Sunday, July 31, 2011

Waldo Williams - Two Fields

The only thing I have to say about this plaque, why is it so ugly?
The Bluestone that was brought down from Carn Meyn in 1989 by helicopter is opposite this stone on the other side of the road.

More discreet

'Wall of my childhood, Foel Drigarn, Carn Gyfrwy, Tal Mynydd, My support in all independent thinking'

Again I have written about Waldo elsewhere, he is supposed to be be one of Wales finest language poet, and I suspect his poetry rhythm lies in the Welsh language.  He grew up in the village of, Mynachlog-ddu which lies under the Presili range of hills.  He was a pacificist and was part of the group that fought off the land around the Prescelis hills  being taken over by the government for military exercises, hopefully my other half will write about it elsewhere but it is an interesting facet of history.  It would have been similar to other military land such as Salisbury Plain and Dartmoor, a place for tank training, etc.

Whilst the battle was fought and won, it is interesting to remember that W.F.Grimes in the 1940s, an archaeologists who wrote about this area, and also the prehistory on the downs in Somerset, was employed by the war office to sort out way out airfields for WW2,  Lansdown had one, also Charmy Down which lies on the opposite down to Lansdown outside Bath.  Also, there is an airfield just outside Solva (by Nine Wells) now disused, all of which had prehistoric barrows and cromlechs on them,  The RAF station of Brawdy still remains, though I'm not sure it comes from the second World War.

Somewhere in my photos I have taken photos of the remains of a burnt out plane on the flanks of the Preseli going towards Carn Meyn, from what I can remember 6 men died when the plane came down, strange that bits should still remain from such a long time ago, but a plaque remembers them and a few pieces of burnt out metal are there in this remote part.

Those fields – I’ve walked across them - they are
Extraordinary fields, though inaccessible to the seeker
After transcendence this is no loss for the page
Holds them in view and they extend into the margins
Between field hedges and the nets of the Hunter

In many places and times where time
Is arrested and held captive by a tether
Of stillness long enough to feel chastened by silence.
Sunlight touches a wall on a summer afternoon,
Shadows enclose a moment which passes from forever

To forever: Such blessings are felt to be precious.
But hearing beyond them voices calling in a common
Tongue of work and worship echoing through centuries,
And knowing that they witness this moment
When all is still, so that being alone

Is to be with them, resonates beyond solitude.
Voices heard in the echoes of whistling lapwings
Tremble to life over empty meadows; each hand,
Each tongue unique in the passing of time yet fused
In a moment making one of many things.

The Presceli Hills

Foel Drygarn rock with one of the stone cairns behind, and on the skyline an American couple from Seattle.

A walk up to Foel Drygarn, three enormous stone cairns and Iron age settlement, this walk is quite steep.  But from its summit you can get views of the 'bluestones' Carn Meyn and this time I located Carn Alws in the landscape (a chevaux de frise) which we must walk to because it looks so interesting sometime in the future; either a defended hillfort location or a place where you drove your livestock in  in the Iron age, it has upright stones along the entrance lane.

The walk is slightly exhausting up hill, but is not too far, this part of the Prescelis is pure sheep country, and we witnessed the same sheep herding I had witnessed several years ago bringing the sheep down to the farm yard.  The first sign was a sheepdog running on to the road, there really is not much traffic around in this part of the world, so sheepdogs are often found to be asleep on the road or territorially guarding the farm.... a couple of hundred were being rounded up on the higher fields by a tractor blaring out his horn and a couple of nifty dogs, all done at quite a high speed as the sheep were tightly circled and then brought down into the yard - noisy but interesting to watch.

The top of Foel Drygarn is difficult to describe but similar I would think to the Carn Meyn ridge top. Austere and awesome are words that come to mind, the thin crust of greenery broken by the massive rocks that expand upward out of  the earth - prehistory still writ, and the reason why this poor land is sheep country. And why some of us believe that the magical aspect of the bluestones were transported back to Stonehenge from this prehistoric ridgeway.

views from the top

walking up the path with Carn Meyn in the distance

Carn Alw in the misty distance

Gors Fawr small stone circle on the moor below the Preseli Hills

Gors Fawr stone stone circle, Bronze Age and rather small, some blue stone dolerite, dwarfed by sheep and gorse, a very peaceful place and near the road, it also has two stones some two hundred yards away, which may have formed part of an avenue.

