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Twmbarlwm – A Cure For All Ills?

According to Terry Evans Mynydd Twmbarlwm is the place to go to cure a cold or hangover or to contemplate life’s great mysteries.

Let’s start the new year off on a positive note. No moaning about fly-tipping, burnt out cars or anti-social behaviour on Twmbarlwm but let me tell you about what the mountain means to me and maybe you’ll realise why looking after it is so important to me. Twmbarlwm and I have been acquainted for longer than I care to admit – from when my mates and I would walk up there, from the bottom of Pontymister, following the lane under the Leaky Bridge (some call it the Drippy Bridge) across the Hilly fields (there was no Ty-Sign in the way) and along Mountain Road before the final murderous scamper up the steep, grassy slope to the top – grappling with each other to get there first. There we would eat our fish-paste sandwiches, crisps (with a twisted, blue bag of salt) and swig orange squash out of the plastic canteen that our mam had bought for our school trip to Bristol Zoo – there was no sharing in case someone snorted their crumbs back into the bottle. We’d roll most of the way back down the hill getting cut, bruised and covered in grass stains – and other stains left behind by the sheep. As long as we were home in time for tea our parents didn’t seem to worry too much – or else they sent our big brother to get us. My joy of getting to the top has never waned over the intervening years. Occasionally I still walk all the way from the valley bottom and that final slog to the top seems, to me, a lot steeper now. Driving up to the car park for a quick dog-walk is getting more frequent nowadays. But nevertheless, every time I get to the summit, by whatever route, I can’t help but do a victory dance like Rocky Balboa did on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. But what draws me to Twmbarlwm so strongly? I hear you ask. It’s not just a strenuous walk up memory lane – every time I’m there it offers a different reason. For instance, it’s the one place I like to go when I’m suffering some malady like a bad cold or even worse, man-flu. I can be miserable and self pitying all by myself. I can cough and splutter all I want and explode my sneezes without spreading the germs to others. The cold, driving wind and rain keeps my head clear until I get back to my stifling centrally heated cocoon of home. If there ever was a cure for a hangover, atop Twmbarlwm has to be it – there’s no sudden noises to stab into that thumping headache, just the gentle birdsong of the skylarks. The clean fresh air brings on an euphoria that makes life appear worth living, or at least until the next party-time. For me Twmbarlwm is also the residence of several of the Muses – whether I need inspiration for my design and art work, my latest photography project or writing an article for a magazine (guess where I was this morning), the open vistas and mysterious ambience of the mountain is sure to get the creative juices flowing. Whenever I feel a bit down or need to work through 4

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some personal conundrum, Twmbarlwm is the one place I can find the solitude to give myself a good talking to (although I do get some strange looks from my dogs). The place has a spiritual aura about it that no other local mountain has, Machen has fine views and good fresh air, as has Mynydd-y-lan, but they’re not the same. Maybe it’s the Tump itself, is it an iron-age fort, bronzeage burial ground, the resting place of some legendary giant or what? It has a mystery about it that permeates into one’s inner self and sets the imagination soaring. Even the current Mrs Evans (I call her that to keep her on her toes) shares my love of the mountain. She has lived in a few places around the UK but soon came to realise that once she had married a Risca boy there would be no dragging him away from the shadow of its magnificent mountain. I’m sure it’s not just us that feel this way about the mountain. Very often when browsing online social media I see comments and threads from people expressing similar observations. If you are one of those why not consider joining us, working together we can ensure that the mountain remains an unspoiled area for future generations to enjoy as much as us. Terry Evans (Chair, Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society)

CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer workday on the last Sunday of every month to which everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great opportunity to find your way around up there. We organise walks and other events up the mountain and at Crosskeys RFC throughout the year so watch our website and Facebook page for details – come and join us some time.

www.twmbarlwm.co.uk January/February 2017


Springwatch on Twmbarlwm Photo by Terry Evans. Vandalism by an as yet unknown thoughtless hooligan.

