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

 

 

 

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A moving account of a bygone age.

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

A funeral in the Highlands.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behold a rugged “cwm”

That only cat or hare could climb:

O spare me from rearing children

Within sigh of Nant-Y-Benglog!

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

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

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

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

On the banks of the Camddwr river

Stands a temple to our Saviour;

Whoever comes over such country

Proves himself a true Worshipper.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

 

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

I’ve been revisiting blog posts I’ve written over the years. I’ve moved house since writing the following piece, so I am no longer the owner of the two darlings who are the subject of this post.

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

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

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

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

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

“Which two are mine?” I ask Phil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oops,” Phil says.

The two lambs I should have taken were the third and fourth of the group of thirty that were brought into the ring, and so would have had the numbers 3 and 4 attached to them. It was obvious now we see they are numbered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m ever so sorry,” I squeak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

 

 

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 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 suffer an intermittent fault with my bullshit detector.

It was a funny old week. My travels around the Llyn Peninsula began near Black Rock sands and the most extortionately priced campsite I’ve yet encountered. Twenty-five pounds per night is the charge for the dubious pleasure of being able to park your outfit on a potholed field backing onto the dunes. For your money you get a pitch with electric and use of the toilet and shower block which are converted porta-cabins.

Black Rock sands is a vast stretch of flat, sandy beach which also serves as a car-park for anyone wanting to spend the day there. From your car you can watch and listen to the senses-assaulting scream of the water-scooters (what are they called?) motoring up and down the bay the whole day long. We head inland for a walk along the pretty country lanes, instead.

On Saturday night, whichever council employee is responsible for locking the barriers at 8pm forgets to do so. The result is a bunch of lads arrive in their cars for high-speed races up and down the beach (which has a 10mph limit), keeping everyone awake. Those not racing their cars light bonfires dangerously close to the dunes, ignoring the risk of setting the bone-dry marran grass alight.

On Sunday morning, I decide one night on this site is too much, in every sense, and take a walk through the dunes down to the beach before we leave. Those who kept us awake half the night have left the smouldering remains of bonfires, barbecues, and strewn litter in their wake; carrier bags, food wrappers, beer cans, etc. are blowing about the sands. This beach is very popular and I can’t think why, for the life of me.

I make an early start and head for the ‘chin’ of the Llyn Peninsula, beyond the trendy town of Abersoch, and soon we are pootling along country lanes which branch off in all directions, hemmed with wild-flower strewn stone walls.

I come across a sign for a campsite that is two empty fields mown to putting green standard.

“You’ve arrived at the right time,” the owner says, “we were chock-a-block at the weekend.”

Sadly, there is only one electric hook-up, which is attached to the owner’s house. I dither about whether to park here, where there would be no views or privacy at all, or to forego the electric. I dither because, as yet, I haven’t been able to get the fridge to work off the gas, despite repeated attempts according to the instructions of the chap that sold the camper to me.

“I’ll take a look at the fridge, if you want,” says the owner, “see if we can get it working.”

I’m thinking I’ve landed on my feet and park the van at the far side of the field where I can see the views. Then me and the dogs go for a walk along the lanes.

Back at the campsite, the owner comes over, saying he will take a look at my fridge – later. He talks and talks about everything and nothing before finally returning to his house.

I go to the toilet and shower block. Here, I discover, too late, there is no loo roll in the toilet cubicle. On exiting, I see a notice on the wall; loo rolls 80 pence each, available from the house. Now, wouldn’t it have been nice to know I needed to bring my own loo roll or purchase one from the house, before I’d used the loo?

Some other notices catch my eye, one of which says that campers will get no refund if they are asked to leave, or if they choose to leave earlier than the amount of days they are booked in for.  Later, I go to use the shower and find it is a coin-operated shower which will only devour a minimum of 5 x 10 pence pieces at a time. I get dressed again, go over to the van in the vain hope I may have some in my purse. I have only four, so trudge over to the house but there is nobody about so I don’t get my shower until the owner comes back.

Over the next few hours, I lose count of the number of times the owner strolls over, hands jammed into his pockets and shoulders hunched up to just below his ears, until it gets to the point where my heart sinks at the sight of him.