Friday, July 29, 2011

New arrivals

This little frog in the bowl we keep for the birds to drink from, suddenly arrived whilst we were away. Whence he came from is a mystery, no ponds around here, I have given him a piece of piping to sit on so that he can presumably eat the gnats and suchlike that lay their larvae in water.  He is now added to the fauna of the garden with the hedgehog who lives under the shed and the squirrel who patiently goes through the bread (looking for sunflower seeds) thrown out for the birds.
Though I don't 'own' any creatures at the moment, do feed a cat occasionally that comes looking for food, and of course the birds, so the garden is getting quite full.

The Avebury megameet, which happens each year, its a gathering of people interested in old prehistoric stones, and for us all to meet up from different parts of the country, though with the price of petrol it is getting more difficult.  Well as I also belong to a Heritage action group, had to take photos of these miscreant sheep rubbing themselves against the stones and producing a 'lanolin line' on the stones.  Still they were no worse than some German cyclists who were climbing the stones but they did  climb down after someone remonstrated with them.... 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

St.Non and her chapel

The ruined chapel inside the stone circle

St.Non is the mother of St.David, Wales most important saint, it is said that St.David was born in the centre of a stone circle one wild and stormy night, well myth or legend, this is the place that it happened.
There are stones scattered around in a large circle, though very incomplete, and in the centre a ruined medieval chapel set on this gently sloping ground looking out to sea.
Above the ruined chapel is a retreat house, which can be used by any denomination of religion.  It is not exactly attractive, and must have been built in the 1930s, and alongside a smaller chapel which was finished in 1934 and is dedicated to three saints, St.Non, St.Bridget, and St.Winifred all female celtic saints, or at least, belonging to that time when the Romans had left Britain in the 5th century and the 'British Celtic' church had come into being with slightly different teachings to the 'Roman Catholic' writings.  
At St.Non's it is said that when St.David was born, a spring rose miraculously from the ground, this well is dedicated to 'Our Lady' a catholic dedication.  So a place of mystery and strong religious feelings, the well of course seen as a healing well.  What of course makes the place interesting is the overlay of paganism by christianity.

Winifred or Gwen-Frewi 6th-7th century has an interesting history, she follows in the tradition of young rich female seduced by a prince (Caradog ab Alan), she fled from him but he caught up with before she could reach the safety of the church and sanctuary.  He cut off her head but her uncle St.Beuno restored her head and she became a nun at Gywtherin in Denbighshire.  The 'head' motif is characteristic of the pagan celtic cults.

Bridget/Bride - Ffraid 450 - 525 century - patron saint  of blacksmiths, poets, brewers, cooking and kitchens and healers. She seems a patron of many things, she is of course also acknowledged  in the bay called St.Brides Bay which the chapel looks over, she is more famous as the Irish saint, St.Bridget, second only to St.Patrick, in Wales she was called Ffraid Santes. Bridget of course belongs to the cult of the Celtic Fire Goddess, which kept an 'eternal' fire going at Kildare, and belongs to the festival of St.Imbolc on 2nd February.

Fascinating histories of these Welsh saints can be found in T.D.Breverton's book The Book of Welsh Saints, a book if I was stranded on a Desert Island would be my book of choice!

St.Non's Well with spots of rain

The Retreat

The shrine

The 20th century chapel

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Porthgain and Abereiddi

Abereiddi Blue lagoon, the original slate quarry, the entrance of which was blown up to let the sea in

I have already written about Porthgain and Abereiddi which are roughly a mile apart, so there is not much to add, the first thing you notice about the photos is how bleak this part of the coast is, the stone and slate  that has been hewn away in the quarries tells of back breaking work and what is left now at Abereiddi are the slate houses slowly crumbling away, the round powder house, a safe place for the dynamite to be kept and of course the manager's house set slightly apart higher up the hill.
Today the blue lagoon is used for fun, scuba diving and jumping off rocks, which seemed rather dangerous for the youngsters taking part but they wore hard hats as they swam from rock to rock and then jumped spreadeagled into the deep waters.

