07/08/2019: Cofiwch Gwmcerwyn


The stone viewed through the foliage from Pont Mynachlogddu

“Cofiwch Gwmcerwyn” or “Y Carreg Cofiwch Gwmcerwyn” (English: “The Remember Cwmcerwyn Stone”) is a painted boulder in Landskeria, Mynachlogddu, Wales.

When I first saw the stone I had the feeling that it ought to be painted. It was flat and shaped like a canvas. I had quite recently painted the Arms of Landskeria on the side of our old house in Walton East (or Old Landskeria, which we are, at the time of writing, still trying to sell) and had thus developed a taste for introducing incongruity into rural environs via the medium of mural. This rock offered a different prospect. It was visible from the road, as was the side of Tynewydd; but it was farther away, and therefore not conducive to displaying anything especially complex or detailed. 

Quite soon after moving in to the house in whose garden the stone sat, the shape of it reminded me of the Cofiwch Dryweryn wall beside the A487, one of my favourite roads. For those who don’t know, and haven’t clicked the link, “Cofiwch Dryweryn” means “Remember Tryweryn” and refers to the callous flooding of the village of Capel Celyn in the 1960s to build a reservoir to provide Liverpool and the Wirral with water for industry. Twelve houses were submerged and 48 people lost their homes, despite protests. Liverpool City Council issued a formal apology in 2005, 40 years after the reservoir opened. 

“Due to its prominent location, stark message, and history of repeated vandalism, the wall has become an unofficial landmark of Wales.”

— from Wikipedia

I have a dim memory of the wall’s existence from my time growing up in North Wales, but never saw it until I moved to Pembrokeshire and used to drive the A487 to get to and from North Wales. I have been interested in public art, protest, and nationalism for as long as I can remember; so the combination of these three factors means that I always read the (pretty regular) news stories about the graffiti being vandalized and repainted with interest. I like them. I like the vandalizing, and I like the repainting. The vandalizing shows new minds engaging with the old: the need for renewal, reinvention, and reassessment; and the repainting shows the importance of tradition, and maintenance, and graft. The opposing forces of revolution and continuity in harmony, sort of.

Last year when somebody destroyed the wall I felt sad, and quite annoyed. This was not engaging. Changing the “Cofiwch” (Remember) to “Anghofiwch” (Forget) felt like a genuine political statement; a provocation, and part of the cultural conversation, whether or not you agreed with it. Writing “Elvis” over the top was mildly amusing. Especially to someone who lives in the Preselis, where some creative etymologists claim Elvis Presley’s family originally hailed from. But destroying the wall? I wasn’t happy about that. It had echoes of the iconoclasm of the Islamic State: an attempt to erase history. And it seemed to reflect especially poorly on our culture at a time when some typically unexciting Banksy mural (each to their own, etc.) was being protected by perspex in Port Talbot, and awaiting relocation to a “street art museum” at great expense to someone or other with more money than taste.

The ensuing reproduction of the “Cofiwch Dryweryn” graffiti around Wales has been interesting to watch. But also a little worrying. I worried as a child that Welsh nationalism was a personal threat to me and my family, in that it was very anti-English. Like many people without deep roots worldwide, I was frequently told to go back to where I came from; although people weren’t always clear whether that was England or Poland. As an English child (with a Polish surname) growing up in Wales, I was subjected to almost as much anti-English animosity as I was subsequently to be subjected to anti-Welsh animosity when I moved to England at the age of 14, and the children in my new school would accept none of my claims that I was, in fact, English, just like them. Had I been aware of such a thing as a British identity, I might have been keen to embrace it: but it never really reached the rural areas.

