Gareth Jones

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Gareth Jones

MOTORISTS have all heard of the outlook from Snowdon, of the commanding view near Plynlimon, of the road across the Black Mountain, and of that gap between the Brecon Beacons.

But who has ever heard of the glories of Pencrugmelyn? Unwept, unhonoured and unsung, this hill, which commands one of the finest views in Great Britain, deserves a hymn of praise.

Hidden away modesty from the motorist and unmarked by the track of any vehicle save the old-fashioned farmer’s cart, it provides inspiration for the poet, a problem for the adventurer in search of road labyrinths, a geography lesson for the student and a puzzle for the most skilled of map readers.

I did not think as I set out from Carmarthen to go to Brechfa in the Cothi Valley that I should come upon a view which has impressed me as much as any in Wales. I turned off the Carmarthen-Lampeter road to the right before coming to Rhyd-ar-gaeau. It was a sturdy, weather-beaten Carmarthenshire farmer who put me on the track as I stopped to ask him about the crops and about livestock prices.

Pointing with his rough stick towards some mounds on a hill a few miles away, he said: “If you are going to Brechfa you must not forget to go to Pencrugmelyn, where you can see five counties and look North, South, East, and West and know what beauty is.” Near the mountain, he said, once lived John Evans, the poet, a very learned man who sang penillion and planted trees on the top of the hill. Further and higher I went in search of Pencrugmelyn, which was not even marked upon the four miles to an inch Ordnance Survey map I had. I sped along twisting roads, lined at intervals with piles of dry heather, past white-washed cottages, with that cleanliness for which Carmarthenshire is famed. Before long patches of gorse appeared, but the bloom had long gone, for it was the first day of August. Then the heather became thicker and thicker.

What a medley of colours that road presented, with the hills blue in the distance, with splashes of red flowers, with a chessboard of yellow cornfields and green pastures on the upper slopes of the Towy to the south, and with the jet black hue of several large crows which scattered at the passing of the car!

The search for Pencrugmelyn gave the journey that spice of adventure and joy of discovery which are lacking when one scorches along main roads. Twisting lanes go left and right until one is bewildered. Taking a wrong road I found myself descending towards the Towy and stopped near a ripe wheatfield where a laughing girl, with hair the colour of the corn, and a farmer’s boy were setting up the wheat sheaves.

They told me that the tricky lanes had led me astray and that I should have to turn to go to the evasive Pencrugmelyn. But my wrong turning was not in vain, for the fair-haired Carmarthenshire lassie told me of their only wheatfield. “ We keep the wheat for our own use and take it to be ground in the mill in the valley. We make our own bread, and it’s the best bread in the world.”

In a farm beyond Plas, called Brynmelyn, I asked Mr. Richards, the farmer, the way, and he pointed to the mound on the hill. “That is Pencrugmelyn,” he said. “We are all ‘melyns’ here. There is my farm Brynmelyn, and there is also Clynmelyn. The word comes from the colour ‘yellow’ and not from the word ‘mill.’”

He pointed out with his sickle the strange mounds called “Crugiau” in Welsh. “Near that mound,” he told me, “there was a cave, where a savage old man lived some years ago. He used to steal food from the farms and then creep back to his cave to dwell.”

He directed me to turn to the right half a mile further and follow for some hundreds of yards a mountain pathway. Carrying out his instructions, I arrived near the ridge, where there were two mounds, and left the car, to walk through a field on to the top. The view was superb.

A circle of mountains stretched in all directions. Indeed, five counties were to be seen—Breconshire, Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire, Pembrokeshire, and Glamorgan. The Prescelly Mountains, although not more than 1,760 feet high, looked like veritable giants, for they were silhouetted against the west, where the sun was approaching. The Black Mountains had a bluish haze.

It was a South Wales view, for there was little of that North Wales ruggedness which, however awe-inspiring, is sometimes hard and lonely. There was a wealth of verdure from the Towy and Teifi directions. What could that castle be towering in the south-east towards the Towy? It was Carreg Cennen, which never looks more imposing than when seen at a distance from Pencrugmelyn.

Such was the panorama from this undiscovered  viewpoint of Wales. One could sit for months there and hardly see a human being, except those who care for the cattle. The road leading to the small ridge was covered with grass and showed no tracks except horses’ hooves and cart-ruts.

The climax to the ride is to descend through Horeb and to alight at Brechfa, nestling in the Cothi Valley, rich in legend and song.

And if one has been on top of Pencrugmelyn, then one can recline and rest in pride at a great discovery.

 August 4th, 1933.

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