Y Glonc

Y Glonc forms the heart of an area of upland to the north of the main road from Caersws to Carno in Montgomeryshire. Speed’s 1611 map of the county indicates little detail in the Y Glonc area beyond the coloured heaps that generically indicate hilly country and the blue bladder which stands for Llyn Mawr which feeds the Afon Rhiw – or Rue Flud to Speed (the other two lakes, Llyn Du and Llyn y Tarw, seem to have passed these early cartographers by).

With a mind pre-occupied and flat I visited the area a couple of weeks ago – walking up from Caersws by way of Alltyffynnon and Mynydd Llwytgoed. There had been a thaw in the recent snows but the day was very cold again and the roadside puddles didn’t melt from one end of the day to the other. The low sun was caught in thin cloud and offered a nebulous, yet brilliant light which eventually gave in to a cloud front from that moved in from the west. This brilliant and later, watery sun did little to improve the heavy fog of my mind and in fact helped to trap me in cycles of self-absorption. From this mental studium certain details did though manage to prick through: a small stream crossed my path on Bryn Du and sent me into a few minutes of Shepherdian contemplation as I crouched down to it and became entranced by the cold, flowing water for little or no reason. Bubbles, eddied and moved on and reflections and colours scintillated. Further round on the edge of Mynydd Cerrigllwydion I paused to take a photograph or two and was absorbed by the colours. They were at once muted by the snow that sat amongst the grass yet somehow presented a wide and varied spectrum – maybe the ochres, rusts and greens were set off by the blueness of the snow-shadows.

By the mid-1800s the cartographers have found the other two lakes up here (Llyn Du and Llyn y Tarw) and some tracks or roads are indicated penetrating into this ’empty’ quarter. In the 1880s the Ordnance Survey arrive and their 1:10,560 scale map holds a wealth of detail which underlines human presence in the area. [1] The area is shown criss-crossed by boundaries and paths and pockmarked with cairns and boundary markers. Some of the boundaries march geometrically across the terrain whilst others curl protectively around their associated buildings. Sheepfold, hafod and lluest. Most of the land parcels are filled with the stipples which indicate rough grassland or the more hummocky indicators of bog; it is the smaller pockets near the buildings which shine white with their improved pasture. Archaeological studies of this sweep of land suggest that the first observable human settlers were around in the Bronze Age and that this borderland (up here, between two valley settlements) may have been seen as a special place to celebrate gods or bury the community’s dead as evidenced by ‘burial and funerary structures or more isolated monuments’. [2] Stone circle, kerb cairn, and ring bank.

The surrounding valleys and their arable lands stagger up to about the 350 metre OD contour and the area tops out at 485 metres OD in the shape of Carreg-hir. Surface geology is of upland loam and peat. Peat was cut up here for centuries and the remains of this work are still evident in the form of platforms, cuttings and shelters. Underlying the peat is an area of Wenlock sandstone-dominated mid-Silurian deposits which has its most obvious presence in the linear rock outcrops to the south and the Tan y Foel quarry to the north-east. Tornado jets crash past through the valleys below. Unsurprisingly the area’s toponyms relate very directly to the terrain and are not always particularly unique: Bwlch y Gors (‘pass of the bog’); Bryn y Fawnog (‘hill of peat’) and Mynydd Cerrigllwydion (‘grey stone hill’).

The height up here gives added geographical context – in the south the horizon is relatively close with the windfarms on Dethenydd dominating; to the west Pumlumon and its watery realm attracts attention; in the east are the obvious lumps of Breidden Hill and Moel y Golfa; in the north-east the land further corrugates, reaching a crescendo in the north with the fine rocky outlines of the Berwyn Mountains; and then round to the north-west are the impressively craggy Aran Group dominated by Aran Fawddwy. A thousand triangulations to hold me here.

[1] ‘OS Map name 028/SE,’ in Map of Montgomeryshire (Southampton: Ordnance Survey, 1885-1896), accessed February 3, 2015, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/os-1-to-10560/montgomeryshire/028/se AND ‘OS Map name 028/SW,’ in Map of Montgomeryshire (Southampton: Ordnance Survey, 1885-1896), accessed January 31, 2015, http://www.british-history.ac.uk/os-1-to-10560/montgomeryshire/028/sw

[2] Esgair Cwmowen Central & South Windfarm Project. Addendum B: ASSESSMENT OF SIGNIFICANCE OF IMPACT OF DEVELOPMENT ON HISTORIC LANDSCAPES (ASIDOHL v2).