A Hundred Tiny Threads.

Today, I am delighted to have my fellow author, Judith Barrow, as a guest on my blog. Judith’s new book, A Hundred Tiny Threads, has just been published. It is a prequel to her historical family saga, and I’m sure it will gain her many new fans. So that you can get to know her a little better, I’ve invited her to this interview.

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Welcome, Judith. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Although I was born and brought up in a small village on the edge of the Pennine moors in Yorkshire, for the last forty years I’ve lived with my husband and family near the coast in Pembrokeshire, West Wales, UK, a gloriously beautiful place. I have an MA in Creative Writing, B.A. (Hons.) in Literature, and a Diploma in Drama and Script Writing.  I am also a Creative Writing tutor for Pembrokeshire County Council’s Lifelong Learning Programme and give talks and run workshops on all genres.

Along with friend and fellow author, Thorne Moore, I also organise a book fair in September. This year we’ve changed venues. Here’s the link that tells all!! Narberth Book Fair. http://www.narberthbookfair.co.uk/index.html

You are one busy lady! Have you always written?

I have. I’ve had short stories, poems, plays, reviews and articles published throughout the British Isles. But only started to seriously write novels after I’d had breast cancer twenty years ago. I had the first of my trilogy, Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010 by Honno (honno.co.uk), the sequel, Changing Patterns, in 2013 and the last, Living in the Shadows in 2015. The prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, has just been published in August.  I thought the characters would leave me alone but it’s not to be; eight minor characters have been clamouring to be heard so I wrote some short stories about them in an anthology, Secrets. Now at least two of them want to be in a novel.

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How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

Half finished; dozens that I know won’t go anywhere but I keep to use some parts that read okay that I can re-write and use somewhere else. Finished? Six adult novels, two children’s middle grade books and four picture books. Oh, and an anthology of poetry… mainly bad poetry, I think.

That’s a lot of writing experience under your belt! What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

Actually, I haven’t had many problems with that and I don’t know why. Except that most of my characters have been in my head for the last ten years and they talk to me. And I talk to them (yes, I do get funny looks in shops and other places) I think it’s just a case of walking in their shoes.

Lancashire Mill Town

Yes, those characters really do take over, don’t they?! What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

I have huge files of each era I write about on the shelves in my study. It’s important to me to of that time, the world situation, what was in the news. On a more prosaic level, it’s the kinds of houses, furniture, fashions, hairstyles, children’s’ toys and games played, music and films, radio or television programmes depending on the times, even the weather if I have a scene where I’ve also put the dates in a certain chapter. The list is endless and time consuming. But necessary, I think.

There again I have an irritating habit of researching something and coming across facts I didn’t know about and having to find out about those. Before I know it I’ve gone off at a tangent and wasted hours.

I know what you mean. I’ve discovered so many things I’d never have known about because of those tangents! How do you select the names of your characters?

I’ve gone through the generations of my family and worked my way through my husband’s past family. Or I remember someone I once knew and liked the name. In the prequel, A Hundred Tiny Threads, though, I looked up Irish names and chose those I thought fitted to the characters.

I love books with an Irish connection. What was your hardest scene to write?

I wrote a rape scene; it actually was a personal account.

That was courageous of you. The most difficult scenes to write, I think, are those which draw on distressing, personal memories, but writing from the heart produces the best writing.

Does writing energise or exhaust you?

Both; if I’m on a roll the adrenalin keeps me going.  But if I’m stuck or plodding through a certain scene that I know really doesn’t work and I’m going to have to alter, I’m drained. Then I try to leave that section and work on editing other parts of the book. That usually boosts me again.

living in the shadows

I love your book covers, by the way. They make me nostalgic for that era!

What would be the advice you would give to your younger writing self?

Have confidence, believe in yourself. And leave home when you’re sixteen and see the world.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Good grief, I’ve not thought about that… hmm. Okay, the first image that popped into my head was a long white feather. Wonder why that happened?  Spirit animal? That would actually be a black swan; I love swans, white or black; the idea of them paddling away under the water yet looking serene is an image I like to think could be me (well, I can hope!). But a black swan it is; there’s something quite royally mysterious about them.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

Gaining my degree and then my Masters in my forties.

If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

By choice I would make unusual novelty cakes; I did that for years as a part time job from home but it became economically unviable because people don’t want to pay the price of the hours put in when they can buy ones from the supermarkets at half the price.  Or I’d teach swimming; I qualified years ago when the children were in a swimming club. I taught both children and adults; loved it.

Has there been any author’s work you disliked at first but grew into?

No, I’m afraid not. If I haven’t like an author’s work the first time, I tend to move on. If I like an author’s work I’ll follow then and read anything they write.

Me, too! What is the first book that made you cry?

Black Beauty. I wouldn’t mind but I was, and still am, terrified of horses. And I do know that’s stupid but, when I was six, I was walking with my parents through a field and a horse chased us. Climbing over a stile to escape, my skirt got caught on the top of it and I completely panicked. My mother told me a week later that the horse had chased and bitten someone else. Whether that was true or not, I had nightmares about running and getting stuck for ages afterwards.

