Travel – Street, Somerset – the right shoes..




There can’t be many shoppers in Britain who haven’t heard of Clarks shoes. There is a Clarks shop in most high streets. And Street in Somerset, an important area of sheep farming, is where it all began. In the village of Street, James Clark was working at the tannery owned by his brother Cyrus when he had a brainwave to use up the offcuts and castoffs from the sheepskin rugs.  He had invented the sheepskin slipper or as it was known , the Brown Petersburg. By 1842 1000 pairs a month, of the hand stitched slippers month were being sold, and the Clark Brothers won two awards at the Great Exhibition in 1851. When recession hit in 1863 the brothers James and Cyrus stepped down and James’s youngest son William took over. William modernised the manufacturing process by bringing in the Singer sewing machine and the factory system, C&J Clark was soon revitalised and in 1883 the first shoe to fit the shape of the foot was launched. From there they took one big step forward!

Today Clarks make most of their shoes overseas. Closing their factories in the UK was essential for them to be able to compete in a global market. Their head office though is still in Street, near Glastonbury. In 1993 the old factory buildings were converted into Clarks Village probably the first purpose built factory outlet village in the UK, where you can buy Clark’s shoes and a whole lot more!

We took advantage of some bargains and then headed off to our Premier Inn, a stopover on the way to Cornwall.

Right next to the Premier Inn is another fascinating building. The Red Brick Building was once a tannery. In 1870’s a new partnership between James Clark and his son William and John Morland, James’s son in law, was formed bringing new capital into the building. The firm Clark son and Morland (later Morlands) went into production with 65 employees. In 1906 Morland introduced sheepskin motor rugs and footmuffs for passengers in motor cars. During the second world war Morlands made flying boots for the Air Ministry and skins for other firms to make into flying clothing. In the post war years, Morlands became Glastonbury’s largest employer. However eventually the company was unable to compete and the building finally fell into disuse.

In 2008 it was saved from demolition from a group of young people with a vision, and the Red Brick Building Centre Community Benefit society was formed in August 2009. Thanks to a community share offer, loans and grants, the Red Brick Building has started to come back into use in the community. There is still a huge way to go though, due to the sheer scope and size of the building.

In 2013 the building opened for business providing studios, exhibition and event space, hot desks, workspace, a community garden, radio station and – of most interest to two hungry travellers – a restaurant. The Bocobar run by local restauranteurs, provided us with a very good supper !

“Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world”. Marilyn Monroe








Travel – Street, Somerset – the right shoes..

Travel – Carew, Pembrokshire – castle and tidal mill


Next stop was Carew. Carew has been an important site for thousands of years. You can still see Iron age defensive ditches in the green of the Castle green

Carew Castle stands on a limestone bank overlooking the inlet to the tidal estuary of Milford Haven. The Normans came to Pembrokeshire in the 11th century and the king’s representative Gerald de Windsor, flattened the old defences and built a new castle on Norman lines with a timber motte and brick bailey. He had secured his power by marriage to local beauty, Princess Nest (sometimes nicknamed Helen of Wales), daughter of Rhys Ap Twedwr the last Celtic king of Dehaubarth.


Princess Nest had already been a hostage in the court of William II, and when only 14 she had caught the eye of William’s brother Henry (later to become King Henry I). Henry was known for his womanising and Princess Nest gave birth to his son in 1103.

Constantly under threat of attack from the Welsh, Gerald built Carew Castle and another at Cilgerran where Nest and her children later lived. Princess Nest bore Gerald at least five children.

Alas as the story goes, when Welsh prince of Powys, Owain, heard of Princess Nest and her beauty, he invited himself to the castle to meet her (his second cousin). He then became infatuated with her, and returned with a group of men to attack the castle. In the confusion Gerald escaped down a privy hole, while the Princess and two of her children were captured and the castle sacked and plundered. It is not know if she was taken willingly, but she had two children with Owain before she was eventually returned to her husband. Nest’s ghost is said to haunt the atmospheric castle at night.

