A Call to Arms. #Powys #Wales #sayNOtowindfarms #Cymru

I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing held sacred anymore in this world of endlessly growing consumption, fueled by the greed of a minority and their pursuit of wealth by any means.

Many of you may not have heard what the Welsh Government and Powys are now planning for us, the people of Breconshire and Radnorshire. Their ‘further focussed changes’ (October 2016) development plan threatens our familiar and beloved landscapes of Abergwesyn Common, the Begwns, Pant-y-llyn Hill, Merthyr Cynog, Drum Ddu, also, the hills around Llandegley, Abbey-cwm-hir, Hirnant – all now designated ‘Local Search Areas’ for wind development.

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Llandegley Rocks

Oh, and if that were not bad enough, great swathes of our hillsides will be obliterated by solar ‘parks’ – solar ‘Local Search Areas’ reach from one side of the county to the other below Newtown. Nantmel, Llanbister, and Aberedw will be encircled – vast acres of hillside will be covered with industrial scale solar panels. If the developers get their way, not one among us will be unaffected by such changes. Let’s face it, people don’t come to live here or remain here, or holiday here for the weather. They are here, mainly, out of love for our beautiful, wild spaces with their kites, buzzards, curlews and skylarks and the quiet, rural way of life.

In addition to the decimation of our landscapes via turbines and solar panels with all the associated damage to wildlife, bird-life, habitat and human well-being, there will come the disruption to our roads, massive transportation lorries, tracks across our hilltops, pylons – in short, the wholesale industrialisation and rape of our beautiful, wild and green spaces.

The people of Breconshire have had so much taken from them over the years; glorious Eppynt taken by the military; our water polluted and wildlife and birds robbed of thousands of acres of moorland habitat, planted by the Forestry Commission; whole communities uprooted and valleys flooded to provide water for others, not ourselves. And now, are we to have the best of what we have left desecrated to line the coffers of the main beneficiaries – a handful of landowners selling us out and the multi-billion pound companies who would smother every Welsh hillside with their giant monstrosities for their own gain?

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Eppynt

When considering the human costs, let us not forget that it is not only the unspoiled beauty and tranquility of these landscapes that will be lost to us. Our unchanged landscapes inherently represent our heritage, our identity, and our history. Rob us of our familiar landscapes and you rob us of an essential part of those vital things which give our lives meaning and continuity. Our lives will be the poorer in many more ways if we allow this to happen. We will suffer a psychological disconnect between the past and the present when our inter-generational connections to the landscape are severed.

I am sickened by the relentless march of what some call ‘progress’ which tramples all in its wake. I belong to a generation who I’m ashamed to say has done more damage to this planet in fifty years than all the generations who have gone before.Vast areas of our oceans are now littered with plastic and this littering of our landscapes with the proliferation of wind farms across this fabulous county is spectacular visible evidence of escalating human greed on a scale hitherto unknown. Do I care about the environment? Yes, I do. Do I care about carbon emissions? Yes, I do. Do I believe these hulking, inefficient, unreliable turbines are a cure for the disease? I do not.

When will it end? When there is not one windswept hill left without turbines and every slope has been covered in industrial solar panels? This latest change in policy proves that this search and push for more is relentless. The proliferation of wind farms across the country is a symptom of, not a cure for, the problem. Some years down the line, we’ll be back at square one and will have sacrificed our rural idylls for nought because they contribute too little towards our energy needs and an insignificant effect on carbon emissions. The loss of our upland habitats and their role in carbon sequestration means that replacing them with wind and solar farms that do a far less efficient job of reducing emissions is counter-productive madness.

Under the Welfare of Future Generations Act we have a duty to consider the impacts of our actions in the present on future generations. When, one day in the future, these great, hulking turbines and all their associated financial, human and environmental costs are finally outmoded and debunked, what will happen then? Will the renewable energy companies honour their obligation to dismantle and remove these monstrosities from our landscapes when their only consideration is profit? Or will we be left with these rusting giants littering our landscapes for ever more? Call me cynical, but I’ve lived long enough to know that the latter is the highly more likely outcome. They’d opt to pay the fines rather than dismantle. And that will be our legacy to future generations. I don’t think they’ll be thanking us for that. It is reckless and irresponsible in the extreme of government to continue with the proliferation of wind and solar farms without consideration for a future when they will have been replaced with newer technologies.

Government is famous for short-sighted policy making. Government, local and national, now urgently needs to take a step back and a serious re-think before it is too late. Once they are up, they are not coming down again, ever.

