For the first time yesterday Thebus really felt like home
I had just been to the top of Great Orme in Llandudno, and not having paid attention all that well on my long scooter ride there (I was still a bit ruffled from my previous ‘adventure’ - but more of that later), so I was unsure if I was taking the right road back. It felt right, but Thebus was not quite where I expected, and when I did catch sight of his big stripey presence just round the corner a bit further on from where I had thought, I got that ‘welcome home’ feeling.
It had been a bit of a funny day - as Arkwright might have said in Open All Hours.
I waited for enough light to photograph Caernarfon Castle from across the waters of the estuary and harbour, and though the day turned out to be a hot sunny one the dawn was grey and misty, but I still took a few pictures.
Leaving Caenarfon I headed for Conwy. I had spoken to someone earlier in the week who had said there was lots to see there, but looking on the map there were very few places to park. The scooter had been playing up and not charging as I hoped, but I decided to take a chance and if it did run out of steam (or rather in his case - battery) I would worry about it then. In the event the thirty or so mile drive between the two towns was enough to bring the pointer up to the maximum ten on the scale, so having parked Thebus, scooter and I set off happily, leaving Phoebe on guard duty. I had arrived before eight, but still had to park right outside the town so it was a good job the pointer was on full charge.
In the event Super Scooter now had a full day ahead of it. First we arrived at the Conwy Castle, and a really lovely castle it is too. If anyone has young children, especially boys, who often find this sort of thing fascinating it would be a great place to take them. It is fairly complete and you can get a real feel of how it must have been all those years ago. I think you can also walk the full length of the town walls, but that would have been too much for me, so I contented myself with climbing to the first tower and walking along to the second then back down ready for the Castle when it opened at nine.
I wasn’t allowed to take the scooter in and found the climb up to the entrance steep going, but nowhere near as steep as the original entrance must have been judging from the position of the portcullis. Then I climbed the spiral staircase to the upper section with wonderful views over the town, estuary and surrounding hills. You could climb on up further, but I decided to keep my knees in reserve for later in the day as I had read about a few more places I wanted to visit.
After the wonderful castle it was into the town itself to see Plas Mawr. This was the house of a very well to do Elizabethan possibly still owned by his descendants the Mostyns: I never did get to the bottom of who actually owns it now, though CADW seem to be in charge of its upkeep. All the people manning it are volunteers, but millions of pound of money have been spent over the last few years, and it has all been very well done, and is most atmospheric even down to the woven rush matting on the cobbled floors and the strewn thresh in the kitchens and pantry. It gives a real idea of how it would have been used, and there is an excellent audio accompaniment as well as the interested and informed helpers in the rooms.
Viewing the bedrooms the person on duty that day was a mine of information, showing the ropes under the mattress on the bed and how they could be tightened for comfort hence the saying ‘Sleep tight’ He also said that in order not to let the ‘Bed Bugs Bite’ a servant would get into the bed an hour or so before the lady of the house, so any bed bugs would have had their fill of blood for the night, plus the bed would be nicely warmed. The bed on show in the room although contemporary is not the original, but the original can be found (and slept in -presumably minus any sort of bugs) at the Castle Hotel in Conwy.
The lady who slept in the bed was the second wife of the original owner of the house. His first marriage having ended after nearly twenty years without issue he remarried at seventy and his second wife gave birth to six children in seven years, or was it seven children in six years. Anyway, well done that man, obviously making up for lost time!
You can read about the house here, and it is well worth a visit
The Wynn family were justifiably proud of their lineage and connections with Royalty as displayed in the fabulous contemporary plasterwork reliefs, including the arms of Ednyfed Fychan, who was also an ancestor to the Tudors, the house itself being built during the reign of the last Tudor - Queen Elizabeth I
If you read the story of the ancestry of the Tudor dynasty you will understand why Henry VIII was so desperate to provide a legitimate male heir to carry on the line.
On then to another smaller house in the town - Aberconwy House, again an interesting visit, though smaller and less impressive than Plas Mawr, perhaps it would have been better to visit in the reverse order, but I was on my way to see the smallest house in Great Britain.
Unsurprisingly it doesn’t take long to look round The Smallest House, but it is only a pound to go in, and as only one lot of visitors are allowed in at a time it gives a real feel of how life was lived in the past.
Then on up the Quayside to purchase Conwy mussels from the Mussel Museum. I am not certain if The Mussel Museum was full of old mussels as unfortunately it was shut, but there were very fresh mussels available to buy from the RNLI shop next door at five pounds for two kilo, and cooked as Moules Marinerre later that evening they were the biggest, plumpest mussels I have ever eaten. I was greedy with them and ate enough for two, and there were still another two portions to put in the freezer
My round trip back towards Thebus took me over the old Suspension Bridge built by Built by Thomas Telford and completed in 1826 replacing the ferry at the same point. Telford matched the bridge's supporting towers with the castle's turrets, and it is in a similar style to his bridge at the Menai Straits.
The bridge now runs alongside the wrought iron tubular railway bridge built by Robert Stephenson and completed not much more than twenty years later in 1848. Until Stephenson's bridge was built Telford’s Toll Bridge was the only way to cross the Conwy, and thence reach the Holyhead sea ferry to Ireland.
Built into the rock on which Conwy Castle stands, it is very close to the castle and part of the castle actually had to be demolished to allow the suspension cables to be anchored into the rock. Telfords Suspension Bridge is very narrow at only 2½ metres across, and now just takes pedestrian traffic, but tolls were still payable until the thirties and the Suspension Bridge was still the only road into Conway until the new road bridge was built in 1958. Crossing the River Conwy has always been a problem and today the A55 road Holyhead road goes under the river by tunnel bypassing Conwy altogether, which is a good job as later in the day Thebus and I managed to bring the traffic into town to a standstill!
Returning to Thebus I first found a note tucked into his door handle - it was from the lovely couple I had met at the campsite up in Orkney at Easter. They hail from Bude but were visiting friends who live just outside Conwy, and spotting Thebus’ stripey presence had looked in and seen Phoebe waiting for me and on guard duties. And on checking my emails later that evening someone I had spoken with earlier in the trip had also spotted his stripeyness and called by in case I was in.
But back to the afternoon. I was in need of a part to help in re-charging the scooter and brother Mike had kindly agreed to send it by carrier to me, so I duly phoned ahead and booked into a local caravan site for a few days to wait for its arrival. It was just outside Conwy so I thought it would be convenient to get to after my day round the town. How wrong can you be!!
I gave Strict Lady the post code and she directed me up towards the castle. Now I have mentioned that Strict Lady is a trucker’s moll, and she has all the details of Thebus’ size and measurements pre-entered so I cheerfully set out following her directions.
Now I am sure that warning sign said 12’ 9” so whether that was either width, or height we should have been fine Thebus is about 12ft high and 8ft 8" wide, but as I approached the bridge doubts began to fill my mind. The approach is one of those narrow ‘Give way to oncoming vehicle’ bits so waiting my turn I gingerly inched forward. No way was Thebus going through!
As I am neither strong enough nor tall enough to fold in his wing mirrors, and looking backwards I was aware of a car immediately behind (plus a queue building up behind him) getting out I asked if he could help fold in the mirrors and perhaps see me through, but even with them in as much as one could, there was no way we were getting through. He just abandoned me and went back to sit in his car, and when I tried to reverse back up the hill a bit to get out of everyone’s way simply honked his horn, but - thank you God - as luck would have it a lovely Canadian couple took pity on me. He did a sterling job of directing me back up the hill past all the waiting cars, whilst his wife bravely stopped all the traffic at the roundabout into town which allowed me to reverse out and ESCAPE!!