It was a cold bleak day in The Valleys but nevertheless * we decided to go ahead with our plan to go up to the Big Pit Mining Museum at Blaenavon, seven miles from Pontypool at the top of a bleak and windswept hill.
Brian dropped us off up there at 10:00 with a grey sky promising rain. We told him that we would find our own way back down. The museum consists of 2 parts, an above-ground Shift House where the miners would come before and after work and which is now a museum of photographs and mining equipment, and the pit itself, 290 feet underground.
A screaming load of school kids were down in the mine when we arrived so we looked round the museum, showers, locker-rooms (the lockers still had coal dust and fingerprints on them) and the canteen where I had a typical miner’s lunch of a pie, chips, gravy and peas.
By the time we had looked at the winch-house and returned to the pit-head, the school kids had gone so we left our cameras and watches in a locker (anything that might cause a spark is not permitted down in the mine) and donned a battery pack, helmet and light each before stepping into the cage and descending into the mine.
The guided tour of the workings took about an hour and our guide, Trevor, himself a miner for 34 years, giving us a great insight into the life of the miner. The mine was cold and dank and as we wandered around in the tunnels I thought of the photographs in the museum above depicting the haunted faces of generations of miners who spent their entire lives chipping away in the bowels of the Earth, their passing noticed by no one.
It was drizzling when we returned to the surface and by the time we had walked the two miles down to Blaenavon we were quite wet. We caught a bus back to Pontypool and took Topsy for a walk.
When Janice and Brian got home, we walked down the canal to a small country pub where Brian met us and took us on another pub crawl. We crossed the Wye River into Gloucestershire then crossed a footbridge a little way downstream back into Wales to a quaint little pub where we had a pint each. From there we went to a nearby valley to see the magnificent remains of Tintern Abbey. Not far from the abbey we went to another tiny, one-roomed pub called The Cherry Orchard where I had a ½ pint of real cider, straight out of the wood (barrel) and as cloudy as Thames water. It was delicious!
We finished the evening in USk where we had a scrummy curry meal which blew our budget right to fuck!
* I added an asterisk here to denote a change in the colour of the pen I was using to write with. At the top of the page I had annotated the following text: * THE REASON FOR THE CHANGE OF COLOR [sic] & THE ROUGH WRITING IS THAT I AM CATCHING UP ON THE EVENTS OF THE WEEK 9/5 – 16/5 ON A FERRY BETWEEN ATHENS AND PAROS.