I’m not surprised you are terrified of them after an experience like that! What do you think is the best way to market your books?

I wish I knew. However, even though it’s not the most efficient way, my favourite is giving talks and book signings. It was terrifying at first but I soon realised people just want to be entertained. And smiling a lot helps. (I usually pick out the grumpiest looking person and keep smiling at them until they break!!)

Love your style! Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

I’m just glad when I get a review; the good ones make my day, the more critical ones I tend to think about, learn from, or discard. If I had a review from the number of people who tell me they’ll write one, they’d be in their hundreds on each of my novels. Or even from the readers who make a point of coming to me at events and tell me how much they enjoyed them. I think the problem is that people think they have to write something flowery or erudite. Just a “liked this book” would suit me fine… and I’d be most grateful.

Yes, I think many readers are genuinely nervous of writing reviews for the reasons you say. It’s a shame because reviews are so valuable to writers. Would you give us the links where we can find you?

Surely, and thanks for hosting me today, Jenny.

It’s been my pleasure, Judith, and I wish you every success.

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You can follow Judith and find her wonderful books via the links below;

Bloghttps://judithbarrowblog.com/
Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6
Twitter: https://twitter.com/barrow_judith
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Judith-Barrow-327003387381656/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/judithbarrow/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3295663.Judith_Barrow
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+JudithBarrowauthor
Linkedin : https://www.linkedin.com/in/judith-anne-barrow-02812b11/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Time to say goodbye.

So much has happened since the first book in the trilogy, Leap the Wild Water, was published in 2013. I remember how it felt when the book ‘went live’. It was like diving into deep water, not knowing what lay beneath the surface. It was both terrifying and exhilarating. I published it on a hope and a prayer that someone, somewhere, would think well of it. I never imagined just how many people would be carried away, as I was, by Megan’s story, or the praise my writing would receive.

I am truly and forever grateful to all those readers who let me know, in person or through their reviews, how much they enjoyed my books. It is readers who decide if writers sink or swim and I have been blessed by the encouragement my writing has received. I am not a person who has a great deal of self-confidence or self-belief, so without that encouragement, the second book in the trilogy, The Calling of the Raven, may never have seen the light of day.

Now, two eventful years since I published The Calling of the Raven, I’m finally publishing the last book in the Megan Jones trilogy. I came close to giving up on it. The loss of Morgan knocked me off my feet and for a while I couldn’t think about anything else. I miss him so much and preparing the book for this step to publication has given me a focus.

With the last book in the trilogy, it is time to say goodbye to Megan, et al. Saying goodbye isn’t easy as I’ve come to know these characters so well they are like old friends to me. They have carried me along on a breath-taking journey across the centuries and into the intimate details of their lives and struggles. Megan is a woman with courage, compassion, and a capacity for forgiveness which many of us can only aspire to. For me, she is what every heroine should be; portraying the possibilities lying within each of us.

From the very first, I have felt these stories were not being told by me so much as by the characters who ‘speak’ through me. My role has been merely to shape their experiences into the form of a novel. So I am grateful to them, too, for choosing me to tell their stories. I shall never forget them.

Which brings me to the last book in the Megan Jones trilogy, and to celebrate the launch of Anywhere the Wind Blows, the new updated kindle edition of Leap the Wild Water will be FREE for 5 days from August 1st 2016.

Anywhere the Wind Blows Book Cover - jpg

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

 

 

 

An unforgettable writer’s paradise.

It was at Tonfannau, in 2015, that I began writing Anywhere the Wind Blows. A major character in the book is called Cai Traherne. He appeared to me first in a dream and then over the coming weeks his story began to unfold as I sat on this remote beach where the Dysynni river meets the sea.

There is a scene in the book which is instantly recognisable as Tonfannau. Aptly translated ‘the place of waves’ (of which there was a myriad when the wind blew off the sea), it was the place where I conquered my fear of visiting remote beaches alone after recovering from the freak accident of 2014 – it was like jumping back on a horse after being thrown.

I spent many hours here, hand writing the first draft of Anywhere the Wind Blows or combing the beach for driftwood thrown up by the tide, while Morgan and Jess explored the rock pools. I didn’t see another soul along this beach. My only company was Morgan and Jess, and the cormorants and wild swans that came flying down the river valley to land on the shoreline.  I stayed for over six weeks with the motor-home parked up in an idyllic location nearby – this place, translated from the Welsh, is called ‘the parish of the blessed’. Blessed is how I feel to have so many memories of my time spent in this paradise. It was the one place I visited which I wished I didn’t have to leave. It was devilishly cold some days with the January and February winds blowing off the sea…

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…in the distance is the snow capped mountain of Snowdon.

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Tonfannau is a place where the wild sea has reclaimed cliff top buildings and moulded them into the shapes of waves…

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…and stone walls are things to gaze upon with awe at the craftsmanship involved…

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…and gate posts are works of art….

