Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Cyfaredd 20: Research on Ynys Môn: Day Three

Haia Pawb

This was my last complete day on Ynys Môn and it featured a mix of research and social activities.

The first thing I did was visit Oriel Ynys Môn, the museum and arts centre located in Llangefni. I had come to see the History Gallery, which gives an introduction to the island’s past through sound, imagery, reconstructions and real artefacts, including replicas of the finds from Llyn Cerrig Bach. After my conversations with Eflyn about her father’s discovery of these Iron Age artefacts and my visit to the site (during my previous trip to Ynys Môn), I wanted to see them myself, even if only replicas, the originals currently being held in St Fagan’s National Museum in Cardiff.

Replica of slave chain found at Llyn Cerrig Bach
Iron age artefacts
The History Gallery also contained finds and information about other aspects of Ynys Môn history and pre-history, including the Battle for Ynys Môn during the Roman invasion of the island circa 60AD.

Artist rendition of the battle
The exhibit for this battle included an audio of a translation of the report by the Roman historian Tacitus:

Along the shore stood the enemy in a close-packed array of armed men interspersed with women dressed like Furies in funeral black, with streaming hair and brandishing torches. Round about were the Druids, their hands raised to heaven, pouring out dire curses. The Roman troops were so struck with dismay at this weird sight that they became rooted to the spot as though their limbs were paralysed and laid themselves open to wounds. Then, bolstered by the encouragements of their commander and urging one another not to be afraid of this mass of fanatical women, they advanced with their standards, cut down all they met, and enveloped them in the flames of their own torches. After this a garrison was imposed on the conquered natives, and the groves devoted to their savage rites cut down; for it was part of their religion to drench their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their gods by means of human entrails.
Tacitus Annals XIV, 29-30

I then drove to Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch (apparently, at 58 characters the longest place name in Europe and the second longest official one-word place name in the world) to meet my Welsh teacher Anna and her husband Steve, who just happened to be back in Wales visiting family. (Anna teaches Welsh on a Tuesday night at The Celtic Club in Melbourne.)

Station sign, with approximate pronunciation
Translation of the name
After coffee at a café, we headed off to Ynys Llanddwyn, a small tidal island located at the far end of a pleasant beach near Newborough Warren. On the way there, we stopped off in blustery, drizzly weather to see Llys Rhosyr, one of the  Llysoedd or Royal courts of Llywelyn Fawr, Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd in the 13th century. It is situated near Newborough Parish Church on the road leading to Ynys Llanddwyn.

Information board showing a reconstruction of some of the buildings on the site.
Part of the excavation.
Only a quarter of the site has been excavated at this time.
Another information board, showing the llys (court) layout

After we wandered around the site for a short while, the inhospitable weather sent us back to our car and we drove onto Ynys Llanddwyn.

The name Llanddwyn means ‘The church of St. Dwynwen’. Dwynwen is the Welsh patron saint of lovers, making her the Welsh equivalent of St. Valentine. Her feast day, 25 January, is often celebrated by the Welsh with cards and flowers. After various trials, as she tried to unite with her lover, Dwynwen retreated to the island to live the life of a hermit. There are ruins of her chapel on the island but, unfortunately, the tide was coming in after our walk along the beach and we couldn’t get to the island.

View of Ynys Llanddwyn as we walked along the beach, the drizzle having abated for a while.
The tide coming in
Close up of an outcrop near the island
Another one of my texture/colour studies
On the way back, we took one of the many paths through the sand dunes and discussed the vegetation and the birds around us. One thing I got out of the experience was the smell of gorse—like vanilla or coconut. For all my time in Wales and my interest in its flora, so I could use it in my writing, I realised I had paid more attention to the visual environment around me than to the other senses. Our conversation revealed the differences between two plants of similar colour blooms:

Gorse = a scent, yellow flowers, spikey vegetation
Broom = no scent, yellow flowers, no spikes

Gorse thicket near Aberystwyth
Gorse Inflorescence (source)
Gorse Spines (source)
Broom (source)
Broom flowers @ Ray Woods/PlantLife (source)
Afterwards, we went to The Ship Inn (formerly called Cei Bach, Little Quay and Hen Cei, Old Quay) at Red Wharf Bay for a late meal and discussions, with sampling, about whiskies and their trips to Speyside and Islay for various whiskey festivals and distilleries.

Location Map (source)
Traeth Coch (Red Beach), known in English as Red Wharf Bay (source)
The Ship Inn (source)
We then parted ways, Anna and Steve to head back to Wrexham and I drove back to the Harbour Hotel for my last night on Ynys Môn.

That’s it for now. As always, I hope you’re enjoying these posts and I welcome any comments.

Cofion Cynnes