Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Home turf, here and now.

Cairn Briw, Preseli Hills

If you were to travel in a straight line from the Preseli Hills, the furthest point north before reaching Scotland would take you through my home county of Northumberland. And ironically, given their distance apart, you'd find the two landscapes have a certain similarity: mountains meeting the sea; purpling moorland that fades to fertile plains. Their histories are mirrored too: places where for millennia people have come to worship and trade as well as to toil.

Perhaps this resemblance - and my yearning for that wonderful border landscape - is why it has taken me so long to appreciate the Preselis for what they are?  Despite knowing them for decades, it's only recently that have I taken the same joy in exploring these 'mountains in miniature ' as I did in wandering the hills of my youth.

Yesterday Jane and I walked to Carn Ingli, the 'hill of angels' above the Nevern estuary. Returning along its broad ridge, we passed Cairn Briw (which lives up to its translation as a shattered heap of stones) and looked across the sweep of Newport Bay. Standing there, I realised that I could name almost every cove and hamlet; I could trace the paths through the woodlands and know the chapels and cafes they would lead to...  

It is thirty-five years since I came to Wales. And in that time I've come to realise that although the tendency to weigh one landscape against another is understandable (especially for those of us who have shifted our locus) it risks diminishing what's on our doorstep today, in favour of a nostalgia for times and places past. As we turned south to face the Golden Road of the Preseli’s higher peaks I recalled times and journeys that are as deeply a part of me as any from my younger days...

The sense of connection and separation of my 'two homes' will, I suspect, never quite go away: if I could create an Eden, it would be a combination of the two. But then that would be false and futile—a  manufactured mash-up that would have no history or sense of itself.  

Better, I think to live with what we have and love it for what it is.


  1. It is a magical place...maybe literally

  2. Hari Om
    Indeed. As one whose 'locus' has changed several times in life, that compare and contrast tendency has arisen often enough. But I agree that accepting places for what they give us in the now is of value. YAM xx

  3. Ah, hefted to two places geographically and emotionally - as it is hard to step away from childhood memories. I am pulled back to my Devon roots, but several times we have tried to relocate there and it wasn't meant to happen . . .

  4. thecontemplativecat here. I understand what you are saying about the best of two worlds. Ireland is like that for me, and my home state Illinois.

  5. That belonging staus of being able to name the visible and map in your mind the places connected but out of sight is a real rootedness in the place. My recent visit to NZ had me scouring my brain to match up recognition of places and their names last lived in over 30 years ago.