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January 7, 2017 By Andy Ross

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Wales

Over Christmas we spent time in Wales and found some Very Interesting things...

Medieval churches, old woollen mills, coal mining villages, wild and dramatic scenery; Wales was a revelation. We even turned up fossils on the beach at Penarth, a real source of inspiration for patterns.

It was an exciting trip with inspiration and a lot of history thrown in. And, from Welsh double cloth (like the piece in the picture (left) of an old blanket at Solva Mill (right)

to John Piper textiles and stained glass in St Mary's Church in Swansea, there are some real treasures. 

St David's Cathedral in the smallest city in the UK has been a site of pilgrimage for more than 800 years. On a windy and wet day we went to see the building and were not disappointed. 

Getting there is dramatic enough with winding roads, sea views and stone walls lining the route, but the cathedral and other buildings are truly worth a visit. These pictures are of the cathedral building, the interior and ornate ceiling and the needlepoint kneelers in the choir. While we were there, a small choir started to sing in plainchant. What more could one want as an experience?

But that is not the most ornate interior we visited. Have you been to fabulous Cardiff Castle? It must surely rank up there with the best of them. All sorts of influences, nature, world cultures and ideas in a glorious mashup of colour and patterns. Created for the richest man in the world at the time, this gothic fantasy is just that; completely fantastic. 

John Piper in Swansea was completely unexpected. 

A chance visit to St Mary's, a church in the middle of town, "just because it looks interesting", brought stained glass windows and an altar cloth, commissioned after the church was bombed during the Second World War and all designed by Mr Piper.A real treat. 

And while on the subject of churches, we visited one just outside Cardiff which is in the process of uncovering its medieval paintings, 

and then found a recreation of what that sort of decoration would have looked like in St Fagans Museum of Welsh Life - picture left. Isn't that sumptuous? Of course, there was weaving and spinning on display in some of the houses at the Museum, which is an open-air display of historic buildings, lovingly moved and rebuilt to show how life was in Wales right up until the 1950's. 

But perhaps the highlight of the whole trip was that I got the chance to sing in Swansea's concert venue, the Brangwyn Hall. Surrounded by Frank Brangwyn's huge panels of the breadth of Britain's Empire in the middle of the last century, a song from New Zealand seemed to be appropriate. It is a beautiful venue with fantastic acoustics and I am very proud to have been allowed to see the panels and to sing Pokarekare Ana there. 

There is lots more to Wales than I knew. Now we can't wait for another visit!