Wednesday, 6 August 2014

NEWPORT



First up, potential visitors to Newport should be aware that there are actually two Newports in Wales.  This one is the small town of Newport, Pembrokeshire, which is in the south-west portion of the country.  The other one is a larger town just to the east of Cardiff.  This Newport grew up as a garrison town around the castle, built in the 12th century by Robert FitzMartin, a Norman knight and first Lord of Cemaes.  The town later became an important trading port and market town, with a herring fishing fleet.  The eccentric Welsh antiquarian and historian, George Owen, born in the 16th century, was somewhat dismissive of the markets of Newport and of St Davids further round the coast, describing them as "not worth the speaking of, partly for what they be so small and bad". 

Notwithstanding this unkind remark, the town has more recently developed into a popular stopover for visitors.  Set back a bit from the coast, the town centre straddles the main Cardigan-Fishguard road, and is a pleasant mixture of pubs, cafes and small shops.  The old port, known as Parrog, still has parts of the old quay walls and two former lime kilns.  There are two beaches, Parrog Beach and the extensive Traeth Mawr, where the remains of a petrified forest can be seen when the tide is very low.  The Nevern Estuary is a draw for birdwatchers, with ducks, swans and egrets among its feathered inhabitants.  

There is a form of medieval football called Cnapan which used to be played on Traeth Mawr beach.  The sport - actually in some ways more akin to rugby - was played by opposing teams from neighbouring parishes, and the object was to get the ball to one team's parish church by whatever means possible.  The game was described in detail by the aforementioned George Owen, who claimed that its purpose was to provide some exercise for the naturally warlike youth of the nation during times of peace.  The game was revived in Newport, playing against Nevern, during the mid 80s-90s but was discontinued for 'elf and safety reasons (sigh!).  However, its legacy lives on in the form of the Cnapan 'restaurant with rooms' in the town.

Map of the town.

File:Foreshore at Parrog, Newport Sands - geograph.org.uk - 415803.jpg
Photo by Robin Lucas, via Wikimedia Commons

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