Academic Scholars Delve into South Wales’ History
For this year’s Pelicans trip, 19 academic scholars travelled to South Wales to explore the sights, culture and history of the region.
Inspired by a suggestion from Fourth Form pupil Guy Milton-Jenkins, and received favourably by two South Walian members of staff, the pupils’ first stop was Chepstow Castle; Britain’s oldest post-Roman stone fortification.
Led by experienced guide, Neil, the children explored the site’s political and historical significance, including stories from the life of its powerful lord, William Marshall, Earl of Pembroke. He then demonstrated some of the military kit of the time, dressing Fourth Former Joss Chippendale in a suit of chain mail, and finished with a display of fearsomely sharp mediaeval weaponry.
After lunch, the group headed west to St Fagan’s, and the National Museum of History, where they got the chance to explore the various buildings – from barns and miners’ terraced cottages, to substantial farms and industrial premises.
Following their visit, they headed up into the Valleys, to their accommodation at the Rock UK centre at Trelewis. After a few friendly games of football and netball, they group gathered for a team quiz around the campfire. Well done to winners Joss, Tommy and Ben for their excellent knowledge of basic Welsh phrases.
To round off the day’s events, the scholars headed out for one key element of the Milton-Jenkins plan, a dark skies walk. Sadly, given the time of year, it was too light for all but the brightest stars to be visible, but nonetheless the group enjoyed the sense of remoteness on the mountaintop, clearly a wild location at any time of year.
The following morning, the weary travellers drove over precipitous bends to the Big Pit, Pwll Mawr, at Blaenavon, the landscape around still scarred by the debris and impact of over a century of mining and heavy industry, now much declined.
Opened as a museum before the strikes, the Pit allows visitors to descend 90 metres in the original lift shaft, with the guides including several former miners. In the chilly conditions underground, and in the exhibitions on top, they learned about the miners’ lives, the engineering, and the communities in which they lived.
As a contrast, the trip concluded with a visit to the ruins of the Cistercian Tintern Abbey, where in idyllic surroundings and under a baking sun, Mr Smith looked at the Abbey’s revival as a tourist attraction, painted by Gilpin, Turner and other eighteenth-century artists, as well as providing the inspiration for William Wordsworth’s ‘Lines written…’
The pupils really got into the spirit of things, helping to make it a very successful and enjoyable trip, and we hope it will encourage many of them to explore further, aspects of the things we experienced, in the years to come.