Brown sea at Aberystwyth

by The Curious Scribbler

I picked up a copy of EGO today, and it’s nice to see that they have now resumed an albeit thinner  paper copy after three years of covid hardship banished it to an online presence only.  However the article by Priya Nicholas caught my attention for its inappropriate sentiments.  The writer complains about the unpredictability of summer weather and the need for layers and an umbrella.  This  demonstrated the problems of writing copy for a future deadline and seems a little inappropriate when we haven’t seen a serious cloud for the better part of a month!

My walk along the promenade however raised a new topic to complain about.  The sky was blue, the sea was calm with only the tiniest of lapping waves upon the shingle, but the sea was murky and downright brown.  From pier to the bar there was no respite, the pebbles barely visible in the shallows.  Few people were in the water, – I’ve seem more wild swimmers in the middle of winter.

So in the afternoon I went to Tanybwlch, where during the fine hot spell last August I remember the sea like the Mediterranean, so clear the pebbles and patches of sand gleamed clearly under water.

10 August 2022 the sea was clear at Tanybwlch

Today it was just brown.

Brown sea water at Aberystwyth

 

As I walked out on the jetty the river water in the harbour was clean and clear while at the end of the jettty the colour contrast was dramatic where greenish-brown sea water met the clear fresh water in the harbour mouth.

Below the jetty on the harbour side the sea and river water meet

Presumably this May – June warm spell has caused an algal bloom which is creating the murk right along the coast and out to sea.  Why the same thing didn’t also happen during last summer’s August warm spell is not clear to me.

Tanybwlch beach this afternoon 8 June 2023

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Filling the Tanybwlch Sinkholes

by The Curious Scribbler,

Yesterday’s blog attracted a lot of comments – people really love Tanybwlch.

Stephen Tooth replied on Facebook taking the long view

Quite a few people have written about and investigated the possible future of Tanybwlch beach over the last 10-15 years. For a starter, try Alun Williams (local councillor) and also look for a Ceredigion County Council report (I think it is in the public domain) where consultants did some modelling of the feasibility of engineering an artificial breach to establish a regular tidal cycle and encourage tidal flats. And colleagues and I regularly take AU students down there to debate possible futures. In short, there are a range of options from ‘do nothing’ to trying to manage an inevitable degree of change.

And Liz Probert commented on the blog ” Apparently no one knows who actually owns the car park. The council don’t own it so they can’t officially do anything.”

So imagine my surprise at the scene this afternoon!  e Bags of stone are being piled up against the retaining wall, swung in on the crane arm of an Afan lorry, and while I watched a yellow digger was engaged in filling up the small sinkhole and tamping it down.

The larger hole will take a great deal of filling, I look forward to watching progress in the coming days. I wonder how the deadlock of the last three years came to be resolved?

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Tanybwlch Beach in the next decade?

by The Curious Scribbler,

There are few places more beautiful than Tanybwlch beach on a fine spring day like today. It is pristine, almost empty, wild and picturesque. It also has an ancient resonance, for more than a thousand years (about 800BC to 1200 AD) the people of the  Pendinas hillfort will have foraged along this shore.

Alltwen at the south of Tanybwlch Beach

 

At the south end below Alltwen the wheatears are back, preparing to nest in the holes amongst the tumbled stones which form the bank.  Small parties of swallows hawk northwards following the shore line, still on their way to their summer homes.  Parties of linnets pause chattering on the wire fence and the indefatigable chiffchaffs shout ceaselessly in the wood beyond.    The thrift and sea campion are in bloom.

Sea Campion

This is  a place dear to the hearts of many local people, beloved of dog walkers and naturalists alike.  It has taken the brunt of ferocious storms and rising sea level which have, in the last few years caused  drastic changes in the shape of the strand.  The Tanycastell field below Alltwen  has long tended to become a shallow lake during winter time but is now well on the way to becoming salt marsh.  Here the waves don’t so much wash over as percolate through the pebble bank and the species composition of  grasses and sedges in the field is changing to a salt-tolerant flora.

Along the sandy middle section of the strand the  shore is eaten back every year now, and much of the stabilizing vegetation on the sloping sand bank facing the sea has been washed away.  The most recent rock sea defences, big stones placed to break the waves, now lie irrelevant yards down the beach.

