From the South Wales Argus Tuesday May 6 1997
Rambler Cecil shares secrets of a gentler age
Cecil Granville is living history, with a memory of a gentler and more secret Gwent.
Mike Buckingham takes a stroll down memory lane.
A WANDERING he will go, up hill and dale and through seven decades.
I asked the doyen of Gwent rambling when he first took to the high road, seeking out the most precious nooks of what he still considers to be Britain’s most beautiful county.
Cecil Granville settled back in his chair and chuckled.
“Now let me see. That would be 1932.”
A compact figure with a firm step and a healthy outdoor complexion, Cecil could give many a youngster a walk for their money although he is 80 years of age.
There is normal time and there is Cecil time.
Newport Ramblers made him their chairman shortly after the first post-war Labour government was returned to power and he has only just relinquished the post.
Not that this means that he is no longer connected with the club. He is now its president.
In Cecil’s world a decade is no more than a few swift strides.
In the days long before the last war when the summers seemed to go on forever and the roads of Gwent were virtually empty of motorcars the young Cecil, then working in his father’s engineering shop would leave his Lliswerry home and head for the high road.
“In 1932 I was 15 and very much the junior member of the Newport Hiking Club.
Unfortunately, they only lasted for a few walks before they folded,” he recalls.
“The very existence of the present club is due to the fact that somebody had kept a list of addresses and on December 10, 1932 I got a letter asking me to join a new club.
That was Newport Ramblers’ Club of which I was a founder member. I still have the letter dated 1932 to prove it. The idea was to give the new club a three-month trial. It was better organised than its predecessor and exists to this very day.
In those days we met at 3 o’clock on Saturdays because people had to work Saturday mornings and since nobody had cars you walked to wherever the ramble was going to start.
That first walk was through Little Switzerland and back for tea at Sweeting’s cafe.
Many of the ramblers were teachers and the talk was very educated. They would discuss Wuthering Heights and HG Wells and the writers of the day.
On the way back we would link arms and sing songs the teachers had learned as students. One of the great delights was sitting by a fire in winter in a little teashop somewhere.”
During the war Cecil worked for the Bristol Aeroplane Company and continued rambling in his free time. The old halcyon days were, however, coming to an end. By the early 1950s car ownership was becoming more widespread.
“ It meant we could go to places further afield like Grosmont and Skenfrith but the car also meant widened roads which often meant spoiled roads, and street lighting, two things of which I am critical of to this day.”
Llandegfedd was in 1953 and is now a quiet little Hamlet. It was while rambling through it in that year that Cecil saw the house upon which he set his heart.
Today that same house is a snug little nest which he shares with his wife, Anne. and which looks out at the back to a Gwent scene unaltered for centuries.
Books about the history and countryside of Gwent pack a solid and ancient wooden bookcase. For Newport Ramblers the house in Church Road is ‘headquarters’.
“I’ve never had a car so the committee has tended to meet here.
It’s an odd thing for an engineer to say, perhaps, but I’ve never been interested in mechanical things. I’ve turned parts for buses and aeroplane engines but cars simply don’t interest me.”
Cecil Granville has been on the rambling club’s committee since 1936, the year the Spanish Civil War broke out. As the president, he is still an influential voice 61 years later.
His rambling activities, far from having been curtailed have expanded. He is a deacon at Ponthir Baptist Church and has started a small rambling club there.
“ We’re talking all week about the goodness of God. I thought it might be a good idea to get out and look at some of his work firsthand,” he laughs.
“At 80 you can’t keep up with the youngsters all the time but I still enjoy my walks. There have been changes in the countryside but they are not all bad. The valleys for instance, were terrible. Now there are some beautiful places to walk.
One of the things that upsets me is people who move into the villages but want to take the town with them.
They want wider roads and street lighting and other things of the town which are out of place in the country.
If you’ve got a car it has got headlights- if you are on foot you have a torch. That’s all the light you need in the countryside. Anything else spoils it.
I dislike the spreading of Newport and they are talking of a big new factory which will bring more houses but Gwent is still a beautiful place.
I can be walking in Glamorgan and be thinking ‘This is very nice but it’s not Gwent’.
Cecil believes that deep down, most people think less, and not more about Gwent’s share of nature’s bounty.
The urbanisation of villages, roads and industry, vandalism and litter have taken a toll, almost wiping away the tranquil world of 1932.
“Still,” said Cecil, settling back into his favourite chair by the bookcase “Gwent is a beautiful place.”
The implication of the ‘still’ was clear enough.
It is now, but may not be for much longer.
FROM THE BOOK "THE DEPRESSION IN MONMOUTHSHIRE"
In late 1932 a notice appeared in the South Wales Argus stating that a meeting was to be held at the Y.M.C.A. Newport, in the hope of forming a Newport Hiking Club. As a result a club was quickly set up and a programme of four walks arranged.
Cecil Granville recalls that only six people finished the first walk. Here he describes a later.
"I remember standing on the top of that mountain (Twm Barlwm) where I had never been before in my life and feeling the joy of human achievement, then sitting on a tump for a picnic lunch whicjh was suddenly interrupted by the wonderful sight of an air ship flying into view and circulating overhead. It was the R100 or R101 on the first flight from it's moorings in Cardington, Bedfordshire.
Pictures: Pendre Sims
SOUTH WALES ARGUS, Friday 9th Decenber, 1932
NEWPORT HIKERS PLAN AN EXCURSION
At a representative gathering
of South Wales Hikers at Newport,
it was agreed to form a Newport
It was decided that the first
excursion should be to Henlys.
Those desirous of joining should
bring tea and meet at The Cenotaph,
Newport at 2.30 p.m. on Saturday,
Should the weather prove unsuitable,
there will be a "get together" at
the Club Room.
A hearty invitation is extended to everybody interested and it is
hoped many will join.
Still Going Strong.