About Me

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Bristol , United Kingdom
I'm co-director of the Leaping Word Poetry Consultancy, which provides advice for poets on writing, editing and publishing, as well as qualified counselling support for those exploring personal issues in their work - https://theleapingword.com. My fifth poetry collection, Learning Finity, is now available from Indigo Dreams or directly from me.

Saturday 12 January 2013

A New Year Jaunt Part III: Abergavenny

And so on to Abergavenny, a place I'd been to once before, briefly, aged about seven, my parents having decided to visit my sister's former teacher who had retired there.  I remember being amazed at the closeness of the mountains to the town; also, that the teacher was not at home.  No point looking for her now - she'll be long dead, and besides her name was Mrs Davies.

I liked Abergavenny, although the livestock market was on, which I had mixed feelings about, finding poor confused creatures distressing.   Apparently it will be moving before long to Raglan, and a Sainsburys will take its place which will make the town like everywhere else.

As luck would have it, the flea market was on so we had a good rummage about, Dru finding some lino cutting tools and John a rebate plane with lots of different blades in a wooden holder. I discovered a bargain Ola Gorie brooch to sell on eBay. (Or keep!) 

After lunch in the cafe, we had a wander around the castle, scene of the bloody Abergavenny Massacre in 1175 when William de Braose lured three Welsh princes and other Welsh leaders to their deaths.  According to the 16th century antiquary, William Camden, Abergavenny Castle  has been oftner stain'd with the infamy of treachery, than any other castle in Wales.  The 16th century historian, John Leland, declared that its very high walls were likely not to fall.  This was before the Civil Wars, of course.  

 From the castle we headed for the large and rather impressive Church of St Mary, which used to be a priory.

What it lacks in the way of charm it made up for with a huge number of mediaeval tombs of knights and their women.  Also, a massive wooden carving of Jesse, which once had a tree sprouting out of its middle.  

All this repose reminded me of the legend that Arthur and his men are not dead, just sleeping beneath the hill until Breteyne has need of them again.   South Cadbury Hill in Somerset is one of the purported sites, as is Alderley Edge in Cheshire. (Alan Garner relates this tale in his story 'The Weirdstone of Brisingamen'.)  Another possible location is Craig-y-Dinas in the Brecon Beacons, not that far from this somnolent bunch, and I could well believe it.
God keeping a close eye on what Gabriel is about to do with that lily while he makes his Annunciation.   
Then our final stop, the 12th century Tithe Barn belonging to the priory -a discotheque in the 70s, it has now been turned into a Visitors Centre for the Church and houses the magnificent 24 feet wide Abergavenny Tapestry, which was stitched to mark the Millennium.

The first photo shows Jesse from the Church and Sugar Loaf Mountain.

A panorama of the town, and the inscription (can you inscribe in stitchery?) Once Enemies Now Friends.

A brooding Owain Glyndŵr surveys the valley.  

And look, here's my Ted presiding over the Abergavenny Massacre. Yep, seems about right.  


  1. Loved this. As you know, my youngest (the Welsh one) was born in Abergavenny, so I have a soft spot for the place. Reminded me of a Sunday morning I spent there with him last year. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150597371791502.384033.542406501&type=1&l=e05d6b4689

    1. To my shame, I don't know Wales at all well - and it's all the more of an omission considering I was married to a Welshman for so long. We did the West Country roots to the point of overkill with the kids, but not the Welsh ones as he wasn't interested. (We did go to Big Pit once.) Anyhow, I am now determined to make up for lost time, not least because I came back from my jaunt with one and a half poems.