Slow Train Coming

Contact the Convenor: Ted Richards

A day out by train exploring a town or area, mainly in the South Wales area.

Have a walk. Investigate the local history of the area. Maybe visit a museum, gallery or exhibition.  Take in statues, sculptures and blue plaques and architecture. 

People would be encouraged to maybe do a bit of homework before a trip and bring some nuggets of wisdom with them.

Walking distances and terrain would vary from a couple of miles up to around six.

Meet up at a Cardiff station (Central or Queen Street).

Lunch would be up to you – bring your own sandwiches or rely on chancing finding a cafe or pub.

The group should appeal to people with an interest in:

Histories of various sorts: local, industrial, transport.

Not forgetting walking, photography and maybe a sprinkling of art, literature, music ………..

Trains, cups of tea, real ale, cheesy chips?

The book by Peter Finch, ‘Walking the Valleys’ could be used as a template for some trips.

May 2024

Thursday 2nd May

10:00 – 12:00
Slow Train Coming

Chepstow

A look at the old town of Chepstow and its castle and views over the River Usk.

Slow Train Coming – Frequently Asked Questions

There is no booking for these trips.  You just turn up if you want to go.  Flexibility is the name of the game.

Details of the trips will be sent out by e-mail.

There is also a What'sApp group which will be useful for messages like "I've lost the group, where are you?" or "What type of beer are you drinking Ted?"

The trip will start from either Cardiff Central or Queen Street Station.

An e-mail circulated to the Group ahead of time will notify people of the starting station, the train we intend to catch and the departing platform (please check the when arriving at the station to make sure there has not been any platform or departure alterations).

People will congregate on the platform having already purchased their ticket.

We will aim to travel towards the front of the train.

Certainly.  If it is easier for you to join the train elsewhere please feel free to do so.

It is up to the individual to purchase their own ticket, either from the ticket booth or ticket machine or one of the Apps if you prefer.

On some trips there may be ample opportunity for a pub lunch.  On others you may be lucky to find a sandwich shop.  The safe option is BYOS (bring your own sandwiches).

If I have had an opportunity to do a reckie I may be able to advise in the email sent out about the trip on lunch opportunities.

I will aim to have found some points of interest for us to stop off at where I will give a very short snippet of information regarding some history, work of art etc.  Others may like to add things they know about.

I may even throw in a few 'untruths'.  It will be up to you to see if you can spot them.

Some trips may even offer an option of a museum/castle visit.

Walking distances will probably vary between 2 and 7 miles.

Terrain too will vary.  Sometime we will be in an urban environment, on pavements etc.  Sometimes we will head up a hill or two.

In my advance email to the group I will give an indication of distances and terrain, including stiles etc.

On some visits it may well be possible to do a shorter walk i.e. break off from the group and return to the station.

I will try and advise on these possibilities in my advance email to the group.

I often won't be setting a time for the return train home.  I prefer to travel without that pressure.  Most of the places we will be visiting will have a frequent train service.

I don't envisage us all necessarily coming home on the same train, it will depend how much of the walk you partake in.  Just do whatever you feel comfortable doing.

A deep and thoughtful assessment of the risks faced by participants on a Slow Train Coming trip has been carried out.  What can be done to minimise those risks has come up with the following recommendations:

Trips and falls:

Mind the gap between the platform edge and the train carriage. It can sometimes be quite large.  Take care getting off a train. The step down can be quite significant.

It is all too easy to get distracted or absorbed in conversation when walking in a group.  Please keep an eye on your surroundings and walking surfaces.

Shared paths/roads:

Sometime we will be walking on a shared path/cycle way.  Please keep to the left and don’t take up the whole wide of the path.

Special care is needed if we walk on a road without a pavement. In such instances walking in single file would be recommended.

Crossing roads:

Please think as an individual and not as an amorphous group i.e. just because the person in front of you has begun to cross a road does not necessarily mean it is safe for you to do the same.  Make your own assessment whether it is safe to cross.  If it isn’t, wait for the next gap in traffic.

Some of our trips may identify additional risks.  If this is the case they will be highlighted in advance or on the day.

If you do get lost or separated the main message is 'don't panic'. That's when slips and trips occur.

You are never too far from a train station or bus stop.

My phone number will be in the e-mail sent out ahead of the trip.

I will be carrying a First Aid kit.

Your u3a Beacon details allow you to add an Emergency Contact if your wish.

