Monday, 10 May 2021

PAST AND PRESENT

 There is something ceremonial, even celebratory about walking through an avenue of trees, even if they don't lead anywhere in particular.  Yesterday afternoon I took the opportunity to walk along the Lôn Goed [wood lane], the subject of my blog of 5 November last year ('Imagination walking'). 

The sea is a misty blur and the hills are obscured by low cloud, giving the Lôn Goed a secretive feel, accentuated by the glorious canopy of new green leaves of oak and beech opening overhead.  The lôn is well-made, about fourteen yards wide, with drainage ditches on either side and lined with trees.  It has become famous through R Williams Parry's poem 'Eifionydd' and I think the poet (who came from the busy slate village of Tal y Sarn) would have appreciated the work that went into the making of it. 

Intriguing tracks and paths go off the Lôn Goed to houses and farms.  Felds are edged with yellow gorse and blackthorn which looks a grubby grey now the white flowers are fading.  Between the trunks of the trees there are glimpses of the uses (or not) of different fields - sheep and lambs, cattle, arable, 'improved' grass, marshland plashy with reeds.

It's a surprise to come across the isolated Capel Engedi, (named after a fertile oasis on the Dead Sea).  The chapel is scarcely visible through the trees. The chapel house is still inhabited but ivy covers the gable end of the abandoned [Calvinistic Methodist?] chapel with a green wall of foliage.   It used to be said that you were never more than a couple of miles (reasonable walking distance) from a chapel or a shop round here. In the past more people lived and worked on the farms but it is difficult to imagine that such a large building in this relatively remote location was often full.  

What I notice most is the soundscape of birdsong which accompanies me all afternoon - blackbird, chiff-chaff, robin, great tit, wren, pheasant, rook and the bird whose Welsh name of ji-binc enacts its call, the chaffinch.  Built for the utilitarian purpose of bringing lime and coal inland from the coast at Afon Wen, the Lôn Goed has become a wild-life corridor and a peaceful place to walk, even on this dull cloudy day.

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'Here are poems about the elements, and the presence of the past in what it leaves behind.'  These words by Louis de Bernières are on the cover of The Book of Belongings by Brian Johnstone, a collection I am re-reading after hearing of Brian's recent death.  He was a fine poet and well-known in poetry circles as one of the founders of StAnza, the long-running St Andrew's poetry festival in Scotland.   He was the director from 2000 to 2010 during which time the festival achieved the national and international recognition which it retains today.



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