As usual I was looking forward to Max’s arrival long before he came. His smile was visible from the car as his mum pulled up. It was a clear but chilly morning, with just the smallest hint that the first frost of the Autumn was not too far away.
I had a roaring fire ready and Max and I soon settled down to have our early morning cuddle and watch a few trains on YouTube.We followed this by listening again to the Scallywags CD. It’s great, so full of nursery rhymes and Bethesda songs. Max still likes Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and If you’re happy and you know it the best He was trying a few of the actions himself! We had fun.
We followed this with breakfast then began to prepare for todays’ adventure.
I had decided we would visit Bridgend not a place noted for its visitor attractions, but I had worked out we could go to Bridgend from Eastbrook, via Cardiff, Pontyclun, Llanharan and Pencoed and return by the direct route through the Vale of Glamorgan via Llantwit Major and Rhoose.
I have never travelled via Llanharan before and thought that would be rather exciting! We had planned this some weeks ago but never went on it due to a late change of plan. The great thing about this plan is that we leave and arrive on the platform nearest to our house and avoid the need to cross the horrible iron bridge. I understand they are thinking of fitting a lift each side of the tracks to avoid the stairs. Bring it on – crossing that bridge with a pushchair is an absolute NIGHTMARE!!
We caught the 09:58 to Cardiff and I just had time to buy my ticket from the machine on the platform – despite Max having a brief ‘paddy’ because he wanted to press the buttons! I got on the platform just as the train arrived. Perfect.
I got Max out of the pushchair as soon as I could. Trains have windows and windows are meant to be looked out of and Max and I love looking out of train windows. I always remember the old poem I learnt in Junior School…
Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!
Robert Louis Stephenson
The journey into Cardiff is a quick ten minute one but still enough to see lots of interest. Halfway there, I looked in horror at Max – he had a shoe missing and they were his new best ones. I remembered the little paddy at Eastbrook. I searched the floor of the train with one hand while making sure Max didn’t climb up onto the table with the other!
The shoe was nowhere to be seen. This would cause me problems if Max had to walk anywhere which he likes to do.
At Cardiff we had to change to platform 3 to pick up the train heading for Maesteg. We must go there one day. The train was waiting, and it was a curious one!
It was a single carriage train that looked like a shuttle. Max approved, and we got on and found a seat with a table. – always essential. We had to leave to the pushchair at the other end of the train but that was fine.
Before long we pulled out and travelled down the main line towards Swansea. We passed Canton, Ely Woods and Saint Fagan’s and the train was going at a fair old pace. I kept looking at Max’s sock and wondered how I could break the news to his dad and mum later. I felt I was in trouble.
Despite it not being a new line, it was great stopping at stations I had never visited, Pontyclun, Llanharan and Pencoed. Quite a few people got on. Maybe Bridgend has improved since I visited with Alfie!
Max loved the journey and was constantly pointing things out or waving to the people on the stations.
After a 45-minute journey, we arrived in Bridgend in the bright morning sunshine.
Trip Advisor describes Bridgend like this…
A sleepy little market town nestled at the foothills of the valleys or a bustling shoppers paradise halfway between Cardiff and Swansea? Bridgend is all that and more. A county town, rich in heritage and history, where zealous pilgrims cautiously waded the fast-flowing river en route to the shrine of St. David in Pembrokeshire.
In medieval times the Pilgrims would sensibly stop off here for shelter and refreshments, while the monks from the nearby Abbey would wash their sore dusty feet. A little hump backed bridge built in 1425, linking the north and south banks of the river and the two sections of the quaint old town now stand on the spot.
The main centre of Bridgend lies on the north bank of the river and is a shopper’s paradise of old and new, happily winding its way through narrow streets, co-existing side by side. The old Victorian market hall has since gone, but the original 127-year-old market bell still hands in the Rhiw shopping centre, near to the entrance of the new covered market. Small local specialist businesses complimented by large national chain stores make the town a perfect day out.
