Some months ago I booked a holiday on the Isle of Man. I had been on the Island a full 24 hours before it occurred to me that once again I was following in the footsteps of Thomas Ruddy, who worked there between 1863 and 1865. He had chosen the Island over an tempting vacancy in London, since it offered him a further career enhancement in due course:
I had the offer of two situations the same day, one was to go to be journeyman
at Lambeth Palace London, which I declined; the other to go to the Isle of Man in a place where I was to get the foreman’s place when he left, this I accepted.
A web search showed The Nunnery to be about a mile and a half from our hotel in Douglas, so early one morning I set out in search of it. Past the harbour and railway station over the river bridge, and a little way up the hill, I came across a promising- looking gatehouse.
I had discovered that The Nunnery is now part of the University of the Isle of Man, and a private site. A knock on the impressive wooden door brought a gatekeeper, who confirmed that it was indeed The Nunnery. He invited me to explore the site further, but time was pressing, and already a sprint would be required to return me to the hotel in time for the day’s excursion. Thomas lost out in favour of a journey up Snaefell on the electric railway, but I had tracked him down and followed his footsteps to the very gate of his workplace in the 1860’s.
The previous day had brought an expedition to the superb museum in Peel, the House of Mannanen, housed in Peel’s former railway station. Lingering in the vestibule, a familiar name caught my eye:
Here was my link with Henry Robertson, whose eldest son was Henry Beyer Robertson, named after his Godfather, Charles Beyer. Robertson was co-founder in 1854 of Beyer, Peacock and Co with Charles Beyer and Richard Peacock. Based at Gorton Foundry, in Gorton, Manchester, it would become one of the world’s leading locomotive manufacturers. Robertson knew Beyer because he supplied some of the locomotives to his railways. He was a sleeping partner but his connections with the Great Western Railway proved useful in securing orders.
On the recommendation of Thomas Brassey, Robertson provided the loan, when the original loan of banker Charles Geach fell through. Robertson and Beyer subsequently became close friends for life; Beyer was godfather of Robertson’s daughter in 1854 and of his son Sir Henry Beyer Robertson ten years later.
It is now twelve years since I first opened the trunk of Ruddy and Pamplin family papers left in my keeping by Thomas’ grandson the Revd. Denys Ruddy. They have been fascinating, with many discoveries and opportunities arising, together with a sense of responsibility for interpreting, publicising and handing on the papers and artefacts. This is complicated as they are not related to my own family story.
So far, among other things, the enterprise has taken me:
* To the Garden Museum in London, where the journals of William Pamplin the elder (1768 – 1864) have now been donated.
* To the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle, where I sat with Queen Victoria’s journal (as edited by her daughter Beatrice) to read the Queen’s account of her visit in 1889 to Palé Hall
* To Cyfarftha Castle Museum in Merthyr Tydfil to see the two detailed drawings by William Pamplin the elder of the water wheel and works there, see here .
* Correspondence with the Natural History Museum where I discover that Thomas Ruddy donated over one thousand fossil specimens collected by him from the Bala series of rocks.
* To the Grosvenor Museum in Chester to donate the Kingsley Medal awarded to Thomas in 1889, with the related correspondence.
Sadly, attempts to communicate with the present owners of Palé Hall have met with no response.
Sometimes, the task ahead seems daunting. I am as yet not even a third of the way through transcribing the journals: occasionally I wonder whether it is all worth while. But it is these moments when Thomas Ruddy, his friend William Pamplin and his employer Henry Robertson intrude into my life – sometimes at the most unexpected moments – I know they and their stories will not let me go. I remain firmly in their grip.
Huw Lloyd’s Pulpit, oil on panel by James Stark, 1794-1858 from the collection of the V &A Museum. Visited and climbed by Thomas in June 1883
Thomas Ruddy, at age 41 was very well settled in the Bala area. He was obviously trusted by his employers the Robertson family, was well- known in the area and beyond as a naturalist, geologist, judge of local produce and leader of geological and scientific expeditions. It would seem that by the year 1883 the man and the landscape he inhabited were at one.
