Whilst staying at Tredegar Caravan & Motorhome Club site we had a fellow blogger and Welshman and a local recommend St Fagans National History Museum. Planning to take a drive into Cardiff we decided we give St Fagans an hour of our time on the way.
How wrong we were. The admission to the museum is free. There is a car parking charge of £5 which may seem expensive to some but when you reflect on your day it’s well worth every penny. I’m not sure that from our trip my blog will do the experience justice as we didn’t give ourselves enough time and didn’t get to see the full attraction. But boy, what we did see was amazing.
After paying our £5 parking we took the short walk across the car park and entered history. Whilst the car park gave the impression that it was relatively busy inside the site is big enough to accommodate a few coach parties and lots of cars and still appear quiet. We felt lucky to be visiting on a dry and bright day in March. The staff had so much time to share their knowledge and chat about their love and passion for the museum and the history of its buildings.
Wandering around without the aid of a map, The Boss is too tight to part with the pennies required to buy one. The first building is an old house painted in the most vibrant red, to ward off evil spirits and banish any existing ones the sign proclaims.
We stumble across a working farm. A sign instructs that we be quiet as their ewes are very pregnant and birthing is imminent. We see two pens, one for single births one for twins. The farmers are very prominent and observing their pregnant flock constantly. We get chatting after watching a ewe and her two lambs being moved to a separate pen. A ewe in the corner catches our eye, very uncomfortable and restless. We are told she will birth within the hour. I’m going nowhere. The rest of the museum can wait. Within no time at all two feet appear, then the head followed quickly by a bruiser of a lamb. A little tear sneaked out of my eye. Such a tremendous and wonderful moment. There’s even a live web cam link on their website, including videos of recent births and a Baa-Chart registering the number of daily births.
Walking through the streets they are very much work in progress. The site is undergoing a £25 million project but this doesn’t spoil the experience one bit, there is so much to see. The museum does not depict a single point in history, like Beamish or Blists Hill, but rather a timeline of Welsh history and the exhibits, churches, houses, farms, terrace cottages have been dismantled from locations all across the country and rebuilt brick by brick on site.
Next, the smell of freshly baked bread tempts us into the bakers were we buy a Welsh cottage cake, Bara Brith to take home with us, oh, and a scone to keep up our energy as we walked. Past a magnificent round building that turns out to be a cock-fighting pit complete with internal seating and terracing ‘in the round’ as we imagine the scenes this once presented.
The church was a treat, plain to the exterior, the door creaked open and we were greeted in Welsh, we liked this touch, by the guide who had a personal attachment to the church and whose Grandfather was buried in the original graveyard. When the church was being moved to site it was discovered that each of the walls was painted in what is described as a ‘Poor Mans Bible’ depicting scenes for worshippers who could not read.
Starting to give too much away now, so won’t describe much more as you need to see for yourselves. We found the terraced cottages from Merthyr Tydfil funny as we remembered half the exhibits in our own lifetimes, for example, newspaper sheets hanging on a nail in the outside toilet, rag rugs and vestibule baton wood wallpapered and used as shelving.
To get the most out of this experience you must engage with the guides, many volunteers, that are positioned by most exhibits. The Boss used to have a saying, “Stay near the Americans”, because they ask everything and anything, unlike us Brits who daren’t ask for fear of looking stupid. We became Americans with English accents today and just got stuck in asking questions, the tales and information that came back was both enlightening and entertaining. One guide had us laughing one minute at a joke, which I will spoil by only telling you the punchline “Ahh, you will be wanting Jones the Spy”, then walked us back to the car park as he clocked off for the day. His parting words “Have you been to the Lake and the Castle”, .. “What? a Lake, a Castle, we didn’t even realise there was a lake and a castle and it was now home time.
Looks like we need to, and will, come here again.
Extra comment: This is a dog friendly attraction, they can walk the museum site with you but can’t go into the historic buildings. You tend to be in buildings only a few minutes so sharing lead holding duties will make it easy to enjoy visit and still have dog with you.