The concrete barrage half way along is no longer passable to vehicles.  Near here the sea floods over with  great force carrying big cobbles off the beach and depositing them in the river Ystwyth beyond.  The riverside path is disappearing in several places.

Pebbles spill over into the Ystwyth river

But the greatest threat to public enjoyment is the erosion in the car park.  Three years ago during Storm Ciara a small hole opened up allowing storm water to drain through rather than over the hard standing behind the tall buttressing wall which extends from the bridge.  Sadly it was not blocked with concrete right away.

In February 2020 Storm Ciara excavated the first sink hole.

Some security fencing was erected around it and nothing was done. During lockdown and beyond, it grew and grew, and the original fencing collapsed into the hole.  Wider and wider areas have been fenced off as the tall wall continues to collapse.   And the potholes where cars enter the car park have now deepened so far that soon it will be impassable to all but all-terrain vehicles.

The retaining wall supporting the car park undergoing collapse

A huge void has been excavated by successive storms

If the car park is lost the nature reserve will benefit.  With lesser footfall we may get more breeding birds, like the common sandpipers I saw today which seemed to be hoping to establish a territory close to  the bridge, and eager to lead me away.  Otters, kingfishers and goosanders already frequent this part of the river.   As long as the bridge remains, walkers will be able to follow the coastal path but without a car park public usage will change.

A new hole has recently appeared and is currently garnered with a red plastic fence..  The water which has rushed down this sinkhole has already excavated the mortar from another stretch of the riverside wall.  The rate of collapse shows no sign of slowing down. Will the future of Tanybwlch Nature Reserve be determined purposely or by neglect?

Who cares?  and indeed which agencies are responsible for this wall?

The new hole. Tanybwlch

Masonry has  already been eroded by water gushing through the new hole

 

 

 

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Cleaning up the Promenade

by The Curious Scribbler

Yesterday’s balmy sunshine illuminated a scene of great activity on the promenade, as diggers and scrapers collected up huge piles of sea sand and returned them to the beach.  This was not like the pebbles and rubble aftermath of a heavy storm such as we have see so many winters.  Instead the beach seems to have gently migrated up and over the sloping paving of the prom.  From time to time over  the winter a path has been swept through it for the benefit of walkers and buggies but the highest tides have repeatedly augmented and redistributed the sandy covering.

March 27th was the big clean up on the promenade

When I was there, the area north of the Prom Diner had yet to be tackled, the sandy foreshore dimpled by a thousand footfalls reached right up to the planters full of cheerful daffodils.

I do not know whether there are local measurements for sea level here, but the global estimate is that it has risen by 3 inches, (8cms) since the year 2000.  As global warming advances and more and more ice melts it will surely rise further.  It looks as if regular high tides rather than severe storms are playing the greatest part in the migration of the beach onto our promenade.  Sweeping sand off the prom may become an increasing task in the coming years.

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Poets, Eccentrics and Great Gloops of Jelly

by The Curious Scribbler

I enjoyed an invigorating winter walk around Llyn Eiddwen, the natural upland lake which lies between a grassy windswept ridge and the  wooded Mynydd Bach.  Sometimes migratory swans  Whoopers or Bewick Swans can be seen there in winter, though none were to be seen when I visited on 30 December.

Last march I saw five migratory swans on Llyn Eiddwen

We began our walk at the monument to four local poets which stands above the dispersed community of Trefenter.  Here  the wind whistles in from the west and the land drops away to the distant sea.   One of the four poets lived in Llanrhystud, the village visible from this altitude nestled close amongst the patchwork of fields and hedges, another grew up in Blaenpennal, and a third in Trefenter.   Their names are J.M. Edwards 1903-1978, B.T. Hopkins 1897-1981, F. Prosser Rees 1901 -1945 and T. Hughes Jones 1895-1966.  I must learn more of their work.

The plaque on the monument

There are ruined cottages along the western shore of the lake and broad stone walls topped with gnarled beeches and sycamores which outline the former gardens and the rough road connecting them.  I wonder in what proportion the lake and the Crown common land around it  provided the livelihoods of these former inhabitants, and what led to the abandonment of these well-built cottages.  I imagine though, that they may have still been occupied in 1879 when local men were employed to build what became known as Tredwell’s Castle in the lake.

