Follow me on a circuitous journey. A Winter’s Tale for this, thus far, mainly non-wintry season.
The sun rose, the forecast was for skies of winter blue…… a heavy frost on the largely mossy croquet lawn meant that the early ash pan emptying onto the long border left a strangely angled foot-printed path pressed into the frozen moss sponge…
So desperate for a break from inside work and relentless rain, we downed tools and did what all sane folk would do…
For the coast.
At this point I shall preface with some images from our previous trip on a similarly lovely day in early October, since it missed the cut for blog inclusion at the time, and seems to complement our recent trip…
On that occasion we’d made for Poppit Sands, and after picking up stone ground flour from the gorgeous water mill at St.Dogmaels for my bread making, we reached the sands at nearly low tide. This allowed a good mile’s walk across patterned fine sand, formed at the mouth of the Teifi estuary. Click here for photographer Michael Jackson’s inspiration and award winning photos taken over many years of visiting and photographing these ever changing sand forms.
Retracing our steps we picked up fish and chips in St. Dogmaels and then took the minor road towards Moylegrove, looking for a suitable spot to eat our supper as the sun fell lower…This section of the coast is spectacular at any time. But sitting atop an actually dry, grass topped drystone wall in early October beside a spectacularly located burial ground overlooking these scenes as the sun sank beyond the Preseli mountains was magical. The lyrics familiar to any hobbit fans, from Annie Lennox’s Oscar winning song ‘Into the West’, from the film ‘The Return of The King’, drifted into mind :
And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water
All souls pass …
Click here for a You Tube of the song, if you need reminding of how beautiful it is…
But this early January Saturday we headed a little further South to the picturesque village of Newport, Pembrokeshire. After a fantastic simple lunch at the tiny Lou Lou cafe, we crossed the estuary to reach the sands of Parrog Beach. Part of our motivation for heading here was to see if there was any interesting debris left from vicious storms, high spring tides and torrential rain which had lashed the Welsh and South coasts of England 2 days earlier. For overseas readers’ information, the conditions were so severe that widespread alerts were issued in all media to stay away from the coastline, so dangerous were the seas and waves. Clickhere for a selection of images of just how bad it was…
There was indeed still evidence of the storm’s force – much washed up seaweed, shells and behind the gentle beach the whole vertical10 foot high bank of marram grass and sand dune limiting the sea’s inland progress looked freshly clogged with thrown up grey sandy debris from the beach…We weren’t though alone in our beach combing …A solitary small bird accompanied us for part of our walk, darting in bursts through the shallow waves spilling up the beach…Later identified as a Sanderling, (I think), I found a pleasing poem from the C19th of that title, although the poet seems to interchange Sanderling and Sandpiper in his verse…
THE LITTLE BEACH SANDERLING
BY the beach border, where the breeze
Comes freighted from the briny seas,
By sandy bar and weedy rock,
I frequent meet thy roving flock;
Now hovering o’er the bending sedge,
Now gather’d at the ocean edge;
Probing the sands for shrimps and shells,
Or worms marine in hidden cells,
A restless and inconstant band,
Forever flitting o’er the sand.
Sandpiper!—haunting every shore
Where’er the waves of ocean roar;
Old voyagers that roam the deep
Tell that your dusky pinions sweep
O’er the remotest islands set
In ocean’s emerald coronet.
Far where Siberian coasts extend,
Far where Australian borders trend,
Far up the icy Labrador,
Far where the Mexic billows pour,
Are seen thy pinions, roving bird !
Thy melancholy note is heard.
But as we walked the shore’s margin intently, heads down, something strange caught my eye, turning gently as the spent waves moved it up and down over the sand. Beneath just an inch of bubble topped wave I wasn’t sure what it was until I plucked it from the sea…
But then it became clear. A pretty small bulb with shoots perhaps an inch an a half long, and a cluster of tangled roots growing from the base plate of this thumb nail sized whitish pearl.
Was it a snowdrop? A genuine Welsh snowdrop? Was it still alive? Where had it come from?
Well nearly 3 weeks on, after a good rinsing and soaking in spring water at home it is definitely still in the land of the living…The emerging leaves have developed with a kink, and I suspect that no flower will emerge to confirm whether it’s a snowdrop (at least not this year). It could even be a small Narcissus. I shall report in due course when we have confirmation.
