Sunday, 23 October 2016

Gwaith 8: Din Lligwy (8 Oct 2016)

Helo Pawb (Everyone)

Given my early arrival at Ty Dderw, I decided to go for a walk. As I was leaving Corris three before, one of the villagers had said that Ynys Môn (Anglesey) had its own microclimate, which certainly proved to be the case. In Corris, the blackberries had vanished, but as I walked down the long pathway from the hotel to the road, the hedge on both sides was filled with blackberries. I gorged myself on them as I turned up the road towards by destination.

Blackberries, ripe and ripening, in the hedge near Ty Dderw
One of the reasons I chose Ty Dderw for my stay, apart from the evocative name (which means Oak House), was its close proximity to Din Lligwy, the Roman-British farmstead I intend to use as a model for a village in my novel and which I wrote about last year. My intention this time, as with other sites I am revisiting during this trip to Britain, was to check out how the place looked and felt in a different season.

Part of the farmstead ruins, with late winter trees (taken in 2015)

Similar shot of the ruins, showing early autumn sycamore, ash and beech (2016)

When I was last at the site, I discovered that one of the buildings was used as a smithy. I found this discovery exciting, because my main character was the son of a blacksmith and I have come to feel blessed by such synchronicities. When I checked out the hut, I liked the fact that you stepped into it as if stepping into the Otherworld, a place of the gods. This discovery also felt appropriate to the world of my story. (Further research revealed that two of the rectangular dwellings on the site had evidence of smelting. It seems that, in imitation of Roman architecture, the rectangular buildings were used for workshops and animals, while the roundhouses were dwellings, a Celtic preference.)

Plan of Din Lligwy (source)
The entrance into the main smithy (top right hand corner of the above diagram)
The remains of a possible forge near the entrance

However, when I arrived at the site this time, I looked closely at some of the display boards nearby and became somewhat confused. The artist’s impression of the smithy itself shows it as a half-open building, with the forge itself in the open air, though other diagrams show fully enclosed buildings.

Display board at the site
Artist impression of Din Lligwy (source
Another artist impression, from a different direction--same as diagram above (source
From my experiences with The Blacksmith’s Barn at the Cooper’s Settlement and the Celtic Forge (which I wrote about here), I know which version is the more likely. The forge would be in a building with very little light, so the blacksmith can see the colours of the flames and the metal. The error in the artist impression isn’t really much of a problem, but it does highlight that even cultural preservation organisations can get it wrong occasionally. Either that, or the artwork was the equivalent of a ‘cut-away’ drawing, but this had not been made obvious enough.

What the artist got right was the depiction of bloomeries, which are used in the smelting of iron. It appears that archaeologists had found evidence of bloom—porous masses of iron and slag—and the artist had worked this into the painting. One bloomery is in operation (note the bellows at the bottom), while the other one is being 'harvested'. I had known about their part in Iron Age blacksmithing, but had not thought they would have been used in a small settlement on Ynys Môn. The realisation that this was not the case should help me enrich the setting and characterisation in the early part of the novel.

Detail, showing the bloomeries
A bloomery in operation. The bloom will eventually be drawn out of the bottom hole. (Source)    
After I had spent time wandering around the farmstead taking photos, measuring the width of stone walls, and making notes of trees and plants, I started back to Ty Dderw, but not before stopping off at the Neolithic Lligwy Burial Chamber to pay my respects to the ancestors of those who founded the farmstead. I sat inside the tomb for a long while to reflect on my intentions for the novel and to absorb the silence, which, unlike last year, no RAF fighter jets disturbed.
Robin singing as night approaches 
Artist impression of original tomb and mound
The massive capstone over the tomb
Sunset over Moelfre, the coastal village near Ty Dderw
That’s it for now. As always, I welcome any comments.

Cofion Cynnes (Warm Regards)



Hannercymraes said...

Fascinating. I'm enjoying seeing your photos Earl.

Earl Livings said...

Thanks, Liz. I hope your new project is bubbling along nicely.

Kurtis Sunday said...

eBook: Memory of Fire

The following might be of interest:

Free ebook version (PDF, epub and mobi) of Memory of Fire is now available at

Book description:
Memory of Fire is a collection of poems composed by Clare Maynard while traveling between Wales and Germany and in other parts of Europe over a period of ten years. The majority of the poems were written in cafés in Berlin during the winter months, drawing on past memories.
The collection captures the different atmospheres of rural and urban landscapes, evoking both myth and the historical changes experienced by those who live inside and outside of the towns and cities, also how countryside and city can represent transient and static cultures, some of them remaining unchanged throughout the years.


Nadine Cresswell-Myatt said...

How enriching this must be for you and your novel.

Earl Livings said...

Hi Nadine, This travelling research is goving me plenty of material for the novel and is certainly enriching my soul. Of course, all I have to do now is writer the novel so I have an excuse to come back in the future to promote it. :)