Friday, 24 July 2015

A WI day trip

Since launching our business in 2006, Blaenafon Cheddar has been proud to be speakers at WI meetings all over Wales.
Gerry & I often give up our time in the evenings and spread the word about not only our business but our splendid little town which is well worth a visit.

1915 - The First WI in Britain

The Women's Institute movement in Britain started in 1915. During the First World War it was formed to encourage countrywomen to get involved in growing and preserving food to help to increase the supply of food to the war-torn nation. The first WI in Britain was formed under the auspices of the Agricultural Organisation Society (AOS). AOS Secretary, John Nugent Harris, appointed Canadian Madge Watt to set up WIs across the UK. The first one was at Llanfair PG, on Anglesey, North Wales on September 16th 1915, and the first WI in England was Singleton WI in Sussex .
Llanfair, Wales - first WI in the UK
Llanfair PG WI

We have launched a gift pack of 4 mini cheeses and an extra mature Pwll Mawr cheddar to help the ladies celebrate 100 years of the WI. The cheeses are being ordered by various groups around the UK.

Last Thursday 17 July we welcomed 40 visitors from Pencoed WI which included 2 husbands. The visit started at the Rhymney Brewery in Blaenavon, next lunch at the Lion Hotel & free time to visit us and then to the Iron Works and finished at the world Heritage centre.

Cheese laid out in the bar at the brewery for tasting
Here they come 

History of Rhymney Brewery

Rhymney Breweries Ltd was the largest brewery business in the Wales when it was acquired by Whitbread the 1960s and it had a distinguished history spanning over 140 years of brewing  in South Wales. The Rhymney Brewery has its origins in the great days of the South Wales iron industry. Working in heavy industry and the hot blast furnaces certainly gave the men a terrible thirst. In mid nineteenth century industrial Wales it was far safer to drink the beer than to touch the water, as many victims of cholera found to their cost. It has been said that even the Mormons drank beer in Merthyr at this time.  Many licensed houses at this time had their own brew house.

The Rhymney Brewery began operating in 1839 with Andrew Buchan as its manager. In 1858 a directory for South Wales noted “brewing is carried on to a considerable extent by Andrew Buchan & Co at Rhymney, where the Brewery is considered the largest in South Wales”. Andrew Buchan was noted for his love of children and he financed annual treats for schoolchildren. According to his obituary, “If he saw a small boy with a shabby cap he would toss it over a hedge and then take the boy to his Shop and give him a new one-with a bag of biscuits also”.  By 1878 the Brewery called Rhymney Brewery and Co. Ltd. delivered 12,500 barrels a year to its 29 tied houses and also to other public houses. Beers produced at the beginning of the twentieth century included King’s Ale, “The Wine of the Valleys”, which was introduced in 1902 . The long list of beers include: - Empire, GHB, BB, IPA and Stingo in Draught, and Light Ale, Empire Special, Cream Stout and Family Stout in bottle. The famous Hobby Horse trademark of the little man on the barrel, designed by a keen sportsman became well known familiar sight throughout Wales and especially the Valleys. “Where the Hobby Horse Roams” became the phrase used to describe the extent of the Buchan estate.  Other slogans over the years included, “The True Brew- always in Good Condition”. 

The Taff Vale Brewery, widely known as “The Taff” was the last local brewery in Merthyr. Founded in the 1840s in Georgetown, in 1904 the Taff Vale Brewery moved to completely new premises on the hill above the Penydarren Road. When this brewery was taken over by the Rhymney Brewery in 1936, there was an estate of 25 freehold and leasehold houses. By 1939 the Buchan estate numbered 362 hotels and inns, the vast majority in Monmouthshire and Glamorganshire. In 1951 Buchan’s began an association with Whitbread and Co. and eventually the Rhymney Brewery was taken over by Whitbread. The final closure of Rhymney Brewery came on April 27 1978, a sad day for all concerned. In the 140 years since Andrew Buchan had first built the Brewery, it had improved out of all recognition. Rhymney beer was always true to the slogan:  Beer , it's Lovely!


