Made in Roath 2016

Made in Roath 2016

Friday, 1 May 2015

Red Route March eve

Less than 12 hours until the Red Route March through the South Wales Valleys to Roath in Cardiff, a distance of 25 miles, the second year Made in Roath has organised this cultural stroll for Made in Spring.

I made the journey last year along the Taff Trail. I also grew up in the valleys and  one of the proudest things I can say is that I am a valleys boy, I grew up alongside the Taff Trail too. I played on it as a kid, stumbled home upon it as a teenager and frequently made excuses not to walk upon it as an adult. It’s easier to do this as an adult, there is an abundance of reasons and excuses you can find not do something, especially if it's a cultural or leisure activity. There are so many excuses to choose from ranging from "I'm working" to “I'm far too busy with other projects", or the simple excuse of having a "quiet day". Its fairy easy to find an excuse not to walk along the Taff Trail by telling yourself “I’m going to have a quiet day and do it tomorrow”. We say these things to ourselves all the time and when the months and years have gone by we often realise that we possible have had too many “quiet days”. Quiet days have a nasty habit of adding up to a quiet life.

Another excuse I’ve told myself is the “well its not really my thing” when in truth I haven’t tried to find out if it is my kinda thing. I’ve quite often discovered that my kind of thing is actually pretty wide and encompasess quite a lot of actives that I first thought was “ definitely not my kinda thing”. Performance art for example, I strongly felt through out art college that performance art was not my kinda thing only to discover when I eventually attended a performance I rather enjoyed it and I now hold performance art as “one of my things”, joining the ranks of silent movies, American literature, ballet, radio 4, philosophy and Dolly Parton to name but a few things, which I now regard as “one of my things”.

That’s really what the Red Route March is about. It’s not simply about walking from one place to another, its about finding the time to enjoy our culture and heritage. My main memory from last year was the reminders of our heritage, you don’t occasionally see the odd historical item in the Valleys, history in the Valleys isn’t so much here and there but more under every foot step you take, as you walk, history walks with you. It doesn’t wait upon blue plaques on random street’s to occasionally catch your eye and mention a person or event but more warmly, welcomely beckons and invites you down strange alley ways and then hits you over the head with a big stick of history, then you wake up dazed and amazed, three days later on a boat to Murmansk not really sure how you got there but finding you quite enjoyed the ride. You don’t walk past history in the valleys, there’s so much of it you’re confronted by it at every step.

 Merthyr alone can clam the first Red flag being raised there and the start of the first train in 1804 which ended in Abercynon. Abercynon can clam one of eight German master spies caught there in WW1 and the Glamorgan canal home. Pontypridd had the longest train station in the world, the authors of the Welsh National anthem which began life as a poem defining the land of our fathers.

Not to mention the secret history of course. The unofficial history which ever valleys town boasts, the history that may not be strictly true but is still pretty entertaining, for examples Pontypridd has a street named Broadway, according to local legend a great actor is reportedly to of requested that his ashes be scattered on Broadway, unfortunately they thought he meant Broadway New York and ended up there but he really mean’t Broadway Ponty.  It’s of course probably not true but still an amusing urban myth that I told on last years walk. In return I remember hearing the tale of the man from Merthyr with a man shaped hole in his kitchen wall. Apparently the local police were in persuit of a person of a criminal nature, who they chased into this gentleman's home, the chase was so intense that the pursued failed to notice the quite noticeable feature in the man’s home of his kitchen wall and ran straight at and through  it, which of course slowed the man and allowed the lads in blue to apprehend there pray. The man now being left with a man size hole in his kitchen decided to keep it as it allowed quicker access to the kitchen and the house still has, to this day a man sized hole leading into his kitchen. This is the kind of local, personal, unofficial history you only hear on activities like the Red Route March, it’s the kind of history that you’ll never find in the official history books, or a documentary but lives and exists with the local people and personal word of an area. Another tale is the Granddad with the drift mine in his garden shed. It appears a Grandson had the somber task of pulling down his Grandfathers home made garden shed after his death. The shed was at the end of his garden and was placed up against the side of the valley.  When removing a back wooden wall panel he made a surprising discovery, the quite startling find of a small dark well constructed tunnel leading into the valley mountain side. Confused with this discovery he asked his Grandmother who informed him that during the miner’s strike of the 80s his Grandfather and his mates, to make some extra cash and get some fuel, dug and built a small drift mine leading into the coal stream of the mountain from his back garden shed. This he and his friends operated as a small mine until the strike ended. Which is pretty resourceful to be fair.

It’s these tales that stay with us about a place, unfortunately there is another side to the valleys that we should discuss but that's a better tale for after tomorrows march. In the mean time I walk tomorrow remembering this culture and these stories and look forward to being entertained by more tales and experiences on the march. So for now I shall wish you a good night/Nos da and hopefully see you tomorrow on the Taff Tail or in Made in Spring. 
 Best wishes Dai 

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