Keri and Karis went on a little day trip over the bridge to Wales to take in some of the sights in Newport City and Monmouthshire. Here’s what they got up to.
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I was chatting to a friend back home (in Australia) recently and I mentioned that a couple of days beforehand, I had been to some nice gardens in Wales.
“How far away is that for you?” she asked
“I don’t know, maybe 20-30 minutes from Bristol,” was my response.
The next part of the conversation was mostly her shocked and saying how cool it is that I live so close and then asking why I don’t go there more often.
I guess the fact that everything is ‘so close’ in the UK is kind of a novel concept for Australians, where it takes 12 hours to drive from Brisbane to Sydney (if you leave in the middle of the night and you don’t make too many stops).
Over the bridge to Wales
She made a good point though. Why don’t I visit Wales more often? Just over the bridge from Bristol, in Monmouthshire, are some really lovely things to do, see and eat.
Keri and I were sent on a little day trip over the bridge to Wales to Monmouthshire a couple of weeks ago to take in some of the sights and here’s what we got up to (and what you could get up to, too!):
Veddw House Garden
Our visit the Veddw (pronounced ved-oo, I checked) was most definitely my highlight of the day.
It’s a privately owned garden that belongs to garden writer, Anne Wareham and her husband garden photographer, Charles Hawes. Don’t expect perfectly manicured garden beds and lush grass lawns, this garden is not about that. In fact, Anne kind of hates gardening – well, she hates the pretensions, presumptions and stereotypes at least.
Exploring Veddw was like going on an adventure. Anne handed us maps and off we went to see Charles’ Garden, Chris’ Seat, the Pool Garden, the Meadow and more.
In some ways, I half expected to walk through a doorway into another world. Maybe I’d spot some fairies. I know that sounds a bit silly, but the way in which Anne and Charles have made their garden wild and free is wonderful for the mind.
My favourite area was most definitely the Pool Garden – a very tranquil spot.
I’ve seen and read a lot on ‘re-wilding’ recently and it’s such a beautiful way of bringing nature back into our lives when we’ve spent so long trying to tame it. Anne and Charles have been doing this for more than 30 years.
They moved to Veddw (originally known as ‘Vedow’ in 1569 and later as Veadow, Fedw, Vedw and Vedda as time went on) in 1987 from London. Their goal was to create a garden from scratch on agricultural land because that way they wouldn’t have much work to ‘undo’ to achieve their vision. So now they live in their house (painted black so it doesn’t stand out as much as it would if it was white) in the centre of a magical space of their own making.
I also love that they pay tribute to the local history of the area, which is absolutely fascinating (for a history nerd like me, anyway). I recommend doing a bit of reading into it before you go!
If you would like to visit:
- Veddw House Garden will be open on the first Sundays of June, July, August and September between 2pm and 5pm. We highly recommend checking the website before departing though, just in case.
- Entrance fee (including a map) is £8.50 for adults (£1.50 for children under 14).
- Dogs are welcome as long as they “don’t eat people”.
Formal gardens at Tredegar House
From wild and free to ‘formal’, you’ll feel like you’re in a very different world to Veddw when you go for a wander in the gardens at Tredegar House. There is no right and no wrong way to have a garden, might I just add!
We’re big fans of the National Trust here at LWT, as these posts will show you, so it was a treat discovering Tredegar House just over the bridge in Monmouthshire. It has a 500-year history and was home to “one of the greatest Welsh families, the Morgans, later Lords Tredegar”, who heavily influenced the Monmouthshire, Breconshire and Glamorgan area.
While you’re there, you can visit the The Orangery Garden, The Cedar Garden, The Orchard Garden and the stables. Usually the house itself is open to the public, but at time of writing it’s sadly closed to do COVID-19 restrictions.
If you would like to visit:
- The formal gardens are open from 10am to 4pm and the cost to visit is £5.00 (£2.50 for children). There is also parkland that is open to the public and free to enter.
- The house itself wasn’t open when we went but it is open 12pm to 3pm when it is.
- You will need to book in advance to visit the gardens and/or the house. You can do that here.
