Thursday, 11 March 2010

Welsh Quilts, Empty Hills

Yesterday afternoon I walked the dogs down what had been the original farm track 150 or so years ago. It is quite steep and a deep gully with wooded banks on either side, leading to a little, mossy, concrete footbridge over the Siedi, our small river. In the past there must have been a ford giving access to the farm from the road, which is still several hundred yards walk up another steep bank. The farm must have been quite isolated when considering the distance from the road. Now with the 'new' driveway which was opened up about 150 years ago in completely the opposite direction to the old track, we are about 1/4 mile from the road and have a pretty little stone bridge over a small stream before we get onto the tarmac lane leading to the main road, and not really isolated at all, though many of our holiday makers think the farm is very remote which always makes us smile.  Compared with a number of places we know, our farm is almost too near habitation.

The Farmer & I were in Lampeter again yesterday and visited a fascinating exhibition at the Jen Jones Welsh Quilt Centre (http://www.jen-jones.com/) in the old town hall. A marvellous gallery has been created in the building which houses the most beautiful collection of old Welsh quilts and shawls. The work undertaken to create these items is staggering and although these quilts were made for utilitarian purposes, they have now become collectors items and an important part of Welsh cultural heritage.(http://www.welshblankets.co.uk/)
Textiles were a very important part of life in West Wales, particularly in the Teifi Valley where the river Teifi powered a great number of woollen mills. In our small village alone 300 people were employed in the mills. The woollen fabric was used to make quilts and garments and even the uniforms for the British Army at one time. Now most of the mills are either derelict or used for other purposes.


From Lampeter we had to go to Llandeilo to deliver some of the quantity of 'red tape' paperwork to the necessary offices. (We should not complain too much...its the red tape that pays us to farm as we do, though we would farm organically anyway). Driving over the hills we were amazed to see that there is still a lot of snow lying on the Breacon Beacons and  in pockets on hillsides a little nearer home. The countryside was looking very beautiful with clear blue skies and the sun shining but very cold. The land is looking bleached by the cold with grass flattened by the snow and all colour faded to shades of cream and grey. Apart from the dark green of the conifer plantations, the uplands are looking very bleak and lonely. All the sheep have been taken down off the hills for lambing and the only signs of life were the occasional red kite or buzzard wheeling around in the sky or a small flock of crows flapping like black rags against the blue.

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