He was the father of four children, three by his late first wife Mary, and a new baby son with his second wife Frances Harriet. His friendship with the eminent naturalist and former London bookseller William Pamplin and his second wife Margaret was warm and firmly established. Thomas had in effect become that ‘gentleman’ he dreamed of being when he first chose gardening as his profession.
The Journal entries for the year reflect the settled state of Thomas’ life as he entered his middle years. Even the harsh conditions of the winter and their effect on the garden could not disturb his equilibrium.
April 1st, Sunday. Nothing particular to mention, except the weather so far. It was changeable all January, very fine most of February, but exceedingly cold nearly the whole of March. The wind was piercingly cold, there was a lot of snow, and hard frost –culminating in 19 ½ deg. on Saturday 10th. Nearly 15 inches of snow fell during the month. It was the coldest March I ever remember. A good many things were injured by it in the garden and
As the weather became warmer, geology expeditions continued as usual:
May 22nd I went geologizing to the hills and mountains above Cynwych [SJ 056 411] It was a very warm day so that I was very tired on getting home. I took particular note of the beds on the ridge of the Berwyns between the two roads going over the Berwyns south of Moel Ferna – I brought home some good fossils.
May 30 (Wednesday) I had a short time at my hunting ground near Gelli Grin where I found a starfish, and the first so far perfect I ever found so that I was highly pleased.
Saturday June 2nd I went to Rhosygwaliau, from there to Caerglas, then along the ridge to Cornilau, from there to Brynbedwog, from there to Gelli Grin, and then home. I had a very fine day and found some good fossils, among which was a rolled up Homalonotus
Via Wikipedia Image by smokeyjbj
On a June 5th Mrs Williams, Frances Harriet’s mother arrived to stay for five weeks, in order to make the acquaintance of her new grandson. A number of excursions were undertaken, among them this expedition to Ffestiniog by rail and foot. Once again we see Thomas very accomplished and lively writing style.
In July the family took advantage of the growing availability of photography to record the arrival of the new baby:
Tuesday July 3rd Frances, Mother, baby and I went to Llangollen by the 9.35 train. The principal object in going was to have baby photographed. After he got “taken” we had some refreshments, and after that we set out for the top of Castell Dinas Bran. The donkey boys made several efforts to get us to patronise them, and a ragamuffin of a girl offered to sing us a song either in Welsh or in English for a halfpenny. After that an old lady offered to sell us guide books. It was a very warm day so that we found it no easy climb, but by repeated rests and I carrying baby we got up all right. It was the first time for Mother to be on top, and it was good work for a lady of 75 years of age. The ladies had a good long rest while I explored the hill and the ruins in search of plants, but I got nothing new…
We are left with a charming portrait of a day out for a late Victorian family in Mid Wales, but sadly the baby photograph is not to be found – perhaps edited out by its adult subject during his curating of the family papers in the first part of the 20th century.
Thomas was in demand for judging local horticultural shows, and of course he could always be side-tracked by an object of local history!
Tuesday July 10th Mr. Evans of Rhiwlas and I had a days judging of Cottage Gardens in connection with the Corwen Flower Show. Mr. Bennett of Rug met us at Llandrillo with a trap and drove us about from garden to garden. We went from Llandrillo to Cynwydd, from there over the hill by Caenmawr, Salem Chapel and Pont-pren to Llawerbettws, from there to Rug, from Rug to Llansantffraid. We had tea with Mr. Owen and then crossed by the fine bridge spanning the Dee to the Corwen road, and then on to Corwen.
We had a very good dinner at the Crown and after awarding the prizes we went about the town. I saw the shaft of the ancient cross in the churchyard, which is 8 feet in height. I also saw what is called Owen Glyndwr’s dagger, but it is only a rude cross. The ancient cross seems to be early Christian, 7th – 10th century, I would say. Most of the gardens we inspected were very clean and well-cropped. I was appointed to take notes of them and to draw up a Report of them. The day was very fine, with the exception of a shower between Cynwedd and Salem Chapel.
