Monday, 31 October 2016

Gwaith 10: Sites and Drama (9 Oct 2016)

Helo Pawb (Everyone)

As hinted at in my last post, my instincts told me to look to the land southwards of Bryn Celli Ddu for the setting of my protagonist’s village. The Explorer Map showed something called Caer Lêb, situated not far from Afon Braint. I decided to check it out.

After locating the site and its parking, I chatted for a few minutes with two men loading a trench digger onto a trailer. I told them I was exploring ancient sites and one of them noted how you could throw a stone anywhere on Anglesey and hit one. He also told me of a nearby farm that had a standing stone and the remains of two stone huts in its fields.

But first, Caer Lêb, which means Leaven Castle. The site is a low-lying enclosure defined by double banks and marshy ditches. Excavations revealed three stone-built circular huts, one of them having a flagged floor and a fireplace.
Display board at the site
View of ditch and embankment
View of the enclosure itself
The pentagon nature of the enclosure reminded me of Din Lligwy’s shape, though on a bigger scale, and confirmed, for me at least, the likely sacred nature of the number five for the builders of both sites. However, the location is a little too boggy for what I had in mind for my story, so I went looking for the stone huts I was told about.

The official trail signs were a little vague, but I eventually found the remains, in a field in which a herd of Welsh Blacks was grazing. Disappointingly, much of the stone from the huts must have been used for local fences or houses, as there wasn’t much left. After taking a photo of the nearest of the two, I started towards the other one, when the herd moved en mass towards me. Thus began one of the scariest moments of my life as I wondered if they were going to trample me for invading their space.
The first stone hut fragments, with the second one in the distance to the left
The herd of Welsh Blacks noticing me
The Welsh Blacks crowding me as I sat in the stone hut circle. The nearest own to the camera, yellow tag number 34, seemed to be the ringleader. The one in the lower left corner, half out of shot, was snuffling my backpack
I edged back to the first stone hut and sat down in the middle, thinking that the rocky terrain would make it difficult for the cattle to maintain their footing if they decided to rush me. For ten minutes or more, I watched them crowd around me, snorting, bellowing, and pushing at each other to get to the front. I talked to them quietly and made sure I didn’t make any sudden movements.

Eventually, I knew I should try to leave and see what happens. I stood up slowly and gently and strolled as nonchalantly as I could towards the gate. I could feel them following me, but resisted the impulse to see how many were there and what their mood was like. After I made it through the gate, with the whole herd gathered around it, relief flooded me and I was surprised at how calm I had been throughout the whole ordeal. Were they annoyed at me or just inquisitive? I don’t know. Still, the presence of so much horned muscle isn’t something I wish to experience again.

The Welsh Blacks milling around the gate after I went through
Ten Minutes
Hemmed in by 20 or more snuffling, bellowing Welsh Blacks
Bullocking each other to sniff my foodless backpack and me,
I sit on the stone hut fragments I had come to explore…
Talk softly. Don’t shake. Wait. Don’t run. Don’t look back.

After my pulse settled down, I wandered the farm tracks until I found the standing stone. Luckily, no Welsh Blacks grazed in that field.
Interesting shape, with one side flat and facing north
The interesting shape and texture of the stone
The upshot of this particular location scouting is that I will place my protagonist’s village near the site of the old stone huts, which is close to Afon Braint and only a short distance from Bryn Celli Ddu. I may even use the standing stone, though I’m not sure how as yet. As for Welsh Blacks, even though they are descended from pre-Roman cattle, if I feature any cattle in my story it will likely be the Celtic Shorthorn, which is now extinct.

As always, I welcome your comments and I wish you adventurous days, though hopefully not as drama-filled as this one was for me.

Cofion Cynnes (Warm Regards)



Nadine Cresswell-Myatt said...

That would have been really terrifying.

Lyn Mitchell said...

What an adventure. Trying to finish a Critical Thinking Essay and recover from bad back and some cold cough bug seems as far away from your world as I could think.I know I've achieved so much this year. Only 4 subjects but what subjects. My youngest(39 years) is so impressed. RWC,Remix,Intro Media and Crit Thinking. Boy did they ever rock my learning ability. But I've learned so much. Even fitted in a poetry workshop with some guy! Actually Earl I did another one session one on image poetry. Tearing stuff out of magazines and compiling what ended up being pretty magical stuff. Just one more exam and this year is over. 3hr one though.
Your book is going to be great, not sure about the ability to pronounce some of the names and language in general. The countryside is just beautiful and I envy your ability to still manage the activity you manage.
When I was 18, I escaped from my hell of an abused child the first time. Dad had been particularly fearful that week and it was either run or be black and blue. I still hear the ring of mum's voice 'run Lynette, run'. So I stayed at a friends place for a week and then had to return home as I was then working as a steno at an insurance place. Down the road from the office was a wool merchant (Eagle Street Brisbane) so I enquired about governessing. It was not long before I was on my way to Amor a large, but in 1964 very poor sheep station. To cut what is a very interesting part of my life to a few sentences, I too had a moment with beef - only mine was with a raging bull. (Good name for a movie). And my safety net a large tree. I wandered into the home paddock for no reason. Pretty empty but the bull appeared and incredibly just like a spanish movie, stamped his foot and mooooooddd.Young I was but old enough to know I should move quickly. I remember hiding behind the tree for a bit and knew it was going to attack, so ran like the blazes. And yes my heart was pounding also. That was 52 years ago but I remember it clearly, the paddock and the tree as if yesterday was a moment ago.
I cant write poetry like you, but I wanted to share with you.

Bull with a horn I can see you now
Feared but loved for you keep my memory
alive in my mind
Keep the joy, the sheep ruts, the pushing of mulga
Keep the bath in a inch of water and willy willy
before the storm of buderigars fly overhead
The sound of the mailman and days of shoot the roo
for its tail was magic for the dogs all in view
Long gone in my journey of life you and I
dear bull with a horn, still live in that paddock
with the tree and the fear but with much ahead
I look back and see clear.

Peter Farrar said...

Nice one Earl, although my guess is that they were just curious. Unless one of them had said 'bloody tourists'and that got them started. Part of the adventure no doubt, all you'd ever run into in Melbourne would be magpies. I remember crossing a paddock years ago and about three cows hurried over to me and I thought I was in trouble. All they did was just walk with me like an escort. if I stopped they stopped. If I waited they started grazing around me. When I left they watched as if wanting me to come back. Most times I don't believe animals mean any harm but you could encounter a protective male or perhaps one that has been mistreated. So of course you can never be sure. Hope the work otherwise continues. Off to Sydney in a couple of days....Peter

Declan Foley said...

If ever you stumble into a similar situation, sing to the cattle. This will soothe them

Earl Livings said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments.
Nadine: The experience was terrifying, though maybe I had misread curiosity for anger on their part.
Lyn: What a workload you have going with the studies. I hope it all goes well. I'm glad to hear how much you enjoyed your image poetry efforts. As for your bull expereince, that must have been terrifying, though I love how you've used it in the poem by reframing it as a positive because it keeps your memory alive. The descriptions of mulga and bath water are evocative. Best of luck with the rest of the studies.
Peter: yes, they probably were just a wee bit curious, though Australian magpies are truly savage creatures when protecting their young. Sounds like your cows were being friendly and including you in the herd. All the best with the Sydney trip. What do you think of the First Test?
Declan: what a great idea about singing to the cattle, though I hope I don't stumble into such a scenario again.