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 ghostly encounter on a journey into the past…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is then that I see it.

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

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

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

The aspect looking south from Caegwyn is breathtaking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Treasures amid the ruins of past lives.

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A passage from Leap the Wild Water;

We had reached the ruins of Hafod by then, and I remembered how, years ago, Morgan and I had played in this ruin as children. We’d ride over here on our ponies. Back then, there were still remnants of a roof and the outside walls were intact. We’d light a fire in the hearth, though the chimney was full of crow’s nests. Sian talked as we picked our way round the crumbled walls of the house, stepping over roof slates overgrown with weeds, and stooping to pick up bits of broken china cups and such.

A ‘ hafod’ was a summer dwelling or place. My earliest traced ancestors lived in a place called Hafodeidos. Its English translation conjures up an 18th century rural idyll – the summer place of the nightingales.

The name of Hafod has ancient origins, harking back to a way of living which was practiced by the early Welsh people. They lived according to a semi-nomadic system of transhumance. In summertime they lived in summer dwellings called ‘hafod’ which were situated up in the mountains. Their animals grazed on the rough mountain pasture while the family lived in the ‘hafod’, which was no more than a roughly built hut but served as adequate shelter through the summer months. They lived off the milk and cheese they acquired from the freely grazing cows and sheep. Loving to roam the Welsh mountains as I do, this seems to me to be the most idyllic of existences in summertime.

Only when winter drew near would the family make their way down the mountain to live in their winter dwelling. This was called a ‘handref’ and provided better shelter from winter weather while offering some protection for people and animals from the wolves which then roamed the Welsh countryside.

I failed to find anything but ruins of many of the homes of my ancestors. Long abandoned, due their remoteness or inaccessibility when transport became motorised. Many of the old tracks remain, now marked as bridle-paths or footpaths, when once they would have witnessed the weekly trundle of cartwheels, carrying the family to market or chapel.

If you walk anywhere in the Welsh countryside, you will still encounter the occasional ruin, tucked away on some remote hillside. Often, as in the photos above, the only thing still standing is the chimney wall, complete with beam-topped fireplace. Slate tiles litter the ground amidst the fallen stones, and the remains of broken china lie scattered about among nettles and grass; a cup-handle here, a shard of plate there. As I walk amid the ruins of long-since crumbled homes, I am always left wondering how many children were raised or died within that house; how many couples lived, loved and died between its walls?

That is the pull of old ruins, for they hint at the stories lost to history, leaving us writerly souls to fill the gaps with our imaginations. As I trample among them, I fancy I hear the sound of children’s laughter, and their footfalls chasing about boarded rooms that no longer exist. I imagine glimpses of petticoats, pinafores, waistcoats and breeches; always just around the corner, hidden from sight.

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A family of eighteen children were raised  in the house above, within living memory.

As a child I often played amid the ruins of an old chapel which lay a few fields away from our house. Its roof was gone but its walls remained, and it was said that the roof had been struck by lightning when the congregation were singing inside. The roof caught fire and the congregation fled. A Baptist chapel it was. They must have thought that God himself had finally come to smite them down for their sins…

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Opposite that chapel, was the ruins of what was once the chapel house. Damson trees grew behind what remained of its walls and we’d clamber up those trees in autumn, to harvest their purple fruit. There is nothing but grass and weeds to be seen there now. The earth has swallowed its remains and covered them over as if they had never been.

The same has happened to the cottages which were once said to exist below our old farmhouse. Not even a grass-smothered outline remains of one of them. Nature has gathered them all into her bosom, obliterating man’s attempts at permanence, and returned the fields to her beloved green.

The extraordinary is to be found beneath the ordinary. Within the lives of ordinary people, extraordinary stories can be found. Inscribed on ancient tombstones, between the lines of census entries, or beneath the scattered slates and stones; dig deep enough amid the ruins of the past and there is treasure to be found.

