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Trains, Castles and Gardens!

Written by Ginnie James on

It was on the Isle of Sodor that two small engines couldn’t wait to tell their friends of their secret makeover… no wait… it was at the Talyllyn Railway in the Snowdonia National Park and No.1 Talyllyn and No.2 Dolgoch engines (both nearly 150 years old) are now as new in their original livery of ‘Indian Red’! The Talyllyn Steam Railway is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year with plenty of events scheduled throughout 2015.

Saved from closure by volunteers and the world’s first Railway Preservation Society in 1951, one of the volunteer guards during the 50s was Rev W Awdry and his experience was reflected in his series of books now best known as Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends. The Skarloey narrow gauge railway, that first appeared in his tenth book, was inspired by Talyllyn with the engines, owners, engineers and even the refreshments lady featuring in the stories.

From the historic to the futuristic, it was also in the news this week that the first ‘Super Express’ train is on its way to the UK for testing, and, when the lines are fully electrified, First Great Western will be using the trains on services from London to Swansea. With increased reliability, less of an environmental impact and of course faster journey times, our South Wales Coast and two vibrant cities will be more accessible than ever.

I am always happy to have an excuse to write about castles and this week it was reported of some new discoveries have been made at Caernarfon Castle. Preparations to construct a new ticket entrance at the Kings Gate led to many finds being unearthed, including lead pistols, cannon balls and even a piece of Roman pottery! All the finds will need to be fully assessed but it is looking like a large rubbish pit found dates back to when the castle was first under construction in the late C13th. It is amazing what insights can be made from excavating a rubbish dump.

Looking back on us today, historians will have the benefit of so much information from videos, to photographs, to the millions of books and articles about how we live our lives. But how do we know how the ordinary people and workers in Caernarfon lived 700 years ago? We look at what they threw away! From pieces of pottery we can determine how they cooked and from animal bones and shells we can work out what their diet would have mainly consisted of.

The Roman pottery tells us of building materials being re-used from the old Roman Fort of Segontium, located not far away, and the weaponry found can give more information on warfare and the role the castle played in its later years as a stronghold.

Finally, I was pleased to hear that the Carmarthenshire County Museum, housed in a medieval bishops’ palace, has received a substantial Heritage Lottery Grant to restore the beautiful park in which it stands. There is free entry to the museum which displays treasures from all ages of the county’s rich and varied history and with the grounds brought back to their former glory it will encourage even more people to take the time to head out to Abergwili!

Ginnie James

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I am Ginnie & I began working for Wales Cottage Holidays in August 2000. My blogs cover a wide variety of subjects, from Welsh history (I have a bit of a thing for castles) to its modern culture (I also have a bit of a thing for rugby players!)