Gerald’s son William took the name “De Carew” and added an enclosure with stone walls incorporating the original keep. The Castle was improved in the 13th century by Sir Nicholas de Carew who added drum towers, guard walks, arrow slits , battlements and a portcullis. Around 1480 Sir Rhys ap Thomas, a supporter of Henry VII started to convert the castle into a home worthy of an influential Tudor  gentleman.

Further remodelling was carried out by Sir John Perrot, said to be the illegitimate son of Henry VIII who was granted Carew by Queen Mary. However he did not get to enjoy his improvements, being later arrested on a charge of treason to Queen Elizabeth and confined to the Tower of London where he died, apparently of natural causes, before his expected pardon. Poison was suspected! I don’t suppose he was popular in Carew either, John Perret’s improvements included re-routing roads, moving the village and evicting tenants whose farms spoiled his view!

From 1686 the Castle was abandoned and lay in ruins. Stone was taken and reused in local houses and farm buildings. The romantic ruin, was immortalised by painters such as JMW Turner

While we walked round the site, there were a load of school children being taught Tudor games! The South West Tower is closed to the public to protect the bats that live there. More than half of all the species of British bats have been recorded here including the rare greater horseshoe bat. Owls also nest in the ruin.

There was also an exhibition of sculptures on Healing stones, in a bluestone circle. These lovely Presili bluestones were the same as the ones used to build Stonehenge.



Across the water you can see and visit Carew Tide Mill which stands at the south end of a causeway across the Carew River, a tidal inlet. The mill building dates from the early 19th century. However there is evidence of a mill of some kind existing as early as 1542. In 1558 John Barlett leased a mill for 10 sovereigns per year. The mill pond fills through the open flood gates as the tide comes in, driving two undershot water wheels.


The mill is a three storey stone building with an attic and slate roof. On the ground floor is machinery from lifting the sluice gates and the running stones, the floor above houses six pairs of millstones, three driven by each water wheel. It also houses the machine for cleaning the grain, and flour dresser. The train hoppers are on the bin floor above. A sack hoist was used to lift grain to the attic


There used to be a tide mill close to where I live, and the skeleton remains of the buildings of the Tidemills village can be seen among the wild flowers. When you look at the pictures of the mill it’s hard to imagine it all as a working mill. Here it Carew you can see a complete mill building, and from walking round it was easier to understand how it all worked. A really interesting place to visit.

One more thing of a  note, in the village is an important example of an 11th century memorial Celtic cross, commemorating King Maredudd ab Edwin of Deheubarth.

An ancient and interesting place that has seen its fair share of turmoil!

Do I belong to some ancient race
I like to walk in ancient places
These are things that I can understand
Well, I don’t believe in your modern way
Don’t care about the things you say
Your policies have failed the test of time
‘Cause you sold them down the river-o


Lyrics by the Levellers



Travel – Carew, Pembrokshire – castle and tidal mill

Travel – Pembroke Castle



First stop of this rather bleak day was Pembroke, a historic settlement and former county town of Pembrokeshire. Pembroke Castle sits on a strategy rocky promontory by the River Cleddau estuary, an excellent position for a castle, that was difficult to attack. The first castle on site was built for Roger Montgomery in 1093 during the Norman invasion of Wales. A century later the castle was given to William Marshal by Richard I. Marshall became one of the most powerful men in 12th century Britain and rebuilt Pembroke in stone, creating most of the structure that remains today.


Peace reigned in the 15th and 16th century but in the English Civil War Pembroke fought first for the side of the parliamentarians, but later changing sides in 1646 and raising a Royalist uprising. After a seven week siege, Oliver Cromwell finally took the castle, encouraging town’s people to dismantle and destroy it. Its leaders were found guilty of Treason and Poyer, Laugharne and Rice-Powell were all sentenced to death. In a degree of leniency it was then agreed that only one man should die, and so lots were taken and the loser mayor John Poyer was shot at Covent Garden in 1649. After the restoration of the monarchy, his impoverished widow petitioned King Charles II and was awarded a pension of £300 per year.


The castle was abandoned and left to decay until 1880 where a three year restoration project was undertaken.  An extensive restoration of the walls, gatehouses and towers were started by World War 1 veteran Major-General Sir Ivor Phillips in 1928 and he left a trust so that the conservation could continue after his death.