Welsh nationalism isn’t as focally anti-English nowadays; not in the mainstream anyway. But, in my view, the reduction of the Cofiwch Dryweryn wall to a meme, being parroted up and down the land, risks dragging Wales’s political awareness back by half a century into an environment which, while not wholly alien, is unhelpful in equipping Wales to respond to its current circumstances. And it risks characterising Wales (or even caricaturing it) as primarily a victim of English dominance; when Wales (unlike the once Brythonic now wholly decymricized regions of Cumberland, Lancashire, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire, Strathchlyde, etc.) is remarkable more by its survival against the odds than by its subjugation, victimhood, or late-medieval-era annexation by a more militarily powerful neighbouring state. I also think the reproduction of the graffiti (and the commercialization of it on mugs, T-shirts, flags, etc.) risks focusing attention too intently on one aspect of the very recent past, and in doing so selling Wales short, culturally, politically, and historically. Tryweryn should be remembered for what it was; but it should not become the dominant national story of modern Wales. Wales is a country whose customs and traditions (not to mention its language) stretch back way beyond the reach of written records. And yet so much of what is considered “Welsh” is now limited by the political environment to the past hundred or so years: the period of national resurgence, yes; but also a period in which the Welsh culture and language has been transformed and eroded—by Anglicization in part, certainly; but moreover (and in common with many regions, nations, and peoples, worldwide) by the economic factors accompanying globalization.

To summarize, I have mixed feelings about Cofiwch Dryweryn. Despite having enjoyed the fluid nature of the monument, I now feel it should probably be protected and thus frozen in time or pickled in aspic in one “agreed” state. Interestingly, it’s claimed the very first daubing by Meic Stephens was “Cofiwch Tryweryn”—without a mutated T>D, and thus grammatically incorrect—and therefore that the original has never been wholly faithfully reproduced. The recent reproductions I’m less keen on for the reasons (or feelings) listed above; though I understand the urge to spread the word, I think that the echo rings hollow, and that the mass reproductions can never match the weight of the original, and may even serve to diminish it. With all of this in mind, I considered the options for my own canvas. I wanted to paint something which spoke to the original monument, and to the act of remembering; but which also aimed to subvert both somehow, and convey something new or at least different.

I went through many ideas over the two years I’ve lived here; and especially since scrubbing the moss off the west face of the stone last summer, in anticipation of painting it this year. One idea I gave serious consideration to was to paint “Cofiwch Lys y Fran”; Llys y Fran is our nearest reservoir. I used to live even nearer to it. That part of the Syfynwy valley was flooded in the ’60s to provide water for Milford Haven, which is also in Wales. As far as I have been able to deduce, nobody was displaced or forced to leave their home. A newspaper clipping from the time said the reservoir was to be a “sporting paradise”, and following a recent refurbishment that promise might finally be kept. Perhaps it could be argued that remembering things being done properly—the unexciting reality of the majority of governmental administration in our relatively stable and functional society—is as useful as remembering largely atypical injustices. But I thought better of this; it didn’t seem serious enough. Just a parody; and I don’t aim to deal in parodies. Furthermore, were I to parody the most sacred monument to Welsh nationalism I might incur the wrath of Welsh nationalists; which is never my intention, although it often happens anyway.

So I eventually arrived at Cofiwch Gwmcerwyn. And I resisted the urge not to mutate the C into a G; although the urge was strong from both an alliterative and a historical point of view.

Why Cwmcerwyn?

Foel Cwmcerwyn is the highest peak of the Preselis, and thus the highest point in Pembrokeshire. Most people around here know that, but relatively few seem to know that it takes its name from the valley (cwm) to its east, in Mynachlogddu parish; or that until the Second World War there was a farmhouse in that valley—one of the oldest houses in the area—which was also called Cwm Cerwyn. There is some confusion in that a house called Cwm Garw still stands in that valley—the last of the many farmhouses that once graced those slopes: Cwm Cerwyn, Tynewydd, Bwlch Giden, Waun Clyn Coch, Cnwc Rhydd…

