Brian lent us his car for a couple of hours and we did some shopping in Pontypool then drove up to have a look at the ruins of an old beam engine¹ which was used to pump water out of the mine workings under a nearby hill. Built in 1845 it is in a sorry state now, the vegetation gradually over-running it as it sits forlornly on a terrace overlooking the valley.

Brian shouted us lunch at the County Hall (he was a town councillor) then dropped us at Newport Railway Station where we paid an astonishing £10 each for our one-way tickets to Swindon. While we waited for our train we watched a sudden torrential downpour send people scurrying for cover!

Once in Swindon we had a 45 minute wait for a bus to Lydiard Millicent where, after a brief search, we located the mansion where John and Sally Blakiston live. We couldn’t believe our luck as we moved into the plush surroundings of Grove House.²  John works for the M.o.D [the Ministry of Defence] and is involved in the logistics of nuclear armament no less. They own about 40 acres of land surrounding Grove House where their children Caroline (10), Emma (9) and Matthew (8) keep their ponies and their dog Panda.

I won John’s admiration after only one hour of meeting him when I chopped up ½ a cord of firewood…a job he admitted would have taken him all day.

That night we dined in their sumptuous dining room and although it bored Sally and Linda, the talk between John and I was mostly of the Blakiston Family. 

¹ This Wikipedia entry has information on these superb examples of Industrial Revolution Technology.

² Over the next few years, Grove House became our home away from home. Whenever we needed a place to stay we would turn up there and be treated like royalty. On several occasions John and Sally arrived home to find Linda and I asleep in the garage, half-starved and cold after returning from some inconclusive adventure and in need of some good food (Sally is a trained chef), a comfy bed and a glass of whiskey!

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