At the age of 41 Thomas could look back with some satisfaction at his fulfilment of his erly ambition to raise his status and satisfaction in life through the medium of gardening.
Newlyweds Thomas and Frances Harriet returned from their brief honeymoon in Folkestone on the 19th October. They continued their holiday in London at F.H’s home, making exhaustive excursions to numerous places of interest in London. Thomas gives pages of description in detail of each place, especially the British Museum, describing each room, probably copied from a current guide book st a later date.
Meanwhile, on the 19th October, his friend and now relative by marriage, William Pamplin, Frances Harriet’s uncle, wrote to congratulate the couple.
William was 75 years old when he penned this letter of congratulations to Thomas in his minute, precise and exquisite hand on pages measuring 7 x 4.5 inches. The black margin probably relates to mourning for Sarah Williams, half sister of Frances Harriet by her father’s first marriage, who had been living with William and Margaret Pamplin, and who had died in the previous February.
Several themes appear here – William’s great affection for Thomas and his delight that in marrying F.H, Thomas could now be considered as nephew. Then there is religious fervour, often apparent in William’s social discourse. There is reference in Thomas’ diaries about William giving out religious tracts at Llandderfel funerals. Then there is the shared love of natural science. Thomas had obviously taken time on his Kent homeymoon to collect plant specimens and send them to William, much to his delight.
Here is a wonderful little insight into a very significant and fruitful friendship.
Llandderfel, Corwen, North Wales
October 19, 1881
My very dear Friend and Kinsman,
It is not that we have not been occupied in the thinking About you both, about you all, in talking about you and you’re happy doing is since we parted at Carrog – neither have we been backward in our earnest prayers for you – that every blessing may attend your union – although hitherto we have not written – (you know we shall not be very distant neighbours) – So I wrote to my dear Sister and to my dear Nephew first;
Nothing could be more delightful to me than to read those 3 most interesting Letters which you and the one which my dear Niece now your beloved Wife so kindly have written to us it was the most good and most considerate on your parts to have written. We have both read them all over & over with increased pleasure and with many thanks and much praise to the Gracious Father of all our Mercies for the many comforts in connection with such an event as a Union for Life; everything connected with it down to its minutest details were also kindly ordered for your mutual comfort and pleasure that it really is quite a pleasure to go over the whole of the circumstances in mind and in thoughts & that tho’ we could not be present actually in person we seemed to be in spirit and I may say with truth we did, and could “joy and rejoice with you all “in the whole event and in its attending circumstances.’ – as Mr Pailin says the 13th day of October will be, may it ever be, a Red Letter day in your calendar for both, mutually, being now one – or Heirs together &c. The talking about days reminds me that this Day the 19th day of October is dear William’s birthday – we wish him many many happy returns of it – but I shall put this in – is that he may not have many more until he finds what you have done – a good Wife – for we know the Word of God on our side for this –for we know the Word of God on our side for this –
‘ He that findeth a Wife findeth a Good Thing and obtaineth favour of the Lord’ Prov. XVIII.22 – and to this I can by experience set my seal as a witness for the Truth – once and again ( = twice that is ) so I can recommend it to others.-
Thanks many for the sight of those two letters very many kind and friendly ones Mr. Pailin & Mr Shrubsole they are carefully laid up for you on your return home – why all the friends and neighbours far only know you desire me to present their warmest congratulations upon your marriage ( lists neighbour’s & wellwishers)
We have had a fearful storm as you can see by the Papers – it is most remarkable (up in East Wood and elsewhere too) how the destruction of the Timber trees is for most part in lines or as in furrows in the ploughed fields, in particular spots- The road to Bethel was completely blocked, so the road beyond Blaen y Cwm by trees uprooted and laid fairly right across the road – The destruction it has been great also in farm buildings in roofs of dwelling houses and such.
