My Malvern Story
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At 4am in the morning you would expect the main A365 head of the valley’s road leading to Malvern to be dead quiet, which it was. What I didn’t expect was the road to be totally shut on a three mile stretch just outside Abergaveny for major road development.
I had been asked to judge the rose section at the show and had allowed an extra hour just to make sure and, if I had time, squeeze in a breakfast supplied by the show. Now I was following tiny detour signs from one valley to the next and places I had never heard of, with not a street light in sight. I had planned to arrive just before 6am.
At quarter to seven I saw signs for the yellow car park. I had arrived with just ten minutes to spare. With breakfast off the table it was straight into the job of finding some winners. What a dazzling sight. A quick look around and I could see the standard of roses was just so high that there was obviously a number of top draw exhibitors present. The blooms which would blow first, needed to be judged first - i.e. the big HT's, the miniature and miniflora boxes.
I started on the single bloom of HT’s which was won by Neil Duncan with a superb bloom of “Sunderland Supreme” - the vase of six HT’s had three outstanding entries. Third prize was a lovely vase of The Wainwright from Paul Evans (Wrexham), second was a vase of Andrea Seltzer from Neil Duncan, and first was a mixed vase from Howard Thomas (Swansea) with a super Die Welt - the pick of the vase.
In the miniatures and minifloras from Treorchy, Ivor Mace did very well with Joy. Another Rhondda exhibitor David Jay getting the best out of Arcanum and Magic Show. Ivor Clark (Bristol) did very well with some lovely blooms of Amber Star. Dave Weatherby put up some exhibits with
the spare blooms left behind that would have rivalled the winners, which highlighted the standard of the roses on show.
I couldn’t stop for the lunch to which I had been invited, I had to hotfoot it back to the Rhondda Valley to pick up my wife Kay and some items to take to Swansea University where my granddaughter was moving that day. My big problem now was to get back avoiding the huge road block. According to Ivor Mace’s road map, it looked like there was a small road skirting around quite close to the road block and I wouldn’t have to take the detour. Off I went.
Around 90 minutes later I arrived at the blocked road and saw a sign for this little road. I started zigzagging my way up through the gorge following the signs - climbing the whole time - when suddenly, there were no signs. I was still climbing 30 minutes later, keeping to the right. I can’t be far off, I thought, but with roads going in every direction and only about a foot wider than my car nothing could be certain.
I arrived at the gate to a farmhouse where a bearded man well over six feet leaned over and asked whilst grinning “Lost?”.
"Very lost" I said, almost daunted.
"Well it will be very difficult to find your way back the way you got here. The road you want is two miles that way" he said pointing in the opposite direction. I could see cars in the distance, I was almost on top of the mountain. "There is another way, how is your head for heights?” he continued.
"Okay, no problem" I replied.
"Now is the time to say if there is a problem, because you have to go along a precipice, and not for just a few yards, it’s almost a mile long. When you get to the end turn left and it will bring you to the road over there where you can see the cars".
"I'll give it a go, but will it take the weight of my car?"
"Should do" he said, "I did it once myself. Turn left and left again and that will take you straight to it."
"Thanks" I said, hearing him wish me luck as I drove off.
Following the directions, turning left, left again along a dirt track, when all of a sudden I was on the precipice looking down on to about a thousand foot vertical drop and already past the point of no return. Looking at how much room the car had, it was more inches than feet and the tyres were on wet stone after the morning rain. I could see all the machinery and diggers below me. I was directly above the road works. First job was off with the seat belt, if the car was going to slide over the edge I hoped I would be quick enough to dive out of the passenger side. It suddenly dawned on me, this guy said he had only done it once, and he lived here. I got to the end at a snail’s pace and turned left like he said, but there was no road, or even a dirt track, just mountain, but it did lead me to the main road I was looking for.
It was four o'clock in the afternoon before my wife saw me. Put some things in the car for the granddaughter, Ffion (the rose), and off on another trip to Swansea. After seeing Ffion settling into her new home it was off to the Rhondda with my daughter and Lowri, the other rose granddaughter.
On the way home I told my daughter about a shortcut and asked them to follow me. It was already dark and again I took a wrong turning - instead of coming home on a well-lit dual carriageway, it was up the twists and turns of a mountain road. Fortunately I know this road but, it was like driving with two bottles of ink strapped to my eyes.
We arrived home at almost ten o'clock. I put the kettle on and thought lets unwind and watch the news with a nice cup of tea and the next thing I knew it was 3am. I was truly a lost soul that day.
published by Mike Thompson | 14th January 2018
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