It’s feasible that the name Cwm Cerwn referred to the western side of the valley and Cwm Garw to the east. But I once read (and I can’t remember where, but I suspect it was in some of George Owen’s writings) that Cwm Garw was an “alternative” name for the same valley, following a not-uncommon pattern in the area of multiple names for the same geographical feature: garw either meaning “rugged” or more likely being mutated from “carw” meaning stag or deer; while “cerwyn” means barrel, tub, mash-tun, or even whiskey still—but it’s also a Welsh given name, if capitalized. Certainly the name Cwm Cerwyn appears much earlier in available records than the surviving Cwm Garw, and before the latter had that name it was called Tre’r Ap (signifying an abbot’s manor or estate within the wider area which was all owned by the abbey at St Dogmaels). I believe it was also known at one point as Cwmcerwyn Isaf (Lower Cwmcerwyn). But the many old spellings of Cwm Cerwyn blur the lines between stag and still. I’ve seen it rendered as Coomkerwyn, Kome Kerwyn, Kombkaro, and Come Kerw, among numerous others. In the oldest source I’ve read first-hand (a deed from 1611) it’s spelled incongruously as Komberwin; but I’m pretty sure this is a mistake, since the more familiar-looking spelling Come Kerwyn is reported almost 100 years earlier. A book I read in Haverfordwest library claimed that the cwm was marked on a 14th century map of the area by Someone-or-other Rees, but I’ve never personally seen the map.

As to the true origin of the name, in times past there were (apparently) stags to be found in the valley, and at the time of George Owen the area was mostly populated by Irish, many of whom made their living distilling whisky and selling it door-to-door across the county. So either carw or cerwyn might make sense in either respective context; but the name seems to pre-date Owen’s era (the early 1600s) by at least a few centuries, and maybe more; so perhaps it’s impossible to know what it once meant. Since the word “cerwyn” can also denote an open tub it seems a good bet that the name began as a descriptive term for the bowl-like shape of the valley. (My own daughters called it “the bowl” before they knew its real name.)

The river that rises on the eastern slopes of Foel Cwmcerwyn and flows past our house, beside the rock that I painted, is now called Afon Wern; but as recently as 1600 it was called either Clydach Australis (the southern Clydach; to differentiate it from two identically named rivers in the Preseli region) or Kombkaro / Cwm Cerwyn. Clydach / Cladach / Clydagh is a word more often seen in Irish than Welsh, which means “stony shore” or something similar. That the valley of origin (or even the significant farm in the area) might have lent its name to the river, at least for some locals, seems entirely possible; the modern name Wern could as easily be derived from the surviving Wern farm (halfway between Cwmcerwyn and our own house) as from the word gwern, meaning either marshland or alder trees; both of which are also to be found in the area.

So, besides being synonymous with “Preseli Top” or the highest peak in the Preseli range, “Cwmcerwyn” was also a valley with a history stretching back into Arthurian mythology—the alleged site where King Arthur’s men were felled by a rampaging boar called the Twrch Trwyth, and two of his sons were either turned to stone or commemorated by the erection of two megaliths near the track to Cwm Garw farmhouse. “Cwmcerwyn” was also one of Pembrokeshire’s highest rivers, forming the entire western boundary of Mynachlogddu parish (formerly the “Nigra Grangia” of St Dogmael’s abbey, prior to the Dissolution). And “Cwmcerwyn” was one of the important early manor houses in the area (along with Dolaumaen, Dyffryn Ffilbro, Llandre, Blaencleddau, Plasdwbl, etc.); reduced by the early 20th century to the status of just another farmhouse, it was vacant at the time of the Second World War, when it was tragically and somewhat incomprehensibly to be used for target practice by Allied bombers, and utterly destroyed.

Cwmcerwyn was all of this and more. Cwmcerwyn is thus well worth remembering; even if what we remember, as people who were not there, is often that we do not know quite what we are meant to be remembering. To me this message speaks of matriotism over patriotism or society over state; of the importance of local history in informing us about the real significance of grander historical narratives and global events when translated to a local societal scale: like the dissolution of the monasteries changing the pattern of land-ownership and land-use; or the Second World War precipitating irreversible societal shifts, and leaving unexpected scars on the landscape, even far from the field of conflict. The message also speaks to me of the importance of remembering; but also, perhaps, of the inevitability of forgetting: of the great significance of small things, and, paradoxically, the ultimate insignificance of even the greatest events in human history. That history is complex, and full of intrigue; but rarely offers simple comforting truths.