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 healing power of nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

19th century knitters

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Research can lead a writer down some unexpected avenues of discovery. While researching my novel, Leap the Wild Water, I bought a spinning wheel and taught myself to spin wool. I wanted to see just how much time it would take for one of my characters to knit a pair of stockings from raw wool. I got to really like spinning wool, its very relaxing, but I failed to master the art of knitting stockings.

It’s astonishing to think that such a laborious task as stocking knitting once played a big part in the Welsh rural economy. In fact, wool manufacture was the most prolific industry in Wales from the Middle Ages to mid-19th century.

Unlike today, when the cost of producing wool outweighs the price it fetches, wool was once a prized commodity, and the textile industry in Wales provided an income of sorts for countless households. From the poor cottagers employed in carding and spinning wool, to the enterprising farmers who housed weaving looms in lean-to sheds, called ty-gwydd, on their farms; there were few who were not involved in some way.

Many women of rural Wales were proficient spinners and highly skilled in the art of knitting. They were able to produce knitted garments for their own family’s needs. Despite the time-consuming labour involved in carding (usually done with teasel heads) and spinning the wool into yarn prior to knitting, many were able to support themselves by knitting and selling stockings. Such was the demand for their knitted stockings that a Walter Davies, in 1799, estimated that annual production ran to approximately 192,000 pairs.

Many stocking knitters sold their wares at local markets; some would stand along the stage-coach highways to sell to passing travellers; others sold to the local ‘stocking man’ who would collect from them each week. These ‘stocking men’ travelled far afield and over the English border to sell the stockings in the markets of large towns.

It was a common sight to see women knitting as they walked along the country lanes or hilltops. Great distances had to be walked in those days and the time taken was usefully spent on knitting. Yarn hooks were often used. These were s-shaped hooks; one side would hang from their apron strings while the spool of wool was attached to the other. Knitting sheaths were also popular; suspended from the hip, they bore the weight of the garment being knitted. These were handmade and carved, and given as love tokens, much as the Welsh love spoons were.

Farmer’s wives had an abundant source of wool for knitting, but poor cottagers had to source their wool by gathering the waste wool lost from the sheep amongst the gorse and bracken of the hilltops, or rubbed off along stone walls. This too was a laborious and time-consuming task but to have enough wool to meet the family’s needs, or to make a little extra money, was essential.

There is a scene in Leap the Wild Water when the wool gatherers arrive from the coast to gather waste wool from the mountain tops. The arrival of the wool gatherers was a much anticipated annual event. They would travel many miles with enough provisions to last them a week. Their journey entailed sleeping under the stars or sheltering in derelict barns by night, on route to their destinations. I would have loved to travel alongside them.

The knitting circles which have become so popular in recent years aren’t a new thing. Knitting evenings were a common event for past generations. Candlelight being expensive, numbers of people would take turns to congregate in each other’s houses of an evening; to knit, and gossip, and entertain each other with stories from times gone by.

Home-made dyes came from the surrounding landscape. Here are just a few, should you fancy experimenting for yourself;

  • Lichens were an abundant source, giving colours from pale green to deep pink, depending on whether they were picked from the mountain rocks or trees. In the 19th century, both women and children made money from gathering and selling lichen to merchants. In 1816 it was being sold for one and a half pence a pound. It was believed that lichen-dyed socks would prevent the feet from sweating.
  • Bruised sloe berries boiled with the wool gave a rose colour.
  • Elderberries with an alum mordant gave a bluey-green.
  • The roots of bedstraw and tormentil, which grow in abundance in spring-time on the upland hills of Wales, were some of the few plants which would produce red.
  • Gorse bark, flowers and young leaves produced yellow.
  • Bracken, another abundant plant on Welsh mountains, gave brown.
  • Dandelions produced magenta.

Just imagine how much time went into making one pair of stockings or a shawl! Yet, the domestic industry of stocking knitting only began to decline in the mid-1800’s with the advent of the railways and advances in knitting machinery. Then, machine-made hose became cheaply available in village and town shops and it was no longer economically viable as a living.

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