When you have a spare minute, take a little time to look into the life of Ellis Evans. A Welsh language poet better known by his Bardic name of Hedd Wyn.
One hundred years ago, Ellis was killed on the first day of Passchendaele, the 31st July 1917. He was just thirty years old. He was posthumously awarded the Bard’s chair at the National Eisteddfod in the autumn of the same year. The ornate oak chair draped in black to signify the loss of the poet. The chair was delivered to his home farm Yr Ysgwrn, in the hills above Trawsfynedd where he would have tended his flock of sheep and ploughed fields. His Bardic name Hedd Wyn meaning blessed or sacred place. How often did he marvel and be inspired by sunlight through mist or clouds crossing the Rhinog mountains to the west?
We visited the farm today, recently opened to the public by the National Park Authority. It’s always been open to visitors though. The poet’s mother declared the farm door should forever be open to the mourners and then the pilgrims that came to pay their respects to the family. This tradition was kept alive by Hedd’s descendants after her death. Thousands of people from every nation have come to this peaceful and profound place to tread in his footsteps and will continue to do so. The house is a shrine, a tribute to Hedd Wyn, as if he could step back into his former untroubled life. As if the clock stopped when he was cut down at the front. His poems are his legacy but the tragic loss of his life alongside so many others is still as resonant today as it was then.
We loved the tranquility of Yr Ysgwrn today and simply reflected that Ellis deserved to enjoy it for far longer than he did.
I thought I would add some news from the allotment for all you budding Percy Throwers and Charlie Dimmocks out there!
Following a blazing sunny May the vegetables grew like Billy-O . Nothing could stop them flourishing despite the best efforts of a naughty pair of sly invasive ducks. Renamed Thelma and Louise following the sad demise of their shared husband. I always get excited in the spring and attempt to sow and plant out as early as one can risk. I’m in the right place as we are pretty much frost free here on the western tip of the Llyn Peninsula
right by the Irish Sea.
So, still awake comrades ? Thank me if you tend towards insomnia and you’re reading this to help you get off to the Land of Nod. I’ll continue; New potatoes were duly planted out on St. Patricks Day and we’ve been eating them since the 1st of June. Recent torrential rain has caused a little slug damage to one type, Rocket, but the other two varieties, the lovely named Lady Crystal and Maris Bard, are unscathed. Take note Stubbs, try and remember what you grew a year from now ! Have I lost anyone yet? Where was I ? Mange Tout (Del Boy can say this properly, just ask him) is rampant. We’re eating them everyday and plucking them to eat raw just for fun. Chard is plentiful too as is a delightful clump of flat leaf parsley. My beetroot and fennel is coming on leaps and bounds and we’ll be tasting both before the end of this month. My beautiful block of broad beans full of swelling pods took a big hit from an unwelcome unseasonal gale a week ago. The only wind direction that can maliciously cause any damage. They’ve recovered with a little TLC from the resident gardener and some extra string and support. By the way, fresh broad beans with some pieces of gently fried chorizo chunks are divine. The new asparagus bed is still alive. Time will be the best measure of success, early days still. The corn is vigorous, the courgettes are planted out, French beans beginning to climb. The strawberries are bountiful but we don’t expect to eat many as there are a legion of blackbirds resident in the paddock, either eating the ducks’ corn or just waiting for the fruit to ripen. I like them and I’ve decided to share the whole crop! Lots of colour and interest for bees with sunflowers coming on along with my favourite flower, sweet peas. I’ve planted comfrey too for the pollinators and to make liquid organic feed by steeping the harvested leaves. Warning ! This process causes an almighty stink but it makes things grow awfully healthily. There’s plenty of wild flower in the paddock too. I don’t mow everywhere so campion, buttercup and clover can run wild.
Oh, do I get any help from my dear lady wife towards filling our plates and stomachs. Well, yes…sometimes..when she’s not painting masterpieces….spot the cheeky photo taken though her Caravaggio studio window !
“Thomas who” I hear you ask ! Well, the man in question is the famous 18th century traveller who roamed far and wide throughout the British Isles away from his home in Wales in order to catalogue and write about what he encountered.
As a naturalist he had a great curiosity, observing the geography, geology, plants, animals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish around him and recorded what he saw and heard about. However, he didn’t produce his works all by himself. His constant companion was Moses Griffiths, born and raised very near to our home here on the Lleyn, who was a very gifted artist so really was the architect of Thomas’ volumes, recording diligently and accurately as they strolled.