I shall now refer to your most interesting Letter 1st the little box of plants we only finished overhauling it last night the contents for most interesting to me – everyone has been carefully laid down and registered 19! Yes no less than 19 species have been made out by name beside two of whom I find myself unable to speak positively as to species – & of all of ‘em Thesium linophyllum Pleases me most. I think – of all the Counties ever botanised by me I think my favourite was Kent, perhaps in one sense of as it was my first love and certainly for the most interesting and rare plants with which it abounds. – with what pleasure I have ransacked it’s chalk hills and especially a delight is used to be, to go poking into every hole and corner, in some of those interesting overgrown and deserted old Chalk Pits. – I cannot now think I see the beautiful and interesting Silene nectans ( the Dover catchfly) just back on the very verge of the perpendicular short chalk cliffs a short distance west of Dover near where the Samphire grows.
After you were gone we were quite as if one of our own family had left us. I was on the point are often of saying to Margaret I dare say we shall see friend Ruddy tonight and we shall be heartily glad I can assure, fairly home and stationary so near us and that for good. I’m sorry (as I always am) our neighbour Mr and Mrs Pryce have gone off to Holland or somewhere; andwhen he came in to say goodbye, he told us he would be about three Sundays – of which last Sunday was the first. Dear Margaret is so so, we have been out very little even to Blaen y Cwm, partly on account of the unfavourable weather we have had. The red flag is flying at Palé which is all that we can say about it. If you have that’s fine sunlight as we have here you will enjoy the ride back to London – we are united kindest love to you both – to our dearest sister and to my dear nephew. Believe me to be your very affectionate and attached Uncle William and Margaret Pamplin
Thomas cleverly chose his 1881 honeymoon venue with his new bride Frances Harriet as a fashionable seaside town with access to some of the best, most interesting and most available geology in the south east of England. This edited version of his journal for the six days shows his abiding curiosity in the world around him. Frances must have been content to enjoy a honeymoon which was hardly tranquil. For the full version of the journal entry, with many interesting details, see here.
We left London Bridge for Folkestone at 4.43 and got to Folkestone by half past six o’clock. It was raining on our arrival, but we soon got into comfortable quarters in Edinburgh Castle Temperance Hotel, situated in Tontine Street. It was a very convenient situation, being near the post office and the harbour. The night was very stormy and wet.
Friday the 14th The day was very unpleasant, as the wind blew with great power, still we rambled till noon along the sea and Sandgate Road. After luncheon we went eastward to the ‘Warren’ where we got several rare plants and land shells, and also had a fine view of the sea in its rough state. We had a fine view of the chalk cliffs, extending from the Warren to Dover. The storm of this day was terrific, all over England, and did a great deal of damage to buildings, trees, and to shipping.
Saturday the 15th We both went to Dover, where we arrived at mid day. We walked along the harbour, passing the Marine Parade, which seems a fashionable resort, with a pleasant sea view. We saw ships from various nations in the harbour, many of them being from the Baltic. We passed the Castle Jetty and got under the Castle Cliffs. Here we saw chalk cliffs rising vertically to the height of 200 to 300 feet. At the foot of the cliffs I found several rare plants, some of which were new to me I also found the Kentish snail, the striped snail and the silky snail. We got on top of the cliff by a tunnel cut through the chalk; there was a stone to say that the elevation was 75 feet above the sea.. Here we had a fair view of the French coast direct south-east. I saw many flints in the chalk, but could get no fossils. We descended again by the same route and went round the foot of the cliff until we found our way up to the Castle. We were both greatly pleased with the view from the Castle hill. Beneath us lay the town, hemmed in by a semicircle of high chalk hills and cliffs on the land side, and the sea on the other side. Far across the English Chanel we could see France. Many stately ships were going up and down the Channel.
The Castle seems a place of great strength, and is, with its outworks of great extent, 30 acres. There is a dry ditch outside the wall. The wall has round and square towers. Near the church, which stands a short way from the Citadel, I saw the Roman Pharos, which is said to be one of the finest pieces of Roman masonry in the kingdom, and probably built during the rule of the Emperor Claudius. It stands at an elevation of 550 feet above sea level. I could see that it had courses of bricks about every four or five feet, with stone work between. The top was embattled and it had several windows. It was as nearly as possible bottle-shaped. The masonry was much eaten away by the weather, but the bricks were but little weathered. I picked up a piece of brick which the storm of the previous day had dislodged. So I can say ‘It is an ill wind which blows nobody good’. There is a deeply marked fishbone impression on the brick – it was the only piece of brick to be got, so that I was very pleased to find it.
