Saturday 4 March 2017

This morning we are off to Pant (it is a place not a shortage of breath) which is at the northern end of Merthyr Tydfil.  The first part of the journey which had been so slow through the roadworks on Thursday on the Heads of the Valley road was not too bad this time and we get to Pant in plenty of time to go and buy some papers and then sit in the car park to do some sudoku – well it is Saturday and therefore sudoku day!  It is raining and not very warm at all today, much the same as yesterday – perhaps even colder.  Not ideal weather for a narrow gauge railway ride!

The trackbed was originally the Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil Railway, opening in 1859 and closing in 1964.  The current station is marginally to the West of the original site as it was not available when the narrow gauge railway was first built.  The new narrow gauge railway opened in 1980; it is of 1ft 113/4in gauge.

Loco no 2 and three coaches appear for our ride on the Brecon Mountain Railway – and surprisingly the coaches steadly fill up more than I had expected.  No 2 is a Baldwin locomotive, built in 1930, a 4-6-2, originally built for the Eastern Province Cement Company in Port Elizabeth, South Africa and acquired in about 1990.  At the time of our visit it is the only steam loco with the power to haul a train up the gradients.  Another locomotive is being completed to share the duties.

Since my last visit (in the early 1980’s) the line has been extended twice and on the outward journey we do not stop at the previous terminus of Pontsticill which is at the southern end of the Pontsticill Reservoir.  Indeed it is fair to say that Pant station is also completely different and it is clearly a much better developed railway with significant new investment.  But that is true of so many lines over such a long period.

Still some great scenic views as we head towards the hills.  The most recently opened section of the line is in forested area.  The new terminus is at Torpantau and further extension is I suspect unlikely as the railway feels to be a decent length of run and the outward journey, particularly the last section, is certainly an uphill task for the loco.  The northern terminus is also not quite on the original trackbed.

On the return journey we pause for a while at Pontsticill as the loco goes off to take water (and I suspect to clean the fire and a good oil round).  The passengers can (as most do) head for the tea room but there are also stored vehicles which can be inspected and stretch passenger legs.  Probably nicer on a warmer day!

However I am really surprised by the level of patronage as I had half expected an almost empty train – but by whatever means they are clearly getting good support.

Lots of photos can be found here.

We return home to read the papers after some light refreshment at Pant.  Come the evening we trek through the back roads (I suspect the sat nav is having a moment) to Restaurant 1861.  I am not sure we do not almost go round in a circle.

By and large we choose restaurants which are well regarded in the Waitrose “Good Food Guide” and hence the inclusion of this restaurant.  Jackie kindly posted this on her Facebook page:

“Umm!  That was interesting.  Started off well with confit and smoked goose for me and fish soup for Richard.  Then the driest venison in history.  No pud for me as I never throw good money after bad, but we shared some cheeses, so were served one pre dessert (a tiny cup of orange and pumpkin soup) between us with 2 teaspoons!  On objection, I was told is was a complimentary treat from the kitchen.  Needless to say, there was no complimentary tip from the diners.  AND they charge to use a credit card. So a debit card was used.”

My main course was hearts from the daily menu which I rather liked and I enjoyed.  So we have slight disparity of views over our main courses.  I do feel that the lack of a pre-dessert for Jackie was simply wrong and since this was experienced we are moving to the point where credit card surcharges will largely be abolished as I understand it.  Tonight was a disappointment.

The homeward journey was by the main roads rather than the back roads – which requires almost going into Abergavenny and out again.  But better than the narrow backroads after a glass of wine.