Wild Wales, by George Borrow

Chapter 87

Start for Plynlimmon — Plynlimmon’s Celebrity — Troed Rhiw Goch.

THE morning of the fifth of November looked rather threatening. As, however, it did not rain, I determined to set off for Plynlimmon, and, returning at night to the inn, resume my journey to the south on the following day. On looking into a pocket almanac I found it was Sunday. This very much disconcerted me, and I thought at first of giving up my expedition. Eventually, however, I determined to go, for I reflected that I should be doing no harm, and that I might acknowledge the sacredness of the day by attending morning service at the little Church of England chapel which lay in my way.

The mountain of Plynlimmon to which I was bound is the third in Wales for altitude, being only inferior to Snowdon and Cadair Idris. Its proper name is Pum, or Pump, Lumon, signifying the five points, because towards the upper part it is divided into five hills or points. Plynlimmon is a celebrated hill on many accounts. It has been the scene of many remarkable events. In the tenth century a dreadful battle was fought on one of its spurs between the Danes and the Welsh, in which the former sustained a bloody overthrow; and in 1401 a conflict took place in one of its valleys between the Welsh, under Glendower, and the Flemings of Pembrokeshire, who, exasperated at having their homesteads plundered and burned by the chieftain who was the mortal enemy of their race, assembled in considerable numbers and drove Glendower and his forces before them to Plynlimmon, where, the Welshmen standing at bay, a contest ensued, in which, though eventually worsted, the Flemings were at one time all but victorious. What, however, has more than anything else contributed to the celebrity of the hill is the circumstance of its giving birth to three rivers, the first of which, the Severn, is the principal stream in Britain; the second, the Wye, the most lovely river, probably, which the world can boast of; and the third, the Rheidol, entitled to high honour from its boldness and impetuosity, and the remarkable banks between which it flows in its very short course, for there are scarcely twenty miles between the ffynnon or source of the Rheidol and the aber or place where it disembogues itself into the sea.

I started about ten o’clock on my expedition, after making, of course, a very hearty breakfast. Scarcely had I crossed the Devil’s Bridge when a shower of hail and rain came on. As, however, it came down nearly perpendicularly, I put up my umbrella and laughed. The shower pelted away till I had nearly reached Spytty Cynwyl, when it suddenly left off and the day became tolerably fine. On arriving at the Spytty, I was sorry to find that there would be no service till three in the afternoon. As waiting till that time was out of the question, I pushed forward on my expedition. Leaving Pont Erwyd at some distance on my left, I went duly north till I came to a place amongst hills where the road was crossed by an angry-looking rivulet, the same, I believe which enters the Rheidol near Pont Erwyd, and which is called the Castle River. I was just going to pull off my boots and stockings in order to wade through, when I perceived a pole and a rail laid over the stream at little distance above where I was. This rustic bridge enabled me to cross without running the danger of getting a regular sousing, for these mountain streams, even when not reaching so high as the knee, occasionally sweep the wader off his legs, as I know by my own experience. From a lad whom I presently met I learned that the place where I crossed the water was called Troed rhiw goch, or the Foot of the Red Slope.

About twenty minutes’ walk from hence brought me to Castell Dyffryn, an inn about six miles distant from the Devil’s Bridge, and situated near a spur of the Plynlimmon range. Here I engaged a man to show me the sources of the rivers and the other wonders of the mountain. He was a tall, athletic fellow, dressed in brown coat, round buff hat, corduroy trousers, linen leggings and highlows, and, though a Cumro, had much more the appearance of a native of Tipperary than a Welshman. He was a kind of shepherd to the people of the house, who, like many others in South Wales, followed farming and inn-keeping at the same time.


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