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Feature

Y Filltir Sgwâr/The Square Mile

10 Feb 2024 5 minute read
Cwm Ffrwd
Photo:Tom Maloney

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.

The Song Of The Ffrwd

Abersychan, The British, Talywain and the Varteg, each place name conjures an image in my mind now. It wasn’t always so. In beginning this little series my thoughts turned to the nature of life itself. How many lives do we have? Sometimes I think we all have more lives than we care to remember.

When I stopped to think about how long I have lived in Abersychan and added up the years I came to realise that I have spent a third of my life living here in two separate spells of time, you might even say two different lives. When I first came here I lived on Ffrwd Road.

Although I remember liking the name and its lovely sound, I really had no idea about how special it was.

Cwm Ffrwd Waterfall
Photo: Tom Maloney

I am in my second Abersychan life now and perhaps getting older brings with it greater appreciation of things that really matter. The rugged and yet enchanting surrounding landscape has a grasp on me, it compels me to walk, to photograph, to draw, to wonder as I wander and to embrace the beautiful language that is Welsh.

I am fascinated by Welsh place names. Ffrwd is such a lovely Welsh word for a fast flowing stream, but locally it is also used as a name.

The tail end of the Ffrwd can be found at the top of Ffrwd Road just before it joins the Afon Llwyd, but the real story is hidden away, only a short way, but hidden nevertheless.

Path at Can Ffrwd
Photo: Tom Maloney

Often, I approach my walks at Cwm Ffrwd from a little lane that is almost tucked away behind Talywain Rugby Club. Mood of place and light go hand in hand and I remember well the very first time I walked this track.

In the golden light the lane was just like a scene from a landscape painting by Van Gogh, but there was something else, the resonating sound of water.

You can hear the voice of The Ffrwd long before you see it, especially in the winter. Its song is bright, clear and strong, reminding you that Nature has power.

As I have come to know, along this path my expectations for what I will see are heightened because of the volume of the stream and I am never disappointed.

Cwm Ffrwd Woodland and Colliery Spoil
Photo: Tom Maloney

Emerging from this tree lined path it is not too long before you will come to small woodland.  The snaking, glittering course of the Ffrwd comes into view now. Without their summer clothes the trees are like freestanding sculptures.

Their aged, twisting limbs direct your attention to the weathered colliery spoil that lines the other side of the valley. There is beauty here, but the history that is all around asks big questions of how we use the Earth.

Wooded Valley and Colliery Spoil at Cwm Ffrwd
Photo: Tom Maloney

On a ‘Constable’ day when tempest clouds fill the sky the two contrasting sides of the story of this little valley are dramatically revealed.

When the coalmines had their day, the coal waste piled up high. Today’s steeply angled tips, where sheep will find grass on which to graze, are a just a partial reminder of this industrial past.

I wonder at the survival of the wooded slopes, was it by accident or design? I like to think that there was a hand of conservation at work because it gives me hope.

Cwm Ffrwd Tributary
Photo: Tom Maloney

An old path, along a colliery spoil ridge, takes you once again into the woodland and the legacy of industrialisation lessens to the point where everything feels like the hands of Mother Nature intended! The surprise is immense.

After periods of heavy rain, the whole landscape seems to burst into life, so many springs and tributaries now find their bubbling voice and it is truly magnificient.

Cwm Ffrwd Waterfall
Photo:Tom Maloney

All the while there is a bigger, special voice that keeps calling you, drawing you in. It is almost as if you stumble on the waterfall when you see it for the first time.

This is such a moment of magic, a magical feeling that stays with you always. In truth there is awe and wonder and it makes you feel good. Ffrwd is such a lovely Welsh word that means so much to me now.


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 days ago

‘The River’ no wonder so many popular songs are about rivers. Google offers the top 75 songs about rivers.

The Mawddach and the Wnion are fed by so many beautiful rivers and streams that my heart swells and tears flow at the thought of them all and the joy they have brought me..

Thomas Maloney
Thomas Maloney
3 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

The Mawddach and the Wnion are so beautiful. Our waterways bring so much joy.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
4 days ago

It does not do to get too deep into the spirit of the ‘river’ without confronting the harm we have allowed those in power to do to them and their changing relationship to the humans who populate their banks…

They are seen as sewers by farmers and utilities and an easy method of suicide by the distressed. The increasing numbers of deaths by drowning of our youth, untutored by parents equally ignorant and left to their own unfamiliarity and casual approach to the river’s dangerous side…

We need to urgently repair our relationship with them…

Thomas Maloney
Thomas Maloney
3 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I often think of water as the life giving blood of the Earth.

Sioned Huws
Sioned Huws
4 days ago

Lluniau hyfryd. Diolch yn fawr Tom Maloney

Thomas Maloney
Thomas Maloney
3 days ago
Reply to  Sioned Huws

Diolch yn fawr iawn. Mae’n bleser rhannu’r dirwedd hardd hon.

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