Sunday, 28 July 2013

Margam Park and Egypt Centre

Below is my “Day Out” column from The Weekend supplement in the Saturday, July 27, 2013, issue of the South Wales Evening Post.



















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Days Out!
With Richard Thomas
...IF THE WEATHER'S GOOD
The history of Margam can be traced back to the Bronze and Iron Age. Adjacent to the Go Ape Tree Tops Adventure site is Margam Abbey built in 1147 and the magnificent Margam Castle, a Gothic-Tudor mansion house commissioned by Christopher Rice Mansel Talbot in 1830. If you borrow an mp3 player free of charge from the kiosk you can eavesdrop on voices from the past at eight different spots inside the park. Written by David Hughes and recorded by local actors, these echoes from the past offer a fascinating insight into the lives of people who have worked, visited or lived on the estate over the centuries. Today Margam Castle has become a popular filming location for TV shows. Last summer the production team for the new drama series the Da Vinci's Demons written by David S. Goyer, who also penned the scripts for Batman Begins and Blade, were busy setting up camp at the castle. The park is also home to Go Ape, where thrill seekers can enjoy up to three hours in the tree tops tackling zip wires, Tarzan swings, rope ladders and hire-wire crossings, and after completing the course join the Go Ape tribe.
WHERE? Margam Park is located in Port Talbot, along the eastern rim of Swansea Bay. 
WHY? The 850 acre estate boasts a magnificent 18th century orangery, an impressive and picturesque Tudor-Gothic style Victorian mansion house, a 12th century chapter house, ornamental gardens and one of the best deer herds in Wales. Throughout the year, Margam Park also hosts various events from Living History Weekends to Clown Festivals and Charity Walks.
WHEN? Margam Park is open daily between 10am and 6pm until September 1.
CONTACT: Vist www.margamcountrypark.co.uk or phone 01639 881635.
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE? Go Ape participants have up to three hours to complete the course, but there are lots of other attractions to check out before you head back home.
WHO WILL ENJOY IT? People tackling the Go Ape course are mostly teens and 20- and 30-somethings, many of them students, but there are also some dad's and mum's with their children. There's plenty to keep the rest of the family busy at Margam too, if they don't want to swing from the tree tops. The Citrus House was built around 1800 to replace earlier greenhouses on the estate, but in 2007 the glasshouse fell into disrepair and deemed too dangerous for public access. With the help of a grant from The Rural Development Plan the Citrus House has now been painstakingly restored to its former glory.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? On the Go Ape course under 18s must be supervised by a participating adult. Participants must also be at least 10  years old and 1.4 metres tall and no more than 20.5 stone. An adult can supervise either two children, where one or both of them are under 16, or up to five 16 to 17 year olds. Children will enjoy the other attractions inside Margam Park like the narrow gauge railway, adventure playground, farm trail and Fairytale Land.
HOW DO I GET THERE? For sat-nav users the address and postcode is: Margam Country Park, Margam, Port Talbot, SA13 2TJ. 
WHERE CAN I PARK? Margam Park has an on site car park, but there is a charge of £4 for cars, £6.90 for mini buses and £13.70 for coaches.
LUNCH? Margam Park's Discovery Centre Cafe serve a range of hot drinks and cakes, but a lot of visitors opt to bring picnic lunches to Margam when the weather is good.
ANYTHING ELSE IN THE AREA? At the South Wales Miners’ Museum in Afan Forest Park visitors have the chance to take a step back in time and see what life was like for miners and their families through their eyes. The museum  celebrates the coal mining industry and its workforce in the South Wales coalfield. The past is brought to life at the museum using a comprehensive collection of photographs, historical artefacts and even life sized models of miners dressed in original gear and equipment. There is a small charges to help with the costs of running the museum. Entrance fees are £3 for adults and £2 for seneiors and children 5 and older. Situated close to the museum is a range of outdoor exhibits including a blacksmith shop and lamp room to check out. The museum is located in the beautiful Afan Valley and is only six miles on the A4107 from the M4. For sat-nav users the address and postcode is: South Wales Miners' Museum, Afan Forest Park, Cynonville, Port Talbot, SA13 3HG. Pre booking is advisable. Phone 01639 851833 or go to www.southwalesminersmuseum.co.uk.
...IF THE WEATHER'S BAD
The Egypt Centre opened in 1998, but its roots are much older. Most of the objects in the Centre were part of the collection of the 19th and early 20th century pharmacist and archaeologist Sir Henry Wellcome, who collected them from excavations. Horror film fans will be familiar with Imhotep, High Priest of the sun God Ra and architect of Ancient Egypt’s first pyramid. At the Egypt Centre at Swansea University visitors can see for themselves a real life Egyptian coffin, as well as other ancient exhibits from the land of the Nile and even buy some replica Egyptian jewellery and art to take home. The Centre is open to the public and also welcomes school parties and groups from early years, primary and secondary to graduate and post-graduate and special needs students. Admission is free.
WHERE? The centre is located within the Taliesin building on the Swansea University campus. 
WHY? The Egypt Centre is the only museum of Egyptian antiquities in Wales. There are over 4500 items in the centre's collection. Egypt Centre staff have published over 100 online pages concerning individual items, which you can find on the Egypt Centre website at www.swan.ac.uk/egypt. The funerary items on display include amulets, shrouds, statues, coffins and fragments of coffins, and even canopic jars, which were used by the Ancient Egyptians to store and preserve the internal organs of the deceased for their journey through the afterlife.
WHEN? The Egypt Centre is usually open Tuesday to Saturday. Until September 1 the musum will be open 10am to 5pm. Last admissions are 10 minuets before closing.
CONTACT: To book a group visit call 01792 295960 or email the assistant curator Wendy Goodridge at w.r.goodridge@swansea.ac.uk.
HOW LONG WILL THIS TAKE? An hour is plenty of time to see all the exhibits but you can spend as much time as you like.
WHO WILL ENJOY IT? There is something for all ages.
WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS? Children will want to pick something up in the Egypt Centre Shop, located in the foyer of the museum. Some of the more unusual gifts available include books of Egyptian spells and curses, as well as a wide range of statues, recycled glass, papyrus from Egypt, and exclusive hand-made jewellery. More conventional items like pens, pencils and key-rings are also available to buy.
HOW DO I GET THERE?  For sat-nav users the full address and postcode is: Egypt Centre, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP.
WHERE CAN I PARK? There are some car parks close to Swansea University, the Foreshore car park opposite St Helens Rugby ground and the Recreation Ground Car Park on Mumbles Road.
ANYTHING ELSE IN THE AREA? There is lots more to see inside the Taliesin Arts Centre which provides a wide variety of performances and exhibitions. Open throughout the year the centre host a broad programme of events including cinema screenings and a wide variety of live performances. With a programme ranging from children's events to opera, there's something to suit all tastes. The Taliesin hold over 50 live performances per year. On Monday you can see The Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare. Visit www.taliesinartscentre.co.uk.

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