“Alright? Not bothering you, am I?” he asks before continuing his chatter, this time to tell me how all the people around here are nutters. He tells me how he came from up Lancashire way to buy this place and the trouble he had from the council when he wanted to put a campsite here. He tells me he is a qualified such-and-such and all his customers are millionaires because everyone around here is a millionaire; it’s the millionaire belt of Wales. Again, he leaves, promising again to take a look at my fridge – later. It’s probably just a bit of dust on the pilot-light, he says, or the pipe may be blocked; easily fixed. Meanwhile, my icebox is melting.

Half an hour later, back he comes for another chat which again begins with the same question. “Not bothering you, am I?”

By now, he is really beginning to bother me but I am far too polite to say so and I’m hoping that, on this occasion, he has come to do what he’s been promising to do since I got here, i.e. fix the darned fridge.

He asks me what I’m doing. I tell him I was writing. He peers around me, where I am standing inside my doorway, and he sees my laptop. He wants to know how I’m charging it. I tell him I use the invertor, or whatever it’s called.

“You can’t do that! You’ll drain your engine battery if you do that!”

I tell him it isn’t running off the engine battery; it runs off the leisure batteries which are charged by the solar panels on the roof. He exhales a breath.

“Well, I’m telling you now, you’ll knacker those batteries if you go doing that. Have you any idea how much it costs to replace them?”

I’m not one for being rude to people, so I don’t tell him it isn’t actually any of his business. Instead, I politely tell him I need to crack on with what I was doing.

“I was going to have a look at that fridge for you, wasn’t I?” he says.

I answer in the affirmative.

“I’ll just take that grill off the vent and have a look inside.”

At last! I am so longing to get that fridge to work! He takes off the grill and says he will need a screw driver.

“Don’t suppose you’d have thought to pack something like that, would you, eh?”

“Well, actually…” I say, and nip inside and come back with my multi-headed ratchet screwdriver (no less) and present it to him with a smile.

He gives it a scathing glance and asks haven’t I got something a bit smaller than that. I point out the multitude of screw-heads he has to choose from, one for every size of screw.

He heaves a sigh and unscrews a metal plate.

“Look at this! This is wired all wrong, this is. No wonder it isn’t working. These wires shouldn’t be where they are,” he says, wiggling the wires about. I reckon someone has been tampering with this. No wonder it isn’t working.”

There is an intermittent fault with my bullshit detector but when it is working I tend to trust what it tells me and right now it was detecting a very suspicious smell. I nip inside to get the manual in which I recall seeing diagrams of the wirings. As I come back down the van steps, he has his hands jammed back into his jeans pockets.

“Can’t help you, I’m afraid,” he says, with a jerk of his head in the direction of the vent grill. “Those wires have been tampered with. Didn’t you check if the fridge was working before you bought it? You women! You haven’t got a clue, have you?”

More of a clue than you could ever imagine, matey.

I’m no longer surprised that I am the only one here. I don’t respond to his comment but show him the diagram in the manual which proves that the fridge is, in fact, wired up as it should be. (Incidentally, since my accident, I’ve had an engineer to come out and look at the fridge. The problem was the gas valve which had ceased up – apparently can happen if not used for a length of time.)

He shrugs and fixes me with a cold stare. “It’s not working though, is it? All your stuffs going to go off! It’s only a few extra quid a night if you want to plug into the hook-up at the end of my house.

I say thanks but no thanks, I’ve got a cool box; I’ve put what I can in there for now.  I’m thinking; across this field has become a lot too close to this nutter and I’m going to get out of here as soon as possible.

“I’m off into town, now, to get a few things,” I call out as he saunters away.

I drive away and don’t look back. I recall the notice in the toilet block about not getting a refund if you decide to leave early. How many people before me have stopped here and soon wanted to leave? I can only guess. I’m beginning to fear I have become a magnet for interfering gits and/or lunatics. ( This fear becomes a reality on the journey home following my accident!)

I find another site a mile or so away and love, love, love this part of the beautiful Llyn. The dogs and me take off down the flower- bejewelled lanes and go along a footpath which takes us down to Porth Ceiriad.

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I am so pleased I chose to come to this part of the Llyn for it exceeds all my expectations. What a landscape of contrasts this is; cosy, sleepy, little lanes lead to open headland where the trees grow sideways; away from the blast of the prevailing winter winds.