It’s an interesting castle and a surprising amount of it is intact. Audio visuals and reconstructions give a good insight into what it would have been like to live in the castle through the years.

Travel – Pembroke Castle

Travel – St David’s Head and St Patricks chapel




From St Davids we headed by car to the coast to Whitesands beach. The wide sandy beach was full of surfers, apparently from a junior surf school, and when the sun came out it looked spectacular and far more exotic than you might expect! We had a picnic in the car park, with a cheeky jackdaw begging titbits, then decided to walk along the coast.


St David’s Head is a dramatic headland northwest of St David’s and Whitesands beach dominated by the peak of Carn Llidi. The path is one of many along an historic route of pilgrimage to the ancient cathedral. The cathedral itself was built with stone from the cliffs at Caerbwdy on the Solva Coast.



Described in a Roman survey of the known world in 140 AD (Ptolemy’s Geography) as the ‘Promontory of the Eight. There are magnificent views in all directions, the wide expanse of the Irish Sea to the north, to the west the Bishops and Clerks rocks; south, Whitesands Bay to Ramsey Sound and Ramsey Island and to the east, the slopes of the large rocky outcrop known as Carn Llidi.

Nearby are a number of ancient monuments showing signs of early occupation, including, an iron age cliff fort, prehistoric settlements, a prehistoric defensive wall, signs of various neolithic field systems and Coetan Arthur burial chamber.

It was a gorgeous walk, we just went a couple of miles to the headland, but the views were spectacular, and we really got a feel for this ancient wild coastline.

Back towards the bay, we were lucky enough to see the progress on the last full day of the recent excavations of St Patrick’s chapel. The chapel lies in sand dunes immediately above the high tide level. Excavations in 1924 uncovered the foundations of a small stone-built chapel and several well preserved burials. In 2013-14 storms, coastal erosion revealed several human remains, so a two week excavation in May 2014 investigated the graves and other remains. Further digs have revealed more about this chapel and the bodies within.

The archaeology project is a collaborative research project between Katie Hemer, University of Sheffield and  Dyfed Archaeological Trust. There is a diary of the dig here







Travel – St David’s Head and St Patricks chapel

Travels – St Davids – Britain’s smallest city, a saint and some swifts



St David’s, located at the Western edge of Pembrokeshire in Wales, is Britain’s smallest city in terms of size and population.  Home to around 1600 people it is smaller than many villages!

Saint David, patron saint of Wales was born to Saint Non just south of the city around AD500. St David founded a strict brotherhood and fed and clothed the poor and needy. The settlement that grew up round the monastery was called Tyddewi (David’s house). An original cathedral built on the site was often plundered by the Vikings and finally burnt and destroyed in 1087. The present impressive cathedral was build by the Normans and contained many relics including the remains of Saint David. The town was recognised as a city by the English crown in the 16th century but this right was removed in 1888 until Queen Elizabeth II finally restored it in 1994!

The cathedral  is pretty impressive inside and outside, although it is built into a valley in the land, as a vain attempt to hide it from raiders! The notable features include the sloping floor and magnificent ceilings, oak in the Nave and painted in the Quire and Presbytery.


You can also visit the atmospheric ruins of the Bishop’s Palace next door which evokes the day when the bishops were some of the most powerful men in the land. Lavish decorations, corbels carved as human heads and striking stonework are testament to the wealth and status of these medieval men of religion. It was Bishop Henry de Gower (1328-47) who was responsible for the most of the building remaining today. The east range was his private domain, but  the south was much grander  and built for impressive entertaining.


It doesn’t take long to walk round this “city”. Well worth a visit too is the Oriel y Parc, a landscape gallery and visitor centre. Current exhibitions included Constables “Salisbury Cathedral” and paintings by Graham Sutherland.

I also loved the  Swifts around the Tower exhibition by father and daughter artists Peter Brown and Ellie Morgan and afterwards wished I’d bought the book of poems and a ceramic swift!

I have a real soft spot for swifts, and am so happy when they return to my town, swooping and shrieking above the high street where I work!