The group will have a fairly relaxed approach.  There will be minimal amount of shepherding of people so you will  need a degree of self-reliance before deciding to join the group.

The title of the group comes from a Bob Dylan album but not a particularly good one.  It is also meant to encompass the idea of 'slow travel' of which I'm an advocate i.e. avoid the honey pot destinations and absorb the culture of wherever you end up.

My philosophy is that you can travel almost anywhere and get something positive out of it.  Then again I do like the minutiae in life.  Show me a Victorian pillar box and I'm happy!

I'm probably not an ideal person to lead such a group.  My hearing is lousy and I find it hard to concentrate on more than one thing at ounce.  That's another way of saying, if I look at you blankly, please forgive me!

Latest news from the group

Barry Island

Published 11th April 2024

A day by the seaside taking in the history and atmosphere of the Barry Island. The island is certainly unusual in that it had Barry Docks to the north exporting huge amounts of coal and the resort of Barry Island to the south which quickly expanded when the railway and road over to the island were built from the mainland.

After admiring the Grade II listed gates of Friar’s Point House we spent the morning on Friar’s Point itself initally taking a look over to Cold Knap and then Friar’s Point House. The house itself has a lot of history but not nearly as much as the point itself though there is not much evidence of that these days. Walking to the east side of Friar’s Point we had good views across Whitmore Bay and where the open-air tidal swimming pools would have been (separate male and female bathing in those days ofcouse). Descending onto the beach allowed us to see the interesting rock formations. By that time we deserved a coffee or an early lunch. Chips and ice cream were devoured by many.

After lunch we headed around Nell’s Point and into the much quieter Jackson’s Bay where there was chance to walk off our chips in the steep ascent up to the road. The tour finished with a look at St Baruc’s Chapel and the story of the gigantic salmon that ate the missing book.

Amazingly it stayed pretty much dry for us despite an unsettled weather forecast.

Click here to see the notes used on the day.

Cheltenham

Published 8th March 2024

A group of over 30 of us caught a new 197 Class Transport for Wales train at Cardiff Central and headed for Cheltenham, enjoying the misty views over the Severn Estuary. Everybody was brave enough to walk the mile into Cheltenham from the station along the old Honeybourne Line.

Our first stop was the Neptune Fountain closely followed by the nearby statue of Antarctic explorer Edward Wilson who played such a key role in both the Discovery and Terra Nova expeditions but sadly never returned from the later. He was probably the most highly regarded of those on the expedition and became the confidante of many on the trip as well as being an excellent artist.

We then walked down to Imperial Gardens and learnt about composer Gustav Holst before going on to Montpellier Gardens where there was a whole host to talk about: William IV, the oldest bandstand, the first parachute jump, an early  Gormley work and Edward VIII statue.

Crossing the road we saw the caryatids and John Maskelyne birthplace (inventor and magician- pay toilet ‘spend a penny’ fame and levitation). 

Naturally enough people were gagging for a coffee at this stage but those that stayed the course headed back up Promenade and saw Sophie’s Hare and Minotaur before visiting the Wilson museum.  Some were even lucky enough to find some of Wilson’s sketches and the King Penguin eggs.

After a lunch break four of us headed up to see Holst’s birthplace and then onto Pittville Pump Room.  We headed home via the lake in Pittville Park and back west to meet the Honeybourne line and south to the station where we met others from the group.  Another grand day out.

Notes used on the day.

Newport

Published 15th January 2024

It was another short hop this month to our neighbouring city of Newport.  We began the day by introducing ourselves to the wealthy landowner Sir Charles Morgan who did a lot to shape industrial Newport but whose first love was actually farming.

Around the corner from that we saw the Westgate Hotel, scene of the violent Chartists Uprising of 1839   the nearby sculpture commemorating the event.

Charles Morgan and the Westgate Hotel, Newport

After that it was a stroll through the renovated Newport Market and down to the remains of Newport Castle and we tried to imagine it as it was depicted in one of Turner’s paintings with boats tied up outside.

As we headed down the riverbank we imagined the coal wharfs, canal and railway tracks that would have packed the area a mere century or so ago. The Usk has for a long time been important to maritime commerce as proved by the discovery of the Newport Medieval Ship. A visit to that and the Transporter Bridge will have to be at another time.  Today was looked at some sculptures and statues, large and small.

