The Rhiwiau, Yew trees and The Magical Town of Crickadoon.

“To find the universal elements enough, to find the air and the water exhilarating: to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter – to be thrilled by the stars at night:  to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring – these are some of the rewards of a simple life.”   John Burroughs.

The Rhiwiau – The big stone barn is to the left of the house….note the small shepherd’s hut in front of the barn – this is where I slept.FB_IMG_1523948682803 I first visited the Rhiwiau, the home of my friends Anne and Mike Ranstead , about twenty-four years ago.    Along with enjoying happy hours with Anne and Mike and  painting in the surrounding hills, this place represents a ‘hot spot’ for me.

When I left my home in Crickhowell in 2005 to move to London, I stored my furniture in the stone barn for four years.       Prior to that, two large panels I painted for St. Edmund’s Church in Crickhowell (aka The Magical Town of Crickadoon) – were stored in the barn for a period of time.     All of this is recorded on a video.

The two completed panels hanging in St. Edmund’s Church, Crickhowell.   They were installed in 1996.     20180713_100147Then five years ago my two good friends, Heather and Andrew bought the Rhiwiau from Anne and Mike.    Hill walkers and dog lovers, they are the perfect people to take over.  They have now made the Rhiwiau into an Air B’nB – attracting people from around the world who love hill walking and all the other bounties that the Brecon Beacons National Park has to offer.      Here are the links to their air BnB.      and

Close to the Rhiwiau is Llanfeugan Church in Pencilli.      In this unspoiled place Heather took me to see a circle of Yew trees that are around two thousand years old.

Heather and one of the magnificent Yew trees at Llanfeugan Church, Pencelli. 20180708_125531  Old head stones interspersed amongst the Yew trees.    A magical place20180708_125821During my stay Heather introduced me to Janis Fry –  artist, writer and expert on the Yew Tree.     Janis has written two books on the subject – ‘The God Tree’ and ‘Warriors at the Edge of Time’    

Janis and Heather are now giving tours aimed to introduce people to some of the best examples of ancient yews in Wales.   They occur in a relatively small area, probably due to the culture of revering yews and planting them which dates back to the Silures, the Celtic yew tribe who inhabited this area and fought the Romans.   The tour starts with a five thousand (5,000) year old yew and ends with one of four thousand (4,000) years and is designed to take up a weekend.    For more information go to

Heather and I went to The International Welsh Rarebit Centre in Defynnog to meet Janis.   I had been told that the food (especially the welsh rarebit) was excellent – and I was not disappointed.    Not only is it a very attractive place, run by an interesting woman named Rose, the Welsh Rarebit – and I had Stout Welsh Rarebit was fantastic.

Some of the best Welsh Rarebit I have ever had…….89bf7a63dd98854fcd0aa13e38ffb66fInterior of The International Welsh Rarebit Centre….An art gallery and meeting room up stairs. IMG_7047I haven’t mentioned yet how hot it was.    Usually when it’s hot in London or even in Crickhowell….when you get up into the hills the temperature drops by a few degrees, however, not during this heatwave…and more worryingly a drought!    Anyway,  given that the house was filled with Air B ‘n B guests, I slept in the Shepherd’s hut which sits just in front of the barn….and I loved it.

As I lay there in my bed looking out at the beautiful scenery and listening to the sounds of nature, I was reminded of the joys of the simple life.   I thought of how much ‘stuff’ we carry around with us, both emotional and physical – stuff that weighs us down.     In the shepherd’s I felt totally free and at peace.  

My abode for two nights…..had everything I needed and much more, i.e. Mother Nature surrounding me.    20180708_080411My view from inside the Shepherd’s hut along with the sounds of sheep and birds…….perfect.20180709_124803Another special visit was to the artist Janet Foster who lives and works in the village of Llanfynach.   I met Janet when I was tutoring for the Brecknock Art Society and have always enjoyed her work. 20180708_120944

I love to doodle in a small sketchbook when travelling.   Quick images and thoughts forever remind me of special moments…..

20180716_113134I couldn’t complete this part of my post without mentioning Bounty….a beautiful horse I met that lives just down the road from the Rhwihau.   I really liked her. 20180708_094441After two blissful days at the Rhhwiau – Heather drove me to Crickhowell (about ten miles) where I met up with friend Jane who had driven from London for her first visit to The Magical Town of Crickadoon, where we stayed at the fantastic Dragon Inn.      Having heard me talk about it for twelve years, at last she could see it.

