Touring Before the
2000 Blair Atholl Patrol Jamborette

Day 4: July 15th
South Wales to York

Early next morning, after a quick breakfast, we headed up into the Rhondda Valley and the Big Pit Mining Museum at Blaenavon. The Rhondda (pronounced "rontha") was Wales' coal mining center, in years past - think How Green Was My Valley - shipping millions of tons of coal through the docks in Cardiff, Penarth and Barry. The mines are all gone, now, and the scarred landscape has acquired a green beauty all its own. 

Big Pit was one of the last working mines in Wales. Soon after it closed as a mine, it reopened as a museum. No Disneyfied "coal mine experience" here - you put on a helmet and light, clip a rescue breather to your belt, and ride the cage down 300 feet to the mine, left just as it was when the last miner downed tools. 

The tour is led by one of the miners, which lends a special feeling - this was one of the men who spent his working life underground in a pit just like this one, dark, damp and dirty. On the cage ride up, our guide asked the Scouts to sing a song. I'd have thought "Sixteen Tons" would be appropriate, but they picked our "Camp Barton Song". Seemed somewhat incongruous, somehow. 

left, Jimmy and Matt and miner.
above, a view over the valley, with winding gear on the right.

From Big Pit, we drove over the narrow, winding roads of South Wales, through Abergavenny and the Wye Valley, back into England. 
Our first destination for the afternoon was The British Heritage Motor Centre at Gaydon, near Coventry. The museum originally belonged to British Leyland, then British Motors, then Rover Group. Now it's part of Ford, purchased along with the Land Rover factory next door. 

left: Matt and George with cut-away Rover

The BHMC contains a large collection of unique vehicles - not just lots of neat production cars like one each of every MG type (drool), but also many prototypes which never saw production. There were even some real oddities like the twin engine mini-Moke (four wheel drive the easy way, with two engines, front and rear) and a mini-mini, which not only had two engines, but two complete front halves with steering wheels and all.  Rob with microDot
It wasn't all static displays, either. At the parking lot there was a Land Rover proving course, which offered rides in a nearly new Defender 110 turbo-diesel. The course is designed to showcase the abilities of the Landie, and it does - up and down 45 degree slopes and 30 degree side slopes, through deep mud and water. If only they'd let me drive... 
Then, off to Stratford-upon-Avon and dinner at a restaurant that didn't have room for us in '98. This time there was room, and the food was great. We ended with a rather surreal conversation with the manager (they were happy to take travellers cheques, they just wouldn't make change from them, even though the change was only 5 pounds). Oh, well, at least charge cards worked. On the road again, and off to York... 

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- Last update February 23, 2001