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Y Filltir Sgwâr/The Square Mile: The Old Farm On The Hill

24 Mar 2024 4 minute read
The Old Farm On The Hill , image by Tom Maloney

In a year long series Tom Maloney, from Abersychan, shows how you can love a place so well it becomes a part of you.

Graig Ddu, meaning Black Rock in the Welsh, could lead your imagination to think of a gloomy, dark landscape, but there is such a sense of tranquillity in this truly special place.

A walk here takes you high above the fast-flowing Ffrwd, the setting for the first article in the series ‘The Song of The Ffrwd’.

It is a favourite destination for me, much more so now because of Covid. When the restrictions were force, it gave me an incredible feeling of well being to be able to look out on the world from every direction and it still does!

Graig Ddu Rocky Outcrop, image by Tom Maloney

The most impressive rock faces are surprisingly secretive and almost hidden away from sight, but it is well worth the extra uphill walk to reach them.

Speckled with aging lichen they exude strength but there is also fragility in their structure, which has been weathered and broken by the cold, frosty hammer of Winter.

Graig Ddu Farm Landscape in Mist, image by Tom Maloney

‘Cwtched’ into this rocky landscape are the ruins of Graig Ddu Farm. There is just one wall standing today, but this one wall allows you to imagine so much, where other farm dwellings are just faint outlines now.

A discreetly placed information panel reveals a chequered history –

‘This ancient farmstead was built alongside an old Drovers Road and in its life was also used as a place of worship, a public house, a venue for bare knuckle fights and for the odd game of cards!’

Imagining the farm as it may have been

Whenever I walk along the old paths that lead to the ruins I like to imagine the life of the farm.

Sheep still graze here of course, but I think the landscape would have been alive with a cacophony of farmyard noises, with chickens, horses and perhaps the odd cow or two adding to the chorus.

The Old Pigsty, image by Tom Maloney

Keeping pigs would certainly have been part of the farming life as well and just a little way away from the farmhouse ruins there are the remaining walls of what I think must have been a pigsty.

Sadly, the walls look in danger of collapse and it will not be long before the purpose of this little structure will be difficult to read.

As I take in the life of this old farm on the hill I think about the story of farming on the Welsh hills and wonder whether its value goes under the radar of our awareness.

For me it highlights how important the work of the St. Fagans National Museum of History is in preserving the historical buildings of Wales, even buildings as lowly as a pigsty have a story to tell.

You can find out more about the historical buildings of Wales at St Fagans National Museum of History here.

A Woodland Moss Garden, image by Tom Maloney

No visit to Graig Ddu would be complete without exploring the woodland just below the farm ruins.

It is an intriguing place to walk and very different from The Lasgarn Wood which is only a short distance away.

Whether it is because they are located on different sides of the valley, or at different heights, the plant life of the woodland floor is so very different.

Here beautiful, delicate moss gardens flourish, creating soft, sculptural forms that gently wrap decaying branches and living trees seamlessly in a velvet blanket of green.

I am reminded so much of Japanese Moss gardens that challenge our perceptions of what a garden should look like.

There is charm in this simple, humble plant and perhaps in the end our challenge is to connect with Nature.

Read the earlier installments of Y Filltir Sgwâr/The Square Mile by Tom Maloney

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