Tag Archives: Dinas Powys

The Plug

 

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Dinas Powys is a great place to live.

It retains some of the village feel it has enjoyed over many years. However, some things have changed…

Now sadly, The Old Post Office lies empty, pleading with every passer-by to breathe new life into its fading walls. There is a new Post Office – it lies within the friendly Village Stores, a lovely little place run by a friendly couple who seem to know everybody and are always ready have a chat with anyone who comes in. I am sure for some customers the simple task of buying a morning newspaper must fill up an hour or two. The shop seems to sell everything from wine to wet wipes and frozen stuff to the free community newspaper. Thoughtfully, a stool stands just behind the always open doorway, inviting older clientele to sit and rest weary legs while they catch up on the latest gossip.

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The banks have finally gone – most of their customers using internet banking, lining up in those endless queues replaced by other frustrations like losing signal at the wrong moment and forgetting your password. Gone also is the ‘Wellness’ shop; curious this one…. In all my visits to the village, I never saw a customer go in or come out. It’s being replaced by an extension to the undertakers, obviously lots of people still passing away. The staff of the funeral home are a cheery bunch always ready to give a wave.

The pubs are still there, all three of them.

But, still fairly new, something has started breathing new life into the village. It’s a unique coffee shop. The result of a young couple setting out to chase their dreams. The Plug began life in an old ‘lean to’ – a former flower shop.

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It was a magical place, tiny, but so friendly and welcoming. Last year though, the ladies’ hairdressers next door closed, the last purple rinse completed, the business ceased and The Plug decided to expand. Months of hard work gave us what we have today.

I once described The Plug on Trip Advisor as ‘a little gem’ and that’s what it is.

If you are  fan of people watching The Plug is the place to go. My favourite time of the day to go up is any time, but early mornings are probably the most interesting. I go armed with a variety of things to do whilst enjoying my coffee…  phone, iPad, Bible and maybe some other reading material. The time spent there is great!

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The coffee shop is owned by Pete and Rachel a young couple, who are friends of mine.

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Pete’s younger brother John looks after the coffee machine and does most of the brewing.

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Pete spends his time mostly in the kitchen preparing and serving the most wonderful food – simple but exquisite! Sourdough bread toasted or untoasted with options like French toast, poached eggs, feta cheese and avocado and now Eggs Benedict. Several people lay claim to the invention of Eggs Benedict. It seems it became popular in New York, probably the recipe of someone called Commodore E.C. Benedict. Who knows…. who cares?  They are stunningly beautiful… all the food is!

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What Pete produces in the kitchen would give any top chef a run for his or her money in any competition. Amazingly, the hands that create these wonderful dishes – now thoroughly washed I am sure – were the same hands that knocked down walls, cut wood, tiled walls and a host of other building jobs, creating The Plug as we know it. Talented lad our Pete!

His overriding passion though is coffee. He even roasts his own coffee in a small industrial unit some miles away in Cardiff. The only thing Pete doesn’t do is grow the coffee or pick the beans, although don’t be surprised if you read one day of a new coffee plantation on the hills around Dinas Powys!

His helpers are a special lot! The usual young lady, a charming  friendly thing is currently on maternity leave looking after a new precious little bundle.

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She has been replaced by a friendly collection of family and friends of Pete and John, all who do the most wonderful job in looking after the customers. One young chap who was on the staff, is now in America, looking after a load of young people at a series of camps.

Sitting in The Plug, as the day starts you will see a range of faces, some familiar others not so much, coming in. Every day without fail the local estate agent starts his day there. He’s a good looking, friendly guy who always seems to know everybody there. It seems that’s it’s impossible to sell houses in Dinas Powys without first downing a flat white or some other caffeine based pick-me-up!

There are usually one or two other individuals clicking away on laptops, who give a brief nod of acknowledgement.

Always there is our local author, a very friendly, pug loving lady who also seems to know everybody and takes a great interest in everything about you…work family…everything! She’s really friendly.

A frequent visitor is a pretty young thing from Ireland, so friendly, always smiling, always busy chatting. She is the one lady who would give my lovely wife a run for her money in the World Championship Chatting Final. She’s heavily pregnant (not my dear wife!) and recently brought her mum in who is on a visit. On a recent visit to Ireland my football mad son and I actually stayed with her, she uses AirBnB. Charming, delightful people!

Every day brings a new group of friends who descend on The Plug for a catch up. One day a group of older ladies, another day some young mums with their off-spring in various states of wakefulness and sleep. From time to time a group of International rugby players will show up. Obviously a visit to The Plug is an important part of their strict training schedule.

Another frequent visitor is our local celebrity – a world famous singer and former child star. She must love it in The Plug, just another customer chatting with friends and enjoying the wonderful coffee.

Then there’s the quiet gentle chap who makes his way in quietly, enjoys a coffee and a croissant and then quietly makes his way out. Sometimes he likes to drink outside. He is something of a mystery always polite, doesn’t say a great deal – I’ve never seen him talk to anybody else… maybe he has seen better, happier days in the past.

Also a regular visitor is a personal trainer, who I would have expected to bound in, but she doesn’t… each morning she just ambles in and sits down. She is dressed in sporty gear and is close friends with the author and the young lady from across the Irish Sea. They appear to have a very close bond of friendship. Amazingly, before The Plug opened they were complete strangers to each other. That for me sums up the magic of this little coffee shop. Its a place where friendships are made and grow. Its simply magical.

Just about the Plug’s nearest neighbour is an amiable young man who has quite an important job in the nearby chemical factory. He lives in the Old Court House, just across the road. The Vale of Glamorgan County Treasures web site describes it like this…..