A ruined cottage east of LLyn Eiddwen

Mark John Tredwell (b. 1856) was a rich young orphan who was brought up principally by his grandmother, educated briefly at Cheam and Harrow and who, for some unknown reason decided, on inheriting his parents’ wealth, to settle and lure his many friends to Ceredigion.   In 1878 he took a 21 year lease on the small Georgian mansion Aberllolwyn at Llanfarian and spent freely on both house and garden, building cabins in the grounds to accommodate the parties of friends who arrived on the  train and were conducted out to the mansion by charabanc.  He created a small menagerie, apparently including a monkey, a bear and numerous ornamental birds. He threw lavish parties for his guests, and also for the local school and Wesleyan chapel.   However this was not fun enough and led to his craziest investment – a party castle on a man-made island in Llyn Eiddwen, on land he didn’t even own.

The ruin of Tredwell’s Castle on Llyn Eiddwen

In the mid 20th century the ruined Tudwal’s “castle”, sketched by E.T. Price of Llanrhystud,  was in better shape

Locals were employed quarrying the necessary stone and it is estimated that at least a thousand loads of stone, lime and timber were transported by rowing boat across the 100 yards of water to the masons building the perimeter wall, the tower and some ancillary sheds and buildings.

An account in the Aberystwyth Observer on 12 July 1879 describes a crowd of people who assembled at the railway station to view Tredwell’s latest purchase, a  steam powered launch capable of carrying up to six persons.  Apparently it took 20 horses to drag it to Tredwell’s ‘pool in the mountains’.

In the summer of 1879 party guests were accommodated at Tredwell’s expense at the prestigious Queen’s Hotel on the promenade, then transported by charabanc and steam boat over to the island, where  the entertainments were raunchy in the extreme.  Orgies were mentioned, and local lasses were said to be involved.

Unfortunately for him, Tredwell’s considerable wealth was insufficient to the the project, bills went unpaid and after a lengthy and expensive court battle with his builders he was declared bankrupt.  The lease on Aberllolwyn was terminated  in 1881 and he eventually died, penniless, in London in 1930.

There is no local folk memory of the steam launch so it may have been repossessed, or perhaps it lies under the waters of the lake.  The ruined square tower on the island still stands surrounded by willow scrub, and the evocative emptiness of the landscape is enhanced by the ruined cottages on the shore.

Ruined Cottages on the shore of Llyn Eiddwen

On my recent visit an equally compelling mystery  was the glistening gloops of jelly on the pathside where the path runs parallel with the shore.  I am told these are Crystal Brain Fungus Myxarium nucleatum, a fungus ( but not a mushroom) which is found in winter during wet weather and when  dry shrivels up to just a rubbery patch.  But if that is so, what is the jelly for?  Does it spread spores?  It just appears to cling to the rocks and grasses, in lumps up to 4 inches across, glistening in the winter sunlight.

Crystal Brain Fungus

Crystal Brain Fungus

Clearly there is much more for me to learn both about the work of the four poets and about these Crystal Brains strewn upon the grasses.

 

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An imposter with my handle!

by The Curious Scribbler

In the ten years I have been writing Letter from Aberystwyth I have prided myself upon being both succinct and factually accurate.

It was therefore a surprise to find  Letter from Aberystwyth, with a startlingly similar font, appearing in the online news service Nation Cymru on the 6 November.

An article published in Nation Cymru

This proved to be an article in which the author Shara Atashi shared a variety of thoughts stimulated, or perhaps stunted, by the rigours of cold water swimming at Aberystwyth.  Consider the following extract about the scenery viewed from the sea at South Beach:

Behind that there are a few pyramidal green hills, and upon one of them is Pen Dinas, an Iron Age Celtic hillfort, and on it a column with no monument.

The monument, built in the 1850s, carries the name of Wellington, but his statue was never installed. Visitors to the area are likely to wonder why.

