Meeting the Extended Family in Wales


For as long as I’ve know her, Justine has talked about her extended family in Wales. For years we’ve been trying to arrange our trips such that we could go for a visit, and this time around everything aligned and we were able to spend 3 1/2 days with her mom’s cousin Julie and her family. They were kind enough to host us and Julie was an amazing tour guide as we got to see a little bit of the Welsh countryside.

Picking up from the Tintern Abbey post, we headed across Wales to Stanleytown, just north of Pontypridd (the closest major town). Stanleytown is a small village located in the Rhondda valley, in the county borough of Rhondda Cynon Taf, Wales. The Rhondda Valley is a former coal mining area, and the Rhondda is actually two valleys—the larger Rhondda Fawr valley and the smaller Rhondda Fach valley. The Rhondda Valley is most notable for its historical link to the coal mining industry which was at its peak between 1840 and 1925, but continued until the 1980s. Justine’s family was, as were most in the area, deeply linked to that industry and we learned a lot about it over the course of our visit.

The valley is very narrow, with minimal space at the bottom of the valley floor. So they built these amazing row houses on steep streets. This is the view across the valley from Julie’s house. More on the row houses later.

The map of the local area. Stanleytown is up in the top left.

We were a little late in arriving, after a bit of a mishap with directions. Not a big deal, but it made it closer to 3:00 by the time we arrived. I finally got to meet the family, and over the course of the three days met lots of new people! I am invariably going to screw it up, but I’ll try and capture everyone here - although it was over the course of a couple of days that I met everyone. We were staying with Julie and her husband Glyn. Julie is Justine’s mom’s cousin (technically Justine’s first cousin, once removed). We also met their children Laura (and her boyfriend Josh); their son Matthew and his daughter Nova (so cute!) and Heidi, who they have recently determined is related to the family, but I couldn’t completely sort out how. Heidi hung out with us the whole time we were there, and was a lot of fun.

Julie’s sister, Michele lives in the house next door, and I also met her daughters Asha and Kira, and Asha’s son Kailan. Kailan and I are best buds now - he even gave me a super-cool picture of him riding a dinosaur, that we’ve added to our family photos. :-)

And last, but certainly not least and really the main reason we came - Aunty Morfy - Justine’s 93 year-old Great Aunt who still lives by herself in her home. More on her later, but she’s one amazing lady.

A Justine selfie special with Julie, Matthew and Nova and Heidi on our Thursday evening drive.

A Justine selfie special with Julie, Matthew and Nova and Heidi on our Thursday evening drive.

Nova is such a cutie, and one happy little girl when hanging out with her dad.

There wasn’t a lot of daylight left, but Julie hustled us into the cars, and we went for a drive to see some of the local scenery. Julie and Glyn live up on the side of the hill, and have what I’d call a hobby farm. Laura and Julie are huge into horses (I’m sure I have this wrong, but what I’d call equestrian or show jumping). They also have sheep (that rudely enough would not give birth for Justine while we were there - she really wanted a lamb), chickens and geese, and the usual collection of dogs and cats. It’s a pretty great spot. :-)

Julie and Matthew drove and gave us a great tour of the area. We got up onto the top of the hill, and got the panoramic view of the local valley. We then started the drive up towards the Brecon Beacons National Park, and made a couple of stops along the way. Sadly the clouds rolled in so we cut the drive short and started to head back, as there was no point in heading out that way if we couldn’t see anything. Still, some of the sights we did get to see were spectacular. I really want to spend some time in the Brecon Beacons National Park in the future.

Matthew and Nova had to leave us at this point sadly, but Julie took us to an old church and pub that are on the other side of the hill from where they live. Normally they take the Range Rover over the “mountain” on this narrow dirt track, but she was having issues with the suspension, so we couldn’t go that way. Instead, we were limited to the normal (very narrow) roads, which still gave Justine fits as Julie threw the truck into some very tight spaces. It was quite hilarious!

The old church and graveyard. There’s been a church on the site since about the 6th century, but no one (according to the sign out front) seems to know exactly when this church was built.

So many cool old gravestones - most like this with all engraving worn away by time.

The church is perched up on quite a steep hill.

Across the road from the church was an amazing pub. Sitting on top of the hill, with nothing for miles around, but apparently their “local” pub. So great, and we made a short stop for a pint before heading back to sort out a fun dinner of fish and chips and family visiting, before calling it a night.