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We walk from one end of the beach of Porth Neigwl to the other, marvelling at the myriad of colourful pebbles along the beach. I find a small shard of blue and white china amongst the pebbles; another treasure to add to the trove.

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Porth Neigwl’s other name is Hell’s Mouth, and if you look at its position on the map, you can see that Hell’s Mouth is between the ‘chin’ of the Llyn (where I’m camped) and the ‘nose’ at Mynydd Mawr. Hell’s Mouth is a massive open jaw between the two.

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On my last day in this region of the Llyn, I meet a couple along the lane who have lost their way along the Llyn coastal path. I point them in the direction where they will pick up the coastal path again. That evening, I pop into Abersoch to get something to eat. I’m in the local shop and who should I see at the counter but the couple I saw on the lane. They are asking the girl behind the counter how best to get to back to Hell’s Mouth. I tell them I’m going in that direction and can give them a lift if they’d like.

I am then apologising for the mess; I’d have had a bit of a tidy if I’d known I was having guests! On the way, they tell me they are camped on a site at Mynydd Mawr (the tip of the ‘nose’ of the Llyn), and describe how beautiful it is there. I’d been planning to go in that direction next and think perhaps I will go there.

After dropping them off, I discover the lady has left her walking stick in my camper. There is no ‘perhaps’ about going to Mynydd Mawr, now; and so it was that this chance encounter led me on the next leg of my journey. The next morning, I headed for the area that is known as the ‘Land’s End’ of North Wales; to reunite a lovely lady with her walking stick and discover the most awesome part of the Welsh coastline I have yet encountered……

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

 

A driver reduced to tears, a wet bed, and a lot more than I bargained for on the most arduous journey yet.

So, it’s the Tuesday morning after my accident on the beach and I’m waiting for the brother of a-friend-of-a-friend-of-a-relative to arrive by taxi from Bangor to drive me, my dogs, and the camper van near to family in Shropshire. Liz and co. have gone to walk the dogs down to the harbour and I’m watching out for said arrival of the taxi.

I see a taxi hurtling down the lane to the farmhouse on the site; the taxi turns, wheels spinning, and as rapidly departs again, leaving clouds of dust ( but not my  driver) in its wake. How very strange, think I. Stranger things will happen before the day is out!

Five minutes later, Liz and co. come back with the dogs and my driver. The dogs have had a swim in the harbour. I ask what happened with the taxi. My driver, let’s call him Clive, says the taxi driver wouldn’t stop where’d he’d asked and had dumped him down at the harbour instead.

He seemed to be in an awful hurry, I say. Over the next few hours I will come to understand why the taxi driver may have wanted shot of Clive at the quickest opportunity.

Liz makes us all a farewell cuppa before we depart. Clive says the ‘effing’ taxi driver had refused to stop along the way for him to get some breakfast and he’s starving. Jo makes him a sandwich. He’s very twitchy, is Clive, and spends a lot of time ranting at someone on his mobile phone while pacing up and down. His language is liberally sprinkled with profanities whether conversing with us or on his phone.

When he’s eaten his sandwich, he is practically dancing up and down on the spot, anxious to get away. I say my farewells, the dogs have hopped into the van already, and I strap myself into the seat belt. Clive jumps in and immediately starts shouting.

‘What the ‘effing ‘ell?!’

It is soon apparent that Morgan has been sitting in the driver’s seat since coming back from his swim and the seat is now soaking wet. A towel has to be found to put over the seat and then we are off.  I am sat on the bed in the back which is unfortunate because I am in direct line of Clive’s vision in the rear-view mirror. Clive is looking at me far more often than at the road and Clive is a talker. Within five minutes, I know this is going to seem like the longest journey of my life.

He begins with some peculiar quotations, e.g. ‘If you want to see the wood, don’t look in the trees’ or ‘In the mouths of horses you will find happiness’. He has a seemingly endless list of these ‘misquotes’. Each misquote is preceded with ‘how about this one, right?’ and ends with ‘you like that one? Good innit?’, his eyebrows raised in expectation of approval.

I smile politely and close my eyes hoping he will think me asleep and so stop talking gibberish.

‘You tired are ya? I tell you what, you’re a wimp, right. That’s nuffink, right, what happened to you. If you want to see some proper injuries, right, I’ll show you my effing leg, right, then you’ll know what real injuries are. Ya wanna see my leg?’