Porthgain  stone quarry

Porthgain 'street' the end two cottages belong to an artist and every year that I have been there is an enormous Pyreanean Mountain dog asleep outside.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Warriors Dyke - St.Davids Head

Warriors Dyke
Warriors Dyke is a promontory fort, ie it is a small defended settlement built on a long jutting out rock from the mainland.  Both Porth y Rhaw and the above fort are Iron Age, though they could probably have been earlier.  I read somewhere that if you did'nt find a promontory fort every half mile along the Pembrokeshire coastline something must be wrong.

Warriors Dyke was named by Sabine Baring Gould a vicar of the 19th Century, who also wrote hymns, beside  books on antiquities, mostly of Europe.  He excavated here and found the usual bits of pottery, charcoal and faience beads, plus to my joy, spinning whorls.  Sadly any 19th C excavation messes up the site so that any future more valuable excavation has all the evidence destroyed.
Getting there involves a walk from the popular Whitesand beach, up the side of the cliffs and through the gate onto the moor.  You will be faced with a shallow valley to cross with a stream running through it.
To your right is Carn Llidi with its double cromlech, which we did'nt visit this year; the tomb is hidden, or huddles, against the rock face and in front of it is an old WW2 platform, it takes some finding.
But to return to the settlement, fort is not quite the right word, over in the distance on St.Davids Head you will see another cromlech this is Coetan Arthur, again hidden in a jumble of rocks, but its capstone stands clearly against the sky. Coetan Arthur is framed between two outcrops, the westward is the settlement, and you can find it either by taking the path that goes along the cliff edge, or by heading for the outcrops and walking along the top - a much safer option.

Coetan Arthur cromlech

Warriors Dyke -hut stone circle

another one

I photographed five but they are all very similar.

The settlement is defended by three banks of stones, two very small, whilst the inner one is massive, and tumbles down in a dramatic manner.  Go inside and you will find a small grassy enclosure covered in stones.  There are six stone hut circles here, we found five, the stones haphazardly arranged in circles, presumably the huts would have been thatched with the reeds you find in the boggy marsh valley, but trees around the coast are usually non-existent due to storms, only gorse and heather survive the weather and quite a few wild flowers of course. Sabine Gould says the huts were co-joined but in will need another trip to confirm this!

wood sage

Toadflax lots of it around

Devil's bit scabious

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Porth-Y- Rhaw promontory fort.

Porth-y-Rhaw cove 

Stopping at Nine Wells just outside of Upper Solva, park in the little NT car park, admire the wells on the right, and then take the path down to the sea on  the left.  It traces a watery way through lichen covered hawthorns, so twisted and bent it is as if time stood still. Old trees lie fallen to your left whilst on the right of the path, the cliff/hill stretches upward.  You come to a gate, and a small cove is some distance in front of you. The path meanders down to the sea, there are still reminders of an old medieval mill, stones glimpsed through the meadowsweet flowers that inhabit the marshy ground, the pond for the mill stands higher up.

marshy ground

Taking the coast path to the left and you are immediately confronted with Porth-y-Rhaw promontory fort the defensive banks falling down to the path. Middle Iron Age, there was a small excavation in 1999, and 8 roundhouses were uncovered on the tip of the promontory, the following explanation shows how they were arranged.

The promontory fort

Unknown flowers


Solva Harbour

Four days, and a host of memories.  Lower  Solva is my spiritual home, to which I return nearly every year.  Its the sheer calmness that appeals, hardly changing, cottages locked in by tall cliffs, and the harbour with its boats riding the endless green of the sea. Tiny fish swim in the shallow lapping waves, the duck with her young losing several daily to the predations of the seagulls.  Crab and lobster advertised everywhere from bungalow to cottage, I even caught a tiny one, no bigger than my thumbnail as I went shell picking.
A Welsh rug from Middle Mill bought plus some alpaca fleece for spinning, the alpacas live along the lane below, my 200 grams comes from Tiffany.