Wales is full of mysteries, which remain unsolved to remain mysteries. I never tried to find out why the Wellington Monument is without Wellington’s statue. I just thought that a monument with no statue on it feels just right, especially when it is situated upon an Iron Age Celtic hillfort.

If a single person’s lack of knowledge and disinclination to find out about their subject constitutes a mystery then the bar for Welsh Mysteries is set extremely low!

The author has also refrained from consulting a bird book :

When I watch a heron standing there with its wings open wide in the sun, I wonder whether it is troubled by the wind tousling its feathers. They seem to be boasting when they dive for more than a minute and resurface with a big fish in the beak.

and she conjures a puzzling image of her early morning swims at North Beach

I swim here North Beach  early mornings, when it is quiet and I can enjoy the horizon while following my thoughts. The scene is never the same.

Sometimes I am surrounded by a group of sea gulls and their juniors rocking on the surface of the water. They look like little boats. Sometimes there are a few herons fishing around me.

There can be no doubt that these herons are in fact cormorants!

I do hope that none of my readers have attributed this article to me.

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Robbed blind by Scottish Power

I don’t often settle scores via my blog, but here is a tale to curl your hair.

I’m in the process of renovating a small house, which is being rewired.  Lacking any form of heating and having just one live socket it understandably uses very little electricity.  With great difficulty I convinced Scottish Power of this situation, and agreed to a direct debit of £14.54 /month to cover the standing charge and negligible usage.

Today I thought I would confirm the situation by submitting a further meter reading, showing that in the last 6 weeks I had used 3KWH of electricity.

As soon as I submitted the reading,  this notice popped up! Increasing my bill to £191.44.

Something wrong here.. So I went to Direct Debit Manager  which enables me to set my own payment.  I planned to revert to the original sum.

It wasn’t that easy because this is what happened:

But  I tried and tried and eventually I got to the right page, and set about amending the Direct Debit.  Interestingly here they wanted not £191.44 but  £171.00.  Still pretty exorbitant for using no electricity. So I tried to set my own payment.

Read the bottom line!  I am allowed to revert to the old payment.  But there is one tiny problem:  the penalty will be an immediate one-off payment of £2,659.82!!

Deeply puzzled I took a look at the panel displayed if you click on “View your payments breakdown”

Beyond astounding.  This panel tells me that my next payment review takes place in April 2024.  However, according to Scottish Power paragraph 2, this is only 5 months away!  What calendar are they on? Would you trust a  direct debit to a company which doesn’t know what year they are in?  And increased your bill thirteen fold because you used three kilowatts of electricity?

I’ve since received an email, telling me that they are going to take not the recommended £171 but the far nicer £191.44 which appeared in the first pop-up. Seems dates and figures are pretty labile in the Scottish Power computers.   My account balance is already £47 in credit, which would cover almost three months in a house with no electricity.

Complain you suggest?  The chance would be a fine thing!   The system allows you to communicate online with bots or listen to a couple of hours of canned musak and then speak to an operative trained to resemble a robot.  I already have one unresolved complaint with Scottish Power running since early August.  I have 31 days before they start helping themselves to my £191.44.  I am going to need it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Weeding in Mrs Johnes’ Garden

by Caroline Palmer

Today was  a fine day, sandwiched between the wind and rain of earlier in the week and yet another front anticipated tomorrow.  I spent it weeding in Mrs Johnes’ Garden at Hafod.  The garden is now ten years old, a transformation from its appearance in May 2011 when the sitka spruce plantation had been recently cleared and the circular path and lawn were reinstated along historic lines.  The very first shrubs were planted in June 2012.

Mrs Johnes’ Garden
12 May 2011

2012 New beginnings in this once-famous Georgian Flower Garden

The breakthrough for this ambitious project came as a result of the diplomatic skills of Peter White, then Director of the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments Wales, who persuaded the Forestry Commission to reroute the forestry road which some 60 years previously had been driven through the abandoned garden.

Today the scene is very different, with a rich tapestry of shrubs, trees, and perennials overflowing the circular border. The plants have been scrupulously limited to those which would have been available to Mrs Johnes when she created her garden in the 1780s.

