Croeso i Gymru

When I moved to Skye, I knew that many of you would know it. The legendary Misty Isle holds a special place in the hearts of folks who have lived or visited there. It was a pleasure to share my photos and feelings over the 20 months I spent living on Sleat, in the south of the island, and receive countless emails from others who knew the area too.

I wonder how many know mid-Wales so well?

(I do know that some of you do!)

Growing up in Shrewsbury (just over the border, on the English side), the green, green area surrounding the train line that ran from my hometown to the coast was a formative place. It was in these hills that I first realised, aged 12 or 13, that there were ‘alternative’ ways of being. Met my first hippies, vegetarians, people who were concerned about the environment. My best friend’s dad lived in these hills, he and his partner opened up whole worlds and cosmic perspectives for me to consider. I came out here with friends, riding the train for a day trip to the coast. I spent the millennium here. I discovered the soft, sparkling magic of liberty cap mushrooms here. I fell in love with moss, and secret, tiny valleys, and streams and waterfalls and trees, here. I was handfasted to my first love here.

It’s a place with a lot of very special memories for me.

Funny, then, that it should take so very long for me to arrive.

When I finished university, back in 2004, I moved back in with my parents and would head out to Machynlleth every couple of weeks, seeking a job and a room to rent. Three years in London had well and truly done me in and this was, at that point, the only place I knew where a person could live in the country and still feel connected. Before I found a place, however, a friend moved to Todmorden, West Yorkshire – a similar place in many ways. I visited, loved it, found a job and a room immediately, and moved up three days later. I spent rollercoaster ten years in the Calder Valley. I learned how to love there, and how I wanted to be loved. I learned that I’m a small-town girl, happiest in rural communities where folks know your name.

When I left Todmorden, feeling restless, seeking change, I tested this theory and took myself to two extremes. The huge, diverse and wonderful metropolis of Manchester, then the silence and intense space of the Isle of Skye. Both taught me plenty. Neither felt like home.

And so, fourteen years later, I came full circle. When I realised, last Christmas, that Machynlleth was still here, waiting for me, maybe even calling me home, I felt the most ‘right’ feeling I’d had for a very long time. Em knew and loved the town too – she’d studied ecological design at Mach’s Centre for Alternative Technology years before. And five months later, Em and I visited for a festival, viewed nine properties in one soul-wrenching, hilarious, tearful, mixed-up weekend, and found ourselves a house.

And here we are.

Home.

Everything feels so familiar…and yet so different. Everything whispers ‘welcome home’. Everything glistens, moist and green, waiting to be seen.

I can’t wait to share more of this magical place with you.

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18 comments

  1. angharadlois says:

    Oh that’s so wonderful, I’m so happy for you!
    I feel a lot of similarities between Todmorden and the wild, green hills of Wales – but here we really miss the sea. That part of the coast resonates with myth. I remember going up to Aberystwyth for the regional Eisteddfod, a looooooong time ago, and seeing photos of the petrified forest at Borth: it struck me for the first time that Cantre’r Gwaelod might actually be real, that there was once a land which disappeared beneath the waves, and is revealed to us in traces at low tide. I’ve been slightly obsessed with drowned lands ever since (actually, I don’t often do this, but this time I will share a link – I wrote about it here: https://fromtheedges.wordpress.com/2014/07/29/drowned-lands/)

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Wow, thank you for sharing your post Angharad. “Britain is an island rich in drowned lands” …I hadn’t ever thought of that, but it’s so true (and getting ever-truer…)!

      And so many links for me to click, ooh I’ll be reading all evening now :)

      Yes, Tod and Mach/the South Pennines and mid-Wales hills have so much in common! Many times I thought about returning to Tod… but I really want to be close to the sea just now, for reasons I can’t really describe but that have a lot to do with what you are writing about.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Angharad, I’ve just thought – do you know about the Time and Tide bell at Aberdyfi? I think the artist chose that location because if the town’s connection with the story of Cantre’r Gwaelod. I’ve visited, but I’ve never heard it ring.

  2. Eli says:

    Oh oh oh, I’m so happy you’ve moved to Mach! I’ve only visited a couple of times, but it always felt so incredibly welcoming, always felt like somewhere that really could be home.

  3. kbennall says:

    This post made me tear up a little. I only know Machynlleth through Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Series, but I’ve wanted to visit Wales since I was a kid. It sounds gorgeous. So happy for you, and may all of us who are still looking for home find it!

  4. And here I come, the silly USian for whom these are all fairy-tale places. But Machynlleth is a name I recognize from one of my favorite novels of childhood, The Grey King by Susan Cooper (it’s part of the Dark is Rising sequence, the third in the series, but the one I read first). I read that book so often I have parts of it memorized still. Machynlleth is one of the names Bran uses when trying to teach Will how to pronounce Welsh. (The book takes place around Aberdyfi.)

    One of these days, I’ll visit Wales. And Skye, and all the other places…

  5. Alison says:

    You sound so happy. Isn’t it funny how it can take us so long to find somewhere that feels right? I’m still on that journey, and enjoying everywhere it takes me. (I’m off to visit the place I grew up next week, for the first time in over ten years. I wonder what it will feel like?) Anyway, glad to hear that you feel at home in mid-Wales!

  6. Bobby says:

    I love this, I am so excited and “OMGG I want to run, flee, fly away to somewhere old and new” by this post… I know a little bit oif Mid Wales, Powys… there is the most incredible tiny valley hamlet called Pennant Melangell which is the home of the Patron saint of Hares and also a healing centre… the story is very old and ongoing and very magical… I have art in the church… and rubbings from the gravestones… Oh enjoy, cannot wait to see you new home… Much love and many many blessings…llawer o fendithion xxxxx

  7. Hiranya says:

    Oh I read this as I travelled on the train from Euston to Bangor with tears in my eyes. North Wales has become my spiritual home, and lately I’ve been exploring making the move there. Finding a place called home is so difficult, but making it real and not just a daydream is awesome. So proud and happy for you Beth; hopefully I’ll join you in Wales too next year!

  8. julie says:

    how wonderful for you. We stayed near Machylleth earlier this year (at Forge) and i utterly loved it. I have to say though, I have a similar experience of feeling like a place was “home” when I first went to Solva, not far down the road from you. I’ve stayed there a couple of times now and there’s just something about that area that seems “right” to me – I’m based in Devon, which is where I grew up and for the time being I’ll remain here, but there is definitely a bit of my heart and soul in west wales and I hope one day I’ll be there more often.

    • Beth
      Beth says:

      Thank you, Julie! I haven’t visited Solva, but family holidays were always to Pembrokeshire as a kid – such a beautiful area. How wonderful that you have such a strong connection to the place :)

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