“Why don’t we meet in Newport?” Kath emailed. “Somewhere green,” wrote Linda. And I suggested Tredegar House and park as being easy to reach from the station, and it turned out well. First though, finding the bus was a pain – my fault; I should have checked online. You can ask, but people who don’t use buses never know correctly, and people who do only know their own route.
Tredegar is basically car-friendly, with just the main gate open, off a roundabout. It is on on Cycle route 4, as I was later reminded by someone who cycles to Cardiff from Bristol. Kath and Linda got photos of the mosaic dragon at the entrance.
Once past the car parks and craft shops, we went to the cafe and into the gardens. The National Trust took over the running of Tredegar earlier this year (it is owned by Newport City Council), and some of the borders and a mineral garden – recreating a former “parterre” – are being redone. The walled gardens had windfall bramleys, attractive structures and varied plantings.
One of the gardeners told us that the pitted walls are from wasps munching into the mortar. The deer on a stone arch echoes the history of “huntin’ & shootin'” among most (but not the last) Lord Tredegars, a rich Welsh family going back to the Llewyllyn ap Morgan in 1402: the house dates from the 17th century.
We had our own fun of the non-huntin’ kind in view of the house. It’s a big place which has loads of history online and has been somewhere for the people of Newport (and elsewhere) to take dogs and children for a run in the park, and a good arts and crafts fair in late November.
We went into the orangery which houses a huge shovelboard table, and into the house. I liked the old glass and reflections on the uneven panes (below left). The guides are all friendly and were excellent story-tellers, practising this skill on tales of the Morgans, who had royal, military and also art, ceramics and occult among their orientations. In the carvings downstairs, we think we found a green man behind the fabrication of a wedding breakfast (below right).
On the way up the stairs, past the upright stiff posh portraits, suddenly there is a young man, draped more than upright, and Kath and I both thought it influenced by Augustus John. In fact, it is by a contemporary of him, and there are Augustus John paintings – he was a visitor, along with Aldous Huxley, HG Wells and Aleister Crowley etc to parties.
The upstairs tour with expert Paul (holding our attention, below) was all about the last eccentric Lord Tredegar, Evan Morgan (below left), with his six kangaroos, honey bear and love of partying. His mother Katherine was a good conversationalist on art and literature – and then made bird nests after dinner.
In his second wife’s bedroom was a mahogany wardrobe: the doors’ pattern was like one we had which was a bit scary when I was little, looking like ribs and pelvis of skeletons (below left).
The corridor (above right) shows more of the agricultural and shootin’ side of the family, stuffed birds and all. The family are spoken of as benevolent, and beside the Low cartoons of visitors was a fundraising poster for the Royal Gwent hospital (below). It wasn’t made clear where their income came from apart from wealth, land and imperialism generating riches. In fact, lots came from dues received from every ton of coal or iron that crossed Tredegar Park – “the golden mile”.
We strolled around the lake with the cynets and ducks, and back across the parkland, finding a seething bunch of catepillars on an oak tree. It’s been a strange summer.
Back in Newport, we enjoyed the lager at the Windsor Castle pub so much we missed Kath’s hourly train twice. It was quick for me to Cardiff and home.