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

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I went in search of some souls and found my self again.

One thing I hoped to see less of when I came inland from the coast was static caravans. But, somehow, I’ve ended up on a site that has regimented rows of them along with seasonally pitched touring caravans. So packed is this site that I feel I am the filling in a caravan sandwich. Worst of all, 90% of all these caravans were empty, on my arrival. Now it is Sunday evening, and the few people that were staying here have left and it is like a ghost town. Once upon a time, apparently, this site was lauded in one of those ‘top campsite’ camping guides. Times have changed, the statics have taken over along with seasonal pitches and the place has lost its soul. It’s a shame because the location is stunning; you just can’t see much of it for the caravans all around you, packed together so tight that if I put up my awning (not that I will be doing that again for a while) it would be right up against the caravan alongside me.

The site is run by a woman with military zeal. Every half hour, she marches up and down between the rows, scowling and frowning at each caravan she passes, looking for some breach of caravan site rules. When not on parade, she is in and out of the utility block, checking to see if anyone has done something unspeakable in there in her brief absence.

She stops by my camper van and asks if I’m planning any trips out during my stay. She returns half an hour later to say that her husband says I can’t possibly drive my vehicle to see the waterfalls because the road is too narrow; and as for the mountain road to Bala, well, her husband would never allow her to drive that road alone. Obviously, neither she or her husband know that I’ve cut my camper-van driving teeth on the road to hell. The other thing they don’t know about me is that if I hear anyone tell me I can’t do something, I get all uppity and narky. I guess I’ve been told ‘you can’t do that’ one time too many in my life.

The sun appeared this morning for what must be the first time in over a week, and I woke up in a ‘we SHALL go to the waterfall, SO!’ kind of mood. I started out early, in the hope of beating the crowds. I stayed so long that by the time I left in the afternoon, the car-park had overflowed and there was a steady stream of new arrivals every minute. Needless to say, I gathered a good deal more vegetation on my hub-caps along the 5 miles of narrow lane to the nearest village.

The waterfall at Pistyll Rhaedr is sublime. WP_20140601_10_00_30_Pro

There is a path which goes up beyond the falls and into the Berwyn mountains beyond. This is the land of Arthurian legend and Celtic myth and it transcends any mountain landscape I’ve hitherto been…

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…this little footbridge crossed a tumbling mountain stream where the dogs took a swim in a rocky pool…

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…we sat for a long time gazing at the views down to the valley below the falls and up toward the mountains…

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… hunger took me back down to the falls and the tearooms in the little house there. I ordered a pot of tea and a slice of Bara Brith and was filled with wonder as a little green finch hopped up onto the table and took crumbs from my hand. A nuthatch then darted up and peered at me from the post beside my seat.

I talked for a time with the charismatic custodian of this magical place and he informed me of this site’s significance to the early druids. There is a small and exclusive campsite here, for the spiritually minded only, and a spiritual retreat for those who are feeling lost and adrift and needing to reconnect with themselves.

There is a special atmosphere to this place, something beyond the ordinary, something magical and mystical.

If you want to read a fascinating account of the myths and legends which surround this fabulous and remote part of Wales, follow this link;

http://www.pistyllrhaeadr.co.uk/berwyns.html

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

 

 

 

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.

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

Could this be the greatest Indie achievement of all time?

Indie authors have been around for longer than you may think…

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Dr Joseph Wright, born at Thackley, near Bradford, on October 31st 1855, was known in his time as the outstanding authority on dialect. Realising that dialects were fast disappearing, he created The English Dialect Dictionary which ran to six immense volumes. Publishers, however, shied away from it and Joseph decided to self-publish from his Oxford home and achieved instant success. The volumes contained over 5,000 pages, recorded approximately 100,000 words and some 500,000 quotations. The total cost of production was estimated at £25,000. He was already respected as one of the greatest philologists of his time and occupied the Corpus Christi Chair at Oxford, but when he died on February 27th, 1930, it was for his dictionary he wanted to be remembered.

Joseph’s life was remarkable in many ways. This brilliant scholar began his life in the workhouse. His father, Dufton Wright, was the son of a wealthy farmer, but Dufton was a ne’er-do-well who worked as a wool-weaver, then as a quarryman, and upped and left his wife and children to the care of the parish.

At the age of six, Joseph was working as a donkey-boy. At the age of seven, he was a bobbin-doffer at the Soltaire Mills of Sir Titus Salt. For the first fourteen years of his life, Joseph lived in a one-room hovel with his mother and siblings – when not in the workhouse. He had no education until the age of ten, when he went to the Saltaire factory school for half-timers. There, he learned the alphabet, some arithmetic, and part of the scriptures.

When his time as a half-time student ended, he began to educate himself and at the age of eighteen he set up an evening school in his mother’s cottage while working by day at the mills.

In 1876, he spent the money he had saved to travel to Germany where he studied for eleven weeks, and returned to Bradford as a junior teacher. In 1878, he matriculated from London University.

How did I discover the rags-to-riches story of Dr Joseph Wright? I bought a couple of antique books entitled The Dictionary of Obsolete and Provincial English, in two volumes, published 1904, compiled by a Thomas Wright. Within the age-spotted pages, many of which were still uncut, I found a newspaper cutting, dated 29th October 1955, which was written to coincide with the centenary weekend being celebrated 100 years after Dr Joseph Wright’s birth.

Further to reading the newspaper article about Joseph, I have found more about him on Wikepedia. He was an important influence on J. R. R. Tolkien, and in the course of editing the Dictionary he corresponded regularly with my literary hero, Thomas Hardy. Virginia Woolf said of him in her diary, “The triumph of learning is that it leaves something done solidly for ever. Everybody knows now about dialect, owing to his dixery.”

In 1896, Wright married Elizabeth Mary Lea (1863–1958), with whom he co-authored his Old and Middle English Grammars. She also wrote the book, Rustic Speech and Folklore (Oxford University Press 1913), in which she makes reference to their various walking and cycle trips into the Yorkshire Dales, as well as various articles and essays.The couple had two children, both of whom died in childhood. (Source; Wikepedia)

The dictionaries I have are chock full of all manner of weird and wonderful words and phrases no longer in usage, or words of which the meanings have radically changed over time.

To kick things off, here are a few words chosen from the dictionary for your delectation;

The delightful phrase, ALAS-A-DAY, was an exclamation of pity.

I recall AJAX being a toilet cleaner some years ago but its association goes back a long way. Sir John Harrington, 1596, published a celebrated tract called “The Metamorphosis of Ajax” which referred to his invention which was the improvement of the ‘jakes’ or privy into a ‘water-closet’. The book was considered an offence to delicacy for which Queen Elizabeth kept him for some time in disgrace.

ABRODIETICALL, adj.  described “A daintie feeder or delicate person (taken from Minsheu’s Guide of Tongues, 1627).

AFTERMATH once referred to the second crop of grass.

AGATEWARDS, adv. To go agatewards with someone was to accompany him part of his way home, which was considered the last duty of hospitality towards a guest.

An AGINATOUR was a hawker of small wares. This word occurs in Cockeram’s English Dictionairie, 1639.

To AMUSE once had a very different meaning in some dialects, and referred to the action of flinging dust or snuff into the eyes of the person intended to be robbed.

An ANATHEMATISM was a curse.

Further reading about Dr Joseph Wright’s life and works can be found here; http://ow.ly/uEs1s

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