As well as seeing the sights we learnt about three people who came from Newport: Jonny Morris the animal impressionist and children’s TV presenter, Perce Blackborow who was a stowaway on one of Shackleton’s voyages to Antarctic and ended up having his toes amputated but took it all in good spirit and Margaret Haig Mackworth (Lady Rhondda) the suffragette campaigner who set fire to a local post box and Prime Minister Asquith by jumping on his car.

Newport Castle and the Steel Wave

We concluded our excursion with a visit to the interesting Newport Museum and Art Gallery tucked away in the library building.

If you couldn’t make the trip fear not.  Here are our notes from the day.

Thanks to Gwyneth for the photos.

Penarth

Published 9th January 2024

To welcome in the New Year a sizable contingent of us went made the short trip to Penarth aboard one of the new trains.

We started the day by looking at some of the varied architecture, namely the Paget Rooms, the Library and the Washington building.  We then made our way down through the Alexandra Gardens, learning the history of the park, the various memorials and the eagle that lived here a short time.  

On arriving down as the Esplanade it was time to look at the old Baths, and the pier itself and of course some of the people who were born, lived or visited Penarth over the years.

After lunch we strode along the Esplanade, up into Windsor Gardens and then back through the Victorian streets and the old railway line into Penarth.  Some of us then took the opportunity to visit the Turner House Art Gallery and the exhibition by ‘The 56 Group Wales’ – ‘An Artist Shoots Themself in the Foot’.

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Click here for the notes used on our visit to Penarth.

Aberdare

Published 3rd December 2023

Our November trip was cancelled when Storm Ciarán decided to pay a visit to Aberdare on the same day. The forecast for this month was only a little better but without the ‘danger to life and limb’ warning.  Some 26 of us braved the weather and were rewarded with two excellent guided tours of St John the Baptist church by David Davies and St Elvan by Rod Jenkins. Thank you.

The contrast between the churches couldn’t be greater.  The small St John church was built around 1189 whilst the large and modernized St Elvan was constructed in 1851.

Interwoven in amongst the ecclesiastical history we had some Welsh history and social history.

Prior to visiting the churches we had been to the indoor market and saw the sight for some of the first modern national eisteddfod in Aberdare 1861.

The inclement weather didn’t encourage people to extend their visit so instead we played a game of seeing how many people could fit in a railway platform shelter

There is so much more for us to see and do in Aberdare so now doubt we will return one day, may be in drier conditions.

An appropriately titled poem in St Elvan

Aberfan

Published 6th October 2023

On Thursday, October 5th we caught a train up to Merthyr Vale to explore the hisotry of that part of the valley, naturally dominated by the Aberfan Disaster of 1966.

When our sizable group disembarked the train diver became curious as to why we were there and keen to stay for the first story, the making of the film 11 Rillington Place, a scene of which was filmed at the station. He gave us a friendly toot when departing.

Our first stop after that was the wooden sculpture at the site of the former Merthyr Vale Colliery. From there we walked up the steep valley side and onto the Taff Trail and up to the cemetery. After paying our respects to those who had lost their lives in the Aberfan Disaster we headed up to the valley to Aberfan Memorial Garden, site of the former junior school and tragedy itself.

Link to notes used during the trip to Aberfan.

Rhoose

Published 14th August 2023

For our September 2023 trip we headed for Rhoose or to give the station its proper name Rhoose Cardiff International Airport, the longest station name in the UK.

After learning a bit about the limestone quarry and asbestos cement industrial history of the area which gives the landscape here its formation we walked down to Dams Bay and our first sight of the sea. It was then up onto the cliff top path and the most southerly point in Wales. We were tole that the giant piece of slate comes from north Wales where a similar piece of limestone from this quarry marks the most northerly point in Wales.

We continued westwards along the path taking in the nature. I had a slow word wriggle its way across the path in front on me at one stage. Lunch stop was at Fontygary where some ate in the Leisure Park overlooking the sea and others headed for the pub. Thanks to all who came along.

Fontygary Leisure Park view over the Bristol Channel

Notes used during our trip to Rhoose.

Taff’s Well

Published 9th July 2023

It was another good turnout of U3A members for our tip to Taff’s Well and it was nice to welcome some new members of Slow Train Coming aboard. 

We started by having a look at the progress being made on the building of the new South Wales Metro Depot and control Centre adjacent to Taff’s Well station. We saw some of the new tram trains that have already been delivered to the depot and go out for testing at night.   I was reminded afterwards that I had forgotten to throw in an ‘untruth’ for this section of the day so I have added one in the attached notes.