This is what it means to me; but it may mean something completely different to you. Or, indeed, it may mean nothing at all.

I.M. Ffermdy Cwm Cerwyn, approx: 1344–1944.

The stone having just been painted.

A Velky, 2019.

17 thoughts on “07/08/2019: Cofiwch Gwmcerwyn

  1. Thelma

    A fantastic,very interesting read.How lovely to have seen the newly painted stone.We are in our 80s and spend much time in this perfect area.Thanks.

      1. Hefin

        Cofiwch Gwmcerwyn
        A person standing by the stone (photo)

        ‘The stone having just been painted’

  2. Hefin Wyn

    Shwmae? A photograph of the painted stone taken by Hefin Parri-Roberts was published in this month’s issue of Clebran on the front page! Some information was provided as well along with a picture of the old farmhouse on an inside page. I have read your explanation that you chose the name because it is to do with local memories and because there is so much information available about the inhabitants of the farmhouse. Would you allow me to use the photograph of yourself by the stone in the next issue and any other relevant information you might be able to provide? I take it your name is Alexander Velky. Diolch.

    1. alexandervelky Post author

      Shwmae Hefin. That is indeed my name. You’re welcome to use any images or text on this website as you wish. I’m not precious about copyright. Rydw i wedi cwrdd a chi unwaith, dwi’n meddwl. Dych chi’n cofio dyn gyda barf yn cario dau ci bach yn eich ardd un bore, tua dwy blwyddyn yn ol? Fi oedd hynna. If you would like to contact me you can do so at: alexander.s.h.velky [at] gmail [dot] com (or at Cwmisaf if you’re passing). Diolch.

  3. Pedr

    Motivated by a strong and honourable sense of wrongdoing created by the destruction of a piece of local history: a piece of what I only see as artless protest graffiti now adorns a rock that was unmolested for a far longer period than the destroyed farm ever stood. A banner would’ve done the job. The thing you’ve created despoils a place of great spiritual presence. A spiritual specialness that has been felt and acknowledged for thousands of years and surely one you felt when you decided it was the place you wanted to be. Like all spiritual concepts the energy can’t be proved but christians always built churches at druid groves and religious sites when practical and possible to claim ownership and nod acknowledgment to the former religion. The proximity of your church is no coincidence. Human history is emotive. Your emotions have been expressed with a good heart but at what cost to the energy of that special place you now have custody of. The land and its energy is the church, not the building, I hope one day you’ll feel it and understand. Paint scrubs off, the rocks remain, I only write this to offer you a way of thinking to ponder on.

    1. alexandervelky Post author

      Thanks for your comment Pedr. I’m grateful that you took the time to write it in a thought-provoking way; but you will probably be unsurprised to find I don’t agree with your perspective. I think I understand your motivation; but I might disagree with you as to what that is. What does it mean, for example, to “molest” a rock? Did the river molest the rock over the thousands of years in which it flowed, unnamed by human tongues, and gradually exposed it, for the first time, to sunlight? Do the brambles molest the rock as they take root and crack fragments from its face? Or the moss that seeks to obscure it? Or the birds or the slugs that shit on it? How does my painting of the rock truly differ? To remove human activity from other aspects of nature speaks to me of species-exceptionalism, which I find unspiritual and unscientific.