Newport Transporter Bridge
I absolutely have regrets about my visit to the Newport Transporter Bridge in that we didn’t use it to cross the River Usk!
The Newport Transporter Bridge (here on in, NTB) isn’t a bridge in the typical use of the word – we can’t drive or walk across it, but we can get in the ‘gondola’ and be transferred across the water. Take a look at how it works (note, it doesn’t go quite that fast, I did a time-lapse!):
The NTB was built in 1906 and is a Grade I listed structure. But why couldn’t they just use a normal bridge, you ask?
Due to the low river banks in the location and there being a lot of water traffic, a normal bridge would require a very long ramp to have enough clearance for ships and a swing bridge or vertical list bridge (think Tower Bridge in London) would be prohibitively expensive.
It sounds like it took some convincing, but eventually the transporter bridge option was chosen.
What’s cool about the NTB, is that:
- It’s one of only two operational transporter bridges left in Britain (the other one is the Tees Transporter Bridge in Middlesbrough) and one of just six still in use around the world.
- It was designed by French engineer, Ferdinand Arnodin who also designed a number of other transporter bridges in France, Spain and Algeria.
- It took four years to build at a cost of around £98,000 (in today’s money, we’re talking about £10 million.
- It was officially opened by Lord Tredegar (yes, the very same family).
If you would like to visit:
- It’s open April to September, Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.
- You can pick up a day ticket for £4 (£3 for children) and that gives you access to the high level walkway, the motor house platform and unlimited crossings on the gondola. I think that’s pretty good value. But, if you just want to a return crossing in the gondola it’s £2 (£1.50 for children).
A spot of lunch – The Priory Caerleon
What’s a Sunday out and about without a roast? Luckily we had a visit booked at The Priory Caerleon, which was formerly a 12th century Cistercian Monastery. I love a bit of history with my roast beef.
We were seated in a very charming room with beautiful stained glass windows and provided with the menu – £17 for a main course or £19 for entree and main. Obviously we went with the entree and main.
For entrees, I had the pate and Keri had some sourdough with olive oil because she was feeling rebellious (she’s usually low fodmap). The bread was very nice, but that’s to be expected as it comes from the Angel Bakery.
The pate was nice, but the accompaniments were underwhelming – there was a lot of chutney and it was just too sweet for me, and there were pickled chillis on the plate, which made no sense to me at all. Sadly there wasn’t enough bread – but Keri was nice and let me have a piece of hers (I think she was mostly trying to save herself).
For mains, we both chose the roast beef. The beef had a nice texture even though it was a bit overcooked for my liking. The roast potatoes and yorkshire pudding were bang on for both of us. The vegetable portions were generous, but too much of it was honey-glazed, therefore making it very sweet.
Overall, it was a nice meal, but nothing super exciting. Based on their set up and their dinner menu, I would definitely go back to try their Spanish fare though.
Bonus: Chepstow Castle
I actually visited Chepstow Castle not long after moving to Bristol. Given how close it is, it would have been remiss of this castle nerd not to visit. So, while we didn’t visit the same day, I thought I’d pop it in here for you to add to your itinerary.
Sitting on a limestone cliff overlooking the River Wye is Chepstow Castle. It is the oldest surviving post-Roman stone fortification in Britain, which is pretty cool!
Earl William FitzOsbern (a friend of William the Conqueror) started building the castle all the way back in 1067 and famous names like William Marshal, Roger Bigod and Charles Somerset all spent time there.
It has a pretty fascinating history and is very much worth a visit!
If you would like to visit, check the website for opening times and days before you go. For adults it’s £6.50 each and for children aged 5-17, it’s £3.90.
Just a hop, skip and a jump over the bridge to Wales
We’re not done yet with our exploration of Newport City and Monmouthshire. There are so many places to visit that Keri and I now have a list and have plans for further day trips in the future.
Look out for future posts in the coming months, or maybe we’ll even see you there?
This visit was organised by Over the Bridge to Wales which is a campaign on behalf of Newport City Council and Monmouthshire County Council with Visit Wales funding. However, as always, all views are our own.