It’s February as I write this and I have often said how I find inspiration while walking the length and breadth of the Twmbarlwm ridgeway. Thus, even on a cold, wet, murky morning in the middle of winter, I am moved to picture what lies ahead. It’s a landscape that I know so well that I don’t find it difficult visualise the coming springtime months. It’s four years since CTS planted nearly 4,000 trees across the mountain and even now I can see the buds on the hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and willow that we planted. I expect that by the time you read this, the white blossom of the hawthorn hedgerows will be marching along the mountainside. The first spiralling shoots of the bracken will be pushing their way through the dead undergrowth of last year and the broad, green leaves of foxgloves will be making an appearance too. At the moment there are a few small dollops of frogspawn in the boggy areas and rain-filled puddles, but I know that by March and April those puddles will be a heaving mass of frog activity and a great source of food for passing herons. It has been a very mild winter so far, which means there will probably be an early spring with many of our native birds building nests earlier than usual, including sky-larks and woodcocks that nest on the ground on this upland heath. So please try not to disturb them and be mindful of where you and your dogs walk. I am hoping that the plethora of bird species on Twmbarlwm will be enhanced as native trees grow back to replace the Japanese Larch that has been removed and which was not a great environment for many species. Of course, my favourite visitor to the area will soon be arriving, the Cuckoo. I mention them every year on the CTS website and see it as a personal challenge to get a pin-sharp photograph of one – but they always seem to elude me and all I ever get is a blurred image or a speck in the far distance. With so many trees having been cut down from the Cwmcarn forest I wonder if I will get the chance to capture one this year. Join in with the Cuckoo watch on our Facebook page, tell us when you first hear one and if you manage to get a good picture post it online, I won’t be at all jealous. The springtime event I most look forward to is our Hot-Cross-Bun Walk which takes place on Good Friday every year. This year it will be on 14th April, so I hope you will get out your walking boots and join the hundreds who clamber to 17 20 ril Ap the top of the mountain 14 th FR ID AY ~

GO OD

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throughout the day. CTS organises a walk from the Stoney Bridge in Pontymister and there are other walks organised from Cwmcarn and Cwmbran – watch our website and Facebook for details. Many more people from near and far, get a group of family or friends together and strike out for the summit themselves. It’s not a difficult walk yet you are rewarded with magnificent views and a great sense of achievement on what is often a bright sunny, spring day. April is also the time of year that farmers with commoners’ rights can bring their livestock back to the mountain. These Commoners will have finished their lambing season and will be releasing hundreds of ewes and their lambs to feed on the fresh green pastures. Their quota of cattle will also be allowed to roam the commons of Twmbarlwm, Henllys and Mynydd Maen. So please bear that in mind when walking your dogs, be sure to keep them in sight and under control at all times. Terry Evans (Chair, Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society)

Photo: Maggie Thomas

A big thank you to the team of CTS volunteers who turned up on a really awful day at the end of January to take part in our monthly litter pick around the Twmbarlwm car park and common. They collected a dozen bags of rubbish and tidied up what they could around the burnt-out car and fires set by those anti-social hooligans who are determined to destroy our areas of natural beauty – thank goodness there are decent citizens who really do care. CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer workday on the last Sunday of every month to which everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great opportunity to find your way around up there. We organise walks and other events up the mountain and at Crosskeys RFC throughout the year so watch our website and Facebook page for details – come and join us some time.

www.twmbarlwm.co.uk March/April 2017


SWD_CTS_Article_2017_04a_Layout 1 03/04/2017 11:34 Page 1

Cwmcarn Forest Drive We Want Access for ALL Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society and Friends of Cwmcarn Forest Drive share similar aims and a number of people are members of both organisations. The two groups also share the problem that although there are many people who feel passionately about the plight of Cwmcarn Forest and Twmbarlwm, only a fairly small number of stalwart supporters are prepared to help the campaign and make the voice of local people heard. Cwmcarn Forest is stunning. It may not have the sobriquet “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”, but that phrase describes it to a ‘T’. It attracts people from far and wide to walk, to cycle to picnic and to play. In 2010 Phytophthora Ramorum, commonly known as Larch Disease was found to be affecting Japanese larch trees in Wales and NRW was forced to rid all forests of larch trees, because of the concern that the disease can jump species. This was to be no easy undertaking and local people understood that the Drive had to be closed for the duration. What local people did not understand and would not accept, was the initial assertion that the Drive would not be reopened after the felling was complete. The message was repeated again and again. We were told there was no money to reinstate the road, which would be damaged during the felling period. There was public uproar, and with the guidance of Rob Southall people who wanted the Drive to be saved, formed FoCFD to ensure the voice of local people would not be ignored. The group organised public meetings and soon the message from NRW began to change. Andy Schofield is on record as saying that NRW hoped to reopen the Drive. John Hogg stated and repeated emphatically in a public meeting that the resistance was “Knocking on an open door.” The essence of FoCFD’s campaign is equality: “Access for ALL”, with an emphasis on access for the less mobile members of our community. The land is publically owned SIGN THE PETITION FoCFD has raised an online petition on the Welsh Assembly website (www.assembly.wales) - it is open until the end of May. We are calling upon the National Assembly for Wales to provide the necessary means to allow Natural Resources Wales to fully re-open the Cwmcarn Forest Drive to private cars by Easter 2018. Show your support and please sign the petition - follow the links from our Facebook page. 4