If you love and value our Welsh landscapes, our wildlife, our way of life, our heritage, our history, and value our deep and historical connections to this fabulous green heartland we are so privileged to live in, then I urge you to answer this call to arms to defend and preserve what is left. If our collective voice of objection is big enough, they will not have any choice but to hear it. So, please take up your swords (well, your pens or keyboards, anyway), and do one or preferably all of the following: write to your county councilor, write to your assembly member, register your objection with Powys, join CPRW (Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales). We have only until 5pm, Monday 21st November to do this. Thank you.

For more information and guidance, follow this link and look under current news:

http://www.cprw.org.uk/

The relevant pages on Powys’s website: http://ow.ly/lw2I305TGJO

 

A moving account of a bygone age.

The following account was passed on to me by a fellow lover of Welsh history. It conjures up a by-gone age which we will never see the like of again, and so I felt it was important to share it.  It was written by Jenkin Lloyd, Tregaron Registrar, and the article is a translation of the original which was published in the Cymru, 1912. So here it is, enjoy!

A funeral in the Highlands.

In our minds the word “Highlands” seems always to be associated with Scotland because that country is divided into highlands and lowlands and the word is seldom used in connection with Wales. But Wales too has her highlands, where we find people who live almost entirely some 1000ft or more above sea-level. I refer to the wide range of mountains which divides Radnorshire and Breconshire from Cardiganshire together with the people who inhabit these grassy expanses so well described lately in these pages by Mr Daniel Davies, Ton.

Small holdings and farms can be seen scattered here and there on this wide plain – although fewer now than formerly – where, from generation to generation there has dwelt, a race of people who have remained more faithful to old Welsh customs than their lowland brothers, a race of people with characteristics and habits peculiar to themselves. Nevertheless, these people differ among themselves in certain respects, for example, while the western side is completely Welsh speaking, the eastern slopes have been subjected to English influences, so that while shepherds on the one side work their dogs in Welsh the dogs on the other side are worked in English. Neighbours, whose animals graze side by side, attend places of worship situated as far as 12 miles apart and while some of these speak English in Builth Wells market, others do their buying and selling in Welsh in Tregaron market. We, in the lowlands, refer to these Welsh people as “the people of the mountains” and it is natural that the chapel on the river Camddwr where these dwellers congregate to worship is called “Soar of the Mountains”.

But my intention was to give an account of a funeral in these highlands. Of all our national characteristics nothing is more peculiar to us than our funeral customs and in the mountains there are particular reasons why these old customs have survived without being influenced in any way by outside agencies.

On the morning of the first Sunday in the year 1876, at Bethesda Chapel, Llandewi Brefi, Tomor Lloyd, having made the usual announcements, made a further announcement somewhat as follows:

“The funeral of Shan, wife of John Jones, Pysgotwr, will take place next Wednesday. Mr Abraham Oliver will preach at the house at 10.30 and the burial will be in the church of Llandewi Abergwesyn.”

Jac and Shan Pysgotwr were two people who lived in the mountains. It is from warm-hearted respect that I give them the familiar names by which they were known to their neighbours. Shan came of a family from the borders of Breconshire and Radnorshire – the burial place of her ancestors was at Abergwesyn and there too she wished to go. Jac came from the valley of the Upper Towy and the story goes that when Shan was the senior maid at Nant-yr-euch he used to visit the farm to court the junior maid. On his arrival there one evening, after the usual greetings, Shan came to tell him that her junior was not at home, and somehow from that night onwards Shan, the senior maid, became Jac’s sweetheart.

They got married and after several moves from place to place, eventually settled down in Pysgotwr, and it was there Shan ended her days at the age of 85. They lived a quiet simple life throughout their long span and according to what I can gather the main ambitions of their lives were: to be hospitable to the stranger, to help the poor, to pay the old debt before incurring the new, and when the end came to leave sufficient to settle all accounts, and to have an oak coffin and a gravestone. And all their hopes were fulfilled. When I returned home after the service on that Sunday morning they announced Shan’s funeral, I could hear my father and mother, while at dinner, speaking of the old lady as if no one but they were present. At the end of their discussion my father glanced towards the long table where I and some others were partaking and said, “You must attend Shan’s funeral, they will need help to carry”. The news of the old lady’s death was no occasion for rejoicing but at the same time I could not suppress a smile because a funeral was almost the only excuse for a “day out” for a spirited and healthy lad. It was not long before I found company for the journey, namely our genial neighbour, Joseph Morgan the shopkeeper, who was the family’s “universal provider”. And so, on a fair winter’s morning, we set out from Llandewi. I was in my element, riding a high-spirited cob that was to be sold at Garon Fair the following March: neither horse nor rider one would think had a care in the world.