      I feel similarly about the notion of “despoiling a place of spiritual presence”. That sounds bad; but upon consideration it translates to me again as a veiled comment on the aesthetics of the situation: a concern with the surface, not what lies beneath. You speak of “energies that can’t be proved”; but I don’t believe anything which exists “can’t be proved”, by definition. I have walked the length of this river and find all of it, more-or-less equally, beautiful. The spot where the bridge crosses now, affording passers-by a view of the river, and the rock in (what is currently) my garden, was chosen for a bridge for practical not spiritual reasons: that a brief break in the steep slope of Afon Wern is complemented by a broad river-island. Neither you nor I can say for sure whether St Dogmael’s church was built nearby on the site of a pagan place of worship (at least not without destroying the church and digging beneath it); but since for humanity spiritual matters are usually secondary to practical ones (food, water, shelter, etc.), we can be quite confident that the road, and the river crossing, pre-date any physical place of worship. Or certainly that men crossed the river here, driving livestock across, and thanked their god or gods for the safe passage, once they had achieved it.

      What I understand from your comment is that you don’t like the painted rock because it appears incongruous with its surroundings; which surroundings you find to be otherwise more than usually aesthetically pleasing. But I urge you to ask yourself whether your reaction is really that different to that of a neighbour who is upset by the appearance of a garden gnome on next-door’s lawn.

      I’m sorry that you don’t like what I did to the rock; but human nature being what it is, it was inevitable some people wouldn’t. I hope you can find comfort in the knowledge that there are many other unpainted rocks along the length of this river (and indeed all around the world, in places less used to witnessing the activity of humankind), and that there are many rocks which have yet to be exposed to the sun’s light by the passage of water. And that the paint on this one rock won’t be there forever, and neither will the painter.

  4. Pedr

    All your points are valid, Alexander. No need be sorry that I don’t like the paint job, as you say it’ll decay. I do wonder on why a farm being destroyed should be any different to a rock being painted? It’s still an alteration of a state of being, a happening, a deviated energy change, superficial though yours is. A lot of energy was deviated by the energy of the shells, but the buildings stones are all there, (some a fair bit smaller now mind you) and they could be piled up and roofed again with a bit o will and effort by any one really bothered, just not in the same order: and your rock remains under the paint for the earth to ‘unpaint’. I’m not considering the sense of soul that can’t be replaced of course. I wonder; Is it that the man made construction is more important than the earths? I do ‘get’ that it could be an example of the MOD’s lack of concern for anything in the area and that that’s part of our point. The blasting of Carn Goedog for explosives practice ( it’s alleged the army did it) is surely on a par with the bombing and shelling of the farm. of course the carn doesn’t look ruined so attracts no immediate sadness but it took thousands of years to create and the last people to truly see it were those that blew it apart a bit. I do know the celts pulled it apart a bit too. By the way did you know the shells used on the farm had no explosive in? I’m told it was so as not to blow the place to bits in one hit and allow more practices. I guess it would be great fun at the time Of course, a decision was made by a generation in its own unique situation, as we are in ours and make our decisions. Priorities were established, prices paid, things were ‘altered’ in a rather more permanent way than your paint job, and for reasons our generation can’t really pass fair judgement on. We weren’t there and under the threat. I wonder to myself what the previous occupant of your home, as an ex POW, would think of the use of the farm for target practice. Just a small, sad part of the fight they fought perhaps? Another very good reason to remember Gwmcerwyn. it did it’s bit. One things for sure; you’ve provoked thought, and so has the sad passing of Cwmcerwyn and that’s good, and all those that disagree or agree with me or thee, at least care and think about this area, and that’s good. I hope more will be written here to provoke more thoughts of care. Just regarding the church and anything druid that may lay under it: the druids mainly used groves, water meetings, and such like open air areas for ceremony. The church is built where a church could be built as close to the grove as possible so there may be nothing on that site other than christian. If it was a celtic site of spiritual significance, I think the church being there is a suggestion. I don’t think a druid grove has ever been found, they trod lightly in that regard. So rather lamely, I’m afraid we can only use intuition, as they did, to feel them. I do hope you do that, Alexander. It’s harmless and a lovely meditation.

