It was like driving through a cuddly green eiderdown, Midsummer’s leaves all about us. We were taking advantage of this fine sunny day to visit the place where, I believe, my great-great-grandfather, Richard Llowarch, spent his young days.
He it was who’d moved from The Marches to Wolverhampton back in the 1840s, an economic-migrant who made good in that then-thriving industrial town.
His “home-town” of Llanfyllin in Montgomeryshire is still a small town. It’s barely bigger than the village in Old Cardiganshire where we’ve lived for more than three decades. But it was given its town-charter in the reign of Henry V and became a market-town. The markets are still held.
It’s claimed that Charles I stayed in the town in 1644 (before he was beheaded!) on his way to the castle at Chirk. And a chap called John Drummond, an ambassador of James II to the then Pope, hid from the Roundheads in a house here.
The whole of that day – Monday, 25th June, 2012 – has really stuck in my mind. Llanfyllin’s people are proud of their town and its history. There are several blue-plaques telling the history of the place.
There are buildings still proudly standing from the 17- and 18-hundreds – fine, big houses which show the wealth that must have been there when Richard Llowarch knew the area. I – well, Rosie, too – “felt” the past strongly as we strolled along the main streets and explored little side roads.
Though once a centre of a Welsh-speaking community, there is little trace of the language there now. It seems that, as in many parts of rural Wales, English settlers have changed all that. They do not necessarily do it on purpose, but communication between neighbours is essential in creating a strong community.
We wondered what it “felt” like back in the old coaching days when it was a port of call on the Shrewsbury to Bala road. There are half-a-dozen inns there which recall those days. And what was it like when it had its own railway station before the rotten – and mainly unnecessary – Beeching Axe?
We knew before we left Llanfyllin that we would return, if only to see the Holy Well where Myllin, who became a Christian saint though was probably the “conversion” of a pagan water-spirit, is said to have baptised locals into the Catholic church.
It was a beautiful drive home through the lanes to Newtown, then tracing our usual return route via Llanidloes, Llangurig, The Plynlimmon Pass and Pontarfynach. A beautiful drive, a beautiful day, a beautiful experience and a beautiful privilege to live in this special and still-magical land of Wales.