Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Vale village discovery

Back to St German's again this morning, to celebrate the Feast of St Bartholemew for half a dozen, and then a chat with people in the day centre, before taking my leave of them until November. Bob Capper the Area Dean has already asked about my availability when I return, and I've told him that I'd be happy to resume at St German's through until the spring. That'll enable him to plan Advent and Christmas, and enable me to continue to feel useful.

After the service, Clare and I drove to Dinas Powis for lunch with Russell and Jacquie, out in their delightful garden. They have croaking frogs around their tiny pond, and a range of garden birds we used to see in Pontcanna, and butterflies too, but in recent years these have not made their homes in the back to back gardens distinguishing our kind of street. I believe this has something to do with overgrown trees being trimmed or felled, taking away old habitats, and garden sections being tidied or paved over. Which is what happens when a new tide of gentrification occurs in a neighbourhood. Over a quarter of the houses in our street have changed hands in the past couple of years. House prices are now four times what we paid twenty three years ago. It's not surprising that breaking into the housing market is so hard for young people. Expectations of house buyers are far higher nowadays. It means more money gets spent, sometimes unnecessarily, on improving properties to make them more saleable, inflating prices as a result.

On our return trip, we made a detour to visit the village of Michaelstone le Pit, and its 13th century church of the same name. One which I've never been to before. A decade ago there was talk about closing it, but it's still in use for worship, one of the churches of the Benefice of St Andrew's Major, and looks in good repair. Apparently former Senedd First Minister Rhodri Morgan lives locally. The building wasn't open to see inside but we could walk around the well kept churchyard, which has a modern extension to it on ground beneath the promontory on which the church sits. Interestingly the church possessed the only remaining triple decker pulpit in the Vale of Glamorgan. It's not large, but it is distinguished by having a tower with a gable ended roof at the nave crossing. I didn't have a camera capable of giving me a shot of the complete building, but my Blackberry phone camera produced these offerings.

Unusually this village, with its line of houses tucked into a wooded valley behind Leckwith Hill, has no through road connecting it with other ancient Vale villages further north. The metalled road stops at a gate enclosing an area of farmland. There are tracks across it, used by agricultural vehicles, but road access to the area is by means of another narrow winding road which climbs up the escarpment and wanders further up the valley before descending to Wenvoe. It's ancient hidden terrain, which has changed little over centuries, with its scattering of working farms, a few ancient farmhouses, and lots of sheep and cattle. I first discovered it last autumn on a muddy walk in search of a footpath to Caerau hill fort, in quite the wrong place. Seeing the village in its surroundings gives me a more complete mental map of area, for future walking expeditions.

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