The Yew and the Lake

I was glad to have company of 21 friends for my latest walk. Well organised with lots of hard work and dedication from all, it was an amazing experience to be in a gathering of so many old friends and new, and we traveled together to two very special places.

DSCN0199

Many Yew trees in Britain are Planted at sacred sites, places that are gateways between this world and the next. And this amazing tree is no exception. However the church that stands at this spot, is a mere 900 years old, most of the gravestones date from the 1800’s and later, the Yew tree itself is over 5000 years old, and considered by specialists in this field to be the oldest tree in Britain. So this site has been sacred for a long long time indeed.

DSCN0195

The immense size of this tree is hard to understand from mere pictures, but suffice to say, the dark area in this picture is the size of a normal door, and it is possible to walk right inside the tree itself and sit two or three people comfortably within its great girth.DSCN0196

 

I am not sure what has caused these bulbous types of growth on the trunk of the tree, but each one is covered in tiny twig-like branches, I wonder if these will grow larger over time too? We even found a few shoots that were growing bleached of colour as if they were grey hairs on the tree.

DSCN0202

After spending quite a while enjoying this marvelous ancient yew, we then headed south to Cerrig Duon, A very special stone circle with standing stone, stone avenue and also another single stone further up the road. This complex of stones is one of the best examples in Britain of a processional avenue leading from one stone to the circle. Unfortunately many of the avenue stones are now missing or buried in soil, but the main circle is quite well preserved.

10557289_10152286764842081_7931305246867029994_n

 

The above picture is of the main stone in the circle, looking up to the north. The views to the south are spectacular too, as it is possible to see a long distance down the valley. We all spent a little time at the stones, before moving on, and starting to walk up the line of the river to the lake on top of the mountain.

10448783_10152286767132081_1441609745877670226_n

 

The river cuts dramatically through the rock bed, creating a series of amazing waterfalls, pools and also providing the one place that is safe from sheep, where some stunning and probably quite old Rowan trees flourish. We were lucky enough to catch them during their most splendid time, covered in ripening berries.

DSCN0245

 

The climb was steep and long. But with such a large party of people, we had plenty to talk about, and plenty of encouragement to keep going, and get to the top. The lake however, is quite far past the high plateau of the mountain, in the shadow of the next ridge. And we walked and walked, higher and higher, following the river right back to its source, and wondering when we might finally catch a glimpse of the lake.

10561763_10152286767572081_5240891952711315400_n

 

Cotton grass was growing in the damper patches, giving us a warning to keep away from these areas, as they are marshy and can be quite deep in places. Finally we caught our first glimpse of the huge lake that feeds both the river we had walked up, and the river Tawe that flows all the way down to Swansea.

DSCN0263

Well, I’m sorry that it has taken me a full month to finish this post, and add Harry’s wonderful poem, but sometimes time does move in mysterious ways, a moment in time can indeed contain all time.

Thank you for sharing your words Harry, and thank you to everyone who has read and commented on this post, it was an awesome day 😀

 

 

Moment in Time

Sol shone behind the clouds.
No flares for my soul’s joy;
But my muse pulled me back
And saw Helios’ glowing ball in full flame.
Together we moved to the ancient ground.

Cernunnos watched
Within the ancient yew
As we approached her sacred roots.
Souls drawn to her transcendental scent;
Berries of red touched a warlock’s lips;
Within deep sleep
We gathered in time
To remember eternity.

The Dragon Stone awaited our return.
Through the crowds we climbed
Her slender breasts;
Back to her heart
From where once we strayed.
Resting our thoughts
Within her centre.

The water sweet,
Crystal clear,
Energizing life force.
Helios touches skin;
Warming hearts with love
For the friends who have seen us
Through the masks of decay.
Our souls joined in reverence
In the mountain’s flow.

In quiet synchronicity
Three souls thought lost in the human world
Joined the final ascent;
Each at their own pace
Like the spiritual paths of old.

To see the silver shimmer
For the first time
Is my dream awakened.
The shofar sounded,
Gathering all
To the sacred fire.
With bread and wine
The fellowship remembered
The sacred joy
Of friends travelling
The paths of life.

And then the miracle became clear –
The serpent force had lifted
From the lake!
So we joined in wonder at the water’s edge;
She called us in
To join the source…
A timeless moment
In a world of time.

Helios entered his sleep
And music flowed.
Songs of old stirred the souls.

Together, we parted.
Together forever
In time.

(By Harry)

 

The Stones

My second walk began by walking along the green lane in my previous post. But I took a left turn into Rhos, in search of some Standing Stones that I had seen marked on the map. The purpose of standing stones is still a hotly debated topic. Perhaps they served as markers on a pathway, perhaps they denoted energy points in the land. Or perhaps they were even the pillars that supported a wooden structure, that has long since rotted away. I am not going to try and debate this here, but simply to note what I can about them, in an effort to contribute a piece or two to the huge puzzle that has been pondered for years.

DSCN0089

An unlikely approach to the stones, through a local playing park. But it was shown on the map, so I wandered along the path, soon finding a sign for a footpath through the field behind the recreation ground.

DSCN0090

Two beautiful silver birches in the hedgerow. The field that contained one of the stones on the map, was right ahead, and as is often the case, it was not fenced off as standing stones are supposed to be open to public access. However there was quite a lot of grass to wade though, as the path was a long distance from the stones, which apparently lay along the other edge of the field.

