Tuesday, 13 April 2010
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See that track? Try and peer through the trees. Is this the way to Narnia? A mysterious glade perhaps, shrouded with myth and legend?
I used to live there when I was a kid, from about 1983 to 1997. Down there is Felin Fforest, a small house by a derelict mill in a forest, as the name explains perfectly if you understand a bit of Welsh. The mill was pretty much a pile of stones, but I found a stone that had 'J. Owen, 1905' engraved on it. Whoever J. Owen was, he had the same initial and surname as my mum.
When I was a little kid, Felin Fforest was the best place in the universe. No end of adventures could be had here.
In the seemingly endless woods, one could build swings and eco-friendly model villages out of twigs and moss, although the sheep will invariably eat the village and it's villagers, creating Sheepzilla mayhem.
The stream beneath the bridge you're standing on is the Pibwr, a tributary of the Cothi river so insignificant that most maps don't bother to show it. This is a stream you can swim in, jump in, race sticks in, wee in, do whatever little boys want to do when they see a river.
Behind the house beyond these trees, the hills are absolutely flawless sledging surfaces in the unfailingly snowy winters and in summer they provide no end of opportunity for wargames and hide and seek.
Felin Fforest was a self-contained utopia for a 10 year old boy and his mates.
However, for a teenager it was not so idyllic. I desperately wanted to be playing and hearing new music, meeting girls, finding out about the world and this was not the place to be doing any of that. All there was were sheep, trees, water, moss. I couldn't wait to get out and seek my fortune in a properly concreted over place. Like everyone I knew, I passed my driving test at the first possible moment and bought a cheap car to escape to the bright lights of Carmarthen - a forty minute drive away - whenever I wished to. The urban, golden paved potential of Swansea was the stuff of dreams, a Shangri-La impossible to hold in one's imagination...
Well, not quite. Looking at it now though, I'm more inclined to side with the 10 year old me than the 16 year old me. Now I live in a city, can see and do whatever I like whenever I like, I'd quite like to go back to Felin Fforest and build a model village and wait 'til the sheep come and unleash a ruminant apocalypse. It beats litter and queuing and dust and black bogeys.
As I'm sure those very same sheep would tell us, the grass is always greener wherever and whenever we are not.
Do feel free to explore using the quite remarkable Google street view thingy. Brechfa is about a mile up the road to the South West. If you fancy a pint or a bit of mountain biking, Abergorlech, three miles in the opposite direction, is the place for you. Alternatively, you could look for Gwernogle and Llanfihangel-Rhos-Y-Corn to the north for some really wild living. (I had a friend up there who's track to the house from the tiny road was about two miles in length). Hwyl!