    1. alexandervelky Post author

      Diolch Pedr. I wonder whether the island itself (upon which the bridge was built) could have been a druid grove? I know little about pre-Christian Celtic religion. But it seems there’s very little we can know for certain, with the scarcity of written records; and those having been written by the conquering Romans. I’ve spent many an hour wondering (and wandering) about the area contemplating the human and pre-human history of the landscape. Over how many years was the valley formed? Whose were the first feet that crossed the river here, and how different did the landscape look? (Certainly there was no snowberry, laurel or rhododendron; probably no pines…) I’m fascinated by the possibility of a pre-Norman “clas” or monastery in the area – as many suggest was the original meaning behind the village name – but no evidence prior to the founding of the Tironensian Abbey at St Dogmael’s (and subsequent appearance of the church) is forthcoming. I don’t mean to entirely devalue feeling and intuition (these things are common to all humans, and serve a purpose) but I do like to question them. For me, belief is not valueless; but where belief and truth overlap to bestow knowledge, that’s priceless. And the monks, the druids, and the spiritual leaders who preceded them, all made their contributions to this, in addition to their other activities.

  5. Pedr

    To choose the island indicates to me that you do have intuition and I think you heed it; (you may prefer imagination I suspect though I believe imagination stems from intuition) I to am fascinated with what drew people to such a physically difficult to live off area. The effort put in to create things that seem to acknowledge the spiritual aura of the area pushes me to feel that that was part of the reason to be here and getting a living of the area was a secondary essential. just enough would do as long as it sustained the religious presence. You’ve hit the nail on the head regarding proof. The Celts deliberately didn’t write; important knowledge had to be memorised. It’s suggested they did this to ensure no one other than who they wanted could share the knowledge (knowledge is power). Especially their enemies. it took decades for an ordinary intellect to achieve the learning and one class of druid specialised in doing only that. Are we drifting away from what you intended, Alexander? You can simply not reply here if you feel we are. Send to my email if you wish. To explain my feelings regarding that special place you’ve been drawn to, we’d have to talk about the elements of beauty and how they act to bring forth intuitions regarding the invisible. If I take a poem that stirs a feeling and alter one tiny word the feeling is gone till the word is returned as it was. The paint job altered the poem for me. I’m pleased to discover it hasn’t stopped my intuition though so your message did open my mind a little more. It does get in the way a bit though. It’s a bit loud, Alexander!. The questioning, and exploration, of feelings and intuitions is a great joy for me but my greatest embarrassment when I realise how far behind learned men I am; and men that were here thousands of years ago at that! Something invisible goes on around here. I hope you come to understand it. I’m trying but I’m running out of time (age). You might succeed, Alexander. Imagine that!! Probably best not to post this communication on your page. It’s a bit ”out there” for some and possibly off topic. You decide.

  6. alexandervelky Post author

    Hi Pedr, I wouldn’t worry about being “off-topic”. This site doesn’t have a consistent theme, and the post we’re commenting on (and the rock itself) was really meant to invite thought and comment, and discussion; not to simply begin and end as a statement.

    Places of spiritual significance whose perceived holiness takes priority over more practical concerns… they’ve certainly existed. The Delphi oracle. Monastic cells in Ethiopian cliffsides. Or the Inca temple at Machu Picchu; which was able to exist only because food and supplies were brought (at great difficulty and expense) from faraway arable land… These places were inevitably abandoned when the societies that supported them were shaken, or began to crumble. I do get a similar feeling from the immediate area, as I (and others) do from many places around the Preseli mountains. We know saints came here to be closer to God in the “dark” ages; and there is evidence all around of societies even pre-dating the Celts and the Druids – e.g. Gors Fawr, Bedd Arthur and even the collapsed cromlech Llech y Gwyddon up by the source of the Eastern Cleddau; which may be five thousand years old or more. Nobody can say for sure what language these people spoke, or why they left us these heirlooms.

    Human society has been able to support itself in all but the most inhospitable of terrestrial conditions, certainly; sometimes by choice, but often because fate delivered people fleeing conflict, climate-change, or seeking (or following) food.

