Running with the wind.

Running with the wind.

Take my hand with your back to the wind that would sweep you from your feet if it could. Watch with me as the swallows swoop and the buzzard rides the air-waves. See how they go with the flow and don’t fight against that which cannot be fought. Take my hand and we’ll run with the wind as if we were never broken.

Yes, take my hand and I’ll lead you there where broken hearts are healed and sealed, for there it is the skylarks rise and fall to rise again. And they’ll sing to you as they sing to me  of hope and eternal promise; that out of sadness joy can rise, again, and again, and again.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

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Now she is gone.

Now She is Gone.

Be fair, she never promised you roses or lazy days, romancing in the sun.
That was the thing about her, she never made promises she knew she couldn’t keep.
She promised you nothing but look at all she gave you when she turned up at your door, her arms full of violets, stitchwort, primroses, celandines, cowslips and purple bugle.
She even brought you wild strawberry flowers.
She gave you a bunch of the very first bluebells and showed you the first swallow swooping low above your roof.
There wasn’t a single day when she didn’t bring you something to delight and make you smile.
So many precious moments…with her it was you laughed every day at the antics of the lambs racing around the fields.
With her it was you listened to the skylarks singing their hearts out on the heath.
Together, you sat and watched the baby ravens deep inside the woods where the larches turned green at her touch.
She couldn’t help the way she was. Warm with you one day, cold the next.
You never knew what she was going to throw at you next.
That’s just the way she is, never sure which way the wind blows.
With one foot in March, the other in May, she couldn’t decide between sunshine and snow, as unpredictable as the wind.
And now she is come and gone too soon, will you mourn her passing?
No, of course you won’t, you’ve already moved on to the next one – the greatest beauty of them all, the one who fills you with longing because she always promises it will be like it used to be when she gave you everything you ever wanted.
May so rarely keeps her promises but every year you hope she will, this time.
April never promised you anything but remember all she gave you.
In Remembrance of April.

©Jenny Lloyd.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can also follow the author:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is then that I see it.

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

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

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

The aspect looking south from Caegwyn is breathtaking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

The waterfall at Pistyll Rhaedr is sublime. WP_20140601_10_00_30_Pro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

 

 

 

Weaving my way through the wilderness.

….and so the builder did not return next morning (thank the heavens) and the rain ceased at 11am. Rain before seven, fine by eleven, my Daddy used to say, and often as not it is right. It was grey and overcast with a chill in the air but any weather which isn’t rain is considered fine in Wales. The ravenous midges disappeared along with the rain, so we headed off up into the mountains for a couple of hours rambling.

The path took us alongside a mountain stream. The stream tumbled ever downwards over the pebbles and boulders. It was like a symphony, the noise, with deep gurgling notes where the water fell into bubbling pools and a cacophony of percussion where it crashed down over rocks. Morgan dog jumped in and lay wallowing like a pig in mud…

WP_20140528_11_48_06_Pro…while I sat listening to the stream’s music and the chorus of skylarks overhead, thinking how my greatest moments of contentment have been found in such places as this.

As the track took us higher, away from the stream, and the skylarks stopped warbling for a few minutes, I heard a sound which is rare these days; it was the sound of utter silence, which can only be found for fleeting moments in the remoteness of mountains. At the centre of such silence, thoughts cease and all that can be heard is the beat of your own consciousness. I stood as still as the landscape around me to listen.

On our return, our only neighbours had departed and been replaced by a family with five children further down by the stream. By the time I’d eaten lunch, the rain had returned along with the midges. I promptly slammed the door and watched them throwing themselves at the windows.

Holed up inside ‘the beast’, and without internet or phone, I amused myself by finishing a weaving I’d started as a souvenir of my time along the Ceridigion coast. The driftwood I gathered on Gwbert beach; the shells I gathered at Tresaint. Some of the wools in it are from Ceridigion sheep. With the colours, I tried to capture the ever changing colours of the sea, the sky, and the hedgerows.

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By late afternoon it was raining hard again and every time I opened the door to look out, a swarm of midges invaded, hell bent on eating me alive. So, when I had killed every last one of them, though not before they’d enjoyed a good nibble at my ears and forehead, I began another weaving in the hope of capturing the essence of the sheep and tree dotted mountains with the stream running through the centre of it all. Some of the white wool in this one, and the pebbles from the stream, I picked while on our mountain walk.

 

These weavings are the kind of things which, if they haven’t fallen to bits by the end of my travels, will end up as moth-eaten relics, stashed in an attic somewhere until one day when I am gone and someone throws them out in disgust. But right now, they are vibrant and meaningful to me.

At 5 pm some Belgians arrive and search, in vain, for the owner. They are soon followed by a biker who has been wild camping up the Elan valley. There is a sign by the entrance telling people to book in at the house before entering the site, so they are reluctant to do so. The biker just wanted to know how much it costs to stay here, should he need the diversion of a shower on his wild-camping adventures. I tell the Belgians to pick a pitch because the owner has been out all day and heaven knows when she might come home.

By the time she does return, a chap who I swear is Boris Johnson, or his twin, has turned up with his family. Then another couple turn up and pitch their tent smack bang outside Boris’s tent, obstructing his idyllic view. They had about two dozen empty pitches to choose from, all with stunning views across the valley. As I watch them pitch their tent, I wonder if some people go out of their way to be annoying or if it comes as naturally to them as breathing. I watch them slapping at the midges eating their faces and getting soaked in the rain, and uncharitably think it serves them right. Boris hasn’t emerged to bravely sit out under his awning since they arrived, but then that could be down to the dastardly midges.

I’ve lived amidst Welsh hills for most of my life, but never have I seen midges in such numbers or with such vicious intent. They are swarming outside my van as I write. I’m not opening that door again until the dogs can cross their legs no longer, and I’m out of here in the morning…..