The lane to Middle Mill

We did a helluva lot, Aberridy, Porthgain, St.Davids Head and the Prescelis, (and of course seeing Jennie though not for very long sadly as we had to drive a  long way back) the weather quite often dull, but we seemed to miss the showers.  It has given my photos a slightly grey dull edge, quarries were photographed, the beautiful brown-creamy coloured stone that you see in the cottages, and then there is the great deserted quarry of Porthgain grey coloured and used for roads and brickmaking, and the more dramatic dark  slate quarry of Aberridy.  Industries long gone in the early 20th century, hope and aspiration built on the blood and sweat of underpaid labourers; sloops that sailed in, loaded their heavy cargoes and then sailed to Bristol and London.  All gone leaving behind an industrial wasteland being overgrown by the wildflowers and mosses, so that in a couple of hundred years there will be nothing left but the great brick shutes that are built against the cliff at Porthgain.
On St.Davids Head we saw Coetan Arthur megalithic tomb, plus the Bronze Age promontory fort Warriors Dyke with its 6 stone huts.  Prescelis was Gors Fawr stone circle, plus an exhausting climb up Foel Drygarn, to to see the three great stone Bronze Age cairns, plus of course the view to Carn Meyn, the source, or so it is said, of the bluestones of Stonehenge, and I also noted the position of Carn Alw, which is supposedly a chevaux de frise - defended by upright stones along the entrance, could have been an iron age holding pen for horses and cattle... somewhere I want to go, but it was quite a walk.
Each monument will be gone into detail eventually as I always get muddled with all the various Welsh names.

Friday, July 15, 2011

keeping up;

(Actually now I come to think of it, this morning the obstreperous tones of  John Humphries and the more gentler speech of Evan Davies did not greet my ears at 6 , thought that the Murdoch regime had spiked the BBC, but no, it was strike action by BBC staff, probably to do with pensions and pay, but of course that is a continuing saga across the country....)

Friday, not much has happened this week apart from the great scandal, Murdoch and company.  Politicians have been falling over themselves to denounce the terrible three, mmmm were these the same people who wined and dined with them all these years, fawning at the feet of the great media tyrant ..  Rebeckah Brookes and James Murdoch, plus Rupert are to give testimony at the hearing which is a bit of a surprise but fleeing the country is not really on I suppose, especially as more hacking is appearing in America.  As more scandals emerge daily, I suspect the notorious three will distance themselves away but the empire seems 'broke' at the moment - hurrah. Now for the debt crisis which lurks like a pike underwater waiting to rise to the surface, how can countries owe so much money?
Packing for going away to Wales, the house is scented right through with the smell of lilies, it must float through the windows. Containers for as many plants as possible so they will remain watered. The weather changes each day, more rain now but it is still very dry. And a couple of photos of my grandchildren who obviously love living by the sea.....

Lillie as cheeky as ever, and Matilda scarred by a badly aimed tennis racket but still dragging her Ugg boots around in summer!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Scented lilies, exotic, its colouring luring loads of hoverflies, that seem to get drunk on its scent and pollen.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Chelmer

the river curving its way down to the sea

Hemp Agrimony; Grigson says of this plant that it lines the highways and byways of England and is a nondescript flower, but I love it for the buzz of bees, hoverflies and butterflies it attracts, had loads in the old garden.

a family of five young swans

Common mallow; 'common wayside plant', according to Grigson, the children preferred the disks of  nutlets or 'cheeses' in his time to eat. He likens it to monkey-nuts, but the roots were more used for poultices and soothing ointments.