On descending from the castle we got fine views. We next went through the town until we got to the market square. Here we had luncheon in the Duchess of Kent, an old fashioned hotel, much frequented by farmers and country people. We heard the Kentish dialect spoken by the country people as we sat at luncheon. Owing to their peculiar twang, I had difficulty at first in understanding what was said, but I soon got into it. After luncheon we went into the Museum where we saw a fair general collection.. we next proceeded out of town to Hay Cliff, where we saw the works of the proposed Chanel Tunnel at its base by the side of the railway to Dover. We returned to Dover over the top of the hill known as Shakespeare Cliff, from which I brought a nodule of flint.
The shades of evening were now closing over us. On our way down the steep road into the town, we saw a battery of 18 ton guns. We wandered about till train time, seeing the Lord Warden and Imperial hotels, the Pier, the Calais Dover channel steamer, which is a twin steamer used as a railway boat to convey passengers to and from Dover and Calais. It is a curious ship, being two steamers fastened together, for the sake of steadiness on the sea.
The best street we saw was a very long one called ’Snargate’. There were elegant shops in it, and many civilians and soldiers walking up and down. Between Dover and Folkestone, in a distance of 7 miles, we went through four tunnels, two being nearly a mile each in length – that is Abbotscliff and Shakespeare Cliff tunnels. We got back to the Edinburgh Castle about 9 o’clock, highly pleased with our visit to the interesting and historical town of Dover.
Sunday the 16th We went in the morning g to Folkestone church and heard the Vicar of the church preach. During the afternoon we went along the Lower Sandgate Road until we reached the very pleasant little town of Sandgate, which is about 1 and a half miles from Folkestone. It was a most pleasant walk all the way. On our left we had a pleasant view of the sea, and on our right we had a series of little groves of the dwarf pine, brambly banks, grassy banks, thickets of tamarisk, large patches of the stinking iris, and occasional outcrops of rock in what is known as the ‘Gault’. Sandgate is a bathing resort of great beauty and pleasantly situated. The town is only a long street; the houses being on each side of the road.
From the town we went up a country road to Shorncliffe Camp, which is situated upon a plateau of moderate elevation overlooking Sandgate and the sea. On the North it is overlooked by low chalk hills.
From the camp we went down by a narrow lane, overhung part of the way with copse wood and trees, until we got to the west end of Sandgate and onto the promenade which connects Sandgate with Hythe.We had a very pleasant walk back to Folkestone where we arrived by tea time I was surprised to see standard fig trees at Sandgate as we returned.
In the evening we went to Christchurch, which is a very nice Gothic building of modern date. It seems to be a fashionable church. We had a very fine day and evening.
Monday 17th This was a most lovely day so that we took sandwiches with us to the Warren, where we spent the day botanizing, shell collecting and fossil collecting. We got several fossils out of the Gault clay, which is of a stiff, softish texture. It is easy to get plenty of fossils, but they go to pieces as easily. [An extensive list of shells and plants found follows]
It was one of the most successful botanical finds I ever made in one day.
Tuesday 18th We spent the morning between Folkestone and Sandgate where we found several interesting things. . After luncheon we went to the Warren again; at the west end of it I could see that the Gault clay is much inclined to slip, several serious landslips had occurred, some of them falling into the sea and some slipped away with over 50 yards of new road which will be most difficult to make up again.
[Further list of botanical specimens found, including an unidentified orchid which he took home with him and bloomed next year (1882) proving to be a bee orchid]
We had a nice walk along the sands by the sea which was thickly strewn with blocks of chalk , sticking to which we saw limpets, mussels and other shellfish. This was also a very fine day.