Fifteenth of May. Cherry blossom. The swifts
Materialise at the tip of a long scream
Of needle. ‘Look! They’re back! Look!’ And they’re gone
On a steep

Controlled scream of skid
Round the house-end and away under the cherries.
Suddenly flickering in sky summit, three or four together,
Gnat-whisp frail, and hover-searching, and listening

– From Swifts by Ted Hughes.



Travels – St Davids – Britain’s smallest city, a saint and some swifts

Boats, tides, birds and sandcastles


We decided to have a lazy beach morning. We grab some beach toys from the apartments (I guess they are provided for any kids staying really, but who cares!) It’s a bit too windy for the Frisbee, but we play a bit of badminton and beach boules. I untangle the kite but we can’t get it airbourne. Finally of course we get the bucket and spade out and build a sandcastle! It really has to be done. A huge perfect slick sandy beach, with barely a soul about! A sheltered corner behind the rocks.This is the life.

After our lazy morning, I stroll into Tenby and get tickets for another boat trip in the afternoon. This Islands Cruise boat is a little larger than the Caldey one, and the waves have got up today, so it’s rolling around quite a lot!


We head out first towards St Margaret’s Island, which is south of Giltar Point on Caldey Island. Though there is evidence of occupation since 1748,  the island has been abandoned. The limestone western cliffs are inhospitable to man, but perfect for nesting seabirds. With the boat being buffeted so badly it’s difficult to focus binoculars or risk the spray taking photos. However we get close enough to get good views of nesting  guillemots, kittiwakes and cormorants.


We then head east and skirt the far end of Caldey. The brisk wind is really in wrong direction for the seals who are sheltering elsewhere but we do spot one in the water


It’s an enjoyable trip, rather more adventurous than we initially thought! We survive anyway and jump back onto the damp beach with the waves still swaying in our shoes.

On our walk back the tide is finally returning, and we are glad to spot a family watching the tide come in and overtake our little castle!


Riptide pulls me out into the open sea
My toes dangle for a place to stand and be

Oh starry night, come and chart a course
Or send me a boat with an anchor set
I’ll pull myself ashore

Left with essence
Of the moon and stars and night
There’s no other route
I cannot take self to flight

I’ll float here with the shrimp and brine
And on my cheeks and hair
The salt will always shine

And with this phosphorescence map
A sailor’s chart, a mermaid’s hand
Something I’ll find

Oh starry night, come and chart a course
Or send me a boat with an anchor set
I’ll pull myself ashore

Songwriter LAURA VEIRS


Boats, tides, birds and sandcastles

Travels – Pembrokeshire, Stackpole



Greg wants to take our new car for a run so we head for the nearby coast of Stackpole. The sat nav soon finds us on some narrow country lanes, clouds of cow parsley and buttercups brushing the sides of the car. The satnav is convinced we are not a road at all! Fluffy clouds hover and float in the bluest of skies. We steer through a patchwork of fields and rolling hills, glimpses of blue bays beyond and eventually reach Stackpole quay.

Stackpole (and those named after it) is probably named after a stack of rocks on the coast at the entrance to Broadhaven from which settlers of Norman descent made their way into Ireland (From the Old Norse stakkr  for stack and polr for pool).

The Stackpole coastline is also owned by the National Trust, consisting of sandy beaches, tranquil wooded valleys, wildlife rich lily ponds and walking trails. We only went as far as Stackpole quay, a tiny harbour nestled in between the cliffs and a favourite venue of kayakers. The beach here is stony with beautiful rounded flat pebbles and dramatic outcrops of rock.


The estate includes 100 acres of lakes (known as the Lily ponds) created by damming the  three narrow limestone valleys in 1780 and 1860 by the earls of Cawdor. The estate once centred on an elegant baronial mansion Stackpole Court, eventually besieged by Parlimentarians. A later mansion of limestone was requisitioned at the beginning of WW2 for training and remains part of the Castlemartin range today. We must go back and finish exploring!

Our journey back along the country lanes is delayed somewhat by a sheep that stands in the middle of the road, staring at us. Eventually it decides we are not being much help just taking its photo, and wanders disdainfully off to try and find its way back into a field with other sheep.


Travels – Pembrokeshire, Stackpole