….and so the builder did not return next morning (thank the heavens) and the rain ceased at 11am. Rain before seven, fine by eleven, my Daddy used to say, and often as not it is right. It was grey and overcast with a chill in the air but any weather which isn’t rain is considered fine in Wales. The ravenous midges disappeared along with the rain, so we headed off up into the mountains for a couple of hours rambling.
The path took us alongside a mountain stream. The stream tumbled ever downwards over the pebbles and boulders. It was like a symphony, the noise, with deep gurgling notes where the water fell into bubbling pools and a cacophony of percussion where it crashed down over rocks. Morgan dog jumped in and lay wallowing like a pig in mud…
As the track took us higher, away from the stream, and the skylarks stopped warbling for a few minutes, I heard a sound which is rare these days; it was the sound of utter silence, which can only be found for fleeting moments in the remoteness of mountains. At the centre of such silence, thoughts cease and all that can be heard is the beat of your own consciousness. I stood as still as the landscape around me to listen.
On our return, our only neighbours had departed and been replaced by a family with five children further down by the stream. By the time I’d eaten lunch, the rain had returned along with the midges. I promptly slammed the door and watched them throwing themselves at the windows.
Holed up inside ‘the beast’, and without internet or phone, I amused myself by finishing a weaving I’d started as a souvenir of my time along the Ceridigion coast. The driftwood I gathered on Gwbert beach; the shells I gathered at Tresaint. Some of the wools in it are from Ceridigion sheep. With the colours, I tried to capture the ever changing colours of the sea, the sky, and the hedgerows.
By late afternoon it was raining hard again and every time I opened the door to look out, a swarm of midges invaded, hell bent on eating me alive. So, when I had killed every last one of them, though not before they’d enjoyed a good nibble at my ears and forehead, I began another weaving in the hope of capturing the essence of the sheep and tree dotted mountains with the stream running through the centre of it all. Some of the white wool in this one, and the pebbles from the stream, I picked while on our mountain walk.
These weavings are the kind of things which, if they haven’t fallen to bits by the end of my travels, will end up as moth-eaten relics, stashed in an attic somewhere until one day when I am gone and someone throws them out in disgust. But right now, they are vibrant and meaningful to me.
At 5 pm some Belgians arrive and search, in vain, for the owner. They are soon followed by a biker who has been wild camping up the Elan valley. There is a sign by the entrance telling people to book in at the house before entering the site, so they are reluctant to do so. The biker just wanted to know how much it costs to stay here, should he need the diversion of a shower on his wild-camping adventures. I tell the Belgians to pick a pitch because the owner has been out all day and heaven knows when she might come home.
By the time she does return, a chap who I swear is Boris Johnson, or his twin, has turned up with his family. Then another couple turn up and pitch their tent smack bang outside Boris’s tent, obstructing his idyllic view. They had about two dozen empty pitches to choose from, all with stunning views across the valley. As I watch them pitch their tent, I wonder if some people go out of their way to be annoying or if it comes as naturally to them as breathing. I watch them slapping at the midges eating their faces and getting soaked in the rain, and uncharitably think it serves them right. Boris hasn’t emerged to bravely sit out under his awning since they arrived, but then that could be down to the dastardly midges.
I’ve lived amidst Welsh hills for most of my life, but never have I seen midges in such numbers or with such vicious intent. They are swarming outside my van as I write. I’m not opening that door again until the dogs can cross their legs no longer, and I’m out of here in the morning…..
…our journey out took us over a narrow mountain road, across a vast wilderness of open moors and peat bogs. As the road twisted and turned, the shells and pebbles tied into my weavings were clanking and clacking against the camper walls. By the time I reached my next destination, they were strewn around the camper. I have inadvertently invented a new style of pebble-dash.
Jenny Lloyd is the author of the acclaimed novel, Leap the Wild Water, a story about a family torn apart by secrets and betrayals in early 19th century Wales. Oh, and the soon to be published sequel, The Calling of the Raven.
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