From the village of Llanddew our path was to the east along the bank of the River Brefi, rising to that part of the mountains which forms the watershed dividing the waters of the Teifi from those of the Brefi. It was along this path that Rowland, Llangeitho, travelled on his way to Ystrad Ffin and in his lament for Rowland Williams, Pantycelyn, refers to these mountains as the Dewi Hills and the name is most appropriate for to the west stands Llandewi Brefi and to the east Llandewi Abergwesyn, with, in between the two places, some 18 miles of wild mountainous country.

In order to cross the shoulder of Bryn Caregog we had to climb over 1000 feet, then we descended to a spot where, within the short distance of about 100 yards, five small streams unite. This is the beginning of the river Pysgotwr. Near the same spot, where about the same number of roads and paths meet is a place called Postgwyn, named (it is said) after a fingerpost that stood there once upon a time, but the old post with its directions had disappeared years before we passed there that morning. Old Daniel Jones, Y Bryn, used to say that he remembered seeing the remains of the fingerpost there in his young days. What fitter site for a fingerpost? Not a house within miles, and how different from the idea of the present generation, which is to place fingerposts near towns, villages, stations. I see no reason for this, other than the rules bearing of good manners, namely, that to ask a question of a fellowship to whom one has not been formally introduced is gross effrontery.

After leaving Postgwyn we followed the river Pysgotwr for about a mile and arrived at the home of Shan and Jac where the neighbours had congregated. Here the bier had been brought the day before on the backs of little mountain ponies (how, I cannot say). It was a lonely place. If a circle of 4 miles radius were drawn with Pysgotwr as centre, less than 70 souls, counting men, women and children, would be found living within its limits. Hence, one could not expect the congregation to be a large one.

The Reverend Abraham Oliver had already arrived and while those who proposed carrying Shan to her distant resting place were taking a little nourishment, he delivered the funeral sermon to the old people, the women and children of the neighbourhood. It was not the numbers of mourners nor the costliness of the mourning apparel that was the dominant feature of the funeral but it’s pure, unostentatious simplicity.

The sermon over, we set out for the place of burial some 12 miles away. At the head of the procession, riding a shaggy pony with a horse-hair halter was Nathaniel, Y Ddinas, an old neighbour of Shan’s. He led the way, holding a long hazel stick in his hand like the sword of a general, and indeed he was a general for it was his duty to decide the route our journey was to take along this vast pathless expanse, and how long each team of four bearers was to carry its burden. Nathaniel’s judgement on the latter important problem was not determined by distance or by time: if the way was fairly level the team had good measure, but if the path was rough the measure was shorter. Careful judgement, sound common sense and a good eye for country were Nathaniel’s strong points, and of these we had ample proof before our journey was over.

Before we had gone 100 yards from the house we turned eastward where a long slope faced us. Every ditch was full of water and every bog was dangerous to both man and horse, but in spite of all these difficulties everybody was in a good mood as we now climbed the high mountain which separates the Pysgotwr valley from that of the Doethie. The number of bearers was but 20, and eight of us would ride in turns and lead the remaining horses for all would be mounted on the return journey that evening.

We soon reached Maes-y-Betws where it was necessary to decide which team of four bearers would ford the rivers. After crossing the two Doethie rivers we faced the mountain and climbed Rhiw’r Gelynen, or Rhiw’r Gelynion (as some call it). The ancient paths and tracks in these mountains are very steep and fall sharply sometimes, for they were intended for sledges and are still used as such. Such a one was Rhiw’r Gelynen and it was not surprising now, to notice that progress was slower with conversation very much on the wane.

Before reaching the crest of the mountain the path turned south along the ridge for a short distance and below us was Cwm Nant-Y-Benglog with a lonely house of the same name at the bottom of the steep valley. When he travelled along this path some years previously, Cerngoch composed the following verse:

Behold a rugged “cwm”

That only cat or hare could climb:

O spare me from rearing children

Within sigh of Nant-Y-Benglog!

The old bard had lost a child there through accident a short while before this and the place must be seen before the full meaning of the verse can be sensed.

In spite of the extreme cold at the bottom of this steep valley we found the ascent out of it warm work and when we reached yet another crest, the Camddwr valley opened out before us. As we descended towards the river the path took us near Soar chapel and I recollect well what struck me most forcibly at the time was the similarity in size between the Chapel itself, the caretaker’s house and the stable. This equality of size seems particularly appropriate; and I leave it to the reader’s imagination to find out the circumstances which call for it.