Wednesday 19th We spent the morning exploring the cliffs west of Folkestone and rambling by the sea gathering plants and shells. It was with a good deal of regret that we left our very pleasant retreat at Folkestone and got on our way back to London. We left at 2.17 pm.
[There follows a very detailed account of every stage of the journey, including every station. Here as elsewhere it is obvious that TR kept detailed ‘real time’ notes which he later transcribed.]
Thomas had lost his first wife Mary in June 1879, and by 1881 he was drawing nearer to the Pamplin family, and in particular, to Frances Harriet Williams, niece of his friend William Pamplin. In particular he refers to a significant visit from Frances H and her mother Frances Williams, nee Pamplin, in February 1881.
Walking was always central to Thomas’ life, and several walks are recorded in the journal of the first half of 1881. His friends, made mainly via the Chester Society and further acquaintances recommended by friends from the Society seem to have been central in his rehabilitation following Mary’s death.
A Bank holiday walk on April 18th with Mr. Jebb, whom he met on the highest summit of the Berwyns, took him on a 20 mile round trip, ending with a meal at the ‘smartest’ hotel in Bala, the White Lion. Thomas’ friends were usually from a ‘higher’ echelon of society, as discerned by the scrupulous social order of Victorian Society, but his geological and botanical knowledge gave him the edge in any expedition into the hills.
On May 4th the Vicar of Runcorn, the Revd. William Preston arrived, introduced by a letter from Mr. Shrubsole of the Chester Society, to view Thomas’ fossil collection, and be taken on a fossil hunting expedition.
On May 10thThomas walked with Mr. Dean, the brother of Mrs. Robertson, wife of his employer. Thomas quite frequently spent time in the company of John Dean, who seems to have shared his interest in the countryside, and who no doubt relied on Thomas as guide and interpreter of the environment.
On Tuesday 4th June Thomas set out from William and Margaret Pamplin’s house with Mrs. Williams, mother of Thomas’ future second wife, for a lengthy walk to Pont y Glyn. William was at this time 75 years old, and Frances Williams 73. It is interesting that Frances, who had been a widow since 1866, was visiting alone, since the friendship between Thomas and her daughter had become so close. Was she perhaps visiting to enable Thomas to ask her permission to propose marriage to Frances Harriet?
The walk was about 7 miles, over testing mountainous country, to a height of 430 metres (400 ft) Thomas comments on the sprightly nature of his companions (Margaret Pamplin was younger – only 43 at the time.) From Pont y Glyn they returned by ‘a conveyance’. Would it be necessary to book this in advance, I wonder, or could one find a conveyance in the village, or stop one passing on the road?
To end an exciting day, Thomas records feeling a sizeable earthquake in the evening. his own world was certainly in the process of change. I wonder whether he regarded it as an omen?
During 1880 Widower Thomas had been walking with Frances Harriet Williams, niece of his friend William Pamplin, who lived with her parents in London. See details of their walk here.
A sad event in early 1881 brought Frances Harriet – and presumably her parents Frances and William Williams – back to Llanderfel. Frances Williams was William Williams’ second wife. He had previously been married to Sarah Mason and they had a daughter, Sarah before her death in 1841. Sarah had apparently been living with the Pamplins in Llanderfel, and died there in February 1881. The photograph of Sarah, below, was taken in Denbigh.
Feb 1st Thursday Miss Williams, Mr. Pamplin’s niece died [Sarah Williams, daughter of William Williams & his first wife Sarah Mason. Half sister to Frances Harriet] Miss Williams was an old and valued friend who will be much missed by all who knew her. 2nd (inserted later)I went to Rûg and met Miss F.H. Williams.
8th Very rainy & stormy so that the river rose to a high flood. 9th Miss Williams buried at Llandderfel – fine.
13th I and Miss Williams went to Llandrillo church
20th I and Miss Williams went to Rhosygwalia church and from there up to Aberhirnant pool, and from there home by Maeshir and Bwlchhannerob. [A round trip of about 8 miles, if they walked both ways].
22nd Tuesday. I went to Ruabon to see Miss Williams off to London.
