We walked, Rosie and Bess and me, along a familiar route between the lane from Ystrad Meurig to Swyddffynnon towards Ty’n-y-Craig. It is part of the former railway-line between Aberystwyth and Carmarthen, closed by a Tory government in 1965.
Various bodies, some of them official, have made much of the old line into a long-distance footpath. It has a good surface for walkers or, in our case, strollers and, having once been plied by steam-trains, has no heavy gradients. It’s now called The Ystwyth Trail – even though much of it is in the TeifiValley!
The old line passed through some of the loveliest and varied countryside in Wales.
Each time we walk on that trail, my mind insists that I feel for the past. Images come into my head of the hard-slogging navvies who built the railway here, of the men who toiled to keep it in good order, of the engine-drivers and their firemen who sweated and sometimes froze on their journeys from the sea-coast to that large inland town and beyond.
“How did they cope with their lives?” my brain asks me. “What did they keep in that now-ruined lineside shed?” “Will their efforts be remembered and understood by those who do not and will not remember when Britain had a proper rail-infrastructure?”
The history of “The Old Carmarthen Line” will be read by a few, a very few, enthusiasts. But in the main there will be neither interest nor understanding by the motor-vehicled and iPod carrying future generations.
Look at that crumbled old wall over there! It was once part of a smallholding created by the Welsh “Ty Unnos” law. Its inhabitants lived, loved and laughed there as they eked out a mere existence. Their descendants, perhaps, still live in these parts: in warmer, drier, more pleasant houses with proper plumbing and electricity.
The pangs of nostalgia well up in me. I am a victim of the past; of my own past and of the past of those whose areas I visit. It is not an easy burden to carry.
But, if we forget our past, we cannot understand our present and plan for our future.
(There is a poem at the end of My Autobiography on this blog. It’s called “Where Are They Now?” and sums up much of my feelings as a victim of the past.)