Monday 20th April, 2015. Across the valley floor. Spring green fields, spring bleating of lambs to mothers, spring bird song fills the air, two buzzards circling, quartering. Whoompf! Jets, trainer jets (from RAF Valley?). I’d forgotten the jets and their sudden punctuations. Through Llanwnog with its locked church and closed down pub and post office but its new gates and roofs. The hem of Alltwnnog’s woodland is getting greener too with a studding of primrose yellow, violet violet and bluebell blue. Uphill now. Strong sun, cool air, warm work.
Following tracks through the clear-felled forest. Rooks or crows. Dead. Hung out to deter. One particularly unfortunate example is tied by its leg to a large stone. Is this to prevent flight in death or was this its death? I hope the pheasants are grateful. Footpath terminated by barbed wire (a common feature of my walks in Montgomeryshire). Green fields again and dry-stone walls and warm after 200m of ascent. Rounded rolling hills then a lane. Coconut gorse. Spring fire. Redstarts keeping ahead of my binoculars. A lamb the wrong side of a fence can’t see the way it came. Bwlch y Garreg. Filming my shadow walking up the tarmac lane.
Opening out now. Going brown. An unfamiliar bird teases ahead of me. A contrary wood warbler of the open ground perhaps. Around the farm and striking across open fields towards Lluestuchaf now occupied and growing behind its shelter belt of conifers and sycamores. Up again to brown. Upland brown. A rest and contemplation. A pair of buzzards circle above me considering my worth as lunch. They move on with the thermals. I eat my sandwiches. It’s that sort of time. Moor time. A yellow excavator makes its clumsy way towards Y Glonc. A shepherd gathers sheep in a distant field.
On and up over the shoulder of the hill passing the modest stone row and across rough ground to the built track to Y Glonc (the farmstead). Lark song. LARK SONG. Wondering about the solar-powered grey bin on the hill beside me I wander east along the track a little way and then double back to seek out Carneddau. High and open here near Y Glonc’s (the hill) summit. The mapped path is invisible but I locate a way over a barbed wire fence. Leap across a stream and shoulder another hill. Carneddau’s ruin nestles in the bowl of the valley head. I cross the boundaries of small fields and stride over the tiny Rhiw half-hidden by it overhanging banks.
“Joseph Thomas, are you home today?” No reply. I spend a lazy hour wandering amongst the ruins of Carneddau (Eng. cairns), recording the ruins and guessing at the uses of the allotted spaces. The main body of the house (guess) has an enormous willow tree occupying it, exploding from it. The tree’s girth suggesting that this place hasn’t been occupied for the greater part of a century. Tumbledown walls, once solid now dry lime mortar crumbles and the stones fall. A Ravillious-friendly trailer carcass decomposes in what was once the barn (guess). Last summer’s bracken carpets one of the spaces. A good time to visit as this year’s growth will choke the ruins for a few months. It’s quiet here. Larks sing intermittently. A red kite circles. Buzzards circle. Spring is held in abeyance for now. The sun is warm though but the wind gusts a cooling air every so often. We’re in Carno parish here but the farmstead addresses itself more properly to LLanllugan. I would like to spend more time here but move on for now as I have a train to catch.
Across more former field boundaries and up a little way to the modern barn that sits above Carneddau. I look back and the farmstead is hidden, hunkering down behind a fold in the hill and its stone outcrop backdrop. I choose to extend my day and plunge into the Forestry Commission forest to the west of Carneddau. I skirt round the base of Bryn yr Ysbytty. Learning later that this translates into English as something like ‘hill of the hospital’. Strange. A hospital on the edge of this slab of upland Montgomeryshire high above the Carno valley. Truly an isolation hospital! But no, this goes back long before the NHS or any of its forerunners, to the 1100s and the Knights Hospitallers. A quick search reveals that Carno manor may have been a dependency of the preceptory of Halston (Shropshire) which had been founded by Roger de Powys in the second half of the twelfth century. I don’t yet know where the Hospitallers were based in Carno but maybe it was at the foot of this hill.
I follow the forest track round. More clear-felling. Then out to the green of upland sheep pasture. Below Yr Allt to the edge of the forest that clothes Cryniarth. A doubling back, passing the remains of a small wind turbine. Dead air. Greener fields. A white heap. The farmer’s new colour theory where brown + white = green. The acidic brown upland grass is ‘balanced’ by the white lime to provide ‘good’ green grass for the grazing sheep. Speeding up now anxious about the train. Making a beeline for Garreg-hir and its expansive views. High point of the day. 485m. Rattling down the hill. Filming ground and legs. Over a stile. Soft grass. Good running. Passing Llyn Mawr and its wildfowl and terns. Retracing my line approach with occasional corrections. Hot and dry. Thirsty. Running down through Alltwnnog and out onto the green valley floor. Trot. Time to buy a drink from the petrol station. Train.