Stori’r Goedwig – Stories of the Forest: National Library of Wales

Blog – Unlocking our Sound Archive

The Unlocking our Sound Archive project took us today to Nant Flur and Bryneithinog. The light was nickel-silver, and the lichen on the massive rocks of the old dwellings was stunning. And we sat on a couple of them looking at a short rainbow on the hilltop above the forest and listened to the recording.

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‘Ty’n ‘nabod Dai Crofftau?’ (do you know Dai the crofter?). Tom Bryneithinog is hard to pin down as an old man, if you want him to talk about the forestry. He’ll tell you about hiding the sapling trees between your legs to get more money from the forestry commission, and how one farmer went to complain in Tregaron and came back paid-off with a better price, and happy to leave the hill with his family.

Dai Morgan used to tell me stories about running away with the mountain ponies when he was a young horse-boy. So near-by and yet, in another village. Dai used to point over towards the north side of the Ystwyth Valley and, conspiratorially, quietly say, ‘they’re different, those people’. North Wales, you see. They think differently. I can see it now in these crofts. They had a local perspective. And even though they were mobile – many lived away for a few years and worked in London – that was most certainly a foreign migration, reminding me of the London Kurds or Portuguese, and when they were back on their lands, it was exotic to for Nant Stallwen to marry into Llew Goch (family running the pub in Bont). 10 miles away, if that.

Another fascinating and evocative weekend was spent listening to the myths of the mountain folk of Ffair Rhos on Coflein – this is opening up a whole trail of links and research! Corpse candles and highwaymen. I never knew there were 6 fairs at Ffair Rhos through the years. Peggy Maesglas from Soar y Mynydd, over 100 horses, she had Hiraeth, boarding for school in Tregaron, so her family came.

And now, as we walk around the ancient croft ruins (yes, there were crofters in Wales, not five mile from where I live), we see trees planted – birch and beech, by the looks, at least, which are again changing the landscape and how people interat with it. ‘We carried the body of one massive man into the cemetary on our shoulders’, he recalls, ‘he was huge’. Everything is meted out in practical terms with Tom Bryneithinog. Values and prices litter his accounts of working life. ‘Ronnie John from Bont has bought the best land’ in the re-allotment after the forestry changed everything. To used to go up for the shearing to Nant Stalwen. 100 shearers, 5000 sheep (although the farmers never told us excatly how many. Someone with the flu in Nant Stallwen died of the flu because he drank cold water in the night. I was the only person to go out in the snow with the horseman postie. The brother of Dai Croftau cut his hand shearing and died from poisoning. (the doctor didn’t get there in time – Dad used to help him get there over the hill. He’d catch a horse and go up). The chapel-goers would die more than the chapel-goers. They were tricking the big king. The ones who went to chapel were hypoctrites. You shouldn’t go to chapel if you don’t live that way during the week.

Map of the Walk:

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The landscape is boggy and hard to navigate. But roads – even tracks – were less important when you consider that everybody had a horse which could graze the mountain grass. Free fast transport for everybody. And Peggy Maesglas says that the roads that the forestry brought in destroyed the communities.

The baptists sold the chapel, and the buyers came with a lorry and took it Bala!

It was a badger, it was just the Beast of Bont. But there is a big cat that lives here. Down at Capel Dewi. With a hole in it’s throat. They do say that that big cat has been round here. Only once though. They saw it down in …. They travel so fast (although not as fast as a dog). With a fox, you’ll get it with one shot. And hares. I was a big shooter. The dog-hunters are the ones to blame, pulling creatures to bits. Even farmers feel for the fox. They should ban it.