(The writer implies that the size of the congregation in such an isolated chapel was so small that the chapel and stabling for the worshipper’s horses did not need to be any larger than a house. J.)

After leaving the Chapel the way improved compared with what had been our lot till then and our General was quick to take advantage, for he signaled the changes with his stick less frequently. The carrying now was easier and Nathaniel at the head worked his legs on either side like two wings moving in rhythm with the movements of the pony. Nature too seemed to have taken a hand by cleaving a way through the back of the merciless mountain, and once again we lost sight of Cwm Camddwr while Cwm Tywi opened out before us. But before we take a last look at the old chapel I must quote Cerngoch’s verse:

On the banks of the Camddwr river

Stands a temple to our Saviour;

Whoever comes over such country

Proves himself a true Worshipper.

Shan was one of the ‘true worshippers’ all her life, and she had great regard for Soar but she wished to return to her own people for her last long rest: and in this respect she remained a typical Welsh-woman.

As the panorama of the Towy valley opened out before us we saw ahead Pant-y-Clwydau on the eastern bank of the river. The way to Abergwesyn ran along a small brook that had scooped a bed for itself down the mountain side and after crossing the Towy we climbed Rhiw-yr-Yeb (as it is called). This was far the steepest place where I ever shouldered a bier and indeed I almost believed that Shan had become much heavier in the course of the journey. To this day I consider that it was a feat to have carried Shan up this steep incline and Cefn Coch, the mountain that Rhiw’r Yeb was but a preliminary test.

Eventually we reached the top whence, for more than 3 miles we covered places so rough there was not a sheep track even for us to follow for any distance, but we felt perfectly safe under the leadership of Nathaniel who soon brought us within sight of the Irfon Valley. My spirits rose once again as Abergwesyn and the end of the journey appeared in the distance, and as we went downwards to the church through Llwynderw woods I placed my shoulder under Shan’s coffin for the 47th time. By now everybody – both man and beast – presented a worn-out appearance and as the sun disappeared behind the mountains it cast long shadows across the valley.

We turned into the graveyard and passed through the doorway of the ancient church. There were signs of neglect everywhere in the churchyard and in the church itself the walls were bare and the roof had fallen in except for a small portion that remained above the rickety pulpit. The priest went through the service with due solemnity and never, I am convinced, did he face a more sober congregation; and while he spoke of the sure and certain hope of eternal life I confess that my mind wandered back to my father’s house in Cardiganshire the other side of the mountain over which I had plodded my weary way till the end of the day. Shan’s grave was filled and I bid it farewell feeling that I had faithfully fulfilled my duty by her. After nourishment (for man and beast) we set out on our return journey across the mountain and arrived home shortly after midnight.

After making a fair reckoning of ascents and descents made during the outward and return journey, I consider it as if we had carried the bier and corpse over Snowdon from Portmadoc to Llanberis and back again. How different were the feelings of the rider, and his poor mount too I fear, on the return journey. I felt so heavy that I wondered how my horse could bear up beneath me, and the horse, poor creature, walked as clumsily as an old 15/- hack from Rhos Fair.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books or purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/73tq302Ov71

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

 

A writer’s country strife alias ‘clueless’ in Wales.

I wrote this piece a while back as a guest on a friend’s blog. I have since moved and am no longer the owner of these two darlings but my time with them and the beginnings of our relationship shall never be forgotten. It is a good thing to be able to laugh at one’s self, I believe, and in the light of the weather giving us little to laugh about of late, I thought I would share this so you can all laugh with me at my former clue-lessness in the sheep-buying world.

I’ve always approached anything mechanical with some trepidation. I generally distrust any machine, including my car, if I don’t know how it works. So it was with unusual recklessness that I decided to try a ride-on mower to keep down the grass in my half-acre paddock. It was a second-hand mower, hence it came without instructions. I assumed it would work like my car; turn the ignition, the engine will start; let your foot off the clutch and away to go. All of which happened, but it was only when I found myself hurtling towards a tree with no room for manoeuvre that I realised I didn’t know where the brakes were and didn’t have the luxury of time to find out. I leapt from the beast and hit the ground running. I’m guessing I’m not the first person to have abandoned ship in this way because someone invented a mechanism which automatically cuts out the engine when the seat is vacated; thus the mower was saved from being wrapped around said tree.

Following this experience, I decided what I needed to keep the grass down was a more manageable kind of beast, and I set about a quest to buy myself a couple of sheep. After all, I’d grown up on a farm, what could possibly go wrong? I asked one of my brothers, Phil, to come along with me to a forthcoming sheep sale, based on another wrong assumption; that he would have more idea than me. Off we went to the sale.  I’d set my heart on a couple of Welsh Black Mountain sheep, though heaven knows we had more than a couple of ‘black sheep’ in the family already, including me.

