Not great weather. The air was softly textured with drizzle, so fine it enveloped me like a hangover. Though I also had a hangover, the product of a convivial stay in Bath last night, which enveloped me like drizzle. It wasn’t cold, or warm, or dry, or humid. But it was grey. Cardiff looked grim; the man in the loo warned me to watch my bags – ‘they’re sharp as wolves here’.
It was a slog along the side of the Taff, following the involved crisses and crosses of the trail. The scenery wasn’t inspiring. I had fish and chips in curry sauce in Tongwynlais – only five miles out, and already having lunch! – and the fish was horrible, tasteless and bloated with stodgy batter. The sauce was OK at least. I took the comedy option to push my bike up and past Castell Coch, and clattered down the woods back to the tarmac trail. I was tired, it was grey, the ride was dull…
…but I had an experience in Aberfan. Like the other towns en route it is drab and messy, a tangle of pebbledash terraces, wet streets and graffitied bus shelters. I wanted to know about the Memorial Garden, mentioned on the map: I stopped an old man.
He knew all too well. He’d lost his daughter on 21 October 1966, one of the 116 children and 28 adults who died. He’d been down the pit on the day and hadn’t heard till 11. He said they’d known about sliding problems for years; the headmaster had complained about it. We’re all to blame, he said. He pointed out the site of the tip, now crossed by the Taff Trail. Heavy rain had swelled a blocked culvert which seeped into Pantglas tip no. 7; the top slid down that day, riding on the sheet of water, and engulfed the school. A main carrying water to Cardiff burst under the pressure and followed the landslide with a flood.
‘They didn’t have a chance’, he said. I was in tears. When it happened, I was six, watching it on our old telly in Ferriby. He was my age now. She’d have been my age. He’d put a stained glass window in the garden. It had been vandalised six times, by stones or airguns. Eventually they gave up.
I had a look at the Garden. I was in tears again.I rode on to Merthyr Tydfil, another dreary place, but decided to stay overnight. The nice people in the TIC suggested a cheap (£16) B&B, and I bedded down there, watching England’s Euro 2000 campaign start brilliantly (2-0 up vs Portugal) and then fizzle out (lost 3-2).
Miles today: 33
Miles since Cardiff: 33