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Of all the places I stayed, it is the one I most lost my heart to and wish to revisit one day to walk this road which was the daily one back to our base.

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When I left here I traveled inland. Following the injury of 2014 I thought I’d never be able to climb another hill. What more romantically named place could I prove myself wrong than on Velvet Hill?  Velvet Hill overlooks Llangollen on one side…

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… and Valle Crucis Abbey on the other…

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Near here is the holy well which George Borrow drank from when visiting this fabulous ruin…

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After perhaps too long travelling hither and thither, I found myself longing for more familiar territory…

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I returned to retread those ancient paths which had led me to my ancestors and writing inspiration…

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I knew then where I needed to be. I needed to go home. ‘Home’ to me has always been among those beautiful hills and lanes where I grew up in Mid-Wales. I found a little cottage to make my home, along a country lane less than a mile from my birthplace, with nearby views of mountains I have loved all my life….

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…and places where I walk in the footsteps of my ancestors…

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When I climb Mynydd Eppynt and look from west to east, I can locate the birthplaces of my daughter, myself, my mother, my grandmother, a great-grandmother, a great-great grandmother, and the resting place of the great-great-great grandparents who came across the mountains from Strata Florida to make their home here….

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Perhaps home is not so much where our hearts lie but where the soul feels it belongs.

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/i1sy302jXXK

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

 

 

 

 

A ghostly encounter on a journey into the past…..

I have never been afraid of ghosts, not even as a child growing up in a reputedly haunted house. In fact, I was thrilled and fascinated by the stories of an older sister who told of her too-close encounters with our resident ghost. The living have often scared me, but not the dead. My lack of fear is just as well, given what happened to me when I went in search of a house where my ancestors once lived, an experience which is the subject of this post.

My journey to find my Welsh ancestors spanned two and half years, hundreds of hours of research, and culminated in the writing of three historical novels. When I began the journey, I never imagined what it would lead to. Of all the journeys I have made, it was the most moving, surprising, and inspiring of all.

Along the way, I had experiences which reignited my faith in there being more to our existence than can be explained away and diminished by science. The experience I shall write about here is an extract from the notebooks I kept at the time.

It was a journey in search of the place where my great-great grandmother had her illegitimate child taken from her to be boarded with a woman who took in these poor children for a living. When this great-great grandmother got married some years later, her daughter was brought home by her uncle Morgan to live with him and his housekeeper.

This story was to spark my imagination and lead to my writing historical fiction. The great-great grandmother, her brother Morgan, and her daughter, were immortalised as Megan, Morgan and Fortune in Leap the Wild Water, The Calling of the Raven and Anywhere the Wind Blows.

My journey to find the place where they’d lived, Caegwyn, was possibly both the eeriest and strangest of all. Its location on the old map showed it to be as remote as any place can be, high up on the top of the central hills of Abergwesyn. The modern map showed it to have been swallowed up by the dark, lifeless and ever-growing forests of the Forestry Commission. So I set out on the journey with little hope of finding much more than rubble. It seemed to me that ‘progress’ had wiped out all before it in its march, including the homes of my ancestors.

I park the car by Beulah Church, don waterproofs and walking boots, and hoist my rucksack on my back. It’s a blustery day, patches of blue sky disappearing and reappearing between threatening, pregnant clouds.

I take the track that goes past Caemawr and past the ruins of what was once Cefngardis farmhouse. Just above the ruins, this track joins the ancient, green ridge-road that comes up from Aberannell farm and over the hills of Abergwesyn, and goes all the way to Cardigan. It was the old drover’s route in the days before the railways came. Thousands of Welsh cattle and geese trod this route, over hundreds of years, to be sold in the markets of England.

I walk up this track under a canopy of trees which border the track on both sides. Then the avenue of trees comes to an end and the track goes over open hill before skirting craggy rocks. The hill falls away steeply on my right, smothered with ancient oak trees. I walk until I reach a summit on the track and stop to look down the valley that opens up below me. Way down at the foot of the hill, nestles the old farmstead of Tycwm. Up the valley sits Lloftybardd and further still, in the distance, the little chapel of Pantycelin where many of my ancestors are buried. From up here on this mountain, the shiny, black gravestones in the modern part of the graveyard resemble rows of black-clothed mourners at a funeral.

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I sit on a crag of rock looking down on this vista that my ancestors had looked down on before me, though there was no forestry then to blacken the hills and pollute the waters. From the buzzard’s-view on my perch, I see the mansion of Llwynmadoc in the direction from which I’ve come. The sun breaks through the clouds and a rainbow appears behind Llwynmadoc, over the beautiful hill of Garnwen, flooded with colour and sunlight.

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The dark clouds, which have been threatening over the horizon for the past half hour, choose to burst as they arrive over my head. I sit on my perch, eating my lunch, while being battered by rain and buffeted by the wind.

