I am saying ‘Welcome Back’ in Welsh because we are travelling back in time and space again to Wales in August 2014. This time we are at Neath Abbey in the town of Neath which has been used as the filming location for several Eleventh Doctor episodes.
Neath Abbey is close to Neath but it feels away from it all and it is a very tranquil place to visit. It is managed by CADW who protect Wales’ heritage – CADW is a Welsh word meaning ‘to keep or protect’.
Neath Abbey is 885 years old and was first established all the way back in 1129AD by the Norman Richard de Granville for Savigniac Monks from Western Normandy in France. It became a Cistercian monastery in 1149. The abbey remained open until 1539 when the Tudor King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. The abbey is now fallen into ruins but you can use your imagination to feel what it was like to be there when it was the largest abbey in Wales.
When I visited it was very peaceful and I was alone with my companions. The weather was mild, ideal for exploring the area where, in Vincent and the Doctor (2010), Vincent van Gogh fought the Krafayis – a monster only he could see! Luckily,there was no alien there when I visited. Or was there…?
The Control Room in The Beast Below (2010) was also located in Abaty Nedd (what Welsh people would call it) where the Doctor and Liz 10 looked at the brain of what keeps the Starship UK up in space – a Star Whale which was the last of it’s kind !
Also , the Gangers in the two- part episode The Rebel Flesh and the Almost People (2011) used a machine in one of the chambers of the monastery they worked in to turn the Flesh into Gangers – again, filmed here at the abbey.
I could not recognise any of these scenes; the abbey looked a lot different in real life. The cast and crew must have transformed the whole place to film these episodes! There were also barriers all over the site as the horrible weather we had in the winter damaged the walls and they were not safe. CADW are working to save the abbey from further damage.
I spent my time there trying to picture what the abbey would have looked like before it was dissolved and it was, as historian John Leland put it “the fairest abbey of all Wales.” I like visiting ruins because I like to put myself in the same places where history has been made! I think the building is in very good condition for it’s age really. I did make friends as I came out – with a lovely brown dog. We had a fun game of ‘fetch’ and apparently he goes to the abbey everyday for his walk so if you go I hope you bump into him.
I suggest that all Doctor Who fans should definitely go and visit – it is a great place and it’s free to get in!
Thanks for reading – my next post will be about an exclusive Classic Doctor Who location that I was lucky enough to visit at the weekend. I hope you come back and check it out!
Dewch yn ol yn fuan!