DSCN0091

I peered over the grass, hoping to catch a glimpse of the stones protruding upwards, but could see nothing. Checking the map again, I could see they lay close to the trees that were now in the distance.

standing stone 4

So off I ploughed through the long grass, trying to keep to flattened areas, as I was loathe to disturb any of the abundant wildlife that buzzed and fluttered around me. There were simply hundreds of Ringlet Butterflies, who seemed quite bold, flying around me.

DSCN0098And equal numbers of Meadow Browns, who were a little more timid and harder to catch a picture of…

DSCN0102b

An abundance of various spiders, who I didn’t stop to photograph, but soon I was nearing the other side of the field, and still no sign of the stones.

DSCN0099

Finally I came to the edge and found the spot on the map where the first stone was supposed to be. It was a lot smaller than I had expected, and down in a dip from where the field itself is. However I have heard this does often happen, over the many years of soil build up, especially in this type of situation, stones can become buried several feet down, and also, from the look of this particular stone, quite a considerable amount of erosion has occurred too.

DSCN0103

Panning out a little, it can be seen how much further down the path is, and how high this ancient hedgerow has grown. It is also worth noting that the orange colour on the stone is also on the nearby tree, but not on the other trees in the line, nor in fact on any of the other trees surrounding the field. I’m not sure of the name of this type of lichen, but I was told it is caused by iron. Wales has a lot of Iron in the soil, sometimes more close to the surface, but this is obviously an isolated point of heavy iron deposit, just in the area of the stone.

DSCN0104

The barbed wire was very frustrating. There was no way I could get any closer to the stone itself, it was contained in a tunnel of barbed wire, fenced off from both sides. I walked further up the field to see if perhaps there was a stile or some way of crossing the fence, but unfortunately not. So I decided to try and get around the other side, into the field behind which contained the second stone.

DSCN0107b

This proved to be more difficult that I thought, but I found a vandalised part of the fence, and noted it for a future expedition. However the second stone on the map, was in the field, not along the fence, this would be much easier to find later in the year, or early in the Spring before the grasses had grown so high. And with the onset of a huge rumble of thunder, I decided against further vandalisation to the farmer’s boundaries.

DSCN0112

I did find it interesting though, that both the sheep and the local children seem to be trying to keep the stones accessible by breaching the fences, even though neither parties are likely to know the stones are there at all. Perhaps there is a natural energy path that draws us all along certain routes?

DSCN0116

Sitting back on one of the benches in the recreation ground, I pondered this for a while, as I admired the huge oaks that lined the path to the stones. From a historical point of view, and from a simple geographic point too, this does seem to be the natural route up onto the mountain. Now it has been fenced off but I’m quite sure in the past it was the main route up to the ancient villages on the mountain.

 

The first steps

The Green Lane

 

The first steps on my way to walking in Wales, concerned taking a small trip around my new home, finding out which paths on the map were really navigable on the ground. And gathering the things needed to begin on my path.

DSCN0008

My over-riding aim is to visit as many local sites of ancient historic significance as I am able to. To document their positions on a map, to construct an interesting and hopefully easy to follow walk for each one, and to photograph the sites themselves. Observe any things that may occur, and possibly gather some local insights or historical comments on each site.

DSCN0015

Arriving at the start of the green lane, smiles on my face at such a delightful walk in store. On the map, the lane seemed to be blocked in one part,  so I was not at all sure if I would have to retrace my steps. However I enjoyed the wonderful wilderness of nature that had built up over hundreds of years on this very old green lane.

DSCN0017

Trees piled up on the thick dry-stone walls. Ancient oaks twisting and stretching up to the sky, clothed in moss and lichen. Bright holly leaves and various woodland herbs kept the journey full of interest.

DSCN0018

Was this the home of a squirrel? or perhaps an owl? I was not sure, but the clinging ivy and the rugged bark certainly made for an impressive home, whomever it may belong to.

DSCN0029

The path became narrower and narrower, and I began to fear that it would peter out altogether.

DSCN0020

Then suddenly I came to a little bridge, over the stream that had been running and babbling next to the path for some time.

DSCN0023

After crossing the bridge the walk changed completely, I found myself near to a housing estate, and the road widened and opened up. Smiling that I had got through as I had hoped, I said hello to the pigs who were happily enjoying their muddy homes.

DSCN0027

And continued on my way, the road opening more and more until finally all wildness had gone, and I was walking along a normal street. At the end of which, was the main A-road through to Neath. Across this main road, was the next part of my journey, onward and up the mountain.

DSCN0037

Crossing the road I saw a beautiful view, typical Welsh fields, edged with low dry stone walls, and stately cloud-shaped Oaks.

DSCN0039

However, without water or food, I did not want to continue my journey up into the barren mountain and over the top,  I had ascertained if the lane went right through, and that was all that was needed for this first short walk. Stopping to greet Anuwn, the blackbird, I then turned back toward home.

DSCN0045

One more look up onto the mountain before I left, anticipating the walk to come with a little trepidation, but a great deal more excitement.

DSCN0041

I did not return home through the lane, but decided to walk into Rhos and see if I could locate the park, then followed the road back toward Pontardawe, turning off to Alltwen and walking through the street once more.

DSCN0053

Catching lovely glimpses of the green and pleasant hills around Pontardawe, I was soon back home and eagerly planning the next phase of the trip to the Cairns on the top of Mynnydd Marchywel.

DSCN0054

 

Walking in Wales