I don’t know how much further I have to walk, so set off briskly. In the distance ahead, the edges of the great forestry loom, and in front of me the track forks indecisively. The clouds pass away leaving a brilliant blue sky in their wake. A flock of twittering, chattering birds come flying from behind me, passing me by with a whoosh, and dipping and darting along the path ahead. The birds follow the left hand fork in the track and pause to perch on a little gate in the fence. Then off they go again. I follow their lead and head towards the forest.

On the other side of the gate, the track winds through pale, rough grass, rosebay-willow-herbs and purple heather before entering the deep, dark forest. The track through the forest is straight and wide and stretches far ahead. Overhead, there is a long strip of blue sky between the avenues of plantation but no light shines on the path; only here and there a small pool of sunlight breaks through the thick canopy, illuminating small areas of undergrowth of long-undisturbed moss. The air is drenched with the aromas of pine needles, fungi and mould; the only sounds are the screeching and creaking of branches rubbing together in the wind. The atmosphere is chilling and eerie.

I scan the plantation on my left for signs of a ruin. This is where Caegwyn seems to be marked on the map. The dank avenue appears to go on forever before finally opening onto a sun-drenched crossroads at its summit. I venture for a little way down a couple of these tracks although fearing that my search is futile. I decide if there is anything left of Caegwyn at all, it must be back in the direction I’ve come.

So I head back down the forestry track, scanning the forest floor again for signs of a ruin, feeling very tired and dispirited by now. I had come in search of Morgan’s land and the place where my great-grandmother grew up. As I reach the end of the plantation, I feel I have somehow failed them.

Then, as I step out of the forestry and into the sunlight, I feel overwhelmed by a strange and strong sensation; I am being not so much pulled but led, and I am compelled to follow, downwards away from the track. Over rows of concealed tree stumps I stumble, my ankles snarled by brambles which threaten to trip me up and send me flying with every step. I am going further and further from the track home and feeling exhausted. I stop and wonder where on earth I am going and why. This is ridiculous, I think to myself, I’m not going any further, I have to head home.

It is then that I see it.

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The ruins of Caegwyn have appeared, as if from nowhere before me, smothered and strangled under mounds of black-berried brambles. My breath catches in my throat and I gasp, my scalp tingling. Later, returning home and looking back towards the site of the well-concealed ruin, I am convinced I would never have found it if I had not been ‘led’ towards it by some unseen, spiritual force.

There is little left of the old Caegwyn to see, but from what remains of its outer walls, reduced to some four to six feet in height, one can see that it was once a traditional, Welsh stone long-house. At first sight, it seems precariously perched on the edge of the gorge beyond it, but in fact there is a distance of some tens of yards between what was once its front door and the edge of the ravine it lies parallel to.

It must once have been the most remote and romantic of settings, before the forestry came. The gorge carries the mountain stream down to the lake of Cefn-gardis below. When I lived in the village of Beulah, and my daughter was a little girl, I used to bring her and her friends up to this lake for picnics. I used to sit there by the tranquil lake, looking up at the hills beyond, and it astonishes me now to think I had no idea that my great-great grandmother and many of her relations had lived up there. This lake existed in their time, having been built by Henry Thomas of Llwynmadoc, sometime before his death in 1863. It is said that he employed the striking miners of South Wales to build it.

The aspect looking south from Caegwyn is breathtaking.

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The lake shimmers below, and beyond the lake one can see the old village of Beulah and its chapel framed between the slopes of the hills. Beyond Beulah chapel lies Garth bank and the long stretch of the Eppynt mountain. I stood and gazed at the view for a long while, thinking how privileged I was to have been led to find this place where my great grandmother grew up with her uncle Morgan; how lucky I was to have begun this journey in search of my grandmother, Annie, and her family; but sad too that such a place was now in ruins and beyond salvation. For this is a short-lived opportunity to go there, because although the forestry in which Caegwyn was buried has been cleared, it has been replanted. Soon, Caegwyn will be buried again, and even if I were not long gone by then, there will be little, if anything, left to see by the time the trees are harvested again.

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh 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

Oh, the times we had! Disgraced in Barmouth but I found paradise at Shell Island.

I’ve been looking back over the blogs I wrote of my travels with Morgan and Jess around Wales and thought they were worth sharing again….

Barmouth is but a stone’s throw from Dogellau. It has a back drop of beautiful mountains and its beaches are sublime….. WP_20140611_14_26_00_Pro

……miles of sand and occasional sand dunes and, when the sea goes out, warm pools are left along the undulating beach, deep enough for the doggies to swim in. Back and forth they paddle, in a blissful world of their own. It is worth coming here just to see them so enjoy themselves. In the evening we walk along the north end of the promenade just to hear and watch the thundering boom of the waves as they crash against the harbour walls… WP_20140611_18_30_42_Pro

…but Barmouth is a victim of its beauty for every other shop caters for the massive invasion of holiday-makers which arrive in summer-time, with buckets and spades and wind-breaks for sale in every colour under the sun; a fairground; and donkeys on the beach.

It was quiet while I was there, in the middle of the week in June, but I’m reliably informed that when the schools break up for the summer holidays you will struggle to find a parking space anywhere along the miles of promenade after 9 a.m. in the morning.So, I’m glad we came when we did.

