“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. 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. Then 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.
airbnb.co.uk/rooms/6074819 and airbnb.co.uk/rooms/13812920
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. Old head stones interspersed amongst the Yew trees. A magical placeDuring my stay Heather introduced me to Janis Fry – artist, writer and expert on the Yew Tree. http://www.janisfryart.co.uk 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 http://www.janisfryart.co.uk
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…….Interior of The International Welsh Rarebit Centre….An art gallery and meeting room up stairs. I 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. My view from inside the Shepherd’s hut along with the sounds of sheep and birds…….perfect.Another 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.
I love to doodle in a small sketchbook when travelling. Quick images and thoughts forever remind me of special moments…..
I 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. After 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……….A few watercolour sketches painted when visiting the Rhiwiau over the years – always trying to capture the ever changing light of the Brecon Beacons.