Mountain church: get well and truly lost!
The church of St. Issui, Patricio, took half a day and a lot of argument to find. In a very lovely and very isolated valley in the Black Mountains.
There is a very great deal to see here: a superb carved medieval rood screen; extraordinary wall paintings once hidden behind whitewash (and some later, C17 ones, such as the ten commandments); a rare outdoor pulpit and cool slate 'benches' along the outer wall of the chapel, for long sermons on hot days. There are also some beautiful stone alters and a unusual stone font. The church was quite exquisitely decorated with harvest festival decorations when we visited.
Down in the dingle is the holy well of St Issui: the church is situated at the site of a hermit/monk's cell.
Services at 10.45 a.m. on alternative Sundays.
Take a good map with you. About 6 miles from Abergavenny but it migth as well be 600.
- Historical Travel
World Heritage comes to the valleys: Blaenavon
I have included Blaenavon in the 'Off the Beaten track', simply because it falls outside the National Park. An easy day trip from any part of the Beacons.
It will be through films like Brassed Off & Billy Elliott that many VT visitors will know of the struggle between titan Scargill's NUM & titaness Margaret Thatcher and her plans to close the pits across Britian. There are accounts of 1984-85 coal miner's strike on the BBC website Some happy endings in the sad story of how the strike was lost and the pits closed: the story of Tower Colliery and how workers used edundancy money to buy shares in the pit & keep it open.
And then there is Blaenavon, one of the birthplaces of the industrial revolution and now a major tourist attraction & World Heritage Site; an extraordinary and imaginative project which has used the industry scarred landscape of this mining valley to create a unique landscape, including 2 award winning museums, the Mining Museum & the Old Ironworks.
Most famous attraction is Big Pit: 300 ft underground (I did, Mr Spincat didn't) into a disused mine. Winner of the Gulbenkein Arts prize and, one of the judges, Victoria Hislop, said, "To be shown round 300ft below ground by somebody who was a miner was one of the top 20 experiences of my life."
The disused colliery buildings, including the pithead baths, that echo with the sounds of the past. The bath house is both funny - the naked miner images in the showers - and touching: the stories of colliery workers in the locker rooms.
The guides were extraordinary. Mr Williams sensitively evoked the stories and times long gone, when (before Lord Shaftesbury's reforms) women & children worked down the mines for long hours; the stories of the pit ponies - stables preserved - who went blind because they never saw the sun - or, more terribly, saw the sun for only 2 weeks a year before being dragged into darkness.
- Historical Travel
Hidden wonder: Kilpeck Church
This is not in the Beacons National Park, but makes an easy trip for anyone staying in the Hay area and makes for a lovely drive through the Golden Valley.
The name "Kilpeck" means monastic cell . Nothing remains of this, though there is evidence of some very old structures beneath the C12th fabric of the church.
It is an extraordinary church with its strange stone carvings - in fact the work is unique in Britain. Amongst the confusion of images on its door, you will find the Green Man himslef and two snakes with their tails in their moths.
The church is covered in sandstone carvings depicting an Angel and Phoenix (the Western and eastern churches respectively) Cain, Adam and Eve, and the 'corbels' around roof of the church show many strange animal images such an alligator, a cat face, a hare and, rarely for mainland Britan, a Sheelah-na-gig, a Celtic symbol, sometimes described as a 'fertility symbol' .
- Historical Travel