It was a twenty minute walk to the beach from where the camper van was hooked up. I carried a large cool bag slung over my shoulder, to carry water for the dogs and some lunch for me. On our last morning, I decide we’ll explore the town before going to the beach. I’m walking along with the dogs, hunting in vain for an interesting shop that doesn’t sell buckets and spades, when I am tapped on my shoulder from behind.

” I hope you don’t mind me telling you, love, ” says the woman, “but I thought you should know. Your bag has rucked up your skirt at the back. I can see your knickers!”

I wish for the sands of Barmouth to bury me. I never want to know how long I had been walking those streets with my nether regions exposed to all and sundry.  With my street cred in tatters, I go in search of somewhere a little less ‘touristy’ and closer to a beach, and so make my way up the coast to Shell Island.

Shell Island is not really an island anymore because the massive sand dunes have filled the space which once separated it from the mainland, though it still can only be reached across the causeway at low tide. The ‘island’ takes its name from the abundance of shells which get washed up on its shores. From January to June, just about every shell you can name is to be found here in such abundance it is impossible to walk along the  north shore of the island without crunching through stacks of them…. WP_20140614_13_01_14_Pro

Walking along this part of the beach is a treasure hunt, while on the southern part of the island the dunes are massive, and the sandy beaches stretch all the way back down to Barmouth….

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Shell Island is reputed to be one of, if not the, largest campsite in Europe. It covers hundreds of acres. But it is the views across to the Lleyn Peninsula in the west, and Snowdon in the north, which make this one of the most stunning camping locations I have been to. WP_20140617_20_09_25_Pro I take photographs but none do justice to the extraordinary and unspoilt beauty of this place. I arrived here as soon as the tide allowed on Saturday. Not the best time to arrive. Not the best of first impressions. I now know that what happens here on a Friday evening is that the whole of Birmingham and Liverpool (okay, this may be a slight exaggeration) descend upon Shell Island, with English flags fluttering on their wing mirrors, hoping to party through to Sunday morning. Luckily, the warden doesn’t like loud music, and especially doesn’t like it after 11 p.m.

One of the ingenious camp rules (along with No Caravans Allowed, snigger) is you can camp anywhere on the island as long as you allow 20 metres space between yourself and another camper; absolutely wonderful on a Sunday evening or weekday out of season but not so good on a Saturday with previously mentioned invasion, if you’re hoping for a pitch with views or that is anywhere near level. After driving around for a while, I soon realise that all the prime pitches have been taken and grab what I can.

I can’t see the sea or Snowdon from my van but I’m near the dunes and the beach. I park up, level up with the chocks as best I can, open the door and… groan… on one side of me is a bunch of lads, necking the lager, kicking the footie, and playing booming music from their car with the boot and doors open. Not far away from them is another group, screaming and shouting, English flags flying and radio blaring from one of their cars. Another rule of this campsite, in addition to ‘no loud radios’, is ‘no groups’. Obviously, these lads slipped through the net because they didn’t arrive in one vehicle; I counted four surrounding their tent.

I go for a walk with Morgan and Jess. We explore the fabulous dunes, which they love, and go and sit on the lovely beach where we can hear the sea and ache over the views.

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Why do some people think they can’t enjoy anywhere unless they are playing loud music and getting plastered? And why assume the rest of the world is going to enjoy their choice of music? And why come to such a stunningly beautiful place as this only to do exactly what they would have been doing if they’d stayed at home? Maybe I’m just getting old.

On our return from our walk, the volume of the music has been toned down by several notches. By 8 p.m., silence reigns. My guess is the group are either unconscious or the warden had a word. I’m told by people who come here often that it’s best to avoid coming here altogether once the schools break up and especially on bank holiday weekends.

But in between times, during the week, I am regularly pinching myself because it seems almost too good to be true.

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Guess what happens Sunday morning? The groups of lads and the noisy, squabbling families pack up their tents and start to leave! By lunchtime, most of them are gone and it is bliss. I spot a prime pitch that has been vacated and I bag it. I now have the most spectacular view out of my doorway, of Snowdon, from where I sit to write; a view out over the ocean and Lleyn peninsula from my cab window; and a view out over the sand dunes from my side window. If it wasn’t for the weekend crowds, I would want to stay here forever. We go and sit outside, Morgan, Jess, and me, and enjoy the sounds of the waves lapping the shoreline just below us, and gazing out over the Snowdonia range and the view of Harlech castle across the bay….

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Walking along the beach here at 9 p.m. in the evening, we are sometimes the only people here; not a soul to be seen in either direction for as far as the eye can see. At this time of day, the Lleyn Peninsula and Snowdon et al are silhouettes cast in varying shades of blue against a pale blue sky, and the sea is deep turquoise. By 9.30, the sun is going down and the sky above the Lleyn turns peach, then deep shades of deep orange and pink, while the mountains behind us to the east are rendered purple.