‘Not right now, thanks.’

Then he tells me why he agreed to this job, right. It was because he is really upset, right, and he needed to do something to take his mind off his problems, right. Because he’s just found out his wife, who has left him, has been seeing someone else, right. And it has completely done his head in, right. And he hardly slept last night, right. Do I get his meaning, like?

Oh, yes. Obviously, taking this job has done nothing to take his mind off his troubles. If we all get to Shropshire without serious mishap it will be nothing short of a miracle is what I am thinking. I tell him I’m very sorry for his troubles, which is a mistake because he now starts weeping. He asks me if I believe in karma, cos he’s hoping what goes around comes around for his effing wife. I say, sorry, no, I don’t believe in it.

He goes very silent and concentrates on his driving for a good five minutes.

‘Have you seen my teeth?’ he asks, breaking the silence and startling me back to grim reality. This is what my mother used to say if she mislaid her dentures and for one horrible, fleeting moment I wonder how on earth he can have mislaid his teeth whilst driving. He taps his teeth with his fingernail and asks what I think of them.

‘I can’t see them.’

He leans forward in his seat so I can get a proper view of his grinning teeth bared in the rear-view mirror.

‘Very nice indeed,” I say, and this has the desired effect of seeing him sit back properly in his seat.

He tells me how much it cost to get them whitened and it was worth the money because everywhere he goes, right, everyone tells him his teeth look amazing, man.

The subject turns from his wife’s infidelity to how she conned him out of tens of thousands of pounds, too. I am as sympathetic as I can be under the circumstances; he’s been hired to drive my camper van, and us, safely to our destination and I am sincerely wishing he hadn’t taken on the job in his present state of mind.

He goes on and on and on. Two hours into the journey, he tells me he is taking us to Chester races for the day; what do I think of that?

‘Not a lot.’

‘How about Wrexham? You want to go to Wrexham?

‘No. Thank you.’

Jessie is lying at my feet. I look down at her and think she is taking a long time to dry out from her swim in the harbour, despite it being hot in the van. Then realisation dawns; she has peed on the bed – the bed I will be sleeping in tonight; the bed which will not be cleaned and dried by nightfall.

I ask if he will stop at the very next service area and if he can fill the diesel tank and let the dogs out.

‘Na! Don’t want to!’ says the wise-cracker.

I fix him with a steely glare in the rear-view mirror and he ceases grinning like the Cheshire cat. He is quiet until we pull into a service area a few miles down the road. Jessie dog isn’t the least bit interested in getting out as it’s a bit late in the day as far as she’s concerned. Morgan dutifully cocks his leg on every shrub before hopping back in the van. I give Clive money to pay for the diesel and to buy us coffees and something to eat. He comes back and parks up on the verge.

Before he has finished his sandwich, he starts weeping again; swiping at his tears with the palm of his hand. He tells me his mother put him into care when he was a kid, and how she died of cancer two years ago before he got a chance to find her again and ask her why she did it. I am very sorry to hear it, I tell him; that must be hard; to have no answers, no apology, no resolution. I tell him that it must have been a very hard thing for her to do, a last and desperate resort, and that it doesn’t mean she didn’t love him. Perhaps, she mistakenly believed it was for the best.

He gets out of the van and I watch him pacing up and down the grass verge, sobbing. I feel desperately sorry for him but am also seriously worried whether we shall make it to our destination. He shouldn’t be driving in this state but my options are severely limited at this point.

The heat builds inside the van until I fear I am going to faint. The dogs are panting. I undo my seat belt and shuffle across the bed on my backside to open some windows.

After a time, he returns to the van and sits behind the wheel, very quiet.

‘Had a bit of a teary moment there, didn’t I? Bet you think I’m a right wimp; a forty-something man, crying.’

I tell him I don’t think anything of the sort. I tell him it does everyone good to have a good cry, sometimes, man or woman.

‘I just think it must be my fault, man; every woman I’ve loved has ditched me, sooner or later.’

I tell him there is his mistake. I tell him that other people’s failures and betrayals are not his fault; the fault lies in their actions, not in him. I tell him he is not responsible for other people’s choices, only for his own, and the best choice he can make is to move on and find new happiness for himself, despite them.