Into the ring they came, in groups of two or four, and the bidding began. With my heart pounding, I proceeded to wave my programme in the air at intervals, and got the winning bid on a lovely pair of six month old, black lambs. Only when I went to pay did I realise the figure I had bid was not for the two but the price of each. I raise an eyebrow at Phil. He was obviously not as knowledgeable as I had hoped or he would have known this, wouldn’t he? At this point I should have had a sense of foreboding.

To be fair, since leaving the farm of our childhoods, neither of us had been involved in farming in any way. It’s astonishing how much one forgets over forty years. This lapse of memory was to become more evident over the coming hours.

With receipt of my payment in hand we go off in search of my lambs. They are not in a pen of their own, all ready and waiting for me as I expect. What we are faced with is a large pen of thirty black lambs all huddled together in a corner with their backs to us, and all seemingly identical.

“Which two are mine?” I ask Phil.

He gives a nonchalant shrug of his shoulders, “I suppose you just take your pick?”

“Oh! Great! Those two look sweet, I’ll have those,” I say, pointing out two from the indistinguishable crowd.

Welsh Black Mountain lambs are WILD. They race, they kick, they bleat, and they buck like untamed horses. After chasing these beasts around the pen for some minutes, we decide to grab hold of whatever we can and hang on for dear life. They are so strong; it takes all our strength to carry them, kicking and writhing, out of the pen and down into the waiting trailer.

“Phew! A bit wild, aren’t they?” Phil says, as we bolt the trailer gate behind them.

Job done. Off we now go to the supermarket because Phil needs to do a bit of shopping. All the while, the lambs are trying to kick and buck their way out of the trailer. On returning with his shopping, Phil takes a peek inside.

“Oh! Come and see this!” He says. “Look! They’ve got numbers on them.”

So they have. Buried in the wool under their chins are paper tags with numbers penned on them; eight and twelve. The penny drops. Phil looks at me. I look at Phil. We hadn’t seen the numbers earlier because while we were chasing and catching the beasts, they were naturally facing the other way.

“Oops,” Phil says.

The two lambs I should have taken were the third and fourth of the group of thirty that were brought into the ring, and so would have had the numbers three and four attached to them. It was obvious now we see they are numbered.

“What a stupid idea. They could at least have put the numbers where we would have seen them,” says Phil.

No doubt the auctioneers weren’t expecting two complete novices to turn up or they’d have stuck the numbers on their backsides.

“I thought you said you’ve done this before,” I say to him with an accusing glare.

“Oh, well, we can’t take them back now. It won’t make no odds, anyway, they all look the same,” he says.

We head for home, accompanied by the loud bangs of our wild companions trying to kick their way out of the trailer. Perhaps they sensed they had been wrongly abducted.

By the time we get to my place, some two hours or more have passed since we had abducted those lambs. We back the trailer up to the open gate leading into my paddock and unleash the beasts. They race across the paddock and do something I’ve never seen lambs do before. They hop, skip, jump, then take a flying leap over the stone wall boundary straight onto my neighbour’s hill.

“Well! Ruddy hell!” Phil says in his most infuriating laid-back style, while I am wringing my hands with angst.

“You’ll never catch ‘em now, they’ll be gone,” says he, stating the bleeding obvious.

I go indoors to make a cup of tea; the only thing to do when you don’t know what to do next. A light is flashing on my answerphone. While we wait for the kettle to boil, I play back the message. It is a woman’s voice and she sounds furious.

“Please phone the auctioneers immediately you get this message.”

“She doesn’t sound very happy,” Phil says with hearty cheer and I give him ‘The Look’ that tells him this is not in the least bit funny.

When I phone the auctioneers I discover the mayhem we have left in our wake.

“The sheep are numbered for a reason!” I am informed in an officious voice.

“So buyers get the sheep they have bid on, not someone else’s sheep!” The woman goes on, her voice rising higher with each word.

“You have caused a great deal of confusion and trouble!” She says, her voice rising to a crescendo.

“I’m ever so sorry,” I squeak.

“And so you should be! Well! Someone else now has your sheep!” she says with a note of triumph in her voice which makes me suspect the ones which have gone to someone else must have been the better pair.

“We’ll never be able to go there again,” Phil says when I put down the phone.

My neighbour and his dog eventually found my two on the top of his hill, a couple of days later, and brought them home to me after I’d erected a fence above the wall to keep them in.

