Walking with the ancients.

Last week, plans for a wind farm on my old stomping ground were rejected by all but one member of the planning committee. Before I left the area in 2013, I took some photographs, just in case the wind farm got the go ahead and this landscape I loved so much was lost forever.

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I also wrote in my journal about walking there…

Ripples of sunlight reflect off a quicksilver brook, swollen by heavy rain.

The chattering of water tumbling over stones.

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Sheep pause their languid grazing to gaze with idle curiosity, wondering why I am wandering in such wilderness as this.

I walk along the hallowed road that echoes with the footsteps of ancient drovers.

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The old road winds far away, up and over the hills, farther than the eye can see.

I cannot walk such ancient roads without thinking of those who have trod here long before me.

In my mind, I hear the hollow notes of distant cow bells ringing, and the drover’s voice a-calling ‘hey-hope, hey-hope’.

Over the rise he appears, in broad-brimmed hat and oiled long coat, with his herd of cattle and a gaggle of geese with their feet all tarred and feathered.

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I turn away from the ancient path to walk farther still into the mists of history, along the side of a tinkling brook, towards the remains of a settlement and hill fort, older still in its origins.

Faint are the outlines of stone wall boundaries, and crumbled are the circles of stones which once were ancient dwellings.

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I sit among the scattered stones where hearths once warmed chilled bones.

There is no sound in this sheltered place but the wind whispering through the grasses and a buzzard mewling overhead.

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I feel the tug of time spinning backwards, weaving the thread of my life into the fabric of the ancients.

Wherever I go from here, I shall carry the memory of this place with me until I, too, am no more.

Like the drovers and the Celts, we are all but passing through….

 

Jenny Lloyd is the Welsh author of The Megan Jones trilogy; historical 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

Honouring the dead.

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Bryngwynfel, my mother’s birthplace.

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The view from above Tyn-y-beili, where my mother grew up.

It is the anniversary of my mother’s death and I thought it would be a good time to share a particular family story she told me, because it is one that has been passed on by word of mouth through three mothers – my mother, her mother, and now me. It is a story which had remained untold since her own mother died and which would not have come to light if the memory had not been prompted by my research into our family history.

I unearthed many tragic stories while doing the research, things my mother would never have known about her ancestors, otherwise. But this particular story would have disappeared with my mother if she had not told it to me. My mother was told it by her mother, my granny Annie, and my mother was eighty-five years old before she related it to me. How many such family stories are lost for the want of someone who wants to know, or for the want of telling?

I’d been recording my granny’s sisters and brothers on the family history chart and was asking my mother if she remembered any of these aunts and uncles of hers. Well, she had something to tell about each of them but I shan’t go into those stories now. What she did say, in her lilting Welsh accent, and which made my ears prick up was ‘But wait a minute, there was another one, you know’.

‘Was there?’ I was incredulous.

‘Yes! A baby! She was named Medi!’

I had no knowledge of this child, at all.

‘Well, now, you listen, and I shall tell you what my mother told me’, my mother said…

‘The baby was poorly. From the start, you see, there was something wrong with her. And her father, Huw – he was a lay preacher, you know – he was very worried because it didn’t look like the baby would survive and she hadn’t been baptised, you see. And so Huw decided they must go to the chapel and get her baptised. And off they went. But it was a terrible day, pouring down rain, and they all got drenched before they even got to the chapel. They only had the pony and cart, you see. Well, the upshot of it was the baby died, anyway, but that wasn’t the last of it. Medi’s mother, my grandmother, caught pneumonia that day and never recovered. Six months later, she was gone, too. My mother, Annie, was just six years old when her mother died, you know.’

It was my daughter who realised the significance of Medi’s name. Medi is Welsh for September, which turned out to be the month of her birth. After my mother told me this story, I searched the BMD index for a Medi, and there she was; her death recorded in the last quarter of 1896.

Now, every September, I remember Medi and her mother, and poor Huw who must have suffered greatly for the decision he made on that fateful, wet day and through which he lost so much. Huw had already lost one wife to childbirth. He never married again after he lost the second one. And I am haunted by the fact that I have failed, still, to find their graves. Another September is come and gone. This time, this year, I will find them, I tell myself with every September that goes by. Perhaps I will, this year.