‘Think positive! Smile and the world will smile with you!’ he says with a grin.

He snaps on his seat belt. For the last two hours of the four and a half hour journey, he is calm, chatting occasionally, as normal as can be and, I have to say, when his mind was on his job he was a very competent driver. Along the way, he tells me I can park up my camper van in his drive and have free use of his house, if I want.

‘I’m lonely, see, and miss having someone there when I come home. You would be like a ….’

He doesn’t finish the sentence.

‘Mum?’ I say.

‘Yea!’

I persuade him that it wouldn’t be practical because he doesn’t have a downstairs loo or disabled shower, both of which I now need for a time. I tell him he won’t be lonely for long; that sometime soon he is going to meet someone nice, someone who deserves him.

I guess all Clive needed was reassurance that he was not to blame for the bad things which have happened to him. It seems to me, the source of Clive’s personal anguish and torment was the belief that not being loved meant he was unlovable and therefore he faced a bleak and lonely future without his wife; a belief he had held since abandoned to care by his mother; a belief which was reignited and reinforced when his wife left him for someone else.

Though the experience of having to depend on Clive when in a crisis was somewhat traumatic, I cannot help but remember him with fondness. I’ve changed his name here because I wouldn’t have been able to write about this otherwise. And that would be a shame, I think, because within this experience lies an important message for anyone going through similar anguish; that our greatest torments can come not from without but from long-held beliefs which are not true or helpful to us at all. I feel grateful to Clive for having shared his story with me.

My thoughts now return to that taxi-driver who sped off as if the hounds of hell were upon his heels, and I have to titter. It transpires that Clive had not caught the train to Bangor and then a taxi to the campsite, as I had been told he would; he had got a taxi all the way from Shropshire (which cost me an absolute fortune, as you can imagine). My guess is that the taxi driver must have been at his wit’s end by the time he had gone through four and a half hours of listening to Clive’s woes. It will be a journey I’m sure he will never forget and will tell his grandchildren in years to come.

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 day disaster struck.

On Sunday, I was driving from Mynydd Mawr to camp further up the North coast of the Llyn. Having got somewhat lost along the myriad of little lanes, I ended up somewhere I hadn’t intended to be at all. When I saw a parking and picnic area, I decided to pull in and consult my maps in the hope of discovering my location. A notice board at the picnic site told me this was the carpark for Penllech Beach. From here, there was a footpath leading across some fields, past waterfalls and down to the beach. It was early in the day and I was in no hurry, so we headed off to the beach. I had no idea that I would not be returning to that car park in the manner in which I left it.

Some rough steps led down to the beach and this walkway ended in smooth rocks on which I almost slipped. There wasn’t another soul on the beach at that time of the morning. As I walked along the shoreline, I experienced a fleeting moment of apprehension, and the thought occurred to me that perhaps it wasn’t a good idea to be here alone. I should have heeded my instincts and those of my dogs. I sat on a rock to watch the waves breaking on the sand. Jessie dog came to sit beside me and huddled in to my side, making me wonder if she wasn’t feeling well as she would usually be avidly sniffing along the beach.

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Penllech beach

I got up and began walking back to the other end of the beach, and passed the steps we had come down. As we passed the steps, Morgan dog ran up them and sat waiting at the top. I tell him we are not going back up yet, we haven’t been here long. I continue along and look back to see Morgan is still sat at the top of the steps, as if he wants to go. I wonder if he, too, isn’t feeling well as he doesn’t seem to be as keen as usual, either. I call to him several times and finally he is persuaded to come down and follow.

Jessie dog then begins to play fight with him, trying to get him to play chase. He takes off, with her in hot pursuit. I’m looking up at the gorge where the waterfalls down to the beach are just out of sight, wondering how I can get across the stream to take a photograph. Too late, I turn to see Morgan hurtling towards me, not looking at where he is going but looking over his shoulder at Jessie chasing him. I don’t have time to get out of the way. Twenty-eight kilos of dog slam in to the side of my knee. I scream and hit the sand like a sack of spuds. The pain in my leg is excruciating, radiating from my kneecap down to my foot. I lie there in shock and pain, with the two dogs sat beside me. I fear my leg may be broken. I am on the edge of the water, with the waves of the sea seeping into my clothing and soaking my shoes. I tell myself I must get up, I must get out of the water. I try to turn over to get to my knees but I can’t move the injured leg. I pull myself into a sitting position in the water, wondering what on earth I’m going to do. I manage to pull my rucksack off my back to get to my mobile phone which is inside. No signal.

