Blwyddyn Newydd Dda, if it's still acceptable?
This time last week it was last year, so it's still not too late to wish you a most Happy New Year, I hope. The photo isn't one of my best but it's an important one as it's the first walk of 2022. Taken at dusk in Penderyn, Rhondda Cynon Taf where I'd just dropped my husband and son off for a tour of the whisky distillery there ( and yes, they did buy another bottle!) I just walked away from the car and kept going until it got dark. The wonder of the random, one of the great pleasures in life I feel. It was New Year's Day and dry.
At first I walked through a lovely wood next to the river, I think it would be classed as a 'temperate rainforest' with ferns and thick moss growing everywhere on the ground and even from the trees. I came to a junction and crossed the river on a wooden bridge, up a charming lane flanked by old cottages and barns and back to the main road. I crossed it and made my way up hill on Church Lane, passing a handful of modern houses, then came fields and tumbled walls. The sky was that strange washed out orange/ pink of midwinter. I thought of going back but was disappointed to miss the church. I passed an arched doorway - a converted chapel, perhaps? A dog barked at me from inside. I carried on, just one more corner. Over to the right a classic grey farmhouse drizzled smoke. Then, suddenly a small Georgian manor house surrounded by handsome trees and the church, it's square, squat tower arresting against the darkening sky. What a find! The churchyard was oval with fields surrounding it and a view right across the valley. I opened the gate to St Cynog's, stopped. In Welsh and English a sign told me the church was now closed, 'awaiting a decision on its future'. It felt personal, a twist of loss in the gut.
I walked around the building, reading the gravestones. Many of them were in Welsh, even those of some of the rectors and some from the 80s and even into the 21st century. The tower appeared ancient and there were lovely stained glass windows on all sides. To top it all there was a pub, Y Llew Coch. I went in, looking for information about the church. It was busy and cosy and the landlord met me at the door ( Covid!). No, there was no leaflet as such but he would be happy to tell me what he knew.
Outside we pulled off our masks and he spent a good 15 minutes with me, greeting his customers on their way through the front door. He was very well informed, his wife's family having owned the lovely little pub for years ( or was it generations?). Some mystery surrounded the church in that many burials were of people from far out in west Wales with no apparent connection to the church or the area during their lifetime. The local history society was investigating.
By now the smell from the mobile stone baked pizza van in the inn's car park was starting to become distracting and I realised that my two charges would be ready for a lift home and something to eat. If only the church had still been open, there would have been a small piece of paradise on that hill.