Mumbles and South Wales

Explore South Wales Pass
Explore South Wales Pass
When Jackie and Rob, Pam and Steve said they'd rented a cottage in June on the edge of the Gower, I jumped at the chance to mop up a couple of heritage railways and art galleries. All did not go to plan, however, and I'm not talking about the weather! At Swansea station, I bought an Explore South Wales Pass, which would give me four days of rail travel and eight days of buses, though many of the bus drivers I encountered had never seen one before and were wary! It cost £45.55 with my senior railcard. I subsequently found out that with my English bus pass, I could have got a day saver on the buses for £3. The Welsh, by the way, get their bus passes at age 60.

Vintage Gatwick Express at Barry Island!
Gatwick Express at Barry Island
We travelled down on Saturday, changing at Bristol Parkway and getting a taxi from Swansea station,  and Sunday 12 June was the only day the Barry Island Tourist Railway would be open. Sunday was also a day of few buses, so getting to Swansea bus station, then the not-nearby railway station was a trial. Anyway I got to Barry Island to find that the train running was a vintage Gatwick Express, operating as a Park and Ride shuttle - it was also the day of Barry Festival of Transport, with the Red Arrows (who didn't turn up due to weather). Anyway it was only £2 and on the way back (driven from the guard's van) I had the train more or less to myself.

View of Mumbles pier from Oystermouth Castle, South Wales
view of Mumbles Pier from Oystermouth Castle
Monday it was a trip round nearby Oystermouth Castle, up and down lots of steps and spiral staircases, and a look at Mumbles Pier (closed), coincidentally meeting up with Rob and Steve, then Jackie at The Pilot of Mumbles for a pint, sheltering from the rain. I caught a bus into town to buy some kippers and cockles from Swansea Market.

Me and Magritte, National Museum of Wales, Cardiff
Me and Magritte
Tuesday it was a trip to Cardiff for the National Museum of Wales, getting off at Cathays station. Unfortunately seven galleries were closed due to industrial action, including 19th Century British and the Blaschka glass sea creatures. Plenty of good stuff though: lots of Augustus and Gwen John and a big exhibition about the Battle of Mametz Wood. But I did get to meet my Facebook friends Nerea and Jo, who took me for a pint of Brains at the Old Arcade. They live up the Rhondda at Treherbert so suggested I stay over Wednesday then they'd drive me to the Brecon Mountain Railway on Thursday.

Trevethick replica at National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
Replica Trevithick loco
So Wednesday it was into Swansea for the National Waterfront Museum and Swansea Museum - I knew in advance that the Glynn Vivian art gallery would be closed. First though, there was supposed to be a guided tour of the Brangwyn Hall and Guildhall at 10am. I turned up, but it'd been cancelled due to lack of numbers, so I booked in for Friday. The Waterfront museum is modern, with big things like the replica Trevithick loco on the ground floor, and smaller pieces upstairs, including a first world war postcard exhibition. I had a coffee in the cafe first, then braved the various school parties visiting. It was raining stair rods outside!

Sign in Tram shed, Swansea Museum
Swansea Tram Shed
When it stopped, I popped in to the Tram Shed annexe of the Swansea Museum to see the trams, then on to the main building, which again had a big WW1 exhibition. Two galleries upstairs were closed, leaving only Egyptology and the Swansea Mummy. I was told that on Wednesdays, the Swansea Museum’s store, housed in the former Hafod / Morfa Copper Works in Landore is open to the public,  but I didn't have time to find it.
Replacement diesel at Brecon Mountain Railway
Diesel replacement at the Brecon Mountain Railway
So it was on the train up the Rhondda valley, a chippy tea and some tv at Nerea and Jo's. On Thursday we drove over the mountain, past old mines and wind turbines to find that the German steam loco at the Brecon Mountain Railway had broken and there was a diesel replacement. Ah well, it was a fabulous journey anyway, but it would have been nice to hear a steamer working hard up those inclines. We saw the other US locos in the shed (through windows) and the viewing gallery over the workshop, plus another two in the Steam Museum at the cafe stop. Then it was a lift to Merthyr Tydfil (home of Trevithick) and the train back to Swansea.
Brangwyn Hall, Swansea Guildhall
Brangwyn Hall, Swansea
Friday was the guided tour of the 1934 Guildhall, with its viking theme, and especially the Brangwyn Hall and murals. Frank Brangwyn was commissioned to decorate the House of Lords with panels depicting the British Empire, but they were considered a bit too colourful and lively and were rejected. After a showing at the Ideal Home exhibition, they were snapped up by Swansea, and the half-built Hall was altered to accommodate them. They are magnificent, with lots of topless women, all painted in Ditchling using local models! Then, after welsh cakes and tea, it was a bus ride to lots of places beginning Ll... in the Gower, a Coffee Crunch cone at Joe's Ice Cream Parlour and a pint of Plum Porter at the Mumbles Ale House, thence home without incident on the Saturday.

More photos on Flickr.