23.06.2013. When noted that I will be meeting my next host at the Welsh town of Llandrindod Wells, Austin suggested I head to Craven Arms to catch an interesting train ride into Wales.
When the Garway bus arrived at the Hereford train station, I was momentarily at a loss as to what to do next. Just as I was contemplating on catching a 12 quid train straight to Craven Arms (i.e. the easy way out), a bus with the header ‘Ludlow’ appeared. I had a quick check on the train map and it seemed like there should be a transit bus available to my ultimate destination, thus I hopped on.
I have always wanted to visit Ludlow, a small market town based in Shropshire quite renowned in the country for its gastronomy scene, a fact I picked up from some BBC TV programme some time ago. The town is quite pretty, with a charming high street which was bustling with activities on the day I visited. Having spent a week in rural England, that was quite a refreshing change. I got my watch (which stopped) fixed in a local jewellery store and sank my teeth into a delicious roast pork baguette, before catching a 10 minute bus to Craven Arms. The cost of both buses were £7, which ended up cheaper than had I took a train; but it was the joy of the impromptu travels which I celebrated.
Craven Arms is a transit point almost reminiscent of a typical American desert town one sees on TV, characterised by a roundabout traffic and a huge petrol station. There is absolutely nothing to do here in other words, but I decided to spend a night here for the sake of it.
The train which Austin was referring to is the Heart of Wales line, which runs from Craven Arms (England) to Swansea (Wales), passing through the Welsh county of Powys. This mid Wales county is also the country’s most rural, easily characterised by images of grazing sheep and houses perched on beautiful green valleys.
The entire train is made up of just a single carriage, which makes it rather quirky, but even with that it was barely half full on a busy Saturday morning. I hope the train will continue to run despite any financial difficulty it may face, for the ride offers fantastic scenes of rural Wales, and it is definitely the most scenic route I have come across in the UK. I tried looking for a post card with a picture of the train to send it to the Keenan family, but so far I’ve been unsuccessful.
I alighted at Llandrindod, but made a promise to myself that I will be back here again to complete the train journey south.