I woke up in Dorwen Farm and looked out of the window I saw thick mist
hiding even the nearest field.
remembered the tales, told the night before by my host, of men lost upon
the mountains, of searches for days through the glens, of bodies found at
the foot of sharp crags, and I almost gave up my resolution to cross the
Black Mountains. At last, however, I overcame the temptation, but realised
that if I followed a path I should drift rapidly and find myself slipping
down some gully or merely wandering lost in wet heather.
a day when no mountain could be seen, and when only a few yards of a
mountain side was visible, the only course to take was to follow the Afon
Twrch and climb along the valley to the highest point.
farmer and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Moses, agreed that that was the oniy way
to struggle across to the Usk Valley on the other side of the ridge. They
pressed a loaf, a large cupful of butter, cheese, fruit, and hazel nuts
into my rucksack, emphatically refused any payment whatever, and in
wishing me “Good-bye” they repeated the Welsh proverb:
cwrdd dau ddyn na dau fynydd” (“ Two men will meet sooner than two
I disappeared into the mist I thought of the naturalness and warmth of
their hospitality and recalled the verse: Mae’n bwrw yng Nghwm Berwyn,
mae’r cysgod yn estyn [It
is raining in Berwyn Valley, the shadows reach out
Gwna heno fy mwthyn yn derfyn dy
daith; [We go to my cottage at
Cei fara a chawl erfyn iachusol a
chosyn, A ‘menyn
o’r enwyn ar unwaith. [You
shall have bread and healthy turnip broth with a chunk of cheese,
and fresh butter drawn from the buttermilk (immediately).]
down through patches of long grasses, through entanglements of heather
roots, down jagged rocks, I heard the sound of water below, and soon I
came to the River Twrch, to which I was to be faithful for several hours.
is a river with a personality, a real human river. It has the energy of a
Welshman, clatters down, loses its temper as it leaps over a cliff, has a
rest in a deep pool, awakens to a fit of fury and rushes through rocks,
calms itself, and flows even-tempered for some dozen yards, makes a spurt,
reposes again, but never for long, for it is rushing to be wedded to the
Tawe near Ystalyfera.
towering mountains look down upon it I cannot say, because all I could see
was a thick doud which grew thicker as I went on over rocks, waded through
the stream because I could find no path, hung on to the steep bank where
the valley became too narrow, slipped into the river across to the other
side, and back again. Never have I crossed from one county to another so
often as I crossed from Breconshire to Carmarthenshire that day by the
easy means of wading through the Twrch or of stepping across it from stone
to stone. Ffridiau Twrch I left behind me, and the gorge became narrower,
ac far as I could judge, when the mist turned into heavy rain.
tramp was hard because a sudden climb was followed by a scramble across a
slanting rock as slippery as a mahogany table and this was followed by a
trudge through a marsh which oozed and squeaked with wetness.
dripped. The long grasses, with their misty globules, dripped. The red
berries of the mountain ashes dripped. The winberry leaves dripped.
thought of the Aberystwyth College saying:
now dripping will never die.” And I myself was dripping.
gorge disappeared and the valley became wider. A few rivulets join the
Twrch here, and there is, as far as I know, a fine view of the Black
Mountains ahead. All I could see through the mist was that the river was a
little subdued and smaller and was flowing through peat-beds. It then
decided to enter a gorge. Here the mist cleared enough for me to catch a
glimpse of half a dozen wild ponies, which looked up suddenly and ran off
still I could not see the mountains, although my map told me that to the
east there were the Carnau Gwys, to the west Brest Twrch and to the north
Banau Sir Gaer and Banau Brycheiiog, where there were precipices down
which one could fall quite a long way.
decided to turn to the east and find a gap, Bwlch y Giedd, through which I
could come to Elyn y Fan Fawr. Fortunately, the mist rose and there was
the first human being I had seen during the three hours’ hard climb.
was a farmer on a grey mountain horse, and with his dogs he was driving
the sheep. He showed me the way to the gap and I tramped towards it.
Suddenly, below me, a large lake of blue appeared, with wisps of mist
dangling above it. It was Llyn y Fan Fawr. Then a rainstorm came on —I
stumbled down hill, my knees rather shaky after the climb, to the only
rock on the side of the hill.
brought out the bread and cheese and butter which Mr. and Mrs. Moses had
given me, and never had such food tasted so good, although the rain was
drenching the bread and pattering upon the butter. I had crossed the ridge
of the Black Mountains and all that remained now before coming to a warm
fire in a farm was to descend for about two hours past Llyn y Fan Fawr
until I came to the Afon Hydfer. The lake was clear, and the view of this
large patch of water beneath the cliffs was striking. Nearby the Tawe
rises and begins its race down the Swansea Valley to the coast.
descended until I came to the Afon Hydfer, the deep pools of which tempted
me to dive in and swim and hold myself beneath the splash of the
waterfalls. The heather disappeared. There were big trees and soon the
farm of Blaenau-Isaf, surrounded by magnificent larch and firs, came
into sight. I knocked at the door. I was not disappointed. There was
warmth and kindness in the welcome and the kettle was soon purring over
the fire. Again Welsh hospitality was as alive as it ever has been.
the farm I looked up into the hills. Like giants the Black Mountains
dominated the view. It was not until that moment, when I was safe and
sound in a farm in the valley, that I saw the mountains I had crossed in
is a range of hills in N, E. Wales much loved by poets and songwriters.
kindly provided by Dr. Gwynne Davies, PRO, Nottingham Welsh Society.