After dark, parts of the shoreline of the peninsula glitter with the lights of its harbours. Like a child, I don’t want to sleep; I want to lie there gazing out of the little window over my bed the whole night long.

Every morning, we go for a lovely walk from the south beach to the harbour in the north. I tell myself I will not look at the shells, I will not look at the shells, but I can’t help myself; I’m like a kiddy in a sweet shop. There are stacks of them left behind by the tide every morning. Then we sit for a while and watch Snowdon swathing herself in mantles of cloud and just as quickly throwing them off again.

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When we get up in the morning, Snowdon and her sisters are rendered pale-blue, ghostly peaks emerging from the mists. The sky is blue. The sea is calm, ripples shimmering in the early morning sunshine. A solitary skylark warbles overhead. A wave laps the shoreline. All is right with the world.

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

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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

 

 

 

Snakes in the grass, the journey from hell, and a host of hungry blood-suckers!

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I went to a little beach at Tresaith to see the waterfall spouting out of the cliffs. There, I met a couple from the valleys, Eira and Jim, who were watching as I maneuvered ‘the beast’ into a tight spot in the car-park. We got chatting, as you do.

“Ooh, I think you’re very brave going it on your own!” says Eira. “You be careful, now, and don’t go talking to any strange men!”

I explained I had done that already, and told her about the man who was anticipating my arrival somewhere in the south of France. He used to be a coach driver and had driven all over Europe. Now he was retired but went abroad in his camper as often as he could.

“You come down to the south of France and we’ll have some fun!” he said to me. “The last woman I took up with drank vodka from the bottle and chain-smoked, and I thought to myself, I can’t be doing with this so I told her goodbye. It’s a while now since I ventured with a woman but I’m up for it if you are.”

“Well, um, er…”

While I am stuttering at the brazenness of his approach, he continues.

“How old do you think I am? Go on, guess!”

Too old even for me, is what I am thinking. I hazard a guess that he is in his late seventies but tell him I think he is 67 because I have a kind heart.

“Eighty-two!” he says, triumphantly.

He proceeds to give me directions to a place in the south of France that I have already forgotten the name of.

“How big was his camper van?” Eira asks me, with a shrewd stare, when I relate this meeting to her.

I tell her it was not very big and a bit of a rust bucket, to be honest; thirty years old, at least.

Eira sucks air between her teeth. “Ew! He was after your camper van, the old devil! You mind, in future, if you meet another like him, you say to him; never mind your bank balance, how big is your camper van, eh?”

So there we are. In this nomadic world I have entered, men shall henceforth be measured and judged by the size of their camper vans.

Oh, but I haven’t told you about the less than fond farewell I received before I left for Tresaith. I was bitten while taking the chocks from beneath my wheels.  It hurt like hell, at the time, and my middle finger swelled up and turned blue-back. I didn’t see the varmint that bit me but now wonder if it could have been a snake. I had seen a dead one run over on the lane above the campsite, so know there are snakes in that area; also, I could see two small puncture wounds, after the swelling and bruising have gone away. It can’t have been  venomous, whatever it was, because I didn’t feel ill.

I left Tresaith on the coastal road north to Aberystwyth, collecting profuse amounts of cow-parsley on my hub-caps as I meandered along the narrow lanes. I stopped for some provisions in Aberystwyth, before starting out on a drive which tested my nerves to the utmost degree. As I drove through the biblically named villages of Moriah, Pisgah, and Zion (the names of chapels where I come from), I was about to discover why the need for God was so strong in this part of the world. I called upon him a few times, myself, on the next leg of my journey.

You are a madwoman, Jenny Lloyd, I tell myself as the road climbs ever upwards, twisting and turning through cloud shrouded mountains. Falling away to the side of me, at every bend, I glimpse the looming precipitous fall down to the valleys far below. This terrifying ordeal goes on for miles and miles and miles. I know that I am missing spectacular views but I dare not take my eyes from the road for more than a second at a time. There is only one sensible way to travel such a road, in my opinion, and that is with two feet planted firmly on the ground.

This was the road to Devil’s Bridge. Or was it after? I cannot remember, now. I recall it as one does a nightmare; in snatches of terrifying clarity, the rest is rendered in a traumatized haze.

Eventually, the ordeal ends and I enter the stunning Ystwyth valley, along a narrow mountain road rated by the AA as one of the most beautiful in the world. Was the journey worth the destination? Here is the view from my camper van door;

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In every direction the views are achingly beautiful.

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This rural idyll was marred by just one thing. Across the road, at the farmhouse, a builder is building a stone wall around a concrete building. He has the boot of his car open, the better to hear the booming blare of his radio. You can hear it all the way down this remote and otherwise peaceful valley.

There is only one other vehicle on the camp site and it is parked as far away from the din as possible. I go and park beside them, feeling like a heel; until I came along, they had the entire campsite to themselves. I am dismayed to discover that I can still hear the radio booming unless I close all the doors and windows.

The builder is dishearteningly conscientious. At five ‘o’ clock, when I am thinking he will surely now call it a day, my heart sinks when I see him mixing another load of cement. At six, he turns off the radio, but carries on working until eight, just as the rain arrives.