Not surprisingly, it took them some time to settle in and grow to trust me. They were the best of friends, their relationship cemented during their shared trauma of being abducted by a couple of ne’er-do-wells. At first, their capacity for jumping walls and fences knew no bounds. They had a few adventures over the following months until I made all the fences high enough to restrain llamas. On one of their adventures they ended up a mile away after taking a trip down the country lanes. I suspect they were going in search of their rightful owner.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy, historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books and purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

 

 

No sense of direction, no Satnav, I’m the lost and clueless sort.

I was chatting to a man in Aberaeron and he asked where I was headed from there. I’m off to a place called Mwnt, I said, where there is a remote little church upon the cliffs above Cardigan. I got married in that little church, he said, surprising me. It was a long time ago, mind, there was nothing else there back then. No caravans, no National Trust shop selling ice cream. I’m making a detour first, I said, to the National Wool museum. What a detour that turned out to be!

I have a reputation for having no sense of direction and hence, for getting lost. I missed a few turns I should have taken but got to my destination, eventually. Along the way, I passed through some beautiful scenery and there was one stretch of the road which for miles was edged on either side with hedgerows bedecked with flowering laburnums. It was a breathtakingly beautiful stretch of road but sadly I couldn’t find a safe place to pull over to take photographs.

The museum was interesting, filled with old machinery which took the processing of wool from fleece to finished cloth. It was on leaving here that I took a major wrong turn and ended up at a crossroads on the top of some remote hill. Not one of the remote places on the finger-posts could I find on my map so I turned around and headed back to the museum. Now back on the right road, I passed through Cenarth, over a narrow, humped back bridge which traversed the river Teifi. The view upstream was spectacular with the river tumbling down over falls where salmon can be seen leaping in the season.

As I headed north out of Cardigan, I stopped at a petrol station and asked the genial, young man at the till if I was very far from my destination of Mwnt.

“Ah, well, now then, that depends!” says he.

“On what?”

“On how far you want to go. If you carry up to Aberporth then double back, now, that is the long way round and will take about half an hour. But if you take the right turn just as you go out of here, then you’ll be there in five minutes.”

I begin to wonder if he is slightly unhinged because it seems like a no-brainer to me and I tell him I will take the short route.

“Ah, but, you see, if you go that way, well, it’s a bit tricky, see. It’s a very narrow lane, like, and you might come upon a tractor and then where will you be? Which one of you is going to reverse, isn’t it? There aren’t many passing places, see?”

Indeed, I did see, and ask what he would do if he were me, given that I am driving a large motor home.

“I’d give it a go, isn’t it? It’s raining, see, so you should be alright. If it was sunny, though, well there’d be tractors all up and down that lane, see, cutting the silage, isn’t it?”

He shows me in a map book; which turns to take, and where, along this little lane. I thank him, explaining I have already got lost once today. “Perhaps I should get myself a Satnav!” I exclaim, thinking I certainly should.

“Oh, dear,  no, you don’t want to be using one of those around here, it’ll likely lead you over the nearest cliff!” he says, with manic glee.

I buy his map book. It is a Navigator map book and shows all the little lanes I might get lost in. Just the thing I need.

I thank him again and make to leave.

“No worries! We get lots of your sort around here!” he says.

I assume that by ‘my sort’, he means clueless and lost. He then begins to relate a tale about a man who staggered into his garage, one evening, eyelids drooping with fatigue, and asking if, pray to God, he was anywhere near Swansea.

“And I broke it to him gently, like, isn’t it? I said, well, no, not exactly. You have a while to go, yet. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he had another hour and a half to go! He’d been up over some mountains, somewhere, after taking a wrong turn off the motorway. Pitiful sight, he was.”

Duly warned of the dangers of taking wrong turns, I follow his directions to Mwnt along a web of narrow criss-crossing lanes to a farm overlooking the sea. Not that I could see the sea as it was shrouded behind a veil of torrential rain. I arrived here at 3pm and it was still raining seven hours later. A strong wind picked up, too, towards night. I know this because I made the mistake of unwinding the awning so my route in and out of the door would be sheltered from the rain. Having unwound it, I was unable to reel it in again when the wind picked up. So, I went to bed to the sound of the thwack and slam of the awning knocking against its supports. I was surprised to find it still there in the morning, and a little brute force from the helpful proprietor got it reeled in again.