    Our feelings about beauty and the many things beyond our comprehension can be conflated; but I see no unbreakable link between the two. And, while they might not always satisfy us, biologists can offer explanations for why we see some landscapes as beautiful, and others less-so: the flowing water of the river could promise fish (and I’m told there used to be many!); the shade of the trees could offer respite from the sun’s glare or the sting of cold winds… Perhaps the red of the rock is jarring because of its unlikeliness within the context of the local flora and geology. But the landscape here is long-since framed by humanity: the bridge, the road, the altered water-courses which have for almost a thousand years powered a waterwheel. More recently, barbed wire across the river, and (when I first moved here) piles of domestic rubbish thrown over the bridge by a certain man from Llangolman(!)

    I am sympathetic with the response you describe. I grew up in a beautiful village called Penmon on Anglesey and used to play in a deserted quarry, filled with lakes, which felt like it was slowly being reclaimed by nature. Only a year after we left (which I never wanted to) I learnt it had been officially closed to the public, secured by fencing at the perimeter, and was to house industrial fish farms. I’ve never been back since. (And I do sometimes wonder whether I’ve eaten any of the fish…)

    I realize you speak of poetry metaphorically, but the land itself is not a poem any more than it is a photograph. It is always changing, and will never be what it was. (The rock, as you say, may seem an extreme example, but I looked at it yesterday, and it’s already much greener than it was last year.) Certainly these artistic tools help us celebrate, and sometimes interrogate, our ideas about beauty – and other ideas too.

    Thinking about what is bequeathed to us from people past, I’m put in mind of the Waldo Williams poem “Cofio”, which I’ve best understood in translation, but which I’m beginning to understand in Welsh (gradually). And in this particular place I’ve come to value the (possibly slightly adapted) words of Heraclitus, which are as true here literally as they are metaphorically: “No man steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

    Hah! I tell myself I’ll write a brief reply, but it never works out that way. You obviously know and love the area, so if you are ever here you are very welcome to stop by and say hello (once this blasted pandemic is over). But of course I’m happy too to accept comments here, or by email.



  7. Pedr

    Hello, Alexander: s’mae? Thank you, I may well call in passing. I realised the stones purpose after you replied. I’m here in the spirit of that. It’s worked for me and I’ll keep popping on here in the hope that others will have joined in to add there own wonderful points of view. Not the same man, not the same river: I like that. If your paint provokes thought then the phrase is apt. Thinking changes thought and a thought altered alters all. Especially the man (woman). Regarding the age of Gorse Fawr stones, Bedd Arthur, etc., I feel the Celts erected them. The Greeks recorded the existence of the Celtic race and religion 3000 years before Christianity (I can’t remember where I read that). Obviously to be so established when that was recorded by the Greeks they must have been around much longer. The Greeks and Celts travelled to each other and discussed philosophies. The same Celtic circles as are here are also in India. The Celts inhabited all the area between India and ultimately The Orkneys and the stone structures support that. They were a huge culture. Many religions appear to use Celtic religious philosophies mixed with Greek and others to form new religions. Christianity being one. It’s said that Jesus attended a druid college in Ireland to further his knowledge of Celtic philosophy and that he also visited Greek philosophers prior to the ‘launch’ of Christianity. It’s also said that he visited Glastonbury for some educational or spiritual reason. We are a spit off Ireland and I wonder if the great man called here on his way to Glastonbury? I like to think so. Imagine: he may have used the rhyd or old bridge by you! A romantic thought on my part. Such footsteps for your stone to have felt pass by!! Who knows? Regarding beauty. Is it seen or is it felt and if it’s felt is it it’s spirit we feel and if so why do all souls not feel the same spirit. If it was just biology at work surely we’d all agree on what’s beautiful. I can’t comment on psychologies effect on it. We both agree on the beauty there by you though; seen and felt as the case may be. One thing I believe certain is that if man recreated an exact physical reproduction, it wouldn’t feel beautiful. We can’t put the soul in. That’s why I look upon these places with concern for their delicacy. I wonder if your litter man is the same one who for the last year has left a trail of cider and strong lager tins and bottles strewn along the roadsides between Glandy shop and just beyond LLandilo? Drink driving at a whole new level and I dread meeting the person on the road. But I mention it as there in lies an attitude toward, and-or perception of beauty from that mans view. Certainly spirit is involved. May I ask (I’m going to anyway) do you know anything about the wall network in Cwm Garu? I dry stone walled as part of my living and I’ve seen nothing like them in all the country. They aren’t typical of walls built after the enclosure act and are much older in my opinion. I feel the area could be a Hafod of great age.

