THE WELSH LANDSCAPE

THE WELSH LANDSCAPE ESPECIALLY CEREDIGION

These are photographs of old Wild Wales. They show the landscape as explored by occasional travellers and survived by farmers and shepherds, throughout the decades, against harsh winters, poor communications and other hardship. The new Wild Wales is a much different place. Roads have been re-graded and properly surfaced and widened thus improving communication and transport.

I moved to this area in 1982 when I was 13 years old. Before I had lived in Leicestershire and even as a young child I would venture out to the quietest and greenest parts of the village where I lived. I have always loved walking and exploring those off-the-beaten-track places. So many places, of great natural beauty, have become seasonal communities, busy and paths well worn. For me, I seek not the hill top with sweeping view but the ditches and reed bed marshes and swamps, unfriendly to the unprepared walker but abundant in wildlife and rich in photographic subject matter.

These photographs are divided into numerous categories other than physical geography.

They include images taken along the two rivers that flow into Aberystywth, The Ystwyth and the Rheidol and then follow tributries, stream and road, from these well loved rivers. Some of my favourite places are the gravel pits and ox-bow lakes along the river Rheidol; These low lying areas where ivy entwine trees. These are floodplains and only after a short burst of rain do the banks of the Rheidol burst. These wetland areas after heavy rain become soil sodden and trees sway from the swell of the river. Amidst this stretch of river are ox-bow lakes and gravel pits all helping to form unfriendly walking ground, one can feel the earth squelch underfoot.

The river Ystwyth flows from Cwmystwyth (and then the mountain road to Elan Valley and Rhayader), high in the hills. Up here there is a place called Hafod. It is here, in the former mansion estate, that I have lived since 1989. I consider it to be the border between the countryside and highland. Hafod is open to the public (the mansion long demolished) but there are many pathways that run through the (once great hardwood) forests. It was here that I lived with my family when I first began photographing. And it was from my bedroom window, the view, adjacent across the valley, where many of these photographs were taken. The plateau called Cefn Coch has been and has remained so, my favourite place in the whole of Wales. It is here I return to time and time again, seeking the exposed roots and fallen trees felled during the World Wars. It is a special place and without fail, no matter the weather or indeed the mood I myself may be in, has its own atmosphere and ambience. I do not wish to sound sentimental or over spiritual but it is here that I feel most at home.

My weekends are spent exploring various places: Teifi Pools, the Arch and its forests, the Drovers road through past Cwmystwyth (up and over the dirt track wends and spirals, as far as Nant Rhys house). Windfarms now scatter the hilltops, seemingly random in their location on the horizon. If invisible in the mist a ‘swoosh’ of a turbine blade can be eerily heard piercing the air.

Just beyond Cwmystwyth stands the majestic ruins and grey slag heaps of the Cwmystwyth lead mines. Driving by one sees the deep seams and caverns, collapsed buildings and the veins and scars of well trodden workings.

Over the mountain road from Cwmsywtyth and to Cwm Elan. I have spent many a fine day exploring the hills at the Elan Valley. Usually the only companions are the permanent residents, the scattered flocks of sheep who graze the year round. On quiet mornings the only sound that can be heard are the birds and the soft waters lapping up against the banks of the reservoirs. The paths and tracks from these mountain roads lead to the fields, hills, mines and though farmed, worked and well trodden, feel as if I am the first to walk them. If early enough, you meet many a startled rabbit or a grunting badger, annoyed at having to change his route.