A note to the reader (whether that reader is you or I): on occasions these blog posts may seem esoteric, irrelevant and disjointed when viewed in traditional frames of reference. However, be assured, each post (and even sections of posts) should be seen as half-concealed adits to underground systems from where rich veins may be mined. A curious form of mining though, where there is no robbing of the Earth’s resources, instead, if anything, there is an augmentation. The underground systems slowly, unsteadily, come to be revealed by this process. A celebration.
It was one of those late winter days which comes half way to meet you. There is a suspension in the air, neither furious storm nor blazing, clear and still. A lot of greys are present—the overnight freezing temperatures have made the muddy roadside puddles icy grey; the tarmac itself seems a more drab grey; a grey sun melts a neat hole in the grey cloud; a kite, dark grey against bright grey; the geology is grey; the sheep pens are steel grey; green-grey; grey-green; and grey-grey.
It is an illusion of course. The greys are balanced by muted greens, browns and yellows. But look here; a primrose punctuates a roadside ditch, daffodils laid-low by the temperatures sparkle in the verge and the birch tips offer a red/purple haze. But the uplands will seem to forgot this at times as the snow will blow in during a pause from walking at Carneddau.
Despite Saturday’s race my legs seem good and strong as I head out of Caersws through the lanes to the north-east of the village. The lanes narrow as I proceed, angles tipping me further up to Mynydd Llwytgoed [hill of the pale/grey wood ?] and expansive views south. And a keen south-westerly wind that is surprisingly fresh. I am soon chilled from my climbing exertions. Onwards, past Ffrwd-wen’s white stream in its concrete culvert to the edge of Bryn y Fawnog [hill of the peat bog ?]. On open upland now but the going underfoot is good and not too boggy, those reed clumps hold my weight as I climb gently upwards leaping the infant Bechan Brook.
It seems that at every other step I pass the pellet of an owl or bird of prey. A cocooned summation of a recent diet, bristling with bones and insect shells and bound by fur. And very grey. Suddenly grey blade tips break the skyline. Mynydd Clogau wind farm and one of its seventeen wind turbines. Infinis are keen that you appreciate their labours but here at the grey track head signs permit and forbid visitors. Access land is entwined through the 14.5MW site though so closer inspection is perfectly possible and legal—just avoid visiting during electrical storms or freezing conditions. Follow the track down from the skyline cairn. The turbines’ blades whirr, swoosh, thrum and pulse. Standing near to them you could be forgiven for invoking the new sublime. Visually they are cumbersome and thuggish (and slightly comical) but almost at home on this grey day. I’ll let you tell the curlews though. Maybe they have benefited from the modest trust fund though?
Down to Bwlch-y-gors [pass of the swamp ?] and its new sheep pens and abandoned farm building, grey green amongst winter-bare trees. Slightly out of the wind, add layers and take some lunch. Not a bad spot. From the track I follow a long-lost right of way steeply down through last year’s bracken to Lluestycerrig [temporary dwelling of the rock ?] then follow the track up to the eastern end of Esgair Cwmowen [ridge of Owen’s valley ?]. The sky has closed in a little now. A kite flies up from the grass and circles above me, slightly intimidated I move on up the ridge and it flies off south. I have walked this ridge before but had forgotten how hard going it is in places—a stumble through tussocky, boggy grass punctuated by unaided gate and fence crossings.
I am above Carneddau now but the scene is more active today. The hillside beyond the old farm is a hive of activity: reversing warnings bleat; orange safety lights flicker and the yellow dots of excavators, bulldozers and dumpers buzz up and down the hillside and along the skyline. Surely the construction of a new windfarm. I drop from the ridge and make my own line across the wet grassland—dull to the distant eye but rich with colour at close quarters. At the infant Afon Rhiw [hill river ?] I collect a bottle of water for a future lithographic project. The construction site is out of sight but the warning bleats still play contrapuntal to the crazy cacklings of the crows and/or ravens.
Carneddau is much as I left it. I sit amongst the ruins to shelter from the wind and collect sound. I eat some more too. As I sit snow begins to fall. And fall. It is too warm (it would seem) for the snow to make any impression on the ground but the view has closed in with the blurring of billions of flakes. Getting cold I gather my belongings and head off west through the old meadow and up to the modern sheep shed at the entrance to the forest. Usually I turn south (and back to Caersws) here but today I’m out a little longer and I will take a turn round Bryn yr Ysbyty [hill of the hospital]. I must re-visit the enigma of the hospital that I started to uncover a while back. For now I question my decision to walk away from the train as the snow begins to fall again but the shelter of the forestry commission planting encourages me on.
Snatched views along firebreaks show the ongoing construction work on Mynydd Pistyll-du [hill of the black waterfall ?]. The track rounds the hill but I am keen to leave it and find the track parallel but lower down. There is a break in the sky and the weather I thought had set in for the day eases away to leave a very diluted brightness. I plunge steeply down from the track into the trees, the dead lower branches and twigs claw at my face and clothes and the brashings assault my ankles. Not the best idea but I’m not going back up and this can only last a hundred metres at most. The canopy slightly lifts and the going gets a little easier. I cross the remains of a lost footpath and am then spat out onto the track I hoped to find.
The steep forested hillside is coloured with winter larch and birch and the hushing dark of sitka spruce. Round past Cwm-yr-annel [valley of the trap ?] and then onto another lost footpath up the side of Ffridd y Plasau [hill pasture of the mansions ?]. A steep climb here and my legs are feeling the exertions of the weekend race. But this is the last serious hill, so I put my head down and plod on. I’m up onto the back of Yr Allt [quite simply the hillside] now and pick up more familiar ground at the derelict wind turbine above Blaen-y-cwm. Rounding the top of the valley I head for the back of Y Glonc and the path up onto Garreg-hir [long stone ?]. The distant views have gone now and all has taken on a coarse grain. It is time to head for Caersws. And so I rattle back down the familiar roads and paths to the most welcome fish and chips and an almost on time train. The rain sets in as I wait under the platform shelter. The light has gone.
Subsequent investigation shows Mynydd Pistyll-du to be the site of a new wind farm courtesy of West Coast Energy. The site has been christened Tirgwynt [which we can translate as wind land…hmmm, sounds like a theme park and another blog post: “Welcome to Windland: fun for the renewable generation®”] and will be home to 12 wind turbines with a 30MW capacity.
1 Alex Gibson, The Excavation of a Structured Cairn at Carneddau, near Carno, Powys 1989 (Welshpool: The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust, 1989), 4.
NOTE: The excavation report gives the location of this cairn as SN 999 992 which is approximately 700m to the south-east of the remains of Carneddau farmstead. I wonder if this grid reference is incorrect and the cairn is actually Carneddau Cairn I PRN6313 located at SN 9899 9979. The finds from this excavation are deposited with Powysland Museum and Montgomery Canal Centre, Welshpool.