to the Elan Valley Estate,
72 square miles
of the Cambrian Mountains.
This is an unspoilt area where nature thrives
alongside human endeavour.
Elan is one of the most sparsely populated areas in the UK
and also one of the wettest.
This makes it one of the best places
to see a wide diversity of native flora and fauna.
This makes it one of the worst places
to hear a wide diversity of native phrases and sayings.
It also made Elan the choice of the Victorians
to create reservoirs to collect fresh water
to supply Birmingham and mid Wales.
This has now developed into a complete
as the water being drunk in the Midlands
is returned to the land as runoff
from the thousands of incomers who kindly
piss it all back in our lay-bys and friendly visitor centre.
By protecting the water supply
and the catchment areas,
the scenery, tranquillity and wildlife have been mostly saved
from the ravages of the 20th century.
Walking, birdwatching, fly-fishing,
dogging and just taking in the fine views
and fresh air
are what visitors come to enjoy.
However, it is a fragile peace
in these times of rapid change.
Watch out for fragile pieces on the climbs
as rapids change.
The red kite has been allowed to prosper
to the extent that its population is now large enough
to hold its own devolved assembly.
The sheep, often thought to be livestock,
are in fact wild native sheep
that migrate seasonally across the uplands.
Keep an ear out
for their distinctive mating calls all year round!
The farm buildings
that stud the landscape
are in fact empty,
and are kept in an authentic state of disrepair
by a herd of retired volunteers.
and unspoilt countryside
have attracted people to the area since
the poet Shelley’s time.
Construction began on the reservoirs
in the year 82 P.S.
The Elan has been kept for quiet enjoyment.
The Elan has been kept quiet for enjoyment.
The Countryside Ranger Service
leads many walks, birdwatching safaris,
wild boar hunting expeditions,
educational school visits
and other events
throughout the year.
Do nothing to pollute the water.
No swimming, boating or camping is allowed.
Take all your litter home.
If you happen upon a native, please leave well alone
and alert the proper authorities.
Leave all plants and animals
for others to enjoy.
If you are cycling, horse-riding or on a geography day trip,
please keep strictly to the signposted
rights of way.
Please enjoy your
On 14 December 2015, I went on a fascinating journey to one of the remotest parts of Wales with two lecturers from the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, Stephen Tooth and Hywel Griffiths, and three other intrepid explorers - Dewi Roberts, Gavin Goodwin (Department of English and Creative Writing) and Tyler Keevil (Creative Writing at Gloucester University). We hopped into a minibus, braved the winter chill and headed for the mountains of mid Wales - known loosely in English as the Cambrian Mountains, or Yr Elenydd in Welsh.
The purpose of the trip was to explore opportunities for creative writing for a symposium based on art-science collaboration organised by both Stephen Tooth and Julian Ruddock (School of Art) at Aberystwyth University on 15 January 2016 - 'Strata: Art and Science Collaborations in the Anthropocene'. Issues to be explored in the symposium included the different ways in which people interpret the landscape and reflect the underlying nature of the Anthropocene - a period of gealogical time during which human activity is considered to be the dominant influence on the environment, climate and ecology of the earth. (Further, see Stephen Tooth's blog.)
I've lived in Wales all my life and travelled the country extensively, yet I'm constantly reminded of this seemingly small nation's ability to conceal its true magnitude. It took us less than an hour to reach the mountains, but it might have well been five hours away through wind and rain. We were dam-watching, following the course of the river Elan as it tumbled from reservoir to reservoir down to the lowlands and on to the river Wye.
This performance piece (one of two poems written for the symposium) was inspired by some of the tourist information boards we saw on our journey, as well as the panels that informed exhibitions at the surprisingly spacious visitor centre. These seemingly casual and informative texts offered a pleasing view of the Elan Valley that, upon closer inspection, seemed to frame man's interaction with the landscape in often vacuous or deceptive terms, both environmentally and politically. For example, the emphasis was often on the seemingly unspoilt, virginal nature of the area, a claim vigorously countered by the geographers in our group, who pointed out at every turn how man's activities had long since changed the landscape irreversibly. Large chunks of my poem - a parody of sorts on these spurious texts - were taken en masse from the information boards. Their words could easily inform dozens of poems.
The poem was read at the symposium in January, alongside poems by Hywel and Gavin and a short story by Tyler.
Clicia fan hyn i weld cerdd Gymraeg a luniwyd ar gyfer yr un achlysur.