We set out on a trek to climb Cnicht from the village of Croesor, known as the Welsh Matterhorn due to it’s steepness and shape at the summit with a plan to return to our start back along the beautiful valley. We hoped to be swift enough to visit an exhibition of artwork at Oriel Brondanw before closing. A collection of work by various local artists as a tribute to our friend Thomas. Talking of Thomas, I too have a cheerful and amiable partner accompanying me on my rambles Like Moses, she too is an excellent artist and a skillful photographer. Of course, I speak of my better half, my dear lady wife Esther, spotted here at the summit experiencing a lively wind playing havoc with her hair! I like to think I’m beginning to become a humble modern version of Mr Pennant jotting down odd ramblings of our outings in this wonderful place. Oh, did we make it down by closing time? Well, only just, but I’m afraid to say I imagine should the real Mr Pennant had visited these artistic tributes to him he may well have been rather disappointed and wondered where the real ones were !
Join me on a walk up the Watkin path right to the top of Yr Wyddfa. Or in other words, a plod to the summit of Snowdon the hard way, starting from a long way down !
The Watkin path was an old donkey track up to the quarries up until 1892 when it was opened by Gladstone as a walking trail. See the Gladstone memorial rock celebrating its beginning by the old boy at 83 addressing a hymn singing assembly. I hope he had some puff left for joining in for Land of my Fathers as it’s a fair way up the mountain !
The path is famous for another reason as it provided the location for Carry on up the Khyber. Recall and observe a kilted gang of Carry On regulars guarding a rickety old gate. Let’s hope it wasn’t too drafty for them on the day of shooting.
We plod our way onwards and upwards past waterfalls and old quarry workings. The warm sunny conditions give way to gloomier and cooler ones as we climb. With the summit in plain sight we start to see the people at the top looking our way, probably glad they took the train up. The final push is a weary affair. It’s a tough route and we’re glad to get to the top for a brew in the cafe. No cheesy pictures at the peak though, too many day trippers and a tad misty to boot. Our descent to the warm valley is a happy one with breath to spare for conversation. There’s a delightful National Trust campsite at the bottom of the path called Hafod y Llan that we log for another time and return. After a seven hour round trip I think a few beers tonight are due. Purely medicinal and for rehydration purposes. We may ache a little in the morning but will do it again. Spectacular, rugged, majestic and it’s there…so it has to be climbed !
Ever fancied life living out in the country? Ever got fed up with hearing your neighbours over the panel fence? Just fancy a bit of peace and quiet far from the madding urban crowd ?
Yes? Well read on….Here’s my tribute to some rather lovely properties out here on the Lleyn Peninsula around Dinas in sight of the mighty Garn Fadryn. We saw them all amongst a few others on a short circular walk taking a couple of hours round the quiet lanes. Plenty of human life evident too, a milk lorry collecting from a dairy farm chased along by a friendly sheepdog, a young farmer with a trailer full of ewes, a horse riding school, a young Mum pushing her daughter in a buggy assisted by their pet collie and an elderly couple hard at work on their smallholding. In the relatively short time we’ve lived here we’ve come to the happy discovery that beneath the seemingly quiet environment lie multiple layers of activity, community and endeavour from the people that spend their lives here. The peace may well be deafening to some and the pastoral life will not be everybody’s cup of tea but it suits us down to the ground. It may look remote but in reality there’s a constant ebb and flow of enterprise, labour and action. We’re lucky to have the time in “retirement” to witness it and join in ! Enjoy the houses tucked away in the landscape and picture yourself there perhaps…does it work for you ?
As Christmas fast approaches and as Storm Barbara tries its best to disrupt, per chance to mull over a few recent events.
For instance, a delightful stroll up Cwm Llefraith path to gain breathtaking views of a snow capped Snowdon. Joining us is Esther’s Dad, Dick Hayward, soon to turn eighty, who remains fit as a fiddle and takes the ascent and descent in his stride.
Happily we now have Esther’s sister Marita along with husband Jeremy and son Finn living much closer to us now…yes, the Overs have made the very sensible choice of moving to Wales….Llanidloes to be more precise. Lovely house Marita and some space to do whatever you please !! See you soon xx
More oddly, yours truly has won some silverware along with our pal and neighbour Dafydd. I’ve always liked boats, especially the ones with a nice engine in….sails always look so stressful to manage…..so winning a cup for sailing in a race round Aberdaron Bay was the last thing I expected…….Tada for now…oh..and Nadolig Llawen to you all….and a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda !!