Adventures with Alfie Day 20

The Village People sing a song called Go West, but for Alfie and me to enjoy today’s adventures it was definitely a case of Go East!

Our adventures would take us to Roath Park today, but there was an important job I had to do first. It is something I had been meaning to do all winter but today seemed an appropriate time.

I wanted to visit St Edeyrn’s Church in old Llanedeyrn Village.

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The name “Llanedeyrn” is not a modern name. It is believed to be derived from the name of a sixth century monk and Celtic saint named St. Edeyrn. During the sixth century, St. Edeyrn and a fellow monk, St. Isan, were given the task of spreading the faith and establishing places of worship. The first location chosen by the two monks was Llanishen, the place where I grew up! This area commemorates the first of the two monks St. Isan (Llan + Isan) and the other St. Edeyrn (the word “Llan” means settlement or place of worship in the Welsh language).

St. Edeyrn was reputed to have travelled widely and as a result there are churches in North and South Wales dedicated to his memory. St. Edeyrn gathered together a community of about 300 that lived and worshipped in the Llanedeyrn area. The original Norman style church dating back to 1123 exists only as stonework remnants beneath restoration work completed in 1888, the church today is a simple structure featuring a tower and five bells, adjacent to this church is a 15th century public house called the Unicorn. Curiously it is painted white!

I love the old church and visited its grounds fairly frequently when I was teaching in Pentwyn. Today though, Alfie and I came to show our respects to two ex pupils of mine who have been buried within the peaceful grounds of this lovely old church.

Sam Hully was taken from us last December after suffering with motor neurone disease; he was incredibly young at 30 to have such a devastating illness and he was incredibly brave till the end. His parents do what I do with Alfie with their granddaughter. We used to have a teacher/parent relationship, but now we have become friends and it’s a friendship I am beginning to treasure.

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Alfie and I found Sam’s grave near the gate to the churchyard. We had brought some flowers to put down on the grave – red to match the new City kit. Sam was the number one City fan. I found the whole thing very moving indeed. I have such fond memories of Sam, he was such a lovely boy!

Alice Brookes did not live long enough to be in Glyncoed Juniors and therefore be a pupil of mine. She died when she was still in our Infants School. I taught her sister at the time and saw the deep sorrow her passing caused. Alice was just six years of age.

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Alfie played with the windmills, which decorated Alice’s grave.  It was a poignant few minutes. I am sure Alice smiled down on him as he was doing it.

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The anniversary of her passing was in April and messages and flowers from family and friends were a powerful reminder of how much that little girl was loved and how much she is missed.

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Alfie and I sat quietly in the spring sunshine; my little friend had no idea what thoughts were going through my mind.

It was soon time to leave and as we came out of the church, we passed two ladies holding a beautiful plant, off to remember a dear one they too had lost.

Alfie and I had plans to visit Roath Park, a place where I enjoyed many happy hours when I was growing up.

Roath Park is one of Cardiff’s most popular parks, owned by the City of Cardiff and managed by the Parks Section. It retains a classic Victorian atmosphere and has many good facilities – it’s a really classy place!. The park has recently been awarded the prestigious Green Flag Award recognizing its high quality and its importance to Cardiff. Roath Park has widely diverse environments across the park.

The park was built on 130 acres of reformed bog land known then as a malarial bog, and includes a 30-acre lake. It is 1.3 miles around and was formed by the damming of the Nant Fawr stream. It is a popular facility for fishing and rowing. There are four islands within a conservation area, home to many water birds.

The Park occupies a long strip of land stretching from Cyncoed in the north to Roath towards the southeast. The park is divided into several parts along the Roath Brook, Nant Fawr. From north to south; The Wild Gardens, Roath Park Lake, Botanical Gardens, Rose Gardens, Pleasure Gardens, Roath Park Recreation Ground, Roath Brook Gardens, Roath Mill Gardens and Waterloo Gardens. It’s an incredible place.

The Marquis of Bute to the city donated the land for Roath Park in 1887. The park was officially opened to the public in 1894. Work initially focused on creating the lake from an area of marshland. In 1915 a lighthouse was constructed in the lake containing a scale model of the Terra Nova ship to commemorate Captain Scott’s ill-fated voyage to the Antarctic, which started out from Cardiff in 1910.

We parked the car in Lake Road West, loaded the pushchair with Alfie’s bag and lunchbox and most importantly, a bag of stale bread to feed the ducks and swans.

We had decided on a clockwise tour of the lake, which would mean a 1.3 mile walk for me and a 1.3 mile ride for Alfie. We fed some ducks and swans straight away and Alfie was totally fascinated by them, he giggled and laughed and pointed and shouted. The swans were brave enough to come and take the food from our hands. It was fun!

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I chuckled when I looked around and saw Alfie tucking into the bread and realised it was getting around lunchtime.

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As I looked I am sure I saw two swans complaining  to each other that this kid was eating their bread!!

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We strolled on and noticed a poster informing us that there were a number of Common Coots in the are around the lake. Then we happened to see one, she was chewing gum, had  fag under one wing and was wearing a skirt that was much too short. We also saw another coot sitting on her nest. We marvelled at her construction skills. We took a picture but didn’t get too close. Egg hatching is a serious business.

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A little further on we reached hallowed ground. I noticed a Willow Tree hanging out over the water of the lake. Spring was bringing a brighter shade of green to the leaves and my mind took me back 39 years to 1974 when one Sunday evening, I made probably the most important decision of my life and decided to ask the lady of the house if she would consider becoming my wife.

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After a lengthy one second to think about it she said yes… and the rest is history. I am so grateful that I have such a remarkable lady standing beside me, loving me and caring for me. She is a wonderful wife and an incredible grandmother to Alfie, Mia and Millie.

We strolled on to the top of the lake where there are some islands. I used to dream of adventures on those islands when I was small. I think they are used as bird sanctuaries these days, allowing the birds to nest in peace.

At the far end of the lake is something called The Wild Gardens. It’s a name I remember my mum using and I always expected to see herds of wildebeest roaming around. In truth it’s an untouched peace of land, which just grows naturally.

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The Wild Gardens was to be a second lake in the very first plans for the Park. That idea was abandoned on the grounds of expense.

In June 1894 when the Park opened, this area had not been developed. Shortly after, in September 1894, a public shelter was built, and this was followed in 1896 by the creation of footpaths and two bridges over the brook. Apart from these additions the Wild Gardens retained much of its original state with indigenous trees, plants and wild flowers. The formal opening was on 27th May 1896, and a report of the ceremony referred to unlocking the gate.

Alfie and I strolled slowly through enjoying the warm Spring weather, the peace and each other’s company. The birds sang noisily.

We walked back down the east side of the lake, pausing often to watch the birds.

We passed two nesting swans; they mate for life…a bit like me and the lady of the house!

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I showed Alfie where the changing huts used to be when people were allowed to swim in the lake.

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The lake has a long and interesting history. The dam, which holds the water back, is now called the promenade and this is where there is a lighthouse, built to commemorate the unsuccessful bid by Robert Falcon Scott and his team to be first to reach the South Pole. It’s a remarkable story of courage and endurance. When I was in school I read the incident in which Captain Oats, realizing he was holding the others up with his frostbite and health problems, bravely walked out one night, whispering the immortal words… ‘I’m going out and I may be some time!’

He was so brave!

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Alfie loved the lighthouse.

Further on we passed the bridge over a small weir, which controls the height of the water level in the lake, and I showed Alfie where I played Pooh Sticks every single time we visited the park when we were kids.

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Pooh sticks is a game Winnie the Pooh and friends play together on a warm and sunny day.

A brief history of Pooh Sticks is below…

One day, when Pooh bear was just walking along the bridge with a fir cone in his paw, in his own world, not looking where he was going (probably thinking about honey), he tripped over something. This made the fir-cone jerk out of his paw into the river.

“Bother”, said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge. So Pooh went to get another fir cone, but then thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day. So, he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him, and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too. ‘That’s funny,’ said Pooh. ‘I dropped it on the other side,’ said Pooh, ‘and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?’

And he went back for some more fir-cones. It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn’t know if it was the one, which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice … and then he went home for tea.

And that was the beginning of the game called Pooh Sticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark.’

‘The official Pooh Corner Rules for Playing Pooh Sticks’ was written in 1996 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the publication of ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’.

1.First, you each select a stick and show it to your fellow competitors. You must agree which stick is which – or whose, as it were.

2.Check which way the stream is flowing. Competitors need to face the stream on the side where it runs in, under the bridge (upstream). Note: If the stream runs out, from under the bridge you are standing on the wrong side! (downstream).

3.Choose someone to be a Starter. This can be either the oldest or the youngest competitor.

4.All the competitors stand side-by-side facing upstream.

5.Each competitor holds his or her stick at arms length over the stream. The tall competitors should lower their arms to bring all the sticks to the same height over the stream as the shortest competitor’s stick.

6.The starter calls, ‘Ready – Steady – Go!” and all the competitors drop their sticks. Note: the stick must not be thrown into the water.

7.At this point in the game all the players must cross to the downstream side of the bridge. Please take care – young players like to race across. Remember, other people use bridges and some of them have vehicles or horses.

8.Look over the edge of the bridge for the sticks to emerge. The owner of the first Stick to float from under the bridge is the winner.

Remember: Falling into the water is SAD (Silly And Daft)!

I am looking forward to playing Pooh Sticks with Alfie, Princess Mia and Angel Millie when they are older.

We then passed a new memorial to Robert Scott, which I enjoyed but Alfie was not so interested.

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We walked on to the café where I ordered lunch but then withdrew the order, as they did not accept debit cards, so I went hungry and I just took Alfie for his lunch, which I had prepared at home. The café was called The Terra Nova, the name of Scott’s ship; it was a nice place with views over the lake.

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We had a good time.

As we strolled back to the car, we passed the place where we used to ride on the paddle boats, they were marvellous things with two handles which you had to turn to propel you along, I would love a go now, but they have long gone.

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Alfie dropped off to sleep as soon as he was back in the car and I am sure he had his hands outstretched in his sleep as if he was dreaming of Pooh Sticks.

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I still love Roath Park and now Alfie does as well.  Happy days!

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One thought on “Adventures with Alfie Day 20

  • Hi Roger. Sorry we have taken so long to respond, but we have been spending a fair bit of time away in the caravan and have got a bit behind. We were very touched by what you wrote and thank you for your kindness and sensitivity. We didn’t know about Alice, but had seen the windmill and wondered what the story was. Alfie’s rose is still there and has got some new buds. Pleaes give him a big hug from us. We had a lovely day at Barry Island and followed your advice with a visit to the Knap and a coffee at Romilly’s. We recently took poppy the the Wildfowl Trust at Slimbridge. It was well worth the trip and not that expensive (if you think you can pass for 65! – we weren’t questioned) Keep up the good work.
    Brene & Lindsay

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