Wednesday, March 11, 2009

There was a crooked man and he walked a crooked mile...

Caerwys to Ysceifiog via byways, bridle tracks and accompanied by the earthy aroma of the local industry. A grand morning indeed, for an adventure into the Welsh countryside! The sky is a crisp parchment of blue, punctuated by sparkling glimmers as the sun reflects its brilliance upon scant clouds.

We take the short drive into Caerwys. Maria, to reconnoitre with a hairdresser; and I, armed with map, jacket, hat, backpack and camera (although I can’t leap tall buildings with a single bound) make my way down the steep incline of Water Street (Heol Ddwr) into a dell, via a trout farm – into the wilds.

The walk or hike had taken me through some stunning countryside. Negotiating the route was by public lanes which crossed adjoining farms and small streams, all interposed by a myriad of stiles. It isn’t difficult to appreciate treasured literary masterpieces, such as ‘Wind in the Willows’ when one can absorb rustic settings in situ. I was quite expecting to see Toad hurtling along the country lane in his new motorcar.

Anyhow, my first experience at traversing a country stile was likened to climbing a horse; and a carpenter’s horse at that! Particularly, where the stile is located at an incline such as this was past the trout farm. My short legs were deficient in providing a suitable arc to negotiate the barrier. Hence, it was a process of employing a half vault; partial leap and short O’Brien to gain access into the adjoining field. Yes, something akin to the dexterity of a Morris Dancer….

I could see at once my day would involve following some sort of obstacle course! No sooner had I crossed this impediment, (I realised upon referring to my map,) I had another twenty-one stiles ahead of me! Well, at least my vaulting expertise would improve.

To continue my hike required me to follow a well trodden path, with a dense cushion of leaf litter which provided a comfortable promenade. The tingling sound of a stream running alongside the path, proved an amiable companion. Then the path traversed to the left onto a 60 degree incline, accommodating a makeshift set of wooden and sod steps which disappeared beyond the inclines’ zenith!

The climb was indeed an experience for any resolve, however

upon reaching the top I was rewarded by an amazing splinter camouflage of green. The farms and hills rolled out before me, a quilt made from almost every hue of green and sprinkled by white buttons of sheep – and the silence. With the exception of the breath of wind caressing the tree tops, just magnificent silence…..

This silence was short lived as I made for the next hurdle. The sheep nearby
froze, glanced in my direction, and bleated almost in unison heralding the intruder. I pushed further, inhaling the richness of the surrounding heather, and scaled the next stile. So it continued, across fields into dells and scaling other inclines; and all the time feeling privileged to be able to enjoy my surroundings. The pathways are bordered by hedges of Holly bush, which must be a sight in summer as the colour of these borders must change from a brown into a lush deep green!

I was challenged by two dogs in separate instances. The first canine challenged me after I had scaled a stile into the adjoining field. Obviously accustomed to wayfarers, this explosive mongrel barked several times, and doing so in circles (!) discerned I wasn’t a threat – then bolted. However, the second brute baled me up as I emerged from a byway – must be Belgian? It barked, growled and bared its teeth with hackles erect. As I cautiously backed away from my beleaguerer, it moved closer and abruptly rolled onto its back. It no doubt expected its accustomed toll - a scratch, before allowing me to proceed on my way!

The first leg of my journey ended at the small hamlet of Babell – and I mean small. It consists of four dwellings, and that is all – and no pub! Almost every Welsh town, regardless of size, has a pub; but not Babell…not even a tower? Regardless of its size, I considered Babell a noble outpost to enjoy a spot of lunch.

Lunch finished, I referred to my trusty map and noted that I was to exchange the byways for the roadway, a distance of about one and a half kilometres before having to venture into the wild again. So, onwards I progressed into oncoming sounds of machinery.

The noise emanated from tractors; farmers were spraying a
pungent concoction onto their allotments. Pungent is not quite an appropriate description… ‘Acrid’… no… ‘Sharp’… not that either…. – ‘CUTTING’, that’s it! “Who cut the cheese?” The cocktail provided a bouquet which was reminiscent of urea; manure; garlic, and with just a hint of nutmeg… Mmmmm…yummy. So leaving these cultivators to continue with God’s work I pressed on with the second leg of my journey.

Just a minute; where to now...?
I negotiated a further eight stiles and five gates before arriving at the junction of Ysceifiog Lake and the town of Ysceifiog. This area is surrounded by forests adorned in winter ‘coats’. During spring and summer these forests must be mantles of beauty, and as kaleidoscopic as the surrounding pastures?

Regrettably, here I must add my camera (the ‘point-and-shoot’ pee-shooter) gave up the ghost, temporarily, as the batteries died. My dismay at not being able to deliver images of this area, can be appreciated. This can be transliterated by the distinct curses of varying degrees. Take my word for it, there area is certainly picturesque!

The Ysceifiog Lake is quite impressive and man-made. The lake was constructed by the Earl of Denbigh in 1904 for fishing, in particular Fly-fishing, for all the residents attached to the then home farm. Today residents and visitors can still enjoy the lakes for this purpose. Ysceifiog as a town is almost a mirror of Caerwys; however it was established during the 17th century which developed into an important junction between the towns of Chester and Denbigh. Packhorses, laden carts and horse drawn coaches all regularly passed through Ysceifiog.

Bidding farewell to Ysceifiog, I continued with my trek towards Caerwys. This brought me to another hamlet called Bron Fadog, consisting of five dwellings. The inscription on a plynth indicates this hamlet was part of the former princely realm of Powys, and may be a shadow of a former prominence?

I finally arrive at Caerwys whereby I must pay the Tiller man by negotiating the 1:40 grade that is Water Street. My journey has taken most of the day as it is now 16:30, with the lengthening shadows and the coolness of the approaching twilight. A tiring, though an immensely rewarding experience.
Maria too has experienced success at the hands of a local shearer - the hairdresser! So after some 3 months from Maryborough she again feels comfortable in the head department!!


christy owens said...

Entertaining read but factually a load of crap. I live at Bron Fadog. It is a farm with two dwellings not a hamlet of five and was home of Thomas Wynne nothing to do with Powys, where is the plinth? Also there is a large some might say unmissable pub in Babell called the Black Lion.

Julie Johnson said...

Christy, I would love to hear from you! My ancestor, Dr. Thomas Wynne, is said to have lived at Bron Fadog farm. He came to America with William Pen in 1682.

I am looking for pictures of Bron Fadog & first hand info.

My email is Feel free to write.