The burdock plant- anyone who remembers dandelion and burdock pop of their childhood, will recognise the name.
Apparently around since 1265

purple loosestrife

The working lock

Eager anticipation but rather worried children as they begin to sink

Going down

Through the gates

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Red Geraniums and chateaux

Chateau de Chillon

Yesterday I received an email from my son-in-law with the itinerary for their trip to Switzerland in August, just under a 1000 miles from Whitby to Vevey.  It will be a great experience for the children, travelling through France and they all have their passports ready.  Switzerland is a lovely country, steep sided mountains whose grassy meadows are grazed by large beige coloured cows in summer, their bells clonking away.  When I was there they used to bring the beasts down from the summer grazing through the villages decorated with flowers.  All of this  reminded me of my late father-in-law's excruciatingly bad poem he wrote, as he names the villages and towns, I remember drives he took with my daughter and myself up into the mountains for afternoon tea, the fillet de perche restaurant down by the lake, (a upmarket fish and chips) and the lake itself, often so calm but when storms arose (and they came quickly over the mountains) it would become quite dangerous, and the ferry boat across the lake to France would not be able to land its passengers.  
He and my mother-in-law  had lost their youngest son, and I a young husband, and the ties between my daughter and my sister-in-laws has always been very strong.  So the children when they arrive will be able to follow my daughter's childhood; travel in the little train up into the mountain, passing Leni's small chalet with its pretty garden in Blonay just under the chateau there.  Leni is long dead, though she lived to a venerable old age, and sparred, mostly over bridge, with my mother-in- law Lotta.
Con worked for Unesco for most of his working life, it took the family to many places, but they retired in Blonay, to Lotta's house eventually. So to the poem, Territet just by Montreux had the English church where Con was a church warden, the vicar would often come to Sunday lunch and to be plagued by the ridiculous tricks Marc (Karen's cousin) and Con played on him, false cakes, false poops and jumping mustard pots are the ones I can remember, the vicar strangely enough got quite cross, but you can see Con's very 'englishness' in the way he writes, Lotta on the other hand was Dutch, and very precise in running her household.  There should be a poem by Byron on the Chateau de Chillon, ther is a little island opposite which if I remember rightly was given to Queen Victoria, so is English territory...

The Tourist's Lament by C.J.Opper

A rainy evening in Vevey,
Fills me with intense dismay,
The faded splendours of Montreux
Leave me feeling rather blue;
And if we must stick to verity,
I don't go overboard on Territet.
And, I must say,
Whoever got hooked on La Tour de Peilz?
For Corsier, Blonay, Chebres and Corseaux,
I'm unequally unmoved or even more so;
If there's a place I'd rather not be on
Its the top of the tower of the Chateau de Chillon.
In Southend they would'nt have the cheek to serve,
That cupper tea we got at Villeneuve
We got fish and chips just beside the church
But you have to ask for fillet de perche.
So..... you just ask your mother why we're here,
When we might have been on Wigan Pier.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hylands House

Hyland House fell into disuse in the 1950's and was at one time to be pulled down and the grounds turned into a golf course. Luckily there was enough protest later on for it to be saved, and with the help of lottery money has been restored. So instead of being a place for a handful of people to chase a little white ball around, it has become a place for the public to enter freely, walk their dogs, children, picnic under the trees and generally a place of leisure. Stable block has a restaurant, full of people eating out in the courtyard, with their dogs parked safely under the tables and a secondhand book shop. Plus of course 'events' we went for the craft fair, but really there was only people selling food.
Humprhy Repton drew up the plans for the landscape garden in the 18th century, he did'nt actually undertake any work just handed out one of his little 'red books' with sketches inside. But was the first person to use the term landscape gardener, and he followed on in the footsteps of Capability Brown.

Humphry Repton landscape

We emerged out of the woods to be confronted by these lines of conifers with a rounded mound at the end

Pretty colouring once more on the mound

Front view of the house, just at the bottom of the photo the 'ha-ha' ditch round the garden still exists

back view of the house
Gardens as we know them don't really exist around the house, the front to have a grand drive with a sweeping front gravelled area for the carriages to stand and turn, the back steps down to the garden below which was well away from the house and had a 'lake', rather small, as the showpiece.  I loved the colouring in the mounded centre but the other beds round the circular lawn were very plain.