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Part of Cwmcarn Forest drive as it was before the felling of the trees started

and should be open to all, regardless of age or infirmity. As Rob so eloquently put it, when interviewed by the BBC, “…not everyone can walk or cycle to the top and enjoy the amazing views”. NRW states quite clearly on its website. “We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in all that we do and value the diversity of our workforce, customers and communities.” This has not been borne out in its decisions and actions. “Access for ALL” is the buzz phrase of FoCFD and what we are about - even if the Welsh government appear to only properly fund those (cyclists) who are quite able to fund themselves. Sharon, the secretary of FoCFD is a child minder. She used to take children up to the playground at Car park 3. It was a truly amazing and popular place for a children’s play area. Many people thought it was an act of sheer spite that NRW removed everything from that site and elsewhere around the Drive. To replace the barbecues, the benches, the swings and sculptures would be a very expensive undertaking. They should have been left in place so that reopening the Drive would be simple, that the area would be just as enticing as it was on the day it closed. All the individuals and small groups which want Cwmcarn Forest Drive to reopen need to work together. Decisions about the area are not the prerogative of people who live in Cwmcarn or even of those who live within a five mile radius. It is a public asset, but it must be shared equitably. As the period of closure comes to an end, it is imperative that everyone who uses the forest makes their voice heard. FoCFD welcomed everyone to participate and that welcome still stands. Check out The Sensory Garden at Car Park 2 on the Drive FoCFD’s Facebook page, come was one of the first features to be removed before along to one of the monthly meetings. the felling operation started The bigger the resistance, the more likely we are to be taken seriously. The fight will not be over until the Forest Drive has been reopened and that all users are given the same support by NRW. You can help our local organisations by getting involved, follow FoCFD on Facebook or join CTS for their litter pick on the last Sunday of every month. Maggie Thomas (Member FoFCD & CTS)

www.twmbarlwm.co.uk April/May 2017


Is that Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven heading towards Twmbarlwm Twmp on yet another famous adventure? Photo: Terry Evans

Halcyon Days on Twmbarlwm Some people think that the late fifties and early sixties were a kind of Golden Age. Of course, they weren’t; it was a world of prejudice and class division when people died shortly after retiring following a life of sweat and hard work in heavy industries. In south Wales men still crawled on their bellies in narrow underground passages and the once green valleys were despoiled with coal waste. Yet in some ways those people are right and one of those ways was the freedom we enjoyed as children in that era. Although born in the World Heritage Town of Blaenafon my parents moved to Pontnewydd to be closer to my father’s workplace. There I soon became aware of the green mass behind the village which we boys simply called the “The Mountain”. Only much later did I learn its true beautiful names: Mynydd Twmbarlwm, Mynydd Henllys, Mynydd Maen, Mynydd Twyn Glas and Mynydd Llwyd. Of course, in those days I wouldn’t have been interested in their heritage even if I had been able to pronounce the names. As boys we explored the slopes of “The Mountain” encountering the Blaen Bran reservoir and discovering that if you put a froglet in your pocket and walked home with it, the poor thing would be dead when you took it out! On occasion my parents took me the Mountain Air pub, now sadly closed, where we sat and looked out over the great Severn Estuary. However, on our rambles we boys noticed a part of “The Mountain” which was not easily seen from Pontnewydd village; a distant hill with a strange domed structure on top. We often wondered what that dome could be and came up with increasingly ridiculous explanations. Then one day – it was a glorious summer day of course, of the kind which seemed very common in the early sixties – we decided to find out what it was by actually walking to it. As boys we underestimated the distance to the mysterious mound and for quite some time it seemed to be getting no closer as we trudged along the top of “The Mountain”. Some hours had passed before we finally came up to it and saw that it was not a natural feature but clearly 4

