Nigel Slater's in Wales! Or has been. And I'm not sure how far west he penetrated but I'm looking forward to seeing his discoveries when the new series starts.
|And up I go...|
I've been in Wales myself, with rather less fanfare, but probably an equal amount of passion and interest as I trekked up and down hillsides following in the imagined footsteps of some of my great grandmothers. I'm yet to find a map of mid 18th century Carmarthenshire so I can't be sure of the route Anne Protheroe took from her father's farm at Bron y Gaer, in the parish of Meidrim, to her new husband's farm, Plas Issa, in the neighbouring, and southern, parish of Llangynog. I am sure that some of the lanes might still wind around the same bends although the main Carmarthen to St Clears road, the A40(T) and the railway have irrevocably changed the landscape since that day in February 1769.
Did she walk or travel in a cart? Did she take more than her clothes, her personal possessions? Did her father gift her a cow, some chickens, a horse, a sheep? From the few traces of births, deaths and marriages in the parish records I've assembled a family portrait, glued together with some educated guesses, that shows her mother already dead, a few days after giving birth to a baby girl in 1752, an elder sister already married, and the baby long dead too, buried in 1756. Did she carry something of her mother's? I'd like to think she did, a prayer book, a piece of lace, something of her that she could take into her own life as a soon to be mother.
|Stone barn/house at Bron y Gaer, Meidrim|
At Bron y Gaer there's an old stone building still standing, used as a storehouse and barn, next to a much later build with a bright cream render. Could this be the original farmhouse, its outside steps leading to living accommodation on the first floor over the animals? Or do I just want this to be the case, to be able to touch the stone her skirts would have brushed? As if my skin might absorb some of her story.
I stayed at Sarnau Mansion, a peaceful and welcoming gem of a Georgian country house, ideally placed for a circular walk to Bron y Gaer, beginning and ending at the Fox & Hounds Inn at nearby Bancyfelin. A half pint of Guinness there at midday was my reward for a two and half hour trek and, with hindsight, I probably should have remained for lunch (the pan fried salmon with fresh mint was calling to me from the specials blackboard) and ignored the salty crumbs and greasy smudge or two on the coffee table in the bar where I'd installed myself. But it was early. I'd only cleared a plate of double fried egg on hot buttered toast at 8.30 and I was bound to find somewhere else relatively close-by, wasn't I? Um, no.
|Wern Inn, Llangynog|
Do not believe those big blue tankards on OS maps that promise food and drink. The one stamped on the outskirts of Llangynog is the sad and bitter ruin of The Wern Inn. The more promising signs I kept seeing for The Farmer's Arms at Llanybri led me to a fractured conversation through a window with two Thai women. It was closed. They opened at 4. But no food was served on Mondays. And then I found Florrie's at the beach in Llansteffan.
|Fish cake and chips and the Tywi Estuary|
Oh bliss. And to make things even more blissful there was tea and coffee and walnut cake at the nearby beach shop and tea room. I swear I have never tasted cake so light. Angel fingers at work there. Or angel food-processors.
My 3 x great grandmother, Anna Morris, granddaughter of Anne Protheroe, and born at Plas Issa in 1811, moved to Llansteffan with her second husband around 1878. I do not know yet what brought her here. I doubt it was chips and cake. But maybe the sea had something to do with it. The breeze rushes inland smelling of salt. You have to eat your chips quickly here.
Hungry Writing Prompt
Write about moving to a new town.