Sept 17th Friday. I went with Mr. & Mrs. Pamplin and his niece Miss F.H Williams to Dolgelly.
This is Thomas’ first mention of his future wife, Frances Harriet. It is unclear to what extent there was a degree of matchmaking on the part of her uncle William Pamplin. William himself had been widowed in 1876 when his first wife Caroline died from cancer. William married Margaret Parry, a local woman considerably younger than himself, two years later in 1878. One interesting point is that Frances’ mother, Frances Williams did not join the walk, although she was usually included in later walks. It is likely that she had accompanied her daughter to Wales, but the party consisting of Mr and Mrs Pamplin, Thomas and Frances encouraged an opportunity for conversation on a walk of some length.
We went with the first train to Bontnewyd. On our route we could see the effects of the great floods – the debris of bridges strewn in the bed of the rivers; riverside meadows covered with large stones, sand and gravel. There were plenty of signs of destruction all along the line from Llanwchllyn to Bontnewyd [SH771 201]. From Bontnewyd we went up past the village of Brithdir [SH767188] to the head of the Torrent Walk. The village is scattered about; the bulk of the houses being covered with creepers; the tropaeoleum speciosum being very conspicuous. There was an Independent Chapel in the village, and a school a little further on. From the village we had beautiful and extensive views. South of us stood Aran, on the north conspicuous were the cone of Moel Offrum and the high Rhobell-faur. West of us stood Cader Idris in all its beauty, its east side showing the steepness of it. The walk by the torrent was most pleasing; numerous cascades or steep slopes of rock, down which the water rushed; deep gorges when the water disappeared, overhung with lichen covered trees; the rocky slopes of the torrent being covered with moss, ferns or flowers. The little filmy fern (H. Wilsonii) being most beautiful and abundant.
We lunched by the torrent, and strolled down leisurely until we arrived at Dolserau gate. We next went through the grounds of Dolgûn [SH747184] which pleased my friends very much. I showed them the old smelting work, the beautiful trees of Dolgûn, and rare ferns, especially the Ceterach and a branching, fronded Asplenium trichomanes. We were all delighted with the walk, and as it was all new to my friends, they were full of admiration. On our way to Dolgelly we found the Tutsan St. John’s wort by the roadside. We crossed the river Aran which runs down from Cader, and got into Dolgelly by 3 pm. We had a substantial meat tea at the Talbot Hotel, where we were most comfortable.
After tea we walked out to Cymmer Abbey. On the way we passed the young ladies’ school, Dickson’s Nursery and the mansion of Hengwrt – once the residence of a noted antiquary Robert Vaughan. My friends stayed on the road in sight of the abbey while I went to see it. On my way down I saw fine walnut trees in the grounds. I entered the ruin which is a long nave with three windows (lancet) in the east end, the entrance being at the west end. The walls were built of shale except the coigns and mouldings. A great quantity of Asplenium trichomanes and the pellitory of the wall grew on the walls. The garden is a square attached to the abbey, but it has no very old trees. Along the south boundary wall there is a ditch full of water cress, showing that the monks cultivated it. The abbey is situated, as abbeys usually are, in a beautiful spot at the entrance to Llanelltyd valley, and close to the river Mawddach. We returned to Dolgelly at the back of Hengwrt, where we got charming views. While waiting until train time, we had a stroll about the town, which is famed for short, crooked streets, houses with entrances by outside steps, and everything in confusion. We returned home in good spirits and delighted with our very interesting and pleasant trip.
For both Frances Harriet and Thomas the walk was something of a test of their mutual suitability. Frances had been brought up in a town, but seems to have sustained two walks, the first about four and a half miles, partly over rough terrain, the second at least two and a half miles. This must have seemed satisfactory to Thomas, who was to lead her on many such demanding expeditions for the rest of her life. On her part, Frances appears to have relished Thomas’ commentary on all things botanical, geological and historic encountered along the way. This is not surprising as she was the grand daughter of a nurseryman and botanist, and the niece of a botanist and botanical bookseller. No wonder Thomas returned delighted and in good spirits from what was to be a very significant expedition.