I look around me and see a couple walking along the coastal path. They come down the steps toward me and ask if I am alright; they had heard my scream and seen the whole thing. They lift me to my feet and I try to walk but each time I try to put weight on my left leg it gives way beneath me. It feels like my knee is folding inwards and I’m beginning to feel really scared.

The realisation that I may be seriously injured throws me into a panic. Maybe it was shock, I don’t know, but all I can think is that if I can just get back to my camper and lie down, I will be alright. Another lady comes along at that moment and asks if she can help. Her name is Liz, she’s from New Zealand, and she’s staying at a place on top of the cliffs. Between them they managed to help me to the bottom of the steps.

I have a brainwave born of fear and desperation. If I could just brace my knee, and with the aid of my walking stick (which is in the van), I am certain I can walk back to the van. Liz goes off to see if she can find something to bandage my knee. Jacqui, the lady who found me, takes my keys to go and get my stick. Twenty minutes or so later, my knee is bandaged up, I have my stick and a lady on each side of me. I take one step and my knee gives way again with an excruciating bolt of pain.

Another lady, Jo, arrives and says she is going to call for air ambulance, at which point I dig my stubborn heels further into the sand. No, no, no, that is not going to happen, I tell her. I just need to get my dogs and myself back to the van and rest up and then I will be fine. She says, okay, she is just going to go and ask a local farmer if he can get his quad-bike down here to get me back to the van.

When she comes back it is to tell me she has called for an ambulance. I tell her I am not going in any ambulance, I will not leave my dogs. My dogs have been huddled up to me all the time I’ve been sat on the steps. Honey, she says, you are not going to get off this beach without a stretcher, you can’t walk. You need to get that leg seen to. Listen, she adds, they’ll probably just stretcher you back to your van, check you over and say everything’s fine, so don’t worry, okay?

This reassures me. I now think this is what will happen. As we sit and wait and the kind ladies are chatting, I am formulating a plan. When me and the dogs are back in the camper, I will stay parked up in there in the camper until my knee is feeling better. I tell myself it will be better by tomorrow. I know now that due to shock, or panic, I wasn’t thinking straight at all, but at the time it all seemed perfectly plausible to me.

Then half a dozen people turn up in red overalls; they are a marine rescue team who had been on a training exercise up on the headland somewhere and had picked up the emergency call. They say the ambulance is on its way but has been held up by a trailer of silage along the lane. A short while later, half a dozen ambulance crew arrive. They ask me lots of questions like ‘can I feel my toes’, etc. I apologise profusely for the trouble I’ve put them to but say I’ll be okay if they can just get me back to my camper so I can lie down, I’ll be right as rain in no time. I am not leaving my dogs, I tell them.

The kind ladies say I must not worry about the dogs, they will look after the dogs for me until I get back. Jo owns a camp site over the hill. She’s going to drive my van back to her site for me and look after my dogs until I return. There won’t be any need to look after my dogs, I’m thinking, because I’m only going as far as my van.

An ambulance man explains how they’re going to carry me out on a stretcher back to the car park. They put my leg in a brace. They have to carry me across fields and across a stream, poor things. Back at the car park, they have me inside that ambulance before I have time to blink, and we’re on our way to the nearest hospital with x-rays facilities. The ride seems to go on for ever; as well it might because they’re taking me to Bangor. Then begins an interminable wait as I sit in a wheel chair, in my still damp clothing and shoes, staring at the walls, waiting to be seen. It is five hours later when I am finally discharged with a pair of crutches and my leg in splints (with no idea that I would be in those splints for months).

I ask the nurse for the number of a taxi cab to take me back down the coast. She tells me I don’t want to do that, it will cost me an arm and a leg if I hire one from Bangor and that I would be better off getting one to come up from Porth Colmon. I am at my wits end, now. I tell her that would mean waiting an extra hour and a half before they got here. I tell her I’m exhausted, I haven’t eaten for over eight hours, and I don’t care how much it costs, I want to leave now. If able, I would have stamped my foot, I’m sure. I can become as cantankerous and grumpy as the next person, when sorely pressed.

