Bright and early the next day, we headed out to Big Pit Mining Museum, which is located on the edge of Brecon Beacons National Park. This was the part of the trip I was most nervous about. We were to descend a couple hundred yards underground where there would be small tunnels and enclosed spaces. We also could not take anything down that had a battery because the mine is still classified as a working one and batteries = explosions. Needless to say, my anxiety-ridden self was freaking out but after much self-convincing and weaving my way to the front of the line so I could be in the first group to get it over with, I decided to go. And I am so happy I did.
The museum is run by Welsh ex-miners who, in addition to their fabulous accents, had hilarious senses of humour. They reminded me of characters from Monty Python. Our guide was so sweet and definitely did a good job of making us feel comfortable in the mine.
|all geared up|
Suited up in our helmets and helmet lights as well as gas masks in belts for safety, we headed down the rather long elevator ride deep underground. We walked through the tunnels, saw the old methods of communication from the ends of the mine, as well as where they kept the horses who lived under there for years at a time. It’s true (and so sad). They would transport materials from one end of the mine to the other before they were automated and would become blind because the only light they would see was the candle (yes, they worked by candlelight only) of the miner walking behind them.
One of the most jarring experiences was standing in a cavern with no hall lights and turning off our headlamps to experience the pitch black darkness that young children experienced when they worked as safety door openers/closers at around age 5. There was literally no difference between closing and opening your eyes. I am glad we only did it for about a minute! Upon surfacing, I was a little relieved that we made it out alive but very much glad I got to experience something like that–definitely once in a lifetime! The museum also offered stunning views of the surrounding area and since I couldn’t take my camera down into the mine with me, I’ll post them here!
We then headed to the Welsh town of Monmouth to have lunch. This will be a place where I will one day have a vacation house [hopefully]. The town was picturesque and had so many cool pubs and cute stores. I wish we had more time to walk around and explore! This town also boasts the only surviving medieval bridge in Britain with the gate tower standing on the bridge. The gatehouse (pictured below) has also served as a toll-house, guard room, gaol and dwelling house (according to the sign on the bridge).
Finally, we drove about half an hour to Tintern Abbey, one of the most beautiful and romantic places you will ever see. What is still standing today was built in the 13th century by Cistercian monks. It is featured eponymously in a poem by William Wordsworth and is also referenced in Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park. I could have spent much longer wandering around, but the time I had there was spent mesmerised by everything. Pictures just don’t do it justice.
All in all, it was a weekend to go down in the books. I loved getting away from the city and experiencing Wales for the first, and definitely not the last time!