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a manmade thing. We didn’t recognise the Iron Age fortifications at the time and were only interested in the mound and scrambling up to the top where we played “King Of The Castle” for some time, pushing each other off as we battled to reach the top. Having spent some time getting there we realised that we had to spend an equal amount of time getting back! On arrival back home my parents were a little annoyed that I’d been out all day without telling them where I’d be but, as was usual in those days, they had not been particularly worried. Britain was still a safe society and children were expected to be up to adventures in the countryside on those precious sunny days. They were interested in our visit to the strange mound but unable to explain what it was. And there you have the essence of Twm Barlwm, to give the mound its name. It is still a place of wonder and mystery for me and I believe experts are still divided as to who built it and when. Like most things we grow up with, we perhaps do not fully appreciate what is around us. Twm Barlwm is a place which must be preserved for future generations yet sadly there are elements of society who either are not interested or who, it seems, wish to actively despoil it with their illegal off-roading, fly-tipping and vandalism. That is why Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society was established, to protect, restore and enhance “The Twmp”. Perhaps if you have not already joined you might consider helping us with those aims. Martyn Vaughan (Treasurer/Membership Secretary Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society)

CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer workday on the last Sunday of every month to which everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great opportunity to find your way around up there. We organise walks and other events up the mountain and at Crosskeys RFC throughout the year so watch our website and Facebook page for details – come and join us some time.

www.twmbarlwm.co.uk June/July 2017


One Twmp or Two? Garth Mountain, north of Cardiff, also has a distinctive ‘pimple’ at its summit – some would argue it’s only a hill at 1,007 ft. Photo: Dave Lewis of davelewisphotography.co.uk

It’s a well known fact that you may be able to take a Garth Mountain (often referred to as ‘The Garth’) gained fame in the 1990s when it became the inspiration for the book and film - “The Englishman Risca boy out of Risca but you can’t take Risca out Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain” by Christopher Monger. of the boy. I soon learned this when I met my Risca The story was entirely fictional, in fact the tumulus is a bronze age burial boy many years ago. mound with possibly similar history to that of Twmbarlwm. One of our first outings was up his favourite mountain, Twmbarlwm, where I was surprised to see an entirely abuse occur in both places. Twmbarlwm is much more different aspect of the Bristol Channel from my home accessible to the public and therefore easier to destroy, but landscape of the Garth (Mynydd y Garth in Welsh), at fortunately, easier for us who care for our environment to Gwaelod-y-Garth, North of Cardiff. go and enjoy. From the top of “the Twmp” I could see my familiar The Twmbarlwm Society was formed from the uprising landscape of Cardiff laid out before me, but also the two of feeling that ‘something needs to be done’ and so we Severn bridges, the Hay Bluff and the Beacons, Wentwood did. After the initial big projects to protect the landscape Forest, and even across to Avonmouth and Weston Super with double fences, tree planting and remedial works, a Mare. It was a rare clear day! longer term approach is now in progress, to The Garth is instantly recognisable as it also research the archaeology and history, not just has a ‘pimple’ on the top, and the to be a litter picking group around the car park. escarpment is visible for many miles from the Since marrying my Risca boy I think I am western approaches to Cardiff, just as our now accepted as a Risca girl and have Twmbarlwm is viewed from the Severn Bridge exchanged one ‘Twmp’, Garth Mountain, for approaching Newport. Mynydd Twmbarlwm. I now regard Twmbarlwm as The Garth, and Little Garth, (now nearly quarried away) “my mountain” too, with its distinctive, magical silhouette stood protectively over the surrounding farmlands for dominating the skyline, and I have come to love this rethousands of years, as forests in the area were cleared for greened, reclaimed, proud valleys landscape. 20 years farming and rearing animals by the families of those that later we still walk all around the area with our three Welsh were buried in the Round Barrows on the Garth Mountain. Springers, a good swap I think. Then the area came under the influence of the Celts and Sue Evans - Secretary, Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society the Roman legions. This is a history shared by our Mynydd Twmbarlwm CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer too, which looks, from the air, to have an outer perimeter workday on the last Sunday of every month to which wall, indicating a settlement, which hundreds of years ago everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great would have been farmed and occupied. opportunity to find your way around up there. We Now the area is commons land, with the local farmers organise walks and other events up the mountain and retaining their ‘Rights of Common’ to graze animals, and at Crosskeys RFC throughout the year so watch our so the landscape is protected and managed. But it is a website and Facebook page for details – come and join sad fact that similar problems of anti-social behaviour us some time. such as fly-tipping, motor crime, vandalism and drug www.twmbarlwm.co.uk Mynydd Twmbarlwm with its iron-age hill fort and trig point at its summit is more familiar to residents of Risca, Newport and Cwmbran – and at 1,375 ft is generally regarded as a ‘proper’ mountain. Photo: Terry Evans