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Cwmchwefru, where Medi and her mother died.

My mother, had she been born to a different life, would have loved to write stories, I think, for she certainly loved to tell them and told them well. She was very proud of me having written two novels (she did not live to see the third). She read the first two and greatly enjoyed them, then lent them to all her neighbours and friends, saying ‘my daughter, Jenny, wrote these, you know. She’s an author!’

The moral of this story is; if you have elderly relatives, be sure to ask them questions while they are still here, and pass the stories on to your own children. My mother was the last one of her brothers and sisters to die, and one thing I’ve often regretted is that her siblings had died before I began researching our family history. There was so much they died not knowing and so much more they may have contributed.

Imagine if my mother had died without telling this family story. Little Medi and her short and tragic life would never have been recorded as it deserved to be. Ask the questions and pass on your family stories!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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 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.

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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

A reunion, a shortage of cash, and a coastline of dizzying heights.

Aberdaron is the nearest place to Mynydd Mawr and I stop here for provisions before going further. I soon discover there is no bank or ‘hole-in-the-wall’. A Spar is the only shop selling food and the choice is limited. I kick myself for not going into Abersoch before coming here as I don’t have much cash on me; the campsites around here are on farmer’s fields and I’m unlikely to be able to pay with a card.

Luckily, the shop is taking card payments so I ask for cash-back. How much, the lady at the till asks? I make a tentative bid for fifty.

“Ooh, fifty?” she says, sucking the air between her teeth, “I don’t know…”

Looks are exchanged between her and the person behind the post office grill at the back of the shop while I hold my breath. There is a nod of assent and she says ‘yes, it will be alright’. Phew!

I go in search of Mynydd Mawr which is about three miles away along twisting, narrow lanes. I am in time to reunite the lovely, Scottish lady with her walking stick before they head off home.

On our first morning I awake to the sight of a flock of crows flying overhead, though they make a noise like no crows I have heard before. I discover they are choughs; the red-beaked, red-legged variety of crow that lives in this part of the world.

The landscape here is not far from the chin of the Llyn and yet it is so different. Here, there are no beaches; mountains drop steeply down into the ocean from dizzying heights.

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From the topmost part of Mynydd Mawr, the views extend away up the northern edge of the Llyn.  Up here there is an old coast-guard’s hut where a map on the wall shows the shocking number of shipwrecks which have occurred around the LLyn over the past few hundred years. It is said that a local family still possess a barrel of whisky which was washed up from a shipwreck in 1908.

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Near the top of the cliffs, there is a massive standing stone, pointing out towards Bardsey Island to show the ancient pilgrims which way to cross the treacherous waters….

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The nearest sandy cove seems to be Whistling Sands, a few miles up the coast, famous for the sand which makes whistling, squeaking noises beneath your feet.

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I’ve heard about them many times, which is probably why my experience of them fell short of my expectations. For me, it was the cove at the end of the sands which was most rewarding. The massive slabs of rock here were shot through with a myriad of patterns in rich blues, greens, purples and golds. They are stunningly beautiful. Someone tells me there is a jasper mine not far from here, the stone from which went into the Liver building…

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I had planned to stay at Mynydd Mawr for a couple of nights but ended up staying three. I was reluctant to leave it behind but found there was something about that landscape which made me feel lonesome for company; a loneliness exacerbated by an absence of wi-fi and mobile phone signal. Some places are better shared with other people, I guess.

So it was, on the fateful Sunday morning which was to bring the freak accident and an end to my travels, I headed off in search of a place called Porth Iago. I wanted to go and see this place for two reasons; I had been told it was a stunningly beautiful cove, and Iago was the Welsh name of the anti-hero in my novel, Leap the Wild Water, who ruined poor Megan. How could I resist going in search of a place of the same name? (Iago, by the way, is the Welsh version of James.)

Needless to say, I never saw a signpost for Porth Iago and had gone some way up the coast line before I realised I had gone much too far and pulled into the car-park for Penllech beach to consult my map-book. The rest, as they say, is now history.

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

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

 

 

 

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.

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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:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

 

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