We strolled up the main street to Taff’s Well park and leant a bit about local residents including  screenwriter Christopher Monger and cardiologist Sir Thomas Lewis.

We then went over to the thermal well and met Jon Arroyo, Energy & Carbon Reduction Manager – Rhondda Cynon Taff Council.  Jon gave us an excellent talk on the scheme to use the warm water from the spring to provide heating to the nearby school and sports pavilion.  His natural enthusiasm shone through.

Helen Edmonds, part of Friends of Taff’s Well Park, then kindly made refreshments for us at the nearby Hub. 

I believe some people partook of lunch at the Taff’s Well Inn and some came up to the Gwaelod y Garth Inn.  A group of four of us conquered the Garth, the highest point in Cardiff, and were lucky enough to meet Hugh Grant up there doing some measurements. Both pubs were thoroughly searched on the way down to make sure we hadn’t left anyone behind.

The notes I used for the chats are attached.

I’m thinking our trip next month will be to Rhoose and a walk along the cliff top.  I’ll let you know for certain after I have done a recki visit.

In the meantime I wish you all the very best for the remainder of the month and thank you all for being such a pleasant group. Apologies for my rudeness in not always replying to your individual messages.

Notes used on the Taff’s Well trip.

Please join the Slow Train Coming group to receive more details about the forthcoming trips.

Slow Train Coming web page.

Llanhilleth

Published 15th June 2023

A sizable group of people (~30) successfully completed the first IQ test of the day and found their way to Platform 0 at Cardiff Central only to be informed a while later that there was a platform alteration so we all trundled off to platform 4. We left 18 minutes late and made up a few minutes on the way. 

At Llanhilleth station we learnt about three notable local people; the labour politician Ray Gunter, David Brunt, the Father of Meteorology, and the inventor of the world’s best ice cream, Cyril Thayer.

It was then time to take the short walk over the bridge to the renovated Miner’s Institute.  I thought it encapsulated the spirit of the day when a local lad caught up with me at the back and offered me a biscuit! 

We had a warm welcome from the staff and there to meet us was Lyn Malony of the Llanhilleth Heritage Centre.  Lyn gave us a smashing tour of the Miners Institute, explaining its history and the renovations and current uses. The Institute seems very much at the centre of the community today as it was when it was built. I liked the story of the reopening of the Institute and the gift of the walking stick to Prince Charles – by appointment!

A lot of people ate at the cafe in the Institute, prepared and delivered by the cheerful staff.  

I was shocked to see 19 people wanted to partake in the challenge of walking the 700ft (70 flights of stairs) up to St Illtyd’s Church. Well done all.  I’d make three previous reckie visits to Llanhilleth.  Last autumn I walked/scrambled up the western side of the valley – enjoyable but unsuitable for a group.  The second time, about three months ago, I went east up to St Illtyd’s church.  Some of the footpaths on the map are not on the ground but after a few hours I thought found a suitable route for a group such as ours.  I had remembered it was steep but had forgotten about the steps – sorry about that.  Also, the fact it was three months ago meant the bracken had grown to head-height making one section a real adventure.

St Illtyd’s Church had not only kindly been opened up for us but Mike was there to give us some of the history and details of the renovation.  It was a fascinating insight and delivered by someone again with a real passion for the place.

People chose various routes down from the church back to Llanhilleth, all in time to catch the busy 15.49 train back to Cardiff.

Thanks for all those who came along. 

Notes used during our trip to Llanhilleth.

Abergavenny

Published 16th May 2023

On Thursday June 1st, the ‘Slow Train Coming’ group visited.

Despite train strikes the day before our train to Abergavenny turned up more or less on time. 

A slightly chilly morning turned into a wonderful sunny afternoon.

The turnout for our trips seems to be fairly constant at around 30 people.

Many thanks to everyone who added things along the way.

The tithe barn was unfortunately closed due to staff shortages so we couldn’t visit the tapestry but the group got an unexpected talk and tour around St Mary’s church.

I forgot to ask people how they liked the castle and museum.  Hopefully OK.  

It sounded like people found some nice places to have lunch.

The Castle Meadows were still awash with buttercups and some lilies.

Well done to the member of the group that found their first geocache on the way back to the station.  Only another 10,600 and you’ll have caught me up.

The return train was pretty packed but I think everyone got a seat by Cwmbran.

Notes used during our trip to Abergavenny.

Abergavenny Castle with the Blorenge in the background
St Mary’s Church Jesse and the Wig Makers of Abergavenny
Cardiff