    1. alexandervelky Post author

      Much food for thought there, Pedr… Regarding your question about Cwm Garw/Tre’r Ap, I’m afraid I couldn’t say. I don’t know who lives there, so I haven’t been on the private land. I know the stone pair (Cerrig Meibion Arthur) and have seen the adjacent ruins of Tynewydd farmhouse and its remaining walled enclosure which borders the common. Another ruined farmhouse called Bwlch Giden sat just north, and an Elizabethan-era map shows a road that used to pass over the ridge there, and onward between Carn Bica and Carn Geodog. (I mean to visit one day, when it’s dry!) The remains of Capel bach are maybe still at Cwm Garw too? Coflein suggests a dedication to St Cawey; but George Henllys (1600-ish) put “Cawey” at Capel farm doen by Foel Dyrch. (I’d also thought there was a Capel Silyn near Cwm Garw; but can’t find where I read that now, so I may have confused a reference to a different “Clydach” river in Carmarthenshire…) Theories abound about pre-medieval and Roman enclosures too, but nothing “concrete”…


      1. alexandervelky Post author

        Just a quick correction to my earlier post: the reference to a Capel St Silin, closer to Cwmcerwyn, was from E T Lweis’s 1969 book. He claims it collapsed, and suggests Capel Bach Cwm Garw was built as a replacement. (I must remind myself that something not existing on Google is absence of evidence as opposed to evidence of absence.)

  8. P

    A discreet walk round to the quarry on Foel Cwmcerwen from the gate at the corner of Pantmaenog, gives a birds eye view of Cwm Garw, made better by binoculars for detail. I believe it’s over the altitude required for open access up there. The old quarry track is still there. I was told stone from the chapel was reused for other work in the area: I recall a bridge being mentioned. I was also told the last ceremony there was a wedding in the early 1900s. Pleased to learn the good likely hood of a dedicated Capel at Fferm y Capel. Welsh place names tell us so much. Many farms called Church Farm, Glebe Farm, Kirk Farm, in England simply belonged to the church; often going back to early Christianity when the priest – monk sent to that area by the church to maintain and spread christianity was entitled to get his living of that land ; his ‘glebe’ right. Many of the first men sent among the celts to introduce Christianity were roman soldier converts who remained here when the armies left. Who would argue the truth with a man like that? The army of the lord came down , and sang to praise the sword. The romans were certainly here. From what I’ve read they had a tolerance of other religions which I guess is how religious sites survived when forts nearby were destroyed by force or sometimes agreement as part of truce deals, Drygarn ? That may explain why we still have Celtic stones standing. So much in such a small area. Four or five miles in any direction is the comparative land of milk and honey for farming and yet so much happened on and around the poor brown lands of marsh and mountain. You mentioned your wondering what the lansdcape looked like. I guess you know Pembrokeshire was the biggest oak forest in Britain and was decimated to build the ships of our first great navy, and also crucks and beams for buildings. It reached a point were Pembrokeshire had to import wood to build its own buildings. The oak was sacred to the Celts and oak groves were their churches. is that what drew them? . The road you mention, if it runs toward Foel Feddau, is the ‘gold road’. An ancient Celtic route to the coast for trade said to have carried gold from welsh mines. used by the romans and recordedas a main road for them. If it goes in any other direction I’d dearly like to know about it.


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