This morning, it is still raining and the thermometer tells me it is eight degrees outside my cosy, heated van. I open the door to admire what must be one of the most beautiful campsite views in the country, and am greeted by a swarm of midges that have obviously been waiting for this moment for some time. An alarming number rush inside before I have time to slam the door on them. I don’t know what my camping neighbours must have thought as I hopped around inside the van, clapping my hands in the air, determined to kill every last one of the blighters.

They are out there now, swarms of them, head-banging at the windows, hungry as hell for the blood of a Welsh woman. I’m praying they will go away, and that the rain will stop. If only I could remember the directions to that place in the south of France…..

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

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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

 

 

Finding magic and legend in a sleepy Welsh village.

WP_20140522_12_21_17_ProMyddfai is little more than a cluster of pastel-coloured cottages encircling a church. Yet, in the 11th and 12th centuries it was a centre for healing, inhabited by the Physicians of Myddfai, renowned across Wales. The remedies of these herbalists were recorded in the Red Book of Hergest; one of the most important medieval manuscripts written in the Welsh language.

 

WP_20140522_12_00_59_ProBeyond the little village, a lane takes you up to the mountain of Myddfai. This is where the physicians gathered the herbs and flowers used in their remedies.  Beyond Myddfai is the Black Mountain range and the mountain lake of Llyn y Fan Fach.

The first physician of Myddfai was named Rhiwallon. He was court physician to Rhys Gryg, Lord of Dinefwr Castle, about 1200AD. Rhiwallon was awarded land at Myddfai and he treated the poor for free. He passed on his knowledge to his descendants who carried on his work for over 500 years. Legend has it that Rhiwallon was the oldest of three sons born to ‘The Lady of the Lake’ who is said to have appeared at Llyn y Fan Fach, pictured above. The tale of The Lady of the Lake is one of those recorded in the Mabinogion.

According to the legend, a farmer once saw a beautiful woman sitting on a rock in Llyn-y-Fan Fach. After three refusals, she agreed to marry him so long as he promised to treat her well. But should he strike her three times without cause, she told him, she would return to the lake. The farmer then took her to live with him in Myddfai .

The lady had mystical powers of prediction and cried at her first son’s christening because she saw he would be harmed by the sun. Mystified by his wife’s tears, the farmer tapped her once to bring her to her senses. Soon after, she cried at a wedding because she saw the bridegroom was going to die soon. Her husband now tapped her for crying at a wedding. When she laughed at the bridegroom’s funeral because his suffering was over, the farmer tapped her again and the lady sped back to the lake. The heartbroken farmer was left to raise their three sons, alone.

The sons inherited their mother’s magical knowledge and powers. The Lady of the Lake reappeared to Rhiwallon upon Myddfai mountain and told him it was his mission to relieve mankind from misery and pain. She gave him a bag of medicinal remedies and instructed him on how to use them. So began the long line of the Physcians of Myddfai.

Incidentally, as we walked along the lane, I spotted two herbs growing in the hedgerow.

WP_20140522_12_19_14_ProOne was Comfrey (left) and the other was Yellow Archangel WP_20140522_12_12_14_Pro__highres

I like to think that these plants, too, may be descended from a long line of those picked by the famed Physicians.

Did you know the remedies have been published? Available here; http://ow.ly/xb1Gp

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:

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Weird and wonderful superstitions.

Even though you may not think of yourself as superstitious, the chances are that you will have told someone you will keep your fingers crossed for them, or you may have used the phrase ‘touch wood’ or ‘knock on wood’.

Most superstitions go so far back in human history it is difficult to be certain of their origins. Touching or knocking on wood is said to originate from the times when people believed that spirits inhabited trees and knocking on the bark of a tree was said to invoke the help of the spirits living there. Crossing your fingers to invoke good luck is thought to originate in early Christianity and the sign of the cross.

Though a few superstitions, like these, are still in common usage, most have fallen by the wayside including some of the more bizarre listed below.

Ass-riddling; A superstitious custom practiced in the north of England upon the eve of St.Mark, when ashes are sifted or riddled on the hearth. It is believed that if any of the family shall die within the following year, the shoe of the fated individual will leave an impression on the ashes.

Divination by apple-pips; To ascertain whether her pretended lovers really loved her or not, the maiden takes an apple-pip, and naming one of her followers, puts the pip into the fire; if it cracks in bursting from the heat, it is a proof of love. If it is consumed without noise, there is no real regard in that person towards her. (Davy’s M.S.)

Divination by flowers;

The campion flower was also called Batchelor’s Buttons after the ancient custom amongst country fellows to carry the flowers of this plant in their pockets, to divine whether they would succeed with their sweethearts. Hence arose the phrase ‘to wear batchelor’s buttons’ meant to be unmarried.

