Yes, we slept like logs, if logs sleep late. And ate at breakfast like hogs until not a crumb was left. The rector had gone on his rounds, leaving a ‘bon-voyage’ with the housekeeper. Cothelstone Hill was a ‘teaser’, but on the top we got a magnificent view of the ‘Severn sea’, and all the wooded graciousness of the lovely Quantocks. Yet ‘here only man is vile’ – and I include woman, for a large crowd was gathered to hunt the stag. Men, women, and hounds, all out for the express purpose of hunting and rending one poor stag ! Sport ! Some of the elite of the land engaged in a vile pursuit of such a fine creature – Jack and I bubbled over in wrath, and expressed a pious hope that was intended for other ears, that they would break their precious necks at the first fence. Our wrath and the rear tyre subsided together, and another tyre-battle ensued ere we could slide down into Bridgewater.
We joined the dead flat road that runs to Weston-super-Mare, and made excellent time for the first dozen miles – till, in a village street, the tyre failed us once more. Our fingers nearly bled with the strain of pulling it off and replacing it. Buying a newspaper, we read that a boat was due out to Cardiff at 2.50pm – forty minutes hence, and we had 11 miles to go, which meant a speed of almost 20 mph to catch it. We jumped on and slogged the miles back in a great burst of speed like the old times, forgetting the tyre or hoping it would keep up. On the two mile length of promenade the people and the police stopped and stared as we flew past well above ‘evens’, dodging traffic and passing motorcars. We caught the boat with 3 minutes to spare !
The sail across to Cardiff was lovely, with sunshine and all the summer fashions parading aboard ship, insipid, bony, effeminate youths and maidens that showed a goodly proportion of ‘figure’, pretty and otherwise – disdaining the dusty figures of Jack and I. We played a merry game of avoiding tramlines, traffic and pedestrians through Cardiff, which, however, is an easy city to leave behind, and which boasts with justification of its new civic centre – including the just completed National Museum of Wales. The road northward through Taff’s Well and Nantgarw, though industrialised, still contains figments of a once beautiful valley, and part of it was not new to me. We had missed dinner, which meant a gnawing hunger towards four o clock, and a heavy investment at a grocery shop. We bought stuff for tea, supper and breakfast, but we ate the lot at a single sitting. Pontypridd was a black hell to us that hot afternoon, and nothing improved till we had seen the last of Merthyr Tydfil.
From Merthyr we climbed, and Welsh industrialism with its feverish squalor dropped like a cloak over the valleys behind. Up on the moors a few people lounged, drinking the wine of sunset air. Brecon Beacons were over to the east, just above us, and in sublimity they told nothing of the human miseries that peopled the valleys behind them and to the south, they were above the weary story of semi-starvation, of hovels huddled round silent pits that worked no more. Of unemployment and the blight of despair.
The ridge was topped at 1400ft, and we slid down Glyn Farrell into what seemed a land of enchanted things, if rivers and moors and moorland hollows, and valleys, are enchanted. To Brecon. The first instinct at Brecon was to go straight to a grocery store, and, unerring, we found one and repeated our laying-in habit. In twilight we climbed out of Brecon, shamefacedly, be it noted, we abandoned the Vale of Usk, and a short mile further on a farmer gladly allowed us to pitch our tent in what on investigation proved to be a hen-run. We found the exact spot where the hens had scratched the most earth away, and there we supped and slept and wondered what a smooth patch of land was like.