Saturday, 27 October 2007

Solution to the riddle

Mr Daulby has come up with his own translation (possibly with some help!) of the limerick below:

A boy who lived in Llansannan
Saw ghosts everywhere
Until one night he saw
One rise out of the ditch/dyke/trench/moat
And today he's a ghost himself!

Inspired by this, he's written another one:

There was a young man from Gwespyr
Who went ghost hunting on his Vespa
At Talacre, from the sand
Came a bony old hand
And now he's good friends with Casper!

Excellent! Kind of Scooby Doo meets the Mod Squad, what with that Vespa.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Spooky limerick

Alan Daulby came across an odd litle book that he thought might help him with his dauntless efforts to learn Welsh. It's called 'Cerddi Dwli' (which means something like 'Nonsense Verse') and is by Leslie Harries, with sketches by E. Alwyn Lloyd.
It's general style gave it the appearance of having been published at any period from the 1920s to the '50s, although a scanning of the introduction made it clear it appeared sometime post-1960.

Among the many sub-Edward Lear limericks (llimericau?) in Welsh is one about a ghost at Llansannan in Denbighshire. Here it is:

'Roedd bachgen yn byw yn Llansannan
Yn gweled ysbrydion ym mhobman;
Nes gwelodd un nos
Un yn codi o'r ffos, -
Mae e' heddiw fel ysbryd ei hunan!

Mr Lloyd's cartoon shows a classic bwbach grinning under a tree. Welsh ghosts seem to enjoy haunting the countryside more than stately homes and castles, as they do over the border. Anyone able to translate the rather old-fashioned and perhaps provinicial Welsh of Mr Harries' verse will perform a kindness by uploading it here.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

The haunted valley, Glyn Diffwys, near Corwen

Recently, I made a visit to a classic site in haunted Wales, Glyn Diffwys, just off the old A5 near the village of Llangwm. Once upon a time Glyn Diffwys was one of the most visited sites in North Wales, considered one of the highlights of any tour of this wild region in the 18th and early 19th centuries.

When George Borrow stopped here on his tour of 'Wild Wales', he described Glyn Diffwys as 'one of the wildest and most beautiful scenes imaginable'. According to a recently erected plaque, the little projection in the wall beside the road you can see in the picture is where Borrow stood to admire the view. You may be wondering what all the fuss is about. The tragedy is that the tree cover has been allowed to grow so extensively that the view that made Glyn Diffwys famous has been almost entirely obscured.

Hidden behind those trees is an old, single-arched bridge perched high over a narrow gorge through which the River Ceirw tumbles down a series of falls, overlooked by steep precipes and dramatic outcrops of rock. When I visited with my friends Stuart, Beth and Cameron McFadden, we could all hear the roaring of the falls but alas could do no more than glimpse the occasional splash of white water through the trees. The four of us even tried to make our way up through the valley, but were defeated. I'm not usually one to suggest chopping down trees, but in this case some management of the smaller trees choking up the foreground would return to view one of the most spectacular scenes in North Wales.

For a long time the view has been impossible to access because the A5 was just too busy along this stretch. Now that a new stretch of the road has been provided, this wiggly bit of Thomas Telford's road has been turned into a footpath. It's ironic that Telford incorporated viewing platforms into the road verges so that the majesty of Glyn Diffwys could be enjoyed by the visitors of his own day. It's even more ironic that Conwy Council should set up a plaque highlighting the beauty of the scene without considering that it is now obscured. I'd like to see the tree cover thinned and a foorpath created to improve access to this formerly celebrated spot.

They'd have to put up new signs warning about the ghosts, though. This is what Elias Owen had to say about Glyn Diffwys and the bridge that spans the gorge in his book 'Welsh Folklore' published in 1896:

'There is a picturesque glen between Corwen and Cerrig-y-Drudion down which rushes a mountain stream, and over this stream is a bridge, called Pont-y-Glyn. On the left hand side, a few yards from the bridge, on the Corwen side, is a yawning chasm, through which the river bounds. Here people who have travelled by night affirm that they have seen ghosts - the ghosts of those who have been murdered in this secluded glen.

'A man who is now a bailiff near Ruthin, but at the time of the appearance of the Ghost to him at Pont-y-Glyn, was a servant of Garth Meilio - states that one night, when he was returning home late from Corwen, he saw before him, seated on a heap of stones, a female dressed in Welsh costume. He wished her good night, but she returned him no answer. She, however, got up and proceeded down the road, which she filled, so great were her increased dimensions.' (p. 197)

If you're interested in ghosts, you may also like to visit my other blog

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Exploring Supernatural Wales

I've just received a new, or shortly to be published, book: 'Exploring Supernatural Wales' by Alvin Nicholas. To quote the blurb: 'The book contains information on over 40 supernatural locations in Wales. The main featured stories are accompanied by 25 walks of terror and mystery.'

No quite sure about the 'terror and mystery' (publishers are always writing blurbs that embarrass their authors, though) but Alvin certainly covers some fascinating and beautiful locations. Alvin draws on some of the classic works of Welsh folklore, particularly 'Folk-lore and Folk Stories of Wales' by Marie Trevelyan and 'British Goblins' by Wirt Sikes, and he's also used my own 'Haunted Wales' for inspiration. I am delighted, though, that where he has used my research, he has given it full credit. Not every author is so polite.

Two of the spooky sites Alvin has based his walks around are particular favourites of mine.

One is an ancient track at Llysworney in Vale of Glamorgan. It took me ages to find the 'Lisworney Crossways' mentioned by Wirt Sikes because this archaic spelling was no longer on the map and failed to turn up on any genealogy websites. If I'd lived in South Wales, like Alvin (who's from Caerphilly), I might have known Llysworney and made the connection but this was an area I was unfamiliar with. I was relieved when I spotted the village on a map and pleased when I worked out the exact location. It's a pretty little spot, or at least it was when I visited it one summer's afternoon. It's probably eerie as hell at night. According to folklore, it was haunted by a weird apparition in the shape of a big, spotty dog with a man's head. Eek!

The other site is the Old Warren at Broughton in my home county of Flintshire. This is another lonely, wood-bound lane. Its ghost, a floating clergyman who terrifies courting couples, was previously unrecorded until a kind lady wrote to tell me all about it when I was writing my 'History and Mystery' column in the local paper back in the early 90s. Both her mother and her aunt had been bothered by the disapproving spectre as young women in the 1930s.

There's also a great deal in 'Exploring Supernatural Wales' that was unfamiliar to me and which has got my Spookisense tingling. I'm especially impressed with Alvin's pictures of the Carreg y Bwci (Goblin Stone) near Lampeter, and the mighty burial mound of Twm Barlwm, near Risca. Alvin Nicholas is clearly a great enthusiast, with considerbale knowledge, of folklore and weirdness in Wales. I have no doubt that I will find lots more intriguing gems when I read it more fully.

'Exploring Supernatural Wales' by Alvin Nicholas is published by Landmark (the same publisher as 'Haunted Wales') and is priced £9.99.

(For more high strangeness, UK-wide, visit my other blog, http://uncannyuk.blogspot. com)