Divination by Bible;

One old superstition was to use a bible and key for the purposes of divination, and is described in the Athenian Oracle, as follows;

A Bible having a key fastened in the middle, and being held between the two forefingers of two persons, will turn round after some words said; as, if one desires to find out a thief, a certain verse taken out of a psalm is to be repeated, and those who are suspected nominated, and if they are guilty, the book and key will turn, else not. At the turn of the twentieth century, this was still practiced in Lancashire by young women who wanted to divine who their future husbands would be.

Blessing-the-fire-out is described thus in Moor’s Suffolk M.S;

“An operation performed generally, I believe always, by a female. She wets her forefinger with spittle, and moves it in a circular slow manner over and round the part that may have been scalded or burnt, at the same time muttering inaudibly a suitable incantation or blessing, in the mysteries of which I am not initiated. This I have often seen done, and have, indeed, not unfrequently experienced the benefits, be they what they may, of the process.”

Blind-days referred to the first three days of March which were formerly considered so unlucky that no farmer would sow seed at this time.

The following was a charm against sciatica, then known as bone-shave;

The patient must lie on his back on the bank of a river or brook of water, with a straight staff by his side, between him and the water, and must have the foregoing words repeated over him.

Bone-shave right,

Bone-shave straight,

As the water runs by the stave,

Good for the bone-shave.

In Wales, a corpse-candle was a not uncommon sight. This dancing light, seen hovering close to someone’s home at night, would portend that a person was about to die there. Corpse-candles get a special mention in Anywhere the Wind Blows.

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/i1sy302jXXK

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

 

 

 

The brutality beneath the rural idyll.

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There is a place not far from where I was born which is one of the most idyllic settings I have set eyes upon. It is reached by a narrow, winding mountain road where craggy rocks overhang on one side and a wild, meandering river follows the narrow valley on the other. It is not far from the famed ‘Devil’s Staircase’ which is now a popular tourist route; its popularity due to the rugged, untamed beauty of the landscape.  The house sits on the far side of a tumbling, mountain brook, set among majestic, Scot’s pines with the mountains rising up behind. It is a tranquil place with nought but the sounds of the breeze sighing through the pines and the brook babbling alongside. Standing there, it is hard to believe the brutality which occurred in this beautiful place.

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Ancestors, on my grandmother Annie’s side of the family tree, once lived in this rural idyll. Annie’s grandparents lived here for a time, and her father is the subject of this piece.

When I was a little girl, I recall visiting a relative’s house and seeing a dark and sombre portrait hanging on the parlour wall. The elderly man in the portrait was apparently my great-grandfather, Hugh Jones, and the image of him scared the daylights out of me because he had only one eye. Where his right eye should have been, his eye-lid was stitched together like this; +

It wasn’t until I began researching my first novel that I discovered the story behind the loss of Hugh’s eye. I was in the library, trawling through old newspapers, not looking for anything specific but generally searching for stories which would give me a flavour of rural life at that time. I wasn’t looking or expecting to find anything about my ancestor’s there, so when I came across a report of “A Shocking Brutality” in The Brecon County Times, my heart missed a beat when I realised I was reading about my own great-grandfather, the subject of that portrait which so frightened me as a child.  At the time of the assault, Hugh was just 25 years old. His assailant was another shepherd working for a large land-landowner living nearby.  Though few shepherds suffered such brutal assaults as my great-grandfather, disputes between landowners were commonplace at that time, following the enclosures by the large estates of the upland areas where people had hitherto been afforded grazing rights for generations. The shepherds employed by these landowners often became pawns in their ongoing disputes.

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Here is what the newspaper reported of Hugh’s testimony on the 21st June, 1875;

On the 24th of May last, about noon, I saw Rees Williams driving some sheep that I look after. I went to meet him, and asked him where he was going to take them. He began to curse, and accused me of coursing his sheep that morning. He was on a pony. He came onto me and asked me to strike him, and brushed his pony against me. I touched the pony with the stick that I had in my hand. He then got off the pony and pulled out a knife and threatened me. The knife he put back into his pocket and pushed against me again, and I tripped him up. When the defendant got up he struck me down with my stick. I was quite insensible for a time. When I came to myself I found the defendant was trying to gouge out my right eye with his finger. I was then on my back under him. He bit my two cheeks. He had hold of my right ear for some time, and tried to tear my lip. I bit his finger when he put it in my mouth (defendant’s left hand bore severe marks as of biting). He gouged my two eyes till I was quite blind with blood. I tried to get up, but defendant prevented me. He put his finger in my mouth again to tear my lip, and I bit it as hard as I could. He then begged of me to loose him and said he would go away. I loosed him, but instead of going away defendant struck me again in the face with his fists repeatedly. I was covered with blood and had great difficulty in getting home, because I was almost blinded. A doctor was telegraphed for, and he attended the same night.

Hugh survived the terrifying assault, though his right eye was lost.  But he appears to have been hounded by ill luck, thereafter. Four years after the assault, he married a young woman who worked as a maid on the farm where he was employed. They had only been married a year when both she and their baby died in childbirth. Some years later, he married Annie’s mother but this wife also died of pneumonia when my grandmother, Annie, was just six years old.

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