; the last incumbent was short of cash and sold the roof. Llawhadden’s decline was part of the chaos that occurred at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Thereafter much of the stone was purloined for buildings close by, a common practise in those times. 

Curiously enough a squad of workmen, drawn from the ranks of the unemployed, organised by the newly established Ministry of Works, set to and smartened what was left up, clearing the moat and ditches, removing ivy and undergrowth, well done them.

On the morning of our outing here it was wet and dull, yet these magnificent viridian coloured stones sparkled in the moist air giving a clear sense of how splendid Llawhadden once was.

More on these wonderful stones here
The writer is a regular donator to The Wikipedia Foundation 

Friday, 7 December 2018


Castle on a hill: Wizo’s castle

In the middle of south wales nowhere. Actually, this is incorrect; Wiston Castle is in the village of Wiston. Wiston can be reached from the A40, which runs from London to Fishguard. The village is seventeen miles south east of Fishguard. 

Brave a few very narrow roads and park on the road close to the church.

What you see once through the gate and along a footpath is a Keep upon a hill. Impressive. Walking across wide green field, which would have once been built upon and fortified, there are a set of steps up to the top. 

This castle was built by Wizo, a Flemish settler, who under the patronage of Henry I, forth son of William the Conqueror. So, assume this to be another move by the Normans to wrestle Wales to the ground.

Wizo settled in and apparently called upon some of his fellow countryman over to do the same. Wizo meanwhile moved up to Scotland and did stuff up there too.  He was indeed early-day property developer.

So we are seeing the best-preserved Motte and Bailey castle in Wales.

I was fearful walking down the steps from the top so slithered down through the grass and brambles back to the field of safety.

What would I say to someone who introduced himself at a drinks party: 
Hi, my name is Wizo.  

More on Wiston Castle here
The writer is a regular donator to The Wikipedia Foundation 

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


Four minutes walk up from the beach at Manobier is a castle in which people still live. 

Six miles or so southeast of Pembroke, its impressive walls and towers host all manor of celebrations. 

The day before our visit there had been a grand wedding, the decorations of which were still adorning the Great Hall and Chapel.
Across the valley the church of St James the Great affords a good view

 This castle has a graceful feel and in its history it was seldom directly involved in conflict. Cromwell’s troops turned up and the castle’s then owners meekly surrendered.

Easy to imagine:
Cromwell’s troops: “Give us your castle pray”
Incumbent: “OK, we’ll toss the keys of this window, Oh and sorry, we are out of toilet rolls.”

More on Manobier here
TB  donates to The Wikipedia Foundation regularly 

Monday, 3 December 2018


Row on row the serried* ranks of mobile homes stand contemplating the grey November sea. We are staying in Pendine Sands Holiday Park.
They are called holiday homes with ‘double glazed and domestic style central heating’.

Site owners Parkdean resorts have you covered. They own 66 parks around the UK.

These are caravan holiday homes, towed into place and parked up on blocks. This has been a popular business for more than 50 years and there are at least 23,000 such homeowners around Britain.

For us it was an experiment, a way to explore another accommodation avenue near Laugharne and closer still to Pendine Beach.

The caravan we stayed in was well appointed, all the fixtures and fitting and equipment appeared new, in the bedrooms (3) there were cotton sheets duvets and good pillows. It was comfortable and toasty warm and with a sea view, just. The model was called a Trieste and sells for £36,995.

The stay was spoilt by the much-heralded Wi-Fi service not being available in our place. There is no phone signal; the reception desk murmured something about the MOD presence in the area not allowing it. 

On our second evening we went into the Bar to use the camp’s Wi-Fi and were greeted by screaming children, no lime or lemon for a gin and tonic, filthy tables and dads shouting at the football game on TV. They had to shout perhaps because there were two TVs on competing for attention.

One TripAdvisor contributor said in August Don’t bother complaining, as it won’t be dealt with and you will be called a liar and greeted with an attitude even from the so called manager at the Park!

It was a mixed experience, to stand outside on the deck that adjoined our caravan and look out to sea in the early morning, wonderful. Inside our rented home was warm and lovely. Time in the camp bar was abhorrent. Our stay was game of two halves.

*Mid 17th century: past participle of serry 'press close', probably from French serréz 'close together', based on Latin sera 'lock'.