Everyone enjoying a chit chat during the cheese tasting

The head brewer conducted the tour

It was very interesting
This is the bottling machine 
And here the bottles are being loaded for delivery 

This display shows you the ingredients and the smell is lovely

Beer tasting was enjoyed by everyone. Mandy explained about the different brews. Hobbyhorse is the oldest flavour.

This lovely lady made purchases at the brewery shop as did many others. The Brewery said it was their best Thursday ever.
This is the new Lion Hotel which is 4 star.

Located in Blaenavon town centre, the hotel has 12 rooms, a fully equipped wellness suite and a 90 cover restaurant and bar, serving quality local produce.

The ladies pre ordered lunch which was £10 pp including a desert.  The Coach driver had a free meal
Everyone said it was a very tasty meal and that they will return.

The ladies then had some free time in the town centre and came to us to purchase cheeses & other goodies.

The ladies then went to the Blaenavon Iron works

Blaenavon’s Industrial landscape became a World Heritage Site in December 2000. It is a landscape shaped by human hand, dating from the early days of the Industrial Revolution - a significant stage in human evolution, when the iron and coal industries of South Wales were of global importance.

The Blaenavon Industrial Landscape is an important place of study of the Industrial Revolution and is an ideal venue for schools studying changes in people’s daily lives in the 19th century and changes that happened in Wales, Britain and the wider world between 1760 and 1914. It is also an excellent case-study for students of urban decline and economic regeneration.

The Blaenavon World Heritage Site now boasts three visitor attractions which offer full-time, dedicated educational services:

  • Blaenavon World Heritage Centre
  • Blaenavon Ironworks
  • Big Pit: National Coal Museum
Blaenavon Ironworks is the most significant historical feature within the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape. Today you can view the extensive remains of the blast furnaces, cast houses and iconic water-balance tower, and gain a fascinating insight into the social history of the Industrial Revolution at the reconstructed company ‘truck’ shop, 19th century workers’ cottages and the newly interpreted cast houses.

 This is the only remaining chimney 

The view from the balance tower

This is one of the Iron Horses that are at the top end of the site

Looking back down from the tower

A Coal House bedroom


A little later in time

The bed looks really comfy

This is the company shop where the workers had to spend the company tokens in which they were paid 

This is the new interactive blast furnace

The displays are amazing

A plan of the site made out of iron

The World Heritage Interpretation Centre

Located at the gateway to the South Wales Valleys, partly within the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape is a testament to the human endeavour of miners and ironworkers of the past.

Set in 33 square kilometres, the attractions, events, activities and landscape make a perfect destination for a day out. The main attractions such as Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon Ironworks, the World Heritage Centre and Pontypool & Blaenavon Railway are all just a few minutes’ drive or walk from each other. Indeed, there are so many brilliant attractions that you need to spend more than a day here to enjoy everything – so plan a weekend if you can!

The Blaenavon World Heritage Centre is based in the former St Peter’s School founded in 1816 to educate the ironworker’s children. Now it offers an overview of the World Heritage Site and offers educational workshops for all age groups, focusing on the lives of local people from the early Celts through to modern days. It is also the starting point for a number of outdoor activities.

The ladies had tea & cake before heading home, tired but very happy having spent such a wonderful day.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Yummy Welsh Lamb curry

Large stew pot or wok

Serve with rice of your choice

Dash of olive oil
500g diced welsh lamb
2 red onions diced
2 cloves of garlic diced
2 large cooking apples peeled & wedged
500g of passata 
1 can of coconut milk
2 heaped tablespoons of curry powder
1 lamb oxo
A handful of raisins 
1 tablespoon of desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons of molasses sugar
Handful of flaked almonds
250g of button mushrooms

Heat your pan/wok with a little olive oil.
Gently fry together the lamb, onions, Apple, garlic, raisins, almonds, coconut & mushrooms and sugar for about 10 minutes stirring frequently. Add salt to taste.

Stir in the curry powder & crumble the oxo in and mix together for about 2 minutes.
Add the passata & coconut milk. Bring to the boil & then turn down to simmer for about an hour.