As the rain had passed, I sat on my step to eat my breakfast toast and these beady-eyed little chaps turned up to share it with me;WP_20140525_07_06_12_Pro__highres

Today, we climbed to the top of the conical hill of Mwnt; a precarious climb for one such as me, as I have a dizzy head for heights. It was worth the effort and the terror, though. The slopes were smothered in wild flowers…

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and the whitewashed church was beautiful in its simplicity…

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… the view from the coastal path across the bay was lovely…

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…if you use binoculars, you might just see the little church perched above the cliffs!

Mwnt was invaded, unsuccessfully, by the Flemings in 1155. It is said that the site of the church dates to the Age of the Saints, though the present church is possibly 14th century. It has a font cut from the stone of the Preseli mountains (as is Stone Henge).

Jenny Lloyd is the author of the Megan Jones trilogy of novels, historical suspense set in early 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

 

You can read about the books and purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/i1sy302jXXK

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

 

 

The healing power of nature.

In my novel, Leap the Wild Water, there is a market-place scene where Megan is introduced to an elderly woman called Martha. Martha is a healer, selling the potions she has made. She embarrasses Megan when offering her a small bottle of Heartsease essence for mending broken hearts.

Martha has a sixth sense for the underlying cause of Megan’s unhappiness. It was this intuitive sixth-sense which set people like Martha apart from others. From ancient times, knowledge of healing herbs was passed down orally through the generations. Ordinary people had a wealth of knowledge about how to treat common ailments which afflicted them or their families.  Women like Martha were consulted when usual treatments were ineffective and more intuitive or specialist knowledge was required.

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When researching my family history I discovered that my great-great-great grandmother, Mary Jones, nee Morgan, was a herbalist of some renown. Born in 1796, near Strata Florida Abbey (picture above)she moved to Breconshire, Wales in 1838. It was said that people came from all over the county and beyond for her cures, travelling many miles on foot or horseback. Though no written or oral record survives of the remedies she used, they were likely to have been her own unique combinations of plants which were commonly used to treat ailments at that time.

I suppose it must be from this ancestor that I have inherited my love of wildflowers and fascination with their past usage. Personally, I believe that just to walk among nature’s bounty is healing in itself. Walking the Welsh mountains and vales has provided great comfort to me when I have needed it.

Below I have listed a few of the plants which were widely used;

  • The bilberries which grow in profusion on the slopes of Welsh mountains were used to treat eye problems. Their efficacy has been borne out in more recent times when British pilots in WW2 were given supplies of bilberry jam to aid their night time vision.
  • COLTSFOOT
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  • Pictured above growing in an old quarry, Coltsfoot flower tea was an old remedy for coughs. Also, the shredded leaves were smoked in a pipe to ease a bad cough.
  • Dandelion was used to treat diseases of the liver and kidneys. I remember as a child being told that if you picked dandelion flowers you would wet the bed. This was a corruption of the truth as dandelion was originally used to cure bed-wetting in children.
  • The flowers and berries of Elder were used to treat colds and fevers.
  • FEVERFEW
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  • The aptly named Feverfew, above, was used to treat fevers and is also known to be an effective remedy for migraines.
  • The use of Mugwort can be traced back to pagan times. Mugwort placed under the pillow at night was deemed to produce prophetic dreams. It was also worn as an amulet to ward off evil. The famed physicians of Myddfai, in 13th century Wales, recommended hanging it in the house to ward off flies and fleas. Burning Mugwort inside the house was said to ward off bad spirits.
  • Nettle was an ancient remedy for gout.
  • Plantain leaves were used as a poultice for wounds.
  • RED POPPY
  • red poppy
  • Pictured above, another remedy offered by the 13th century physicians of Myddfai was an infusion of boiled red poppy seed-heads to aid sleep.
  • The appropriately named Self-heal was used to staunch bleeding and treat wounds.
  • The effectiveness of St John’s Wort for the treatment of depression has been proven, like many other old remedies, by modern day science.
  • An infusion of Wild rose petals was a popular and effective remedy for a broken heart, as was the Heartsease mentioned above.
  • WOOD BETONY
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  • Wood Betony, above, was a common cure for those plagued by nightmares and insomnia.
  • YARROW
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  • Yarrow was valued for its properties of divination.
  • LUNGWORT
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Herbalists like my ancestor were also guided by the Doctrine of Signatures in divining which plants to use. According to this ancient wisdom, each and every medicinal plant carries a ‘signature’ which donates its proper usage. For example, the spotted leaves of the lungwort plant (pictured above) were said to resemble the insides of lungs, and walnuts were used to treat diseases of the brain due to their strong resemblance to the lobes of the brain. Here is a link to an article on the Doctrine of Signatures on Wikipedia. http://ow.ly/kgFRp   Please do not try remedies at home without verifying their safe usage!

