In association with St Fagans National Museum of History
We made the most of the autumn sunshine yesterday with a trip to St Fagans National Museum of History. The open-air museum has plenty going on for Halloween and half term – not to mention more than 50 beautifully-preserved buildings to explore bringing to life Wales’s past. We were excited to visit St Fagans again as part of our ambassador role with National Museum Wales.
We arrived late morning armed with our picnic lunch (although we had serious food envy as we walked past the newly-opened café at the site’s impressive entrance building). After eating on one the museum’s many picnic tables we headed straight to help make the wicker man, ready for St Fagans’ Halloween Nights events (last night, Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st; see the website for details) – a slightly spooky after-dark event with one of the highlights being the burning of the wicker man.
My children remembered doing this last year – visitors can make small ‘people’ from handfuls of straw tied with string. These are then packed inside the chicken-wire frames of the 16-foot wicker man effigies and set alight on each of the three Halloween evenings. The burning of the wicker man was a big part of the traditional Celtic celebrations around Halloween, marking the end of the old year and the beginning of the new one; or the end of harvest and the beginning of winter.
Today was the last day to help build the wicker man – but the Makers’ Market, which was our next port of call, runs throughout half term until Friday 3rd November.
This features a number of stalls selling locally hand-made goods as well as family-friendly activities such as pottery (£4) and painting of ceramic ornaments (prices start at £2).
My children remembered Sadie Hurley’s ceramic painting stall from last year and were excited to add to their collection of decorated ornaments.
Miss E chose a dog and both the boys opted for robots (£3 each).
It took them about 25 minutes to paint and douse in glitter before leaving their new works of art to dry to collect later in the day.
From there we spent the afternoon exploring the various houses and buildings. The Victorian school, the Rhyd-y-Car miners’ cottages, Gwalia Stores and the Miners’ Institute are all favourites of ours so they were first on the list.
We also got to see the traditional cobbler making an array of wooden and leather clogs in his small studio.
I was impressed at how much my eldest two were able to remember about life in times gone by; in particular at the school where they started telling the museum guide everything they remembered about life in a Victorian school. Seeing their interest, he brought out a wooden contraption used to prevent left-handed children from writing with their left hand. They have already seen the Welsh Not and the cane and they knew that boys and girls at the school had to play in separate yards – but this was a new one for all of us. Suddenly their own school doesn’t seem so bad!
Our final stop of the day was the traditional fairground where we’d promised them one ride (£1.50 a go) each. The older two opted for the swing carousel and Littlest choose the double decker bus on the vintage transport-themed carousel.
We love St Fagans. It’s one of the most important places in South Wales in my opinion and even better is that fact that it free to visit and just a few pounds for parking.
We want it to stay that way so as always, we left a donation on our way out. This really does make a difference in supporting the work the museum does in preserving the buildings and maintaining the site.
Halloween events for the rest of the week are as follows:
Halloween Nights Monday 30th and Tuesday 31st October, 6-9pm, £15 adult, £8 child
Makers’ Market until Friday 3rd November, 10am-5pm
Leafy Fun family activity sessions – Wednesday 1st-Friday 3rd November, 12pm-4pm, free
Craft session: Fireworks Saturday 4th-Sunday 5th November, 12pm-4pm, £2 per child