Saturday, 1 December 2018


These were harvested from Sian’s allotment on Tuesday and later that day were part of a delicious, rich soup!

I am smitten by their twisty-turn shape. And that rich colour unlike their anaemic cousins in the supermarket. 

Parsnips can be baked, boiled, pureed, roasted, fried, grilled, or steamed. When used in stews and casseroles, they give a rich taste. Good for you: they contain antioxidants, which may potentially have anticancer, anti-inflammatory andantifungal properties.

Most importantly, the parsnip was much esteemed in ancient times. The Emperor Tiberius accepted part of the tribute payable to Rome by Germany in the form of parsnips.

Monday, 26 November 2018

VLAD LAND SATURDAY A castle and a palace


Today we have two objectives: Bran Castle and the King’s summer Palace both close by and both swarming with tourists. These places are Romania’s equal to Times Square, St Mark’s Square, or the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo.

Bran Castle is in the immediate vicinity of Brașov, is a national monument and landmark in Romania. It is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. Commonly known as "Dracula's Castle" (although it is one among several locations linked to the Dracula legend. 

The castle is now a museum dedicated to displaying art and furniture collected by Queen Marie. Tourists can see the interior on their own or by a guided tour. At the bottom of the hill is a small open-air museum park exhibiting traditional Romanian peasant structures (cottages, barns, etc.) from across the country stalls and huts settling all kind of tourist jumble.

My journal records:
People too much 
Noise too much.

Every nationality was represented tramping round the rooms and floors, scrabbling for a selfie.


PeleșCastle is Neo-Renaissance pile in the Carpathian Mountains, near Sinaia. Like Bran Castle it is on an existing medieval route linking Transylvania and Wallachia. It was built between 1873 and 1914 for King Carol I, under whose reign the country gained its independence. 

On his first visit to the area in 1866, he fell in love with the magnificent mountain scenery and decided a nice palace would be a good idea. 

A German architect got the job, inside and out there is a distinct Germanic solidity to the place.

Queuing for a considerable time; “we found this when we went to the Taj Mahal” 

remarked at fellow traveller for a rapid tour,  round some of the state rooms for which we donned blue plastic overshoes. Wise  move  given that between half to one million feet schlep through the place each year

Saturday, 24 November 2018

VLAD LAND FRIDAY - The road to Brazov

A sort of Gutenberg-affair 
Early in the morning members of our coach tour are emerging from their rooms, unsure of which is the way to the stairs or elevator shatters the peace. Another day of fussing and politesse has begun. 

Chaos in the Breakfast Room and a big crowd we count one woman going to the cereals counter eleven times 

However before we got on the Friday bus to Brasov we walked round the town, climbed the steep steps up the Tower of the Citadel where people used to muster to pour hot oil on any passing invaders. I made some drawings of 14C wooden chests use to protect or transport peoples’ possessions and headed back to the street. (Later that day I wondered why I’d drawn them. ‘Oh yes, I remember to avoid climbing to the top of the tower and unveiling my vertigo’.

Autumn was in her glory in the two-hour coach dash from Sighişoara to Brasov. I made a drawing of the medley of colours, terrains and vegetation, which was every shade of ochre, gold, hello and orange. Sometimes along wide planes and at others in to deep valleys which where the sun filtered through impossibly tall beech trees.   
The School Room Museum in Brazov

By noon we were on the outskirts of Brasov. We stopped at swish and swanky gas station so everyone on the bus could have a piss. There was the customary disruptive queuing and fussing in the shop. Mike reported that men’s room was awash (with water) so I crossed as busy single lane road and dived into some bushes along a dirt track nearby which was all to the good as far as I was concerned.

Walking in Brasov.

On the Agenda was a visit to The School Museum and curious building to the left of St Nicholas Basilica. We were given a lecture in Romanian, simultaneously translated by TGA, about life in school in the 1700’s and then shown a printing press built in 1640. A sort of Gutenberg-affair and shown a block of type. It used to take two years and 800 blocks to make one book; had they not heard of blogging? In ten years of high Communism, most of the books of Brasov where burnt, this is according to the old priest giving the talk.

We took a late lunch in the main square. We were dismissed and walked back to our hotel by 16:00 hours. We were grateful beyond imagining for three hours in our room at the Aro Palace.