From my town to my old town

Monday 16th April, I took the 8 20am train from Gilfach Fargoed to my town Cardiff, the place I was born, schooled and grew up. I was picking up a Freya Stark book, from Waterstones. On the train I noticed I was the only person in carriage reading a book, everyone wore buds in their ears no one spoke, it was unsettling. I tried to make a conversation with a female passenger who got on at Caerphilly, she nodded smiled then plumbed in her mobile phone to her buds. Train arrived at my destination and the weather was dry with a westerly wind. I walked down the Hays, to Bute Street. Where my Great grandfather Stephan James lived in 1861, he was an egg merchant and a Welsh speaker. Onto the dock past where my grandfather James Scantlebury ran away to sea aged 14. To  the dock area where my Great great-grandfather John Scantlebury was a dock hobbler, when younger he was  a rigger. His father Abel Scantlebury was a master mariner and he came from Cornwall via Swansea, sailed the copper boats and sometimes ill-gotten gains.

I remember Cardiff docks went it was a dock, the smells, sounds and the night life. Especially The Big Windsor & Little Windsor, I had many a good night there. I do not like the Docks now all concrete, tall glass buildings. I like to capture the old dock’s, pontoons and old dock gates as in the photo below.

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My great, great- grandfather James Griffin, who came from Ireland was a dock gate man. I felt spits of rain and I put my waterproof back on and my blue beany. Made my way over the barrage to Penarth Dock. My mother when she was a young girl would walk the underground subway from Penarth to Grangetown. The subway is still there but has been closed for over 50 years.

Flat Holm, Steep Holm, Penarth head jutting out, round the corner Penarth pier in the greyness of Mor Hafon.

My town to my old town 010.jpg Cyclist pass, dog walkers and tourist. My mother’s family came from Penarth. My Great great -Grandfather William Cheeseman left the green of Dorset, to become coal trimmer at Cogan dock, a dirty underpaid job, the coal dust smothered his lungs. Remnants of Penarth dock beach is still there and I loved sitting here listening to the tide turn, lapping the old dock wall.

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I sat a while and echoes of the conversation I had with my friend Steve King came to my mind. While out walking to hear Cuckoo Sunday 15th April. I was told by my bird watching friend Lee, that Steve had died. Steve was a manager of Bargoed library a socialist like myself and a big Bob Dylan fan too. Steve left Bargoed library suddenly after Christmas, some said he took early retirement. In my gut I knew it was an illness. Steve was good at his job and I always enjoyed our chats. I used to run a debating group at Bargoed library but CCBC needed the money so they hired the room out that I used, for other projects. Steve supported me in my poetry,  my published work and events that I organised.

Remnants of Penarth dock beach.

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I spied a wren as I crunched on my apple. I walked towards the cliff face holding Penarth Headland up and was shocked to see it so fragile.

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Is it me, I see more dog walkers now than ever. I am not keen on dog owners who leave their pets off their leads (a dog is a pet not a little girl, boy or baby, a pet! it is there to guard the house to protect the owner)  Silence is broken by a woman who talked loud into her mobile phone, her two dogs were off the lead and were running wild. The one nearly tripped me over, then jumped all over me. I shouted “Get off the phone and control your dogs” Dog owners your pet should be on a lead AT ALL TIMES!

Walk up to Penath town. I was living in Penarth before I moved up in the world, to the Rhymney Valley. To St Augustin church, this church sits on the headland of Penarth and many years ago was a good beacon for sailors. In the distance among the tree branches and the concrete of Penarth and Cardiff, the beautiful Rhymney and Sirhowy valley

My town to my old town 015.jpg A very old, now not used, public drinking fountain outside St Augustine and the church itself. Merthyr song writer Joseph Parry is buried here.



I walked down church lane, I used to enjoy walking this lane in autumn, the colours were stunning. The lane from both ends.


From the lane I walked to Cliff park I really love this park and when I lived in Penarth, sometimes in the summer I would take strawberries and cream and eat while looking at the view. The sun light glittering on Mor Hafen touched me deeply. The Holm Islands and Breen Down. beyond the pier, Lavernock Point and North Devon hills.


Past Bradford place and my old flat, down Beech lane, through the Kymin and the stick thin legs of Penarth pier.

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As a child, I spent many a happy time at Penarth, St Marys Well Bay and Sully.


The photo below reminded of the view I had from my bedsit window, when I lived at Bradford Place. A poets view but back then I was young and lacked wisdom.

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Up through Alexander Park where my siblings and I in the 60’s played roly poly and run amuck, while our Mam looked lovely, looking like Grace Kelly, roasting away in her homemade amber solar. Bluebells among the buttercups and a carpet of wild garlic. I breathed the past and smells and I felt good.


Looked above and there was a Jay, left branch.

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Up the dolly steps

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On to my favourite cafe, Foxy’s cafe, run by Sian Fox. I  read many poems there. The food was good, coffee delicious and the welcome was lovely too.

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On the train journey home, I had a text from my birdwatching friend Lee Taswell. Saying he heard the cuckoo 8am at Mardy, on Gelligear & Merthyr Common. I got off at Bargoed train station and despite having walked 7 miles around Cardiff and Penarth, I walked 3 more miles. Up Parc Cwm Darren trail past the dam, to hear the cuckoo. all I heard was a westerly wind and lambs bleating.

Saturday April 14th I walked out to hear the cuckoo I saw a pair of Housemartins and my first ever pair of Lapwings. I cried with delight. I watched as they synchronised each other and their courting song went to my soul and my spirit soared.


Remember be mindful not mind full.


2 thoughts on “From my town to my old town”

  1. Thanks for taking me on that wander, Julie. I love what you pick out to tell us and show us of the area you wander and enjoyed how you mixed the area’s history with your family’s own and hearing about your ancestors’ jobs. I have to say that Scantlebury and Cheeseman are brilliant names. I might have to use those in something.

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