I have decided to write a separate blog about the Crickhowell part of the trip…which I will post next week.     Arriving in the hustle and bustle of The Magical Town of Crickadoon, as I call it, felt like a great metropolis after being at the Rhwiau……….20180713_093600A few watercolour sketches painted when visiting the Rhiwiau over the years – always trying to capture the ever changing light of the Brecon Beacons. 20-11-15 - 1 (204)

20-11-15 - 1 (35)


A Bientot

39 thoughts on “The Rhiwiau, Yew trees and The Magical Town of Crickadoon.

  1. Tish Farrell

    So much magic here, Janet. I can see why you love this place. Wonderful to see your fabulous panels in the church, and the rolling landscapes. But as for the International Welsh Rarebit centre, well one is just going to have make the effort to go there! 🙂

  2. ShimonZ

    Your post filled me with happiness, dear Janet. What wonderful luck you had to be able to visit such a central place in your life, and find it much as you remembered it. Both that, and getting together with old friends… it sounds like a great experience, and I am sure you were able to enjoy it all with even a greater depth, now that you’re in a stage of enjoying simplicity. It’s a great pleasure to see with my own eyes the people and places you love, and your beautiful watercolors truly gave me the flavor of your trip. xxx

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you so much Shimon. Your comments always mean so much to me. When in such a place I often think about you and your camera and wonder how you would view it. This was such a special trip on many levels…I will talk about this more in my next post about Crickhowell. Sending you and Nechama love – janet xxx

  3. Bushka

    Wow! Superb post….these seem to flow from you…especially about Wales….Beautiful! Thanks for taking us down memory lane…again. Always a joy. Love and Hugs. ❤

  4. Margaret Parker Brown

    I always enjoy your posts, you visit some of the most beautiful places. Love the paintings. Do you use Saunders waterford hotpress the most? We probably discussed paper, I have forgotten which papers you use. Cheers!

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      HI Margaret…thank you so much. Yes. these days I do use Saunders & Waterford HP. lb200 and lb300. Hope all’s well with you and that you are painting up a storm. I will be checking shortly 🙂

  5. Jet Eliot

    Such a joy to be swept away to Wales with you, Janet. A lovely embrace of art, nature, friends, and beauty. Great John Burroughs quote for the introduction, and then all the elements of a beautiful visit. I have never seen yew trees so large in my life, so I became instantly fascinated by them, their majestic presence on earth, and the history. Also enjoyed Janis Fry’s site and learning more about the ancient yews. Found the photo of your friend Heather with the yew especially filled with life and reverence. The Rhiwiau looks wonderful, and I so enjoyed seeing the overview photo, hearing about your visit and seeing your special little abode, the horse, your previous visits there, and your different friends who have owned it. I found your watercolors dazzling, clearly a place of love and light. I looked up the Brecon Beacons Wikipedia and the history in those hills is astounding. Thanks so much for taking the time to share the magic of Rhiwiau.

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Good morning Jet. Thank you for this lovely response to my blog. I think the Brecon Beacons is an area you would love to visit. It is a national park which of course is good because it is protected in so many ways. I remember the very first time my cousin took me to Crickhowell (aka The Magical Town of Crickadoon) knowing that this would be my home. Although I moved from there thirteen years ago…..I realised on this visit that it will always be my home no matter where I go in the world. There is no question that Crickhowell and the Rhiwiau are major hot spots in my life. I hope you are able to enjoy the weekend…and that things are moving along at your home. Janet 🙂

  6. snowbird

    What a wonderful post, and fabulous paintings, so vivid and vibrant, I do love your use of colour! How I agree with you about living a simple life, the best things about our world are free. I loved the shepherd’s hut, I would have enjoyed sleeping in there. How true re the baggage we carry around….xxx

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      HI Dina…you would have loved the shepherd’s hut – talk about being away from the madding crowd….Hope you and all the furies are surviving the heat. janet xxx

  7. snowbird

    Oh….forgot to say, the yew is magnificent, such an ancient tree. They often appear in old churchyards as they were thought to be a channel between the living and the

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Yes, It’s true that most of these ancient Yews are found in and around churchyards….to be next to them is quite something…..Hope you enjoy a glorious day and week ahead. Janet xxx

    1. janetweightreed10 Post author

      Thank you so much for your comment. I spent twelve wonderful years in Wales and on this trip was reminded of how much I miss it. I stopped driving 25 years ago when I returned from the states to Wales…and so like you walked miles every day – I did take the occasional bus from Crickhowell to Brecon, but for the most part I walked….I love the rainy days in Wales, although at this moment in time they are suffering a drought like the rest of the UK. Yes, the scenery is beautiful and as for the Welsh Rarebit – I have been thinking about it ever since I was there:)


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