Sunday, April 03, 2016

Heading for the hills

Observant readers of this blog may have noticed that, since our flying visit back in January, there has been no mention of Scotland in my posts. Normally at this time of year we would be well ensconced in the far North, celebrating not only Easter but also my birthday and our wedding anniversary during our stay. This year, however, we are tied to Wales by the impending construction of a conservatory, for which we need to be at home, but haven’t yet got a start date.

Of course it was lovely to celebrate Easter at the village church for the first time in a number of years, but the really big bonus was that it meant DS and Grandson#3 were able to spend Easter with us and give the new house their seal of approval. They arrived in glorious sunshine on Good Friday and luckily saw the garden and the river at their best, before the weekend’s rain and wind arrived to keep us trapped indoors for the next two days.

Not that the weather stopped us enjoying ourselves. We ate well, talked a lot and played endless card games, but it made a pleasant change to wake on Easter Monday morning to no rain and a clearing sky. On the spur of the moment DS asked if they could stay for an extra day, so to celebrate this we decided to go for a drive after lunch to show Grandson#3 some of the places his father knew as a child.

DS’s instinct is always to head for the hills and he had an ultimate destination in mind. My instinct is to visit places of interest en route, so DH took us by winding and scenic minor roads to one of these, a fascinating group of remains of a once thriving local industry – lead-mining.

Bryntail is very much the best-preserved lead-mining site in the area and gives a clear idea of what this industry once entailed. It has the added attraction of being situated in a steep-sided river valley directly below the enormous dam which helps to control the water level of a major tributary of the River Severn and mitigate the Severn’s once devastating tendency to flood the small towns downstream.

After a very interesting wander round the ruins, we went back to the car and drove to the viewpoint above the dam. This offers not only wonderful views over the lake and the lead mine remains below the dam, but also one of the stunning panoramas which are such a feature of this glorious corner of Wales.

From here we drove along the lake and through the forest which borders it until we came out onto the main road again at the far end of the lake. Soon after we turned off onto a minor road which leads up over the Cambrian Mountains towards the coast. We drove uphill past Dylife, once the site of a thriving lead-mining village, onto the high plateau and into a different world.
Here, at more than 1500 feet, the weekend’s rain had fallen as snow, and though it was beginning to melt in the afternoon sun, there was still enough to transform the landscape and enable DS and his son to have a very enjoyable snowball fight. After that the two of them headed down the track to DS’s ultimate destination, the Glaslyn nature reserve.

This is a area DS hiked and visited with his friends as a teenager, and though the going was very wet, they followed the track past the lake and up to the viewpoint, from which they had a panoramic view north-west as far as Snowdonia, more than 40 miles away. When they finally rejoined us at the car nearly two hours later, they were tired, happy and had extremely wet feet, despite wearing stout walking shoes.

Now that Grandson#3 is nearly a teenager, I foresee more visits during which DS will take him out onto the hills, just as our son-in-law does with our other two grandsons when they visit. All of them love hiking and hill-walking and there are plenty of wild, unspoiled places here to explore. Sadly my ageing knees mean that I can only accompany them over rough ground in spirit, but it’s enough to know that our love for the wonderful Mid-Wales countryside is being handed down to the next generation.

Sunday, March 27, 2016


He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

I wish you all a very happy and blessed Easter.

Image:  ‘Noli me tangere’ by Giotto di Bondone  Cappella Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua, circa 1304-06.

Words: Edmond Budry (1854-1932)
Music: Maccabeus (adapted from the oratorio by Georg Friedrich Handel, 1685-1759)

Friday, March 25, 2016

A green hill far away

Image: Crucifixion by Edward Vardanian ( born 1953 in Artashat, Armenia and moved to the USA in 1992.)

Words: Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895)        Music: Horsley  (William Horsley, 1774-1858)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

We apologise…

…for this unplanned break in transmission.  Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.  

When I first started coughing during my trip to Belgium, I could never have dreamt it would take me so long to get over the chest infection which had hit me.  But all things come to those who wait and thankfully I’m now well again at last and trying hard to catch up with all the things I should have been doing during the past few weeks.

One big task which I’ve now started to tackle is to unpack and sort the boxes of books which I accumulated during the almost thirty years of my active ministry, many of which I no longer use and for which in any case we simply don’t have space. Some I will keep, some I will offer to colleagues if they want them, and the rest will go to a charity which supplies books to theological students overseas who cannot afford to buy the books they need.

So far I’ve emptied and sorted some twenty boxes of books and am now taking a break, as DS and Grandson#3 are coming to spend the Easter weekend with us, as our poor daughter-in-law is going to be very busy at work. Once Easter is over I’ll make a start on the long-delayed posts about my trip before tackling even one more box of books – I promise.

In the meantime I’m crossing fingers and toes that the weather forecasters have got it wrong. After a nicely dry fortnight, they are promising rain for the Easter weekend - a typical British bank holiday, in other words. I think our recently-neglected stock of board games may come in handy once again…

Images via Google

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Serendipity is a wonderful thing

Forty-four years ago this summer, almost entirely by chance, DH and I made a move which would change our lives forever. He was close to completing his professional training and was looking for his first qualified post and I had finally decided that I wasn’t cut out to be a teacher (my first choice of profession) and would become a librarian instead.

Our children were still very young, but it wouldn’t be too long before DS would be old enough to go to school and we wanted to be settled before this important stage was reached. So in the winter of 1972, I began to apply to library schools and DH began to apply for posts in the areas in which those library schools were located. I was lucky enough to receive several offers of places and we waited anxiously to see if and where DH would be fortunate enough to be offered a job.

Two of the library school places were in cities: Liverpool, in the north-west of England, not very far from where I was born and had grown up and Newcastle upon Tyne in the north-east, where DH had spent his childhood. The third was in Wales, just outside Aberystwyth – terra incognita for both of us. Indeed my first ever visit to Wales was for the interview for my library school place – arriving on the milk train from Shrewsbury.

Despite my tiredness and the tension of the forthcoming interview I can still remember how bowled-over I was by the beauty of the landscape through which the train travelled between Shrewsbury and Aberystwyth and also how impressed I was by the brand-new college of librarianship at which I was interviewed. Now the question of where DH would be offered a job acquired a new urgency for me, as yet again I had fallen in love with a place at first sight, though this time it was a landscape, rather than a city.

To cut a long story short, DH was offered a post about 40 miles from my library school (but what a commute!) and in the summer of 1972 we moved to Wales. After a very demanding but happy year at library school, I was offered my first professional post in the same local authority area as DH and we moved across the Cambrian Mountains to put down roots in the quiet, beautiful and unspoiled part of Mid-Wales where we still live.

It may have been a lucky chance which brought us to Wales, but it will always be home to us now.  Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus! Happy Saint David’s Day to you all.