Tintern Abbey (May 14)

Today we traveled to Cardiff, Wales, by way of Tintern Abbey which was the first Cistercian Foundation (9 May 1131) in Wales and only the second in Britain. It, like so much else, fell into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century (thank you, Henry VIII). While Bob took many pictures, there is more information here and pictures here. Sadly, the stones are being destroyed from the inside out and trying to save them is costly and time consuming.

The great west window has, below it, boarded up doors and, above them, an oval cut-out that would have contained a Mary statue like the one to the right. All Cistercian Abbeys were dedicated to her.

Apparently, their water system was very innovative for the times.

An unexpected highlight of the day was a demonstration by a falconer. Before the demonstration began, Marilyn noticed a woman with a baby in her arms, a 2-3 year-old girl, and about a 5 year-old boy across the way. The little girl had followed her older brother to climb on some ruins. Marilyn pointed this out to Bob who walked over to see if he could help the mother by watching the little girl to make sure she was safe. The mother got up and she and Bob walked around the ruin to supervise. Mom said that they were very independent and adventurous, but that the young girl had a tendency to feel like she could do anything her brother could do, so it was good that we checked. Bob’s good deed for the day.

The man giving the demonstration had told us he was not really a falconer but did these demonstrations as both entertainment and a way to teach about the environment and culture around the birds. He had 5 or 6 birds, mostly tethered, in a fenced area beneath a large tree. He had let the owl loose because he thought she would just go up in the tree. Instead, she took off for the abbey and was still there 1 1/2 hours later. We asked if she would come back and he paused and said he hoped so. Before the demonstration began he asked everyone to keep their dogs back away from the demonstration area and to put up any food. When he flew the smaller bird, he asked everyone to sit down and be still as he didn’t want the fast flying bird to be attracted and fly into anyone.

Bob returning from his good deed with the woman and children in the background.

This vulture (similar to the American Bald Eagle) has a wing span of 8 feet and, compared to the little guy to the right, really lumbered to get off the ground.

This guy is some kind of hybrid – larger than a peregrine – seen here “guarding” his kill (food from the falconer). He flew around at 80 MPH. Pretty impressive site.

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