You have had a day of it, haven’t you, the nurse says, and comes back with a sandwich, a cup of tea, and the number of the cab. Seventy pounds it will cost to get me back to my camper and it is worth every penny. One and a half hours later, I am reunited with my dogs, and Liz and her friend, Lynn, make me a cup of tea. I sit on the step of my camper to drink it because I don’t feel strong enough yet to hoist myself up the steps, bum first.

As I’m sat there and Liz is making up a bed for me in the camper, I begin to feel very ill indeed. Lights are flashing in front of my eyes. I am sweating profusely and begin to feel sick. I tell Liz I’m not feeling well. She gets a cloth and drapes it over the back of my neck and tells me to breathe. I start throwing up. I can’t sit up any longer, I have to lie down or I’m going to collapse. The sky is full of flashing lights and I hear Liz say ‘we need to get her in the recovery position’. Then my hearing goes and all I can hear is the pounding of waves inside my ears. Next thing I know, I’m on the ground with a pillow under my head.

Next day, I am laid up in the camper. Jo, the campsite owner, tells me I am welcome to stay as long as I like and they will help me as long as needed. I decide it is time to get back to family, and so my daughter tries to arrange some way of getting me and my camper back to her place in Shropshire. Meanwhile, Liz and Jo have walked the dogs for me, fetched water for me, and gone out to buy some provisions for me.

It was an unlucky accident, but I consider myself incredibly fortunate because I can’t help but think of the ‘what if’s’.  What if the tide had been coming in and not out? What if no one had come by? What if my injuries had been life-threatening?

I shall never forget how I was blessed by the kindness and help of strangers; and the efficiency of the marine rescue and ambulance teams was second to none.

Jacqui from the Yorkshire Dales, Liz and Lynn from New Zealand, and Jo from the Moel-y-berth campsite at Porth Colmon; I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I shall never forget your help and kindness.

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 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

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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.

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

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The travelogues; I enter a time-warp near Llanbrynmair and cause a bit of a stir.

I didn’t think I was doing anything remarkable or that I would ever be the subject for conversation until I stopped off at a small campsite on my way to Dolgellau. On my arrival, a little chap wearing a tweed hat and pushing a wheelbarrow directed me to a pitch and told me not to worry about paying as the owner would be along later. Within an hour, I got a visit from one of the couples staying there.

“I hear you’re driving this thing on your own. How are you managing it?” asks Mr.

The little chap with the wheelbarrow must have duly noted my singledom and passed on the word. I tell Mr I’d found the camper’s size a bit intimidating at first but I’m used to it now.

Following much shaking of his head, Mr says, “Well, I take my hat off to you but you do know you have to have a special license to drive one of these, don’t you?”

Gulp. What? Where? Who? Why? “Eh?”

“Oh, yes! You have to have a medical to get the license – camera oop the bum, the whole works. I know ‘cos I thought of getting one of these big motor-homes.”

“Then, after all that, he goes and gets a caravan instead!” says Mrs, laughing indulgently.

“I’m sure that can’t be right,” say I, hoping to god it isn’t. “No one said anything to me about needing a special license.”

“It’s true. Anything over 3.5 ton and you have to have a medical!”

“Ah, well, I don’t think it’s as big as that!” I say, not actually having a clue how much the damned thing weighs.

“Surely is!” he says.

I decide I’m bored with this conversation now and want to retire to my van and hold my head in my hands but Mr is not to be deterred.

“Look here! It’ll tell you somewhere in the cab,” he says, opening my cab door. “Here you are!” he says wiping the dust and dog hair off the said information label.

I hold my breath as he hunkers down and pushes his glasses up his nose and peers; then he rubs the label and squints at it again, as though he can’t quite believe what it says.

“Ah! Well, it’s a 3.1, so you’re alright,” he says, avoiding my cool gaze and not apologising for causing me unnecessary anxiety.

“Anyway, what’s the height of it, eh? The width? Do you know? You need to know these things or else you’ll find yourself without a roof when you go driving under a low bridge. See?” His questions come at me like bullets from a machine gun.

“Yes, of course. I know,” blag I, making a mental note to look up the dimensions again in the manual as soon as he’s gone, and praying he won’t put me to the test because they’ve gone clean out of my head.

