It was on Sunday, 15th August, when we took our trip. The weather was fine-ish, and we went via Aberystwyth and up to Machynlleth. Mach is a splendid wee town, and so I went for one at the toilets in the car-park and it cost me 20 pee to go in!
The broad main street emphasises the importance of the place in former times. The crossing of the Dyfi was bridged on the orders of the English King, Henry the Eighth, and the bridge still stands a little way outside the town. The last true Prince of Wales, Owain Glyndwr, had his Parliament building here, which still stands and is used as the town’s Museum and Tourist Information Centre. The centuries-old market still continues: every Wednesday, all year round.
Rosie and I had a weekly stall at that market when we first came to Wales and were trying to find ways of making a living. We were successful market-traders – but Machynlleth in the Winter is a dreadful place for storm-winds!
Having availed myself of Machynlleth’s facilities (did I mention it cost 20p.?) we drove Eastwards along the main street, turning right at the bottom, going past the hospital and across the Golf Course. The scenery had been grand all the way so far, but it was to become lovelier and more stunning as we climbed up into this part of the Cambrian Mountains.
It had been a couple of decades and more since we’d travelled this winding way. As usual, we pointed out familiar places to each other. The views are indescribably wonderful – but there was more to come.
Dylife was a mining centre in its heyday: a thousand and more men were employed here doing graft harder than we can imagine. Their families were often with them, and the subsistence wages just about kept the workers and their loved ones alive. But families survived as families do, despite poor food and various nasty illnesses.
The mining industry in these parts simply dwindled to nothing. Dylife is no more than . . . well a hamlet would be too big a word, perhaps. The two Non-Conformist chapels have been converted into homes, and very tastefully, too. And the tiny parish-church no longer stands.
The church was knocked down for safety reasons, and its little graveyard on the sloping ground is no longer used – though the tombstones still tell their story.
The Star Inn, just off the main lane through Dylife, still thrives – obviously, the tourist-trade keeps it open. It must have been a busy place with a thousand thirsts to quench! We promised ourselves a visit to The Star for a meal at . . . sometime . . .
Last time I was here was with my pal, Don Parker – the first man to grow bananas in Mid-Wales . . . Don professes to being a witch, and we used to chat for hours about strange happenings and folklore. When he and I visited Dylife way back then, there was a sign hanging near the defunct mine-workings. It depicted a skull encased in a cage. A peculiar tale is associated with that picture: the skull and cage were found on the mine site last century and the item resides in the British Muse
Sion y Gof – the blacksmith – worked at the mines. He was a bit of a drunk and not a very nice man. He murdered his wife and two little children most horribly, throwing them – still alive – down one of the mine-shafts where they lingered for a while, whimpering in the darkness, before they died.
Sion was found guilty and was hanged – head encased in the wrought-iron cage – on the top of Crocbren Hill above the mines. You can look up his story online.
The trip so far had been terrific, but there was more enjoyment to come. And that I really will record in this blog soon. Watch this Space.