This Dinas Powys building dates back to 16th century and is part of the former courthouse

and the earliest surviving building in the village centre retaining much of its historic fabric.

Built of roughcast-rendered stone with slate roof and yellow brick end stack.’ 

 

Stories abound of an underground tunnel linking the old court house to the prison, which one stood where the The Plug is now. Probably not true, just the stuff of old village gossip… or is it?

He, like all the other regulars, strolls in and knows everybody there. He’s a dog lover but sadly his lovely pet, who was also his best friend recently died.  It’s hard to know what to say but in The Plug he’s among friends , people who understand.

So it goes on. There’s the young couple, both teachers who bring their two boys, both miracles apparently and the young chap who is Pete’s best mate – he’s married to  member of staff, so he always gets a special welcome.

Finally there’s an old chap, more than slightly overweight, who comes in and sits quietly.  He’s always armed with a book, a note pad and various electronic devices. He doesn’t need to order, he sits down, nods a good morning to all who are there or come in and starts busily writing his list of things to do for the day – before long his drink appears, the same every time – a single shot Americano with a dash of milk.

He once worked in a school and for forty years he kept a picture of his daughter on the wall of his classroom and underneath he put a cutting from a magazine he once read. It says,

‘Regard each pupil as one’s own – and then decide what to do with him/her’.

After a while, list ready and book read, he nods his goodbyes and goes on his way. Not to school any more, he claims to have an even better job… one he proudly describes as a full time husband, father and grandfather…

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Adventuring nearer home – Dinas Powys Quarry

Who knew that behind the big steel gates near Dinas Powys Common and St Andrews Major Primary School, lies a hidden gem of epic proportions?

 

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It’s Dinas Powys Quarry.

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Dinas Powys is my home. It’s a village – just- with a village centre, a village hall and an annual village show. It’s a village that the County Council and the Welsh government is trying to change forever with their big building programmes. We have, unusually it seems, a community council, our village is run by local people with a heart for our village. Dinas Powys is a community with a population of 8,800 at the last census and lies approximately 5.5 miles (9km) to the west of Cardiff in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The village also has the remains of a Norman castle…

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….and the parish church of St Andrew’s dates from the 12th century.

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The population had remained static at about 300-400 until the second half of the 19th century when there was an influx into this thriving rural community, including a big contingent from the West Country.

The growth of the coal industry saw the first passenger train arrive in Dinas Powys on Sunday, December 20, 1898, and after that the population increased rapidly.

Dinas Powys is a thriving community with a wide range of voluntary organisations and social groups for residents to enjoy, as well as a variety of sports clubs. The Common, a large area of open space administered by Dinas Powys Community Council, is a popular recreation area, and organised sport is also played at Parc Bryn-y-Don and Murch Playing Field.

 

It’s also the home of Dinas Powys Quarry.

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The quarry was used to extract limestone. The limestone rock was first excavated by hand.   It was used in the building of Barry Docks and for the building of some of the older houses in the Dinas Powys area.   During the 17th Century a rocky outcrop above the quarry became the favourite seat of Hugh Lloyd after he was replaced as Rector of St. Andrew’s Church. This became known as ‘Cadair Yr Esgob’ (The Bishop’s Seat) as Lloyd became Bishop of Llandaff after the Restoration. Hugh Lloyd used to visit the quarry to sit and contemplate about his forthcoming sermons.

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Armed with a treasure map, which Mia had drawn for us prior to our departure, we set out one sunny Sunday afternoon to discover the old quarry for ourselves. Notices around the village have, for some time informed us that the quarry was for sale. That was an intriguing prospect. For sure future excavations would be impossible as the quarry is uneconomic and the public outcry that would follow any decision to reopen with many large lorries full of stone travelling through our village would put the furor over Charlotte Church’s recent party in the shade! But oh that I had the money to buy this little gem- a shy part of our community, hiding behind the great metal gates – and preserve it for all members of the village and the wider community to enjoy.

Out adventure took us across stiles, up paths, across fields and through dense woodland. The adventurers numbered twelve in total.

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The sight we met when we reached the cliffs above the quarry took our breath away.

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The quarry lay hundreds of feet below us. The silence was eerie. You could almost touch it! We spoke little during our early minutes here. At one time the place would have been a hive of activity… large machines digging, huge lorries carrying, massive cranes lifting and explosive dynamite blowing the cliffs apart.

Now, just silence. A silence broken only by the occasional flapping of the wings of the few ducks who have made the quarry their home. The water, reflecting the sun and clouds overhead, hid years of neglect and illegal dumping, its secrets hidden forever or so it seems.

Just silence.

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Our excitement broke the silence. We chatted, pointed things out and for a short time we sensed that the quarry enjoyed our company.

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In the distance the town of Barry, the Vale of Glamorgan’s biggest town. The lights of Jenner park stood proudly on the horizon. The stone from the quarry helped build Barry’s massive docks over a century ago. Beyond the town the Bristol Channel sparkled in the late afternoon sun.

Far below us we saw the roof and the chimney of the home of the current owner. He still lives there it seems. What stories it could tell!

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We stood for all long time in awe!

All too soon though, we needed to make the return journey. Our homes in the village beckoned us.

As we left the silence returned, wrapping itself around the acres of land which contained the quarry.

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We followed Mia’s map, back through dense woodland, fields, paths and stiles.

 

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As we neared our cars, we took time out to visit the village cemetery, which contains the graves of many of our friends – a little corner of Bethesda, a place full of memories of people we loved and who loved us. People who guided us, modelled life for us and shared our joys and sorrows. People who adventured with us.

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Our memories warmed us on a cold afternoon.

As we left, we looked back up the path to the old quarry… still silent.

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