No sooner has Mr departed than the owner stops by.

“I hear you’re driving this on your own!”

I bristle slightly and brace myself. I don’t think they can get much passing-through trade here.

“Um, well, yes.”

“Jolly good for you! I think it’s marvellous!” he says, beaming with bonhomie.

As the owner walks away, I feel a momentary glow of pride; thinking ‘gosh, aren’t I the one’. Then my feminist brain kicks into gear and I think how sexist the whole thing is. A man on his own, doing what I am, would never illicit such remarks or get a lecture about things he may not know, or congratulations upon his ability to do it. I feel like I’ve entered a time warp.

I know Mr know-it-all probably meant well. He belongs to that generation of older men who think women are delicate creatures who need to be looked after and aren’t capable of doing the things men do. I’m hoping I’ve disabused him of some of his illusions; though, in all fairness, he did give me a timely reminder to memorise those dimensions, but don’t tell him I said so.

Then, uppity and independent old thing that I am, I’m off to Dolgellau and driving past the mountain of Cader Idris in all its brooding, massive majesty. I used to gaze at this fabulous landmark of a mountain, over on the distant horizon, when I lived in the east of Wales. Up close, it fills me with awe.

I fall in love with Dolgellau, where at last I feel I have entered a proper Welsh town. Here, you will be reminded that Wales is indeed another country. You will hear the lovely, lilting, Welsh language spoken all around you and all the shops have Welsh names.

In the region of Wales I come from you don’t hear so much Welsh being spoken. Welsh was my mother’s first language but she never spoke it to her children. At school, she was punished for speaking her own language and taught she must speak English or not speak at all. Thus, my generation were robbed of their heritage, language and culture via parents who had been brainwashed from childhood that Welsh was inferior. So I have a deep and abiding gratitude to those who held tight to their language and didn’t let anyone persuade them not to, and passed on their language to their children with pride. If not for them, the Welsh language would not now exist.

I buy real bread and a heavenly home-made Bara-brith in the bakery, and am offered a cup of tea while browsing in the inspiring little wool shop. Here I meet two lovely ladies who are fellow (what is the female equivalent?) spinners and we spend a half hour enthusing over hand-spun yarns. They tell me that Dolgellau once had a thriving woollen industry, and that at least one house in Dolgellau still has a weavers shed at the top reached by a spiral stone stairway which the weavers used to use so as not to disturb their employer when going to and from their work. Before the decline of the woollen industry, which occurred in the first half of the 19th century due to the introduction of mechanical looms, annual output was said to be worth between £50,000 and £100,000.

The other thing Dolgellau was once famous for was its large community of Quakers. Apparently, following a visit from George Fox in 1657, many inhabitants of Dolgellau converted to Quakerism. Many emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1686, led by Rowland Ellis, a local gentleman-farmer, because of the persecution they suffered (persecution was suffered by all dissenting religions in Wales). The Pennsylvanian town of Bryn Mawr was named after Rowland Ellis’s farm near Dolgellau. So now you know.

Dolgellau is possibly one of the least spoiled towns I’ve encountered and I love that it has preserved its Welsh identity and language. But oh, how I would have loved to have been a passenger in the motor-car of H. V. Morton in 1932, for while I, in 2014, celebrate how comparatively unspoiled it is, he was lamenting the changes which had led to the exchange of pony for local omnibus as a mode of transport for the locals. He describes the market square crowded with farmers and their labourers on a Saturday afternoon;

They wear breeches and leggings, caps or bowler hats. Most of them are shaggy as mountain ponies; some fair, some small and dark as Spaniards, some tall and fair, rawboned as Highlanders. Now and again local girls, walking two by two, pass and re-pass among the herd of men, and occasionally they turn to smile back at some chance remark in Welsh which is flung at them……I look at them and miss the ponies on which I feel they should have ridden to market. But they have come in from miles around on motor-omnibuses. It is a grotesque thought.

The descendants of those farmers of which he spoke now each own their own motor car, of course, and land-rovers, all of which are crammed into the parking spaces on the square or in the car park – an unimaginable thing in H.V. Morton’s time.

I can only imagine what thoughts he may have had should he have seen women driving around the country alone in motorised homes on wheels, let alone driving buses, trains, lorries….

From Dolgellau I’m off to Barmouth ….see you there.

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

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