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September/October 2017


The Legendary Taste of Twmbarlwm Mynydd Twmbarlwm, the iconic mountain of Gwent, is shrouded in myth and legend. Some claim that it was the place of judgement for ancient druids who tossed the guilty to their deaths into the valley below and many have heard strange ethereal sounds emanating from the Tump itself - maybe it’s the mournful cries of those who fell victim to the druids. One popular tale from folklore concerns wasps and bees, even as far back as the 1880s author Wirt Sikes wrote about battles between bees and wasps in his book “British Goblins”. According to Sikes, bees were fairies in disguise, representing good, while wasps represented evil and one could often find thousands of bodies of these winged protagonists on the hilltop. Some of these tales have their basis in the Mabinogion and the Red Books of Hergest where it is said that the great Silurian chieftain, Bran, is buried atop a hill awaiting to rise up and save Wales. Most scholars say that is the “White Hill” where the Tower of London now stands, but I believe that local story-tellers borrowed the story to attribute it to the folklore of Twmbarlwm. Local legend says that an ancient chieftain, maybe Bran, is buried under the Tump and is guarded by a swarm of bees which if disturbed will rise up and attack the intruders. This prophecy was given credence as recently as the 1980s when a group of council workers, led by Terry Wilmot, were sent to repair erosion on the Tump. They were digging into the Tump to install new steps when thousands of bees started flying around their heads and the men were

forced to abandon their work for the day. When they got back to their works-van the workers discovered that the bees had preceded them down the mountain and settled over half of the van. Not wanting to fall foul of the “Curse of Bran” the Twmbarlwm Society thought it would be an idea to try and appease the legendary king before we undertake any further repairs to the ancient monument. We therefore approached local brew-masters, Tudor Brewery, with the aim to produce a suitable beer to honour the mountain. The Llanhilleth based brewery already produces a range of beers named after other Welsh mountains – the likes of The Skirrid, The Blorenge, The Sugarloaf are all represented – and they were happy to develop a unique recipe for us that would please the ancient guardian of Twmbarlwm and support the society. As a further tilt to the legend it was decided the ale should have a touch of local honey added to the brew. The honey used comes from hives kept a short distance from Twmbarlwm, in fact, the beekeeper is able to identify that much of the honey was probably produced from the heather and wimberries that grow on the slopes of the mountain. Twmbarlwm Honey Ale is a craft-brewed, ruby coloured bitter beer with a subtle sweet note provided by the honey. It will be available in casks and bottles in local pubs and direct from the brewery’s online shop - www.tudorbrewery.co.uk. We can’t guarantee that the ale will protect you from Bran’s ferocious bee army but it will certainly help with the Twmbarlwm Society’s continued work on the mountain. Cheers folks. Terry Evans - Chairman, Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society

CTS meet at the car park for a litter pick and volunteer workday on the last Sunday of every month to which everyone is invited, it’s not all hard work and it’s a great opportunity to find your way around up there. We organise walks and other events up the mountain and at Crosskeys RFC throughout the year so watch our website and Facebook page for details – come and join us some time.

www.twmbarlwm.co.uk 4

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November/December 2017

South Wales Directories - Twmbarlwm Articles 2017  

Articles written for Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society to appear in the South Wales Directories - published bi-monthly

South Wales Directories - Twmbarlwm Articles 2017  

Articles written for Cymdeithas Twmbarlwm Society to appear in the South Wales Directories - published bi-monthly

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