Saturday, 29 November 2008

Walking through history

Off the beaten track . . . "part of an early trackway from the village to the Aber Cothi ford across the Tywi".

I had a late afternoon walk yesterday, being dropped off in a nearby village with ancient roots and walking a question mark shaped route back towards home, where I met up with my husband driving out to pick our son up from the school bus. It was a dull day, so photos weren't very good, but I did a lot of thinking about the past and it was a real journey back in time.

A very gloomy view looking across the Towy valley towards Dryslwyn Castle.

Looking down the Towy Valley towards Merlin's Hill.

Across the Towy Valley with Black Mountain vaguely on the left hand side. In a field just like this one, and only very vaguely visible as slight undulations beneath the grass. the "Via Julia" ran. This road ran between Carmarthen town and the Roman Fort at Dinefwr (where my daughter and I worked on a Dig some years ago), fording the Cothi below Kincoed and still remembered in the line of a farm trackway which crosses Station Road, Nantgaredig just below the school, crossing the Doctor's Surgery Car Park and then heading off across the fields towards Danyrallt. I listened for the sound of marching Roman feet, but heard only the echoes of time . . .

This curious bump on the landscape is Pen-y-cnap. The Transactions of the Carmarthen Antiquarian Society, around the time of the First World War, described it thus:

"This is a small mound castle standing about three hundred yards west of the parish church, and evidently intended to defend a ford over the neighbouring Tywi. It has a height of from 25 to 30 feet, and a summit diameter of about 50 feet. Long prior to the formation of the present plantation, the top of the mound had been a garden, but there still remain slight traces of the depression so frequently found in the centre of the summit. The encircling ditch is much filled in. Of the bank surrounding the bailey only a very faint outline exists; it seems to have measured about 200 feet in length, by 150 feet in breadth, and ended in a point. The external ditch has altogether disappeared. On the slope of the mound are slight remains of walls, of no defensive intent. The lane which skirts the south of the earthwork, between it and the river, is part of an early trackway from the village to the Aber Cothi ford across the Tywi."
An old barn at Kincoed farm, typical of many hereabouts. The two big doors were probably earlier threshing doorways, where the wind could blow the chaff from the flailed corn out over the "threshold" . . .

Past the farmyard and down the trackway towards the river.

Looking back on the tree-clad slopes.

The sun set in a wonderful lemon glow behind the fields of Cilarddu. Once there was an extensive forest here - huge maiden oaks, like the few remaining I saw in the Deer Park at Dinefwr this summer, when my daughter and I were on a Dig there. Here in 1291, Edward I:

"Granted in Cethinog, Wydigada and Elvet to Venerable Thomas (Beck), Bishop of St. Davids, rights of common in the woods, the undergrowth, oak for timber, and other trees. They may cut and carry away for their own profit as it shall seem most advantageous." John Brunker, from his booklet on Llanegwad. He adds, 'It must be kept in mind that Llanegwad had at this time a very extensive forest of Killardun (modern Cilarddu).'

The sun has gone down behind historic hills where an Iron Age Promontary Fort sat atop steep sided hills, half a mile or so from 'Bwlch yr adwy' - 'gateway gap'. Around 1100, a Norman motte and bailey with its wooden tower, was built here, controlling the valley and the main E-W routeway along what is now the busy A40.

So my walk took me through two and a half thousand years of history, from the Iron Age, and the Romans, to the rigid control of the Norman lords, and the ecclesiastical control of the countryside to the farm buildings and farmhouses of the 1700s and up to modern times. A true palimpsest of history a landscape so familiar to me.


sukipoet said...

What an amazing walk. I would love to take it myself. Though I could not pronounce most of those names. Ah, a new sense of the word "threshold" and possibly the original sense? thank you for the walk through history. Your landscape is abundant with the past.

Mam said...

Wow, thanks for the lovely walk. Now I'm ready for a cuppa coffee! I like the light. The changing shadows look lovely to me. I see that "trackway" and wonder how they manage if there is opposing traffic! Thanks for the "threshold" nugget! I never thought about it before. I love finding word origins.

Bovey Belle said...

Sukipoet - yes, the original meaning of the word threshold. We live in a house as equally historic as the landscape.

Nancy - the only "traffic" along that lane is the tractor from the farm over the top! Our lanes are single-track ones though and you have to be very good at reversing!