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow        The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

 

You can read about the books or purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/73tq302Ov71

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse

Have you had your oats today?

Oats were once the main staple in the diets of rural people in upland Wales. Part of the research for my novel, Leap the Wild Water, involved finding out what the rural poor ate in the early 19th century. What I discovered was a diet dominated mainly by oats and milk. The only variations in the oats and milk diet were subtle variations in the preparation, invented no doubt to relieve the monotonous boredom of eating the same bland foodstuffs every day.

Oats were used to make oat bread, oatcakes, to thicken vegetable broths, in milk broths, and mixed with milk to make a fairly tasteless, porridge-like substance. Oatcakes seemed to have been eaten at almost every meal time. The most common recipe consisted of mixing fine oatmeal with bacon fat, boiling water and a pinch of salt. This mixture was then kneaded well. After rolling out and cutting into circles, the ‘cakes’ were then cooked on a hot baking stone placed over the fire.

Cawl llaeth was a milk broth eaten at breakfast time and very like the porridge we eat today; made with skimmed milk, oatmeal, water and salt boiled together.

An inventive variation on the oats for breakfast theme was to serve Cawl -with crushed oatcakes added; the downside of having this for breakfast meant that you would be eating the same meal at breakfast as at dinner – Cawl being the main meal of the day. Cawl is a Welsh broth, made by adding vegetables to water in which salt beef or bacon is being boiled, and then thickened with, yes, you have guessed it, oatmeal.

‘Shot’ was a common supper dish. It was basically oatcakes steeped in buttermilk.

For a little variety ‘Sopas’ was eaten at breakfast in summer time; this was made by heating buttermilk to blood temperature, then rennet was added and the mixture placed in a cloth covered bowl. This less than delightful sounding mixture was then left for several hours before being mixed and served. At least it didn’t have oatmeal in it, though it is more than likely that oatcakes were served up on the side.

Even the mid-day meal did not escape the addition of oats, as the bread served with the home-made cheese and butter would have likely been oat bread.

The mind numbing monotony of the rural Welsh diet was the direct result of there being nothing to eat which could not be grown. Thus, Cawl was made from the bacon of one’s own pig and the vegetables grown in the garden. Your cow would provide the milk to drink, and for making cheese and butter. If pudding was eaten at all it was likely to be stewed apples or whatever other fruit was in season in the garden or the wild.

Upland Wales was not a conducive climate for growing cereal crops but people had to grow a certain amount of oats, rye and barley to feed themselves and their animals. What came to be known as ‘Radnorshire’ oats was able to survive the cold and wet Welsh climate.

Though sheep were the predominant animal in upland Wales, they were not reared for meat but for their wool. However, after lambs were weaned, their milk was often added to cow’s milk to make cheese. A typical recipe for cheese was a gallon of ewe’s milk to four gallons of cow’s milk, to which rennet and salt were added. I imagine this would be similar in texture and taste to Swiss Gruyere and provided a tasty addition to an otherwise bland and monotonous diet.

The whey from cheese making was used to make ‘Gwyneb Maidd’. The whey was brought to near boiling point when fresh milk and buttermilk were added. This mixture would then curdle, at which point bread was added. I vividly remember my mother making a similar dish for us as children, liberally sprinkled with salt and pepper, which we ate before bedtime. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. My mother made all her own bread, butter and cheese on the farm where I grew up in Wales, until well into the 1960’s, by which time it ceased to be economically necessary or viable. Even now, the faintest whiff of buttermilk has the power to transport me back to my mother’s white-washed dairy.

We have such a varied diet these days; it is hard to imagine the monotony of the self-sufficient diet of earlier times. Back then, bad weather and failed crops could mean starvation to a family. We all know about the Irish famines, but Wales too suffered famines on a regular basis; though people did not die in such numbers as in Ireland because they were not so reliant on potatoes.

I have experimented with growing my own vegetables organically, as part of the research for my novel. It is time consuming and sometimes soul destroying work when the results are far less than hoped for. The past years of unusually cold, wet summers did not help.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical suspense novels set in early, 19th century, rural Wales.

Leap the Wild Water new book cover meadow     The Calling of the Raven updated book cover     Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

You can read about the books or purchase them by clicking on the links below.

Leap the Wild Water: http://ow.ly/jEoi302jXkd

The Calling of the Raven: http://ow.ly/4uRO302jXmd

Anywhere the Wind Blows: http://ow.ly/73tq302Ov71

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/jennylloydauthor

Pinterest; http://www.pinterest.com/jennyoldhouse