…our journey out took us over a narrow mountain road, across a vast wilderness of open moors and peat bogs. As the road twisted and turned, the shells and pebbles tied into my weavings were clanking and clacking against the camper walls. By the time I reached my next destination, they were strewn around the camper. I have inadvertently invented a new style of pebble-dash.

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Jenny Lloyd is the author of the acclaimed novel, Leap the Wild Water, a story about a family torn apart by secrets and betrayals in early 19th century Wales. Oh, and the soon to be published sequel, The Calling of the Raven.

Amazon UK; http://ow.ly/uEv3O

Amazon US; http://ow.ly/uEuXQ

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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Goodreads; https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7035188.Jenny_Lloyd

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, um, er…”

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

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

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

“Eighty-two!” he says, triumphantly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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In every direction the views are achingly beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

No sense of direction, no Satnav, I’m the lost and clueless sort.

I was chatting to a man in Aberaeron and he asked where I was headed from there. I’m off to a place called Mwnt, I said, where there is a remote little church upon the cliffs above Cardigan. I got married in that little church, he said, surprising me. It was a long time ago, mind, there was nothing else there back then. No caravans, no National Trust shop selling ice cream. I’m making a detour first, I said, to the National Wool museum. What a detour that turned out to be!

I have a reputation for having no sense of direction and hence, for getting lost. I missed a few turns I should have taken but got to my destination, eventually. Along the way, I passed through some beautiful scenery and there was one stretch of the road which for miles was edged on either side with hedgerows bedecked with flowering laburnums. It was a breathtakingly beautiful stretch of road but sadly I couldn’t find a safe place to pull over to take photographs.

The museum was interesting, filled with old machinery which took the processing of wool from fleece to finished cloth. It was on leaving here that I took a major wrong turn and ended up at a crossroads on the top of some remote hill. Not one of the remote places on the finger-posts could I find on my map so I turned around and headed back to the museum. Now back on the right road, I passed through Cenarth, over a narrow, humped back bridge which traversed the river Teifi. The view upstream was spectacular with the river tumbling down over falls where salmon can be seen leaping in the season.

As I headed north out of Cardigan, I stopped at a petrol station and asked the genial, young man at the till if I was very far from my destination of Mwnt.

“Ah, well, now then, that depends!” says he.

“On what?”

“On how far you want to go. If you carry up to Aberporth then double back, now, that is the long way round and will take about half an hour. But if you take the right turn just as you go out of here, then you’ll be there in five minutes.”

I begin to wonder if he is slightly unhinged because it seems like a no-brainer to me and I tell him I will take the short route.

“Ah, but, you see, if you go that way, well, it’s a bit tricky, see. It’s a very narrow lane, like, and you might come upon a tractor and then where will you be? Which one of you is going to reverse, isn’t it? There aren’t many passing places, see?”

Indeed, I did see, and ask what he would do if he were me, given that I am driving a large motor home.

“I’d give it a go, isn’t it? It’s raining, see, so you should be alright. If it was sunny, though, well there’d be tractors all up and down that lane, see, cutting the silage, isn’t it?”

He shows me in a map book; which turns to take, and where, along this little lane. I thank him, explaining I have already got lost once today. “Perhaps I should get myself a Satnav!” I exclaim, thinking I certainly should.

“Oh, dear,  no, you don’t want to be using one of those around here, it’ll likely lead you over the nearest cliff!” he says, with manic glee.

I buy his map book. It is a Navigator map book and shows all the little lanes I might get lost in. Just the thing I need.

I thank him again and make to leave.

“No worries! We get lots of your sort around here!” he says.

I assume that by ‘my sort’, he means clueless and lost. He then begins to relate a tale about a man who staggered into his garage, one evening, eyelids drooping with fatigue, and asking if, pray to God, he was anywhere near Swansea.

“And I broke it to him gently, like, isn’t it? I said, well, no, not exactly. You have a while to go, yet. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he had another hour and a half to go! He’d been up over some mountains, somewhere, after taking a wrong turn off the motorway. Pitiful sight, he was.”

Duly warned of the dangers of taking wrong turns, I follow his directions to Mwnt along a web of narrow criss-crossing lanes to a farm overlooking the sea. Not that I could see the sea as it was shrouded behind a veil of torrential rain. I arrived here at 3pm and it was still raining seven hours later. A strong wind picked up, too, towards night. I know this because I made the mistake of unwinding the awning so my route in and out of the door would be sheltered from the rain. Having unwound it, I was unable to reel it in again when the wind picked up. So, I went to bed to the sound of the thwack and slam of the awning knocking against its supports. I was surprised to find it still there in the morning, and a little brute force from the helpful proprietor got it reeled in again.

As the rain had passed, I sat on my step to eat my breakfast toast and these beady-eyed little chaps turned up to share it with me;WP_20140525_07_06_12_Pro__highres

Today, we climbed to the top of the conical hill of Mwnt; a precarious climb for one such as me, as I have a dizzy head for heights. It was worth the effort and the terror, though. The slopes were smothered in wild flowers…

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and the whitewashed church was beautiful in its simplicity…

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… the view from the coastal path across the bay was lovely…

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…if you use binoculars, you might just see the little church perched above the cliffs!

Mwnt was invaded, unsuccessfully, by the Flemings in 1155. It is said that the site of the church dates to the Age of the Saints, though the present church is possibly 14th century. It has a font cut from the stone of the Preseli mountains (as is Stone Henge).

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Follow me:

Twitter; https://twitter.com/jennyoldhouse

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

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

 

 

Finding magic and legend in a sleepy Welsh village.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me:

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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