The International Steam Pages

Just a Pile of Stones, 2012

For convenience I have now grouped lifestyle illustrated features by topic:

This page is just one of several describing aspects of our '2012 new life', for earlier and later pages use the West Gloucestershire link above.

Yuehong's favourite aunt was our guest in the UK for a couple of months. While she speaks not a word of English, her husband had the benefit of an education which included medical training at an American run university in Beijing. As such, he speaks English even better than Yuehong and he very much wanted to make the most of what could well be a once in a lifetime visit. So off and on while they were here, I acted as chauffeur and showed them the best of 'Middle England and Wales', which was a marvellous chance for me to carry on Yuehong's education.

We presented them with a list of possibilities for day trips from Mitcheldean and Stonehenge was their (OK, his) top choice. It's a well organised 'tourist trap', it set us back nearly 30 pounds, but it did include a commentary from an audio device in the language of your choice (including Chinese). No doubt the vast profits generated here will help subsidise some of English Heritage's less fashionable responsibilities.

Living near the Welsh border, we have plenty of slightly newer piles of stones which can be viewed for free, and some of these were included in our excursions. First up was our own local mini-Stonehenge outside Trellech near Monmouth, the so-called Harold's Stones, followed by the remains of an iron furnace up the Angidy Valley from Tintern. Built in 1650, fuelled with charcoal and powered by a water wheel, it lasted until 1826. Throughout this time, this part of the Wye Valley was quite industrialised with wire works in particular. It is even said that brass was first made in Tintern in 1568 (See

Tourists have been coming to Tintern Abbey for over 200 years, Turner painted it in 1794 at which stage he would have approached up the River Wye. To my mind, it's best viewed from a distance:

Rather less complete are St. Oswald's Priory in Gloucester and Llanthony Priory in the Black Mountains:

The border area is peppered with old castles, erected by the English and Normans to control the pesky Welsh. Unfortunately, climbing the ramparts at the likes of Chepstow Castle and Goodrich Castle would have been beyond the old couple so we just took in exterior views of Skenfrith Castle, Grosmont Castle, Raglan Castle and Bronllys Castle:

For me, my favourite pile of stones is rather more complete, the fortified Monnow Bridge at Monmouth which I walked through on many occasions when I lived in the town:

And afterwards, where better to relax than at my old watering hole, The Boat at Redbrook (Lower Penallt):

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson