March 5, Thursday
The sky is so sunny this morning I have to draw the curtain nearest my seat. My husband, Bruce, and I are on the 9:59 from Paddington. I know we have arrived in Wales as soon as I catch sight of an antiquated ruin just yards away from the train tracks. Sure enough, the next sign we see is in Welsh as well as in English.
In Cardiff, we meet with a few people for lunch before picking up our rental car. It rains while we’re in the restaurant, and I take this as a good sign. Perhaps it will only rain while we’re indoors on this our whirlwind trip discovering South Wales. This trip is something we simply were destined to make. We were able to find the time, and Virgin and British Airways cooperated by having a mini fare war. (What would you do if you and your best friend could fly to the U.K. for $601.20 total, taxes included?) Also, since it is low season, we knew we it would present an opportunity to spend a little quality time with a few of the very interesting people who make South Wales a very interesting place. The diary of this trip is not meant to be an academic record filled with information obtainable in guidebooks, rather amiable notes to make you feel as if you are also along. Let’s begin by leaving Cardiff.
It’s not easy to get out of Cardiff. We follow our instructions faithfully, but finally I have to chase a woman down the street to beg directions. She must hear me coming, because she picks up her pace. I break into a trot. When I finally catch up to her, we have the following exchange: “Ma’am, how do I get to the M4?” “Do you want to go to London or Swansea?” “Swansea.” “That’s too bad, it’s easier getting to London.” It’s after three and it’s raining. Truck tires splash the windshield of our fragile Honda. Wise residents of the area drive Jeep Cherokees.
At last on the Gower Peninsula we catch glimpses of dramatic shoreline and water. There is sun on the water. The sight is hugely refreshing to city eyes. No time to stop. We want to arrive at Fairyhill in daylight, and the daylight is quickly getting lost behind the thickening clouds. Perhaps it will rain over night and the day sky will be scrubbed clear for the next day.
The light is feeble, and it is drizzling. Fairyhill was easy to find and the air smells like heaven -- a combination of green growing things and smoke from the hotel’s fireplaces. Kevan, who greets us, tells us that there is a brook behind the house, and the area is populated by an assortment of tame and hungry waterfowl, which guests are invited to feed. Seeing that sunlight is now quickly fading, I hie our luggage upstairs to our huge and gorgeous room, and bound back down the stairs to pick up bags of corn kernels and breadcrumbs. We are directed to the least muddy path toward the water. “The ducks will hear you, they’ll find you,” Kevan assures us.
We round the early-18th century building and cross a little wooden bridge. A brook comes into view. Except for the babbling of the water, there is no sound. I shake the bag of corn kernels. Suddenly, “wack, wack, wok, wok” ducks and geese and a swan waddle out of the greenery in size-order. The nimble ducks (some are blue, some are tan) get most of the food, their beaks being closest to the ground. Ken, the swan, pinches the ducks on their back and necks, hard, with her strong beaks, to deter them from the food. Yes, Ken is a she. Swans are notoriously difficult to sex.
As the bread and seed runs out, so does any appreciable sunlight. Soggy, but cheered by our meeting with the birds, we return to our lovely room. A large tray holding a pot of Lapsang Souchong tea and a plate of pretty cookies soon arrives. At Fairyhill life is soft. I regret that our lunatic schedule allows for only one night in this romantic setting. I laze in a velvet easy chair and sip my tea. Our room has two cushy easy chairs, a king size bed, two closets, a huge bathroom and a telescope. Outside, under the darkness of the night, is a large patch of daffodils, an orchard and a ha-ha. A ha-ha is a long, narrow ditch, usually filled with water, joining two plots of land.
Dinner passes pleasantly. Aside from Bruce and me, there is only one other guest who has already finished eating by the time we are seated. This is luxury. It is not like having a private chef and a personal staff. It is precisely having a private chef and personal staff. Alas, I am already full from having tea, cookies, whisky and pre-appetizers, including quick-fried cockles. The food comes fresh and herbed. While there is a good assortment of wine, I drink the water drawn from a well on the property. Why drink French wine when there is pure Welsh water to be had? While it was available in New York City, I paid in excess of $4.00 each for cobalt blue bottles of Ty Nant. Here, dwr Cymraeg runs freely.
After dinner we retire with our gentle hosts Paul and Andrew to sit before their fire. We’re proffered liquors, wine, biscuits, sweets, anything our hearts desire. We talk Wales, London, New York, Caribbean, fashion, food and the relative merits of travel magazines until candlelight and owl light fade. Suddenly it is 2 a.m.
March 6, Friday
Honey and Deluge
The day dawns bleak. For breakfast our table in the dining room is set up, sweetly, so we face out the window. A waitress tip-toes in to take our order. We decline the Welsh breakfast, which includes fried bread and cockle and laverbread cake; and the Gower breakfast, which includes cockles and laverbread with oatmeal. I am curious about this food; and given an extra morning I would have tried one, or both! I do try the Welsh honey. It is potent and delicious. I never take sugar in my coffee, but I do put some of the honey into it.
Hammer Into Anvil
Swimming along we are gaining on St. Clear’s and the company of David Petersen, an artist and blacksmith who is passionate about the arts in Wales. Near Llanelli we see interesting native signage. One is happy lettering spelling out Davies the Milk on the side of a passing truck. The other is a road sign saying Traffic Calming Ahead.
When we drive up the hill to David Petersen’s there is no mistaking that we are in the right place. His house is surrounded by a surrealist’s junkyard. Here and there tall winged things arise phoenix-like: a red dragon, a laughing pelican.
David answers the door, dressed formally in morning suit. He must be at a funeral in about half an hour. He is hospitable beyond the call of duty, given the circumstances. Mugs of coffee, hot and reviving on this chilly day, are brought in by one of his sons.
Cardiff-born David Petersen is a giant of a man; his manner and his voice are gentle. He wears his dark hair in a long ponytail, which is balanced by bushy sideburns. David’s front parlor is filled with dog, books and video tapes; sketches are taped onto the walls and cabinets. David looks so much like he could have been a rock star before turning sculptor that I find myself expecting to see gold records on the wall or an old Fender. Whether or not he is a musician, David speaks positively about the music scene emerging from Newport, Gwent, which he rates “the new Seattle”. The new sound is “retro punk, hard, angry music that is taking Britain and Europe by storm”. He is pleased that much of it is written with Welsh lyrics.
David’s thinking about language incorporates the idea that language is the mother of thought. Reducing this concept, he surprises me by saying about language that “if you speak it, you don’t have to do anything else for your culture”. On reflection, I don’t imagine that David meant it’s enough for people to sit on their porches jawing in Welsh all day. Rather (as I understand it) that the long force of the living tongue is such that it permeates the speaker’s every thought, word and deed; so that everything this person produces carries the charge of his or her own, eternal culture.
Since our meeting was organized by the WTB, David begins our conversation with a message to them: “The Wales Tourist Board has no idea they have such a jewel right here,” he says, speaking about a local youth group of Welsh clog dancers. He calls Welsh clog dancing “the mother of Riverdance and of American line dancing.” Clog dancing, in its pure and original Celtic form, is a potent cultural force. He is both amazed and frustrated that traditional Welsh dancing -- which is being practiced not two miles from his home is unknown outside of Wales, and even in much of Wales for that matter.
Artist, television commentator and actor, David currently is a member of a think tank, in communication with the Welsh Secretary, the aim of which is to set up a Ministry of Culture whereby Welsh art can be celebrated. “Art is not icing,” he says, “art is why society exists.” He quickly runs down a list of name of Welsh artists who are finding recognition outside of Wales, including Jason Rinaldi, “a Swansea boy you’ll be hearing about”. Rinaldi, studying in Naples, won the Rome Scholarship last year. He paints large canvases (12 foot x 8 foot) of Wales, and has been praised as the new David Hockney.
With time slipping away, David invites us to his studio. It is a barn-like room filled with furnaces, tanks of propane, anvils, hammers, tongs and other tools. A record album-sized sheet of metal is propped up on a workbench. A Welsh dragon is sketched upon it in outline. The start of a weather vane, perhaps? Among the ancient Celts, David tells us, over 2,000 years ago the blacksmiths were the healers and the magicians, due to the power of the spiral. If you take a strip of hot iron, he shows us, and hammer it on the narrow front part of an anvil, it takes the shape of a spiral. Drawing in my notepad, David shows us that a spiral isn’t just a haphazard squiggle, but that there is mathematical precision in its dimensions. Many of his works, and the works of his sons Aaron, Toby and Gideon, incorporate the spiral, and the Celtic knots it begets
Son Toby arrives in the workshop and dons his goggles. But just as things look as if they’re going to get even more interesting, our short time is up. David must go pay his respects at the funeral. He gives us directions to his gallery, Oriel Sanglier (sanglier means wild boar in French), which is just a few streets away. Here, we meet David’s wife, Bronwen, who runs the gallery. As we saw back at his studio, David’s pieces are large they are mainly done on a commission basis, and they are usually designed to be outside, such as his one ton steel dragon that sits atop the Bute Building in Cathays Park, Cardiff. Deeming even the smallest of David’s pieces impractical to carry on a trans-Atlantic trip, we purchase a ceremonial dagger (ok, it’s a letter opener), with a spiral extending down the length of its handle, by Toby and a pair of tea candle holders by Aaron.
Forging through floods, and lining our pockets with iron, the first part of the journey draws to a close.
The next part of the story begins on Friday afternoon,
March 6, departing a gallery of local art.
Saying our goodbyes at Oriel Sanglier, we plan to call on the Dylan Thomas (DT) Boathouse just up the road in Laugharne. As we set out, guess what, the gods thump the clouds and the rain, which had let up while we were inside, starts to come down again.
In Laugharne, a tiny sign for the DT Boathouse points us into a graveled road where we are able to comfortably park. From here it’s a short walk to Thomas’ writing shed. The shed is painted peacock blue, and seems to be hermetically sealed as if to contain the very air Thomas breathed. Looking in through the window, I can see his desk, and maybe his edits balled up sheets of paper on the floor. The writing shed is a fragile looking shrine. It reminds me of a snow globe. I imagine that if I turned it upside down and back again silvery glitter would fall from its ceiling.
To get to the DT Boathouse you walk from the writing shed along a narrow promenade over the water. Then you descend a long flight of steps. At the bottom is the Boathouse, gazing out over the water. Up until this time, Bruce and I had been soldiering on and getting quite soggy doing so. Even though the weather was, admittedly, miserable, we maintained spiritual warmth and good humor owing to our new and wonderful experiences in South Wales.Unfortunately, just as we got to the door, the keepers of the Boathouse quite literally shut it in our faces. Bang, click. It seems three o’clock is winter closing time at the seashaken house. No matter if you come from 3,000 miles away and just drove against the pouring rain and were drenched through to the skin. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but this seems an unnecessarily inconsiderate act to me, especially when contrasted against the honeyed manner of the people at Fairyhill and the sincere courtesy of the Petersen family. Five minutes of kindness by the Boathouse people toward us water logged pilgrims would have made a world of difference.
With our Boathouse option all washed up, and needing more of a break from our tiny car, our choice was either to retire to Brown’s (Thomas’ local), or go shopping at Quicksilver, a silversmith’s ideally located on the path toward the Boathouse.
Alby the silversmith, looking like a buccaneer of old, greets us. We tell him our tale of woe. He, thankfully, is appalled at our treatment by the Boathouse crew (“You mean they didn’t let you in?!”). In turn, we purchase several souvenirs, including a tiny silver dragon (cast, ironically, in London), two pairs of cufflinks (one has a spiral design), and a locket with an intricate Celtic knot design. Alby tells us we are only his second customers of the day. The day before he’d had none (I wonder how many the Boathouse had). We part happily, each of us richer than before. Tenby (which Bronwen Petersen advised we shouldn’t miss) seems so close we decide to go for it. We hope to stop in at a restaurant called Pam Pam, which is run by an American man and his Welsh wife. We get as far as Red Roses before the overcast sky turns a bruised brown, and we turn the Honda’s prow toward Haverfordwest.
Heading toward our final destination for the day, a farmhouse B&B in St. Ishmael’s, we catch sight of something so amazing on the B4327 that we have to stop and investigate. It’s a dive shop. Bruce and I are scuba divers, and we often joke that Wales has everything, except scuba diving. Over the years, we have met in the Caribbean divers who live in the U.K. When we ask whether there is diving off of the British coast the answer 99 percent of the time is negative. (One chap did tell us he did his certification dives in Brighton; but he would never dive there for fun.)
Turns out, there is diving in Wales, off of the Pembrokeshire coast. Moreover, according to this dive instructor (who has just sold his operation) it isn’t even necessarily drysuit diving. Moreover, there is a wealth of old shipwrecks in the area. Many of the wrecks are just off shore in water as shallow as 30 feet. There is also a Marine Park Centre nearby at Martin’s Haven where you can get more information. Since we hear a football game on the telly in the background, we refrain from further questions and let man return to his game.
A few minutes down the B4327 from the scuba shop is the turning we need to take to reach Skerryback Farm B&B. It’s easily landmarked: a caravan park on the right, and a red call box diagonally across the intersection to the left. Following this lane we arrive at one of those triangular “flood” signs in front of a murky pond. Underneath the pond are several yards of the road we need to take. Having seen what happens to people who don’t heed the warning, we backtrack to the main drag, where we ring up Skerryback Farm.
Soon Anthony Williams arrives in his old brown BMW and leads us the long way ’round to safe haven. His wife, Margaret, who looks a bit like Annette (“One Foot in the Grave”) Crosby, is getting ready to fix dinner. Upon hearing that I don’t eat meat, she bids her husband out to the field to lop off the head of a cauliflower. Yum! Fresh off the vine cauliflower and cheese! Dinner also includes vegetable soup, fresh new potatoes, and chicken for Bruce. There is food enough to feed a family. For dessert there is apple pie and an assortment of cheeses.
Before dinner we are invited to dry out in front of their fire with tea and Welsh cakes. Anthony comes in with what appears to be a bucket of coal for the fire. Perhaps it’s peat. It doesn’t matter. For the second night in South Wales I find myself snug in an easy chair sipping tea and eating sweets. As my bones dry out, I feel light and carefree. We pass a pleasant evening with our hosts, spreading maps out on the floor and talking about places we shouldn’t miss. Chief among these is the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, the long (160 miles) and narrow national park running from Amroth to Cardigan.
March 7, Saturday
Leaving One Little Haven for Another
Breakfast features golden yoked eggs. One of the Williams’ horses is running in the field, stopping to look across the road into the farmyard at his friend. The two horses neigh and chortle gently to one another. The day is golden also.
When we’re ready to go Margaret hands us a bag of Welsh cakes, and she and Anthony see us off on the road toward Little Haven, a town on the Coast Path.
At Little Haven a couple of families are out on the shingle beach. No one stays long. It is not raining (a miracle since last night’s BBC report called for more rain, and described “two days of intensive flooding” that led to a series of motorway accidents), but the wind is fierce. Farther up the hill over the sea, the wind is a little milder. However, the foot-tangling vegetation discourages much exploration. The sky is colorless. Across the road sits the church of St. Madoc.
On the Edge of Wales
A broad, flat, almost empty highway leads us to St. David’s. Social layers surface. Here the warnings on the road are marked slow, while farther along slow and araf are coupled. I wonder whether we are experiencing the South Wales phenomenon the Landsker line, an imaginary line that divides Pembrokeshire horizontally with English culture dominating the southern part. One person informed us the Landsker line is basically the A40, another disagreed, suggesting it was more vague and complicated than that. In either case, the handwriting is on the road. The St. David’s is exactly as it appears in photos. Only larger. The weather is warm, and the sunshine is so bright that its roofs seem white as if glittering under a thin layer of snow. We were scheduled to meet the Dean of St. David’s this morning. However, I’d cancelled the meeting last night due to the severity and unpredictability of the weather. I wasn’t sure that we’d get here in time given the road flooding we’d experienced. Standing now in heavenly sunlight, of course I regret canceling. Blame the BBC who called for “continuing rain” for today.
Inside the Cathedral a service is being held in the sanctuary. In the nave a cassocked priest monitors visitors with a humorless eye. It’s too early for the sun to light up the western stained glass windows, so there is no chance for a good photo of these, and especially not of the intricately carved 15th century ceiling. It turns out that part of the service includes a procession all the way around the interior of the Cathedral by the participants. We visitors stand back to give wide berth to the procession. The last person to pass is a priest wearing a gold chasuble. Believing this to be the Dean, my husband and I both nod to him.
Outside the Cathedral I wonder whether its huge western door is ever opened. It is weather beaten and seems crooked, even a little forgotten. Perhaps this is how it is every spring after surviving the gales of winter.
Near the Cathedral is the Bishop’s Palace. Although centuries younger than St. David’s Cathedral, the Palace is a ruin. Its Great Hall, with the roof long gone, sports the fossil of a rosette window. Carved faces, at the bases of roof trusses, have over hundreds of years softened and melted like candy drops. Overhead the sky is blue and a few passing clouds glance in.
Having a little time before we are due in Fishguard, we visit Whitesands Bay in order to feel what it’s like to stand on the westward edge of Wales. It’s fiercely windy with the kind of wind that you actually feel carrying your words off to the side as you shout perpendicularly into it. The sun is out, and if not for the wind the air temperature would be hot. A couple of mutts are splashing around in the surf showing one another their bravery.
The rollers are ceaseless. The wind is unrelenting. The edge of Wales is an ever changing, noisy place.
Come indoors now, and journey back in time
to February 1797.
We pick up our story of four days in South Wales
on the afternoon of Saturday, March 7.
Fishguard, in Stitches
Fishguard is easy to find. The smokestacks of the Rosslare ferry are a dead giveaway. We arrive in time to have Fishguard pie at the Royal Oak Inn (where the surrender after the Last Invasion -- the one that popularized the tall, black Welsh hats was signed). Fishguard pie is a warm pot pie made of prawns, chunks of cod, chopped leeks and mushrooms in a white wine sauce. It is topped with puff pastry. Well fed with this Welsh comfort food, we meet Mike Woakes, a local historian, and Elizabeth (Liz) Cramp, the artist who designed the Last Invasion Tapestry, producing a full-scale (100 feet by 20 inches) color cartoon that served as the pattern for the embroidery.
The Tapestry, conceived in 1993, was completed in time for the bicentenary of the Invasion, February 22 1997. Embroidered by seventy-seven volunteers in 178 shades of wool, it celebrates all aspects of the foiled Last Invasion of Britain by the French right down to the horse manure. Lovingly executed details include the unique facial features of each character, a bag of money you can almost hear rattling, a chalice, a cat jumping out of a grandfather clock, and chickens boiling in a pot. The chicken tale goes thus: the invading French had crashed a wedding and helped themselves to the feast. Starving after many days at sea, they stuffed way too many chickens into a pot and did not give them time to cook through. A few panels later we see a few green faces among the French. This is not a mistake in the coloring of the Tapestry, but a representation of what happened to some of the French as a result of their eating undercooked chicken! Something which, no doubt, helped hasten their capture.
There is an entire panel devoted to the well-known legend of the Welsh women who marched around the headland in their tall black hats and scarlet capes, causing the French still at sea to believe they would be facing a large number of red coated British troops. Another panel features Jemima, a powerful woman who, armed with a pitchfork, single-handedly captured twelve French soldiers.
Listening to Liz and Mike toward the end of the story, I could hear them feeling sorry for the dyspeptic and dispirited French troops who were so easily defeated that day.
We retire for tea with Liz and Mike to an intimate restaurant right across the road from St. Mary’s Hall. We are seated at a table in a large window. From this coign of vantage we see over a few leafy back yards to a lighthouse framed by sea and sky. The scene is cinematic and holds in a scallop shell the peacefulness and beauty of Fishguard and its twin town Goodwick. Reading my thoughts, Mike says the scene is seductive. I know I am enraptured.
Liz, who has gorgeous green eyes, has dedicated four years of her life to the Tapestry. She is originally from East Sussex. She and her artist husband arrived in Fishguard in 1954. They planned to stay for two years. Since their arrival the art scene in the area slowly developed, coming into bloom last year during the area’s first summer arts festival. It is a strong possibility that the arts festival will become an annual event. Once the Tapestry finds a permanent home either in St. Mary’s Hall, or in a building that will be raised for that purpose -- the plan is that this location will also provide ample room to house and help nurture the growing artistic aspirations of the area.
On this fair day, we’re in the present,
but feel the tug of history and legend.
March 8, Sunday
A Day of Naked Beauty
We awaken in Newport at Hafan Deg B&B. While our room is tiny we have practically the entire house at our disposal. Rosemary Joseph, who runs the place with her husband, Chris, saw our bags come in yesterday evening and noted: “Oh, you pack like us way too much.” This observation was, amusingly, in dead contrast to what Paul, our host at Fairyhill, said. He exclaimed at our lack of luggage. So there you have it, two different perspectives that show at least two sides of Wales: the wild and lavish and the townified and practical. However, our experiences go to show that when you pack for a trip such as ours that takes you from floods to bright sunshine, and from feeding ducks in mud to fireside evenings, you need a few changes of clothing. OK, so I do.
At a relaxing dinner last night at Cnappen Restaurant we met Joy and Peter Evans, an academic couple who share a profound delight in the Newport area.
This morning Joy and Peter Evans and their very tall son Geraint are taking us on a tour. We squeeze into their car, then barely out of the driveway, they wave to a couple. We learn that these people -- Jan and Vlasta Dalibor -- are puppeteers who had a show called “Pinkie and Perky” while the Muppets were still socks in Jim Henson’s dresser. While I never heard of “Pinkie and Perky” maybe their names will bring a pleasant wave of nostalgia to you.
Our first official stop is the Parrog, once a trading port, now a recreational shingle beach.
We learn about a boulder to the right in the sea called Stinking Rock. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) it turns out that the rock doesn’t stink at all. Instead, Carreg Edrywy, on the point of old Morfa Head, is called by locals Carreg Drewi . If you cut the “E” off of the front of “Edrywy” you’re left with “drywy” a homonym for “drewi” meaning stink. Hence the local name for the feature: Carreg Drewi or Stinking Rock! Edrywy may have been a name for the river or the district.
Facing away from the water we are in sight of a mountain. This is Mynydd Carningli. There are the remains of a fort, popularly reported as being iron age, although Peter feels it is bronze age. The fort is but one of the prehistoric remnants upon the mountain’s bulk. Mynydd Carningli rules the landscape so it’s no wonder that it has dominated the mythology of the area. Its name may come from the name of a giant, Ingli. It is also known as Mount of Angels, a place where St. Brynach conversed with the heavenly host. While not on the mountain, but near the center of town, is Arthur’s stone. It was designated Carreg Coetan Arthur by George Owen, who was also known as Lord of Cemaes. Owen, an Elizabethan, was a local historian-cum-George Barnum: a romantic man who often gave semi-classical names to mundane things in order to enchant the visiting gentry.
Our next stop is Ceibwr, a rocky beach with a colorfully stratified cliff rising beside it. Joy tells us it is a spot for picnics.
Today the wind is high and the water is very rough. We watch a cormorant diving for fish. Then an orange rubber boat comes into view, and people jump out of it doing rescue practice, I hope. The people cork about, awkward, in the waves. The cormorant carries on gracefully.
There is such naked natural beauty here that it can drive a person to distraction. Case and point: Peter tells us of being at Ceibwr not long ago taking pictures when he noticed a man running along the rocks shouting. The man came nearer crying to Peter and his companion: “I lived in Birmingham seventy-three years and I didn’t know this was here!”
The next part of our tour takes us through Nevern churchyard with its perfect and mysterious 13-foot lichen covered Celtic cross, and its bleeding yew. The tree is positively gushing scarlet sap this morning.
A short walk away is the Pilgrims’ Cross, a cross hewn out of the hillside rock. It is a well-proportioned cross, about 18 inches high and two inches in depth. The game is to spot it, since it blends so well into its background. Up the path from the cross are the Pilgrim’s Footsteps. Carved over the ages by the will of humanity, these foot deep imprints bring to mind the photo of the first human footprint on the moon.
“Go with it,” advises Peter, as we negotiate our way down the muddy and slippery path from the footsteps. Following the Pilgrims’ Trail, apply the same rules to your sliding feet as you would to your skidding tires.
Strolling back to the car, Peter regales me with local tales of the Plague: Newport Bridge was burned down as a precaution against its spread. The yellow bird was named the devil’s hammer since it thrived during this period, because its natural food and shelter, the hawthorn, was permitted to grow as there weren’t men to clear it. Other foliage spread as well, but the hawthorn was the most prodigious. So the hawthorn, like the yellow bird, became a sign of the Plague. To this day the hawthorn, though most don’t understand the misconception behind the tradition, is unwelcome in homes.
Driving now on a narrow lane toward Pentre Ifan, Peter points out the remnants of a motte and bailey fort. I had never seen this before. What I can see, through the bare trees along the side of the road, is a gigantic mound of earth, the motte. Deeper inspection would have to wait for another trip. A little farther on we are presented the Garden of Eden a nudist colony. There does not appear to be anyone about enjoying the fleeting sunshine. Around the corner, and out of sight, on private land is a Buddhist Temple. The couple who owns this property has retired here to pursue their interest in wild life and conservation.
Our tour ends at the area’s most ancient site, Pentre Ifan. Its bluestones are siblings of those at Stonehenge. But being much smaller, and more remote, Pentre Ifan for the moment stands unmolested by graffiti or velvet ropes. Even so, over the centuries the cairn covering it was broken up and carried away. A generation hence, who knows its fate?
For now, we are fortunate to be able to come upon this monument peaceful in its little meadow. The views of Mynydd Preseli fall away breathtaking from here. The feeling is that of hovering gently over the mountains.
All around, farther than my eyes can see, is the South Wales we have just discovered. Our experiences around the Gower Peninsula, the Pembrokeshire Coast and Mynydd Preseli are like a priceless tapestry combining images of the ancient and the new, the elemental and the spiritual. Moreover, we are richer for the many people we met, who generously shared their time and their country with us.
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