It was Tuesday, 5th April, 2016. Brother-in-law Terry chose the day for us to go to Wolverhampton to visit him and sister-in-law June. He could not have picked a more perfect one!
We started out from Pontrhydfendigaid at 8:30 a.m., and chose the route via the ancient drovers’ road (which later became a coaching-route) between Cwmystwyth (in the old Hafod Estate lands) and Rhayader.
That old road takes some beating for scenery: the deep Ystwyth Valley down to our right and past the remains of the centuries old lead mines.
The Ystwyth is my favourite river, and its source is right on the top of the Cambrian Mountains, just after one crosses the boundary into Radnorshire.
On that narrow road, we had a close encounter of the unnecessary kind with a woman driving in the middle of it, going too fast, and not noticing us and braking until we had stopped and were reversing! Nuff sed.
As we came down towards Rhayader, there was one of my favourite views: looking down the lower land, smooth green fields, and a large lake. By that time, we’d settled into “look at that” mode.
Rhayader, with its clock-tower dominating its crossroads, is a very old town. Many of the buildings are pre-20th Century. It has a comfy feel to it.
Leaving the town, we headed for Knighton. Having left the mountains behind, we drove between rolling fields with their Spring lambs bounding about. Though all the lambs we’ve seen this year seem to be a few weeks later arriving than last year. Farmers know what they’re doing.
And, suddenly it seemed, we were seeing lots and lots of Spring flowers. Daffodils were in abundance everywhere: in hedges near houses, at crossroads – and even little clumps of two or three seemingly away from every human habitation. Commemorating something, perhaps?
Lots of celandine to be seen, too, and large patches of primroses at the side of our road. And there was mile after mile of “bread-and-cheese” leaves on the well-trimmed hedges.
The views, near or far, were lovely. To see such beauty stirred the soul and gave one hope. Winter, we felt, had gone away at last (though one never knows in these strange-weather-days . . . ).
Through Knighton, then soon it seemed we were near the English border just after a farm called “Heartsease” – named after a wild flower, I’ll be bound. Then we were crossing a little bit of Herefordshire. We could see the Clee Hills of Shropshire in the distance through the clear air. Soon, we were crossing the Southern part of that county – and Rosie noticed a fair bit of mistletoe in the trees! She’s a keen botanist and had never seen so much in one area before.
With those rolling green meadows with lots of little lambs all round us, we headed for Ludlow. Though I’ve driven our route many times, I relied on my navigator to ensure that I took no wrong turnings.
We turned off the main Ludlow road just before we reached the town, crossing the local race-course, heading now for Bridgnorth. That’s a town I remember well from my younger days. My Mom and Dad took me there on bus-rides on several occasions. We would sit in a field on the bank of the River Severn and I often got my shoes and socks wet by trying to paddle in its waters.
Passing Bridgnorth, we drove towards Wolverhampton along a road that Rosie and I have known since our courting days. Many’s the time we would take a bus out to one of the little hamlets like Shipley and Worfield along there and strolled a while between the fields between which we were now driving.
There are Garden Centres along that road, too, and we visited them after we were wed to buy a few plants to brighten the garden of our new home in Wednesfield. Memories, memories!
Soon, we were at sister-in-law June’s home, where she and brother-in-law Terry gave us a warm greeting. I have no siblings and, as an only child, feel happy that the Burford family make me feel part of them.
Our nine-year-old niece, Kaydee, was there, and she’s taken to me because I act daft. She loves our dog, Bess, too. She tried to get me to use her skipping rope – no good. So we played heading with a nice, soft ball instead. It’s lovely to see kids growing up with self-confidence – our great-grand-daughter, Gracie, is the same. It’s all down to loving parenting.
Too soon, it seemed, it was time to head home. We said our goodbyes, and took a different route to Pontrhydfendigaid. This was via the M54 to Telford and Shrewsbury, then heading for the Welsh border and Welshpool. (Shhhh – my navigator slipped up at one of the traffic-islands and we nearly ended up in North Wales . . . )
As we came to the border, I remembered how I’d walked from my old street in Wolverhampton all the way to Aberystwyth, ten miles a day, to raise funds for – and awareness of – The Samaritans. Then we were near Breidden Mountain, which we could see from Shrewsbury, and knew it to be just over the border in Wales. At Middletown, where one crosses into Wales, I pointed out (as I do every time we drive this way) the camp-site where I spent one night on that walk in my tiny, portable tent.
Then into Wales – and the scenery changed to show more and more hills. Through a few small villages and onto the Welshpool bypass, whereon the old railway station is situated. Again through small hamlets and villages, we followed the old branch of the Shropshire Union Canal which took Welsh goods from Newtown to the markets in England for decades – until the railway came. Then, the canals became redundant as shipping routes. And now, I suppose, the big lorries on our roads take freight once take by rail. And so the life of one-time “remote” rural areas changes, and is still changing.
We got through to usual bottleneck of Newtown without any real delays, then on towards Llanidloes. “Lani” as it’s known locally is a neat little old-fashioned-looking town. We may visit the town itself later this Summer, but used its bypass this time. Then, with bigger and bigger hills and mountains in our view, on to Llangurig.
That little village – though it’s bigger now than when I first knew it in the 1950s – is named for Saint Curig, an Irish missionary who walked across the mountains from Cardigan Bay preaching “the word” as he did so. Llangurig has a few “Arts-and-Crafts” style buildings, one of them a pub, which reflect bygone times. But why such seemingly posh buildings in what would have been, when they were built, a remote area? There are a couple of buildings in that style as one leaves the village and heads for the Plynlimmon Pass.
We crossed into Old Cardiganshire at Eisteddfa Gurig – when the old lad had a sit down as he got to the top of the pass on his walk. From there, almost imperceptible at first, we headed downwards – and there I enjoyed another favourite view of mine looking Westward from the bendy bits of the Pass. The far-famed Elvis Rock is still being looked after by person of persons unknown, though there’s no real trace of The Glansevern Arms, a stopping of point for coaches heading to and from Aberystwyth.
Then, happy to be back in our own beautiful county, we were at the building which was once The Dyffryn Castell pub, and turned off – over The Splash (now a little bridge) near the old lead-mines. Again, it was a case of “Where every aspect pleases . . . “. We were soon in Devil’s Bridge and on the familiar roads to our home. And the third of my favourite views hove into view as we came down into dear old Bont from Ffair Rhos. That scene across our village rooftops and across the Tregaron Bog has many happy associations for me.
Then we were home – and have many, many grand memories of the whole journey.