• Anastacia Ackers

Walking the Land

Two weeks ago, before the latest full lockdown hit, the incredible Luisa Citra and I set off on a walk to begin mapping some of the landscape that this project will focus on. Luisa, one of Outside Lives core volunteers and resident of Gwernymynydd, is currently in the third year of her degree and her knowledge on all things botanical is really quite spectacular.

We started at The Swan, Gwernymynydd which felt incredibly surreal given that its doors were shut due to the current restrictions here in Wales. At some point during this project, we hope to be inside there chatting to the staff and regulars, but that wasn't possible that day so onwards we strode up the hill. Opposite where The Rainbow pub used to be is where the old chapel once stood and some of the building markers are still there. As the land hasn't been disturbed in a while, it has been reclaimed by nature and is now a small wildflower area that I imagine is also inhabited by the odd hedgehog or mouse. She pointed out Old Man's Beard, and we marvelled at its appearance. We also spotted quite a nice crop of Marjoram which is one of my favourite herbs and on a post outside, someone had placed pictures of what the area used to look like.

Over and down the hill we continued, and as we took the turning towards Deborahs Well, our conversation turned to the Big Cat sightings on Hafod Moor that have been talked about for years. There have been many witnesses to such a cat, and the manner in which some smaller animals have been found dead points to a much larger predator. Rumours of big cat sightings can be found all over Wales, and my thought has always been that in our abundant country of green land, caves and streams, we would be the perfect habitat for the animals released when the Dangerous Animals Act of 1976 came into play.

Deborahs Well itself is nestled in woodland to the right hand side of the road approaching Gwernaffield from Cadole and is accessed by a small gate next to the turn off for the Colomendy Arms. There was once a bench next to the stone marker, and also a plaque that told the story of Deborah but both of these things are no longer there. Are there any readers who may know why these items have been removed? Are they being repaired or have they been removed permanently?

In this area also is the stone markers of what was once a driveway, and Luisa's incredible knowledge came into play again when she pointed out the decorative trees that would have been planted to line the drive. Along this journey, accompanied by someone with such a knowledge of plants and trees, opened my eyes to things I wouldn't necessarily have considered before. Nature as a form of mapping is no new thing, and would have been how our ancestors navigated the land, but in these days of buildings and phones, I have been guilty of overlooking this method of travelling. What can we learn from our hedgerows and trees that can point to the history of where we live?

I also know that nestled within our communities are the guardians of our memories, those who we know can always regale us with a tale or two about our local area and whose knowledge knows no bounds. Think for a moment - when reading the above, who sprang to mind? This project is community driven, and we will follow the paths pointed to us by those who wish to share their knowledge with us so if you know of someone you think would be incredible for us to talk to then please let us know! Again, if you have heard of the big cat tales, or have memories of the areas we have spoken about here then please get in contact with us on the contact page.

This evening, Monday 21st Dec, we'll be hosting a FREE virtual event. 'A Sip of History'. We'll look at some of the history of our area and learn more about what stories you'd like to hear told! Head to the What's On Page to reserve your spot- limited places available!

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