I’m not sure who wrote that, but I tell you they are masters of fiction. Amazingly there is a list of the Top 17 things to do in Bridgend and not a single one is actually in Bridgend. One of the things is the Showcase Cinema complex in Nantgarw which must be 20 miles away.
Actually, it’s not a bad little town especially for a smiling little lad and his fat little grandfather who love to go adventuring together.
First stop was breakfast – the second one of the day and no finer place than Greggs. I had a bacon and sausage bap and a cup of coffee, which cost me the princely sum of £2 and Max went for a Yum-Yum. A long curly doughnut, which he loved. He ate every single bit of it! While we were in the queue a kind lady informed me that Max had lost a shoe. I thanked her politely and explained what had happened and that feeling of dread returned. Was I in trouble? The wet wipes returned Max’s face, hands and coat to something resembling smartness and we set off.
Within a few minutes Max was asleep.
The early mornings seem to tire him out and the pushchair is very comfortable. I toured the multitude of charity shops, but found no bargains at all, which was very disappointing – Rhiwbina and Cowbridge remain my favourite places for a charity shop – posh areas. In almost every shop, someone either tapped me on the shoulder or waved and told me my little boy had lost his shoe. Oh dear… I am in trouble!! Max slept on…
I came across the Bridgend war memorial, which I always find interesting. This year is a very special year, one hundred years since the end of World War One. While I studied it, Max slept on.
Next, I came across the market, which was actually quite good. I love the atmosphere of an indoor market. Bridgend didn’t disappoint. Passing the delicatessen, the cheery shop owner shouted, ‘Hey mate…your little ones lost his shoe.’ I thanked him and that feeling of dread returned. Max missed the market…he slept on.
It was soon time to head back to the station. The chill of the morning had changed into a most lovely, warm autumn day. Pushing my precious cargo through this little Welsh town was so lovely.
When we got to the station the rather large lady who was monitoring the entrance gates asked me if I knew that my little boy had lost a shoe. I thanked her and carried on worrying.
The station has recently had a new footbridge and looked rather smart. It’s a great little station, because its on the main line. As I sat and waited for my train, one on the new main line express trains pulled in on its way to London. They are ‘hybrid’ trains. Apparently when the electrification of the lines starts soon, they will be quiet electric trains from London to Cardiff but as they leave Cardiff towards Swansea, they will revert to being diesel trains. Brilliant… can’t wait.
Max slept on.
The return journey was along the Vale of Glamorgan line via, Llantwit Major and Rhoose. It was reopened in 2005. Rail campaigners were delighted in June of that year, when a passenger rail service came back to the Vale of Glamorgan for the first time in 41 years.Regular services now run between Bridgend and Barry and then along existing track into Cardiff.
The final work was completed in the summer of 2005 to allow 18 miles of the Vale of Glamorgan line to reopen to passenger trains.The Welsh Assembly supported the £17million project and the line was officially opened by Transport Minister Andrew Davies.A shuttle bus waits for every train and runs to the airport terminal, seven minutes away.
Freight trains continued to travel to Aberthaw power station and Ford’s motor plant near Bridgend after regular passenger services were withdrawn in 1964.
The line was also used for diversions when there was work on the Great Western main line, west of Cardiff.
It’s a glorious line, especially with the trees in their autumnal beauty. The jewel in the crown of the journey is the crossing of the Porthkerry Viaduct.
When the ticket collector came around – a cheery chap with glasses and tousled hair – he kindly asked me if I had my little boy’s shoe. Max missed the entire journey as he slept on. I was glad he trusted me to look after him.
Keep following the blue dot!
We got off at Eastbrook Station and I was met by the most glorious sight…
Max’s missing shoe was there, near the ticket machine. Some kind person had put it safe in a place where I could see it! Whoever you are… a massive thank you.
Max woke up as we got home, and he enjoyed a rather late lunch and we watched some Thomas the Tank Engine and played for a little while until dad arrived and our beautiful time together came to an end. I think Max wanted to stay a bit longer and to be honest I wanted him to stay a bit longer, just Max and me… but with two shoes on he waved goodbye, smiled and went to collect his big brother!