But crossing a deep cut stream on the Northern side of the beach, reached via the coastal path between wind hewn blackthorn…it seems highly likely that it was dislodged from a bank side growing place in the hinterland hills and then hurried downstream by the deluge driven spate…
… ‘Into The West’ …
This was going to be the end of this little story, apart from recording that after following the great suggestion from Carolyn in a comment on my last post, I did indeed post a question on the Scottish Rock Garden Club Galanthophile forum. “Did anyone know of any genuine Welsh origin snowdrops?”. You can click here for the link. It seems that apart from a couple of cultivars ‘Megan’ and ‘Corrin’ bred by Bob and Rannveig Wallis of ‘Buried Treasure’ near Carmarthen, (but derived from seed from their G. ‘Trym’ which in turn originated in a garden near Bristol) and named for their daughter and grand daughter, there maybe aren’t any available snowdrop cultivars with a definite Welsh provenance.
This seems strange since the Welsh language, itself a very ancient language, apparently has 5 different words for ‘snowdrop’, implying a historical cultural awareness and affection for this ‘little white lily’ (Lili Wen Fach), Eirlys, Blodyn yr Eira, Cloch maban as captured in the old Welsh folk rhyme…
O Lili wen fach, o ble daethost di,
A’r gwynt mor arw ac mor oer ei gri?
Sut y mentraist di allan drwy’r eira i gyd?
Nid oes flodyn bach arall i’w weld yn y byd!
Ond mae gennyt fantell dros dy wisg wen,
Ar ffordd fwyaf dengar o blygu dy ben.
Nid oes eira na gwynt, nid oes dewin na gwrach,
All fentro gwneud niwed ir lili wen fach.
Oh Little White Lily, from where did you come?
With the wind so wild and with such a cold cry
However did you manage to climb out through all that snow?
There is no other little flower to be seen anywhere.
But you still have a cape over your white robe,
At the most charming of bending your head.
There is no snow or wind, no wizard or witch,
All risk making damage to the snowdrop.
I’m grateful for 2 links here which illustrate a problem for a non Welsh speaker in trying to research such issues… Verse 1 and the translation above for it which reads well in English is from a blog by Rhodri Brady.Click here for the link.
I’d been hoping to find a You Tube of the poem being read in Welsh, to capture the rhyme and mood of all those unfamiliar consonant filled words, but could only find a rendition recorded in a moving car, filmed from the front seat, which I passed up.
Surely there must be some recordings from the Urdd Eisteddfod? This is a huge budget annual Welsh language youth culture event for Wales held at a different venue in a different county each year in multiple marquees, when the performing arts including singing and poetry recital in Welsh are showcased in, I believe, a competitive format. (Click here for more – and it seems that some of the translation here into English has gone a bit awry ?)
But I did find a link from a school in Cardiff, (click here) which gives a second verse to the original single verse poem which I found on Rhodri’s blog. I think that this Cardiff link is for the purpose of competing in the, ( or another school based?), Eisteddfod yr Urdd. But there’s no translation into English of the poem, so I had to resort to a Google translation which clearly trashed the true meaning of this second verse, if you refer to the poor English phraseology above.
‘A Winter’s tale’ finally changed my blog post title when I discovered last night that this is the title of a poem by Dylan Thomas. Regular readers will know that having now moved into 2014, we’re in the centenary year of the birth of probably the most internationally famous Welsh poet. Thank goodness that there are recordings of Dylan Thomas reading many of his works. I was riveted as I listened to the power of his spell-weaving words and delivery in capturing the landscape, harshness and emotions of a Carmarthenshire winter from the mid C20th – not this sorry, sodden contemporary one.
He apparently said elsewhere that:
” words are the most important things to me …. There they were, seemingly lifeless, made only of black and white, but out of them came love and terror and pity and pain. Out of them came the grunts and hiccups and heehaws of the common fun of the earth.”
A reviewer, (Christopher White), of the original recording of this “A Winter’s Tale” poem wrote that …
” Here Thomas, the author, puts the English language through its paces, creating word images that bring us to the cold countryside, ably abetted by Thomas, the performer, whose deep and sonorous reading might bring to mind the likes of Sirs Guinness and Olivier at their best .”
Do please follow this link (click here) for a real treat of auditory and emotional experience.
“Time sings through the intricately dead snow drop. Listen.”
For 2014 our garden at Gelli Uchaf will open through the year from February to the end of August when we’re around, by appointment, for charity under the National Gardens Scheme. Please see the ‘Visiting the Garden’ page for details.