Autumn in Mrs Johnes’ garden, 29 September 2022

Small jewels lurk in these borders, such as the clumps of white autumn crocuses which are a magnet for bees, solitary wasps and butterfies all attracted by their nectar.  I photographed a Wall ( Pararge megera) on the crocuses, and a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) on the nearby Evening Primroses.

A Wall butterfly helps itself the the nectar of the Colchicums

The task for the weeder here is to remove the creeping buttercups from amongst the carpet of wild strawberries.   In winter the strawberries are dormant while the buttercups seize the opportunity to enlarge and spread over the winter months, punching gaps in the tapestry.

Small Copper butterfly on an Evening Primrose

Wall

Many of the new  must-have flowers  offered to gardeners two hundred years ago came from the eastern states of the USA, and some have been selected for this garden.   Delightful autumn blooms include the bright gold Rudbeckia hirta, and fluffy cushion flowers of White Snakeroot ( Ageratina altissima) which is very attractive to hoverflies.

White Snakeroot

Another particular favourite of mine is the Pokeweed  (Phytolacca americana) which has strikingly sinister black berries on magenta stems.  These are powerfully poisonous berries, and all parts of the plant contain the toxin so consumption should be avoided. Pokeweed tea was used in traditional north American medicine as a purgative and emetic.  Various pokeweed extracts and preparations are  listed by alternative practitioners and credited with a staggering range of speculative applications in medicine, see verywellhealth.com

Pokeweed

However the site acknowledges that few of the therapeutic claims for the treatment of conditions ranging through tonsillitis, mumps, AIDS, skin conditions and certain cancers have been verified by science, so it is much wiser to simply admire the plant.  I do notice that in spring the new shoots are very susceptible to slug damage, while later in the year the molluscs steer clear, presumably because the toxin intensifies over time.

A greater hazard to the weeder are the thorny briar roses which, at this time of year, are adorned with brilliant hips.    When I was at school I was made to learn and recite Oberon’s speech in Midsummer Nights Dream.

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

It sounds delightful, but the Sweetbriar Rose or Eglantine  which droops hazardously over the border has the sharpest, thinnest incurved claw-like thorns in the business, which will shred the skin of the unwary and tangle in their clothes.

The ferociously thorny Eglantine Rose

The North American species Rosa virginiana is equally spiny but at least these are straight thorns which release you when you draw back!  Its hips are rounder and paler, covered in fine, easily dislodged hairs.

The wild Rose of Virginia

The Prairie Rose, Rosa virginiana

Mrs Johnes Garden was restored by the Hafod Trust, which pioneered the rescue of this important Picturesque landscape.  This Trust will shortly be disbanded as the Hafod Estate is now in the care of the National Trust.  It is hoped that the tradition of National Trust volunteering will soon lead to a larger team of volunteer weeders who which will keep the garden under control.

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A grand day out at the Gorsgoch Show

Last Saturday I attended the Gorsgoch Agricultural Show and Llanwenog Young Farmers’ Club event in my role as Judge of the Flowers in the Produce Tent.

It is a delight that most local shows have revived after two empty years caused by the Covid pandemic.  This was the first time I have visited this particular Show, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.  The event was held on a windy hilltop at Glwydwern farm, and I found my way there, thanks to the satnav, by narrow and twisting lanes beyond Cribyn.  It was an idyllic scene with two horse rings, sheeplines and a large traditional Fedwen marquee packed with produce.

The Vegetable classes at Gorsgoch Show

The spread in the Produce tent was impressive, and I was glad I did not have to face the challenge offered to Cookery judge – no less than 28 bara briths  were awaiting her inspection, and fourteen competent men had entered a fruit loaf in the class limited to their gender.   The seventeen other open classes were all well represented.  The only difference from the shows of old is that now, thanks to health and safety considerations, all the edible entries, once judged, are enclosed in clear polythene bags to keep the flies off.  There were even closed refrigerated cabinets  in which the very ambitious cheesecakes were displayed.  A few confused bees wavered around the tent.  The demonstration hive had proved to be leaky and had been sent home, leaving the escapees behind.

Twenty eight Bara Brith at the Gorsgoch Show

A rare little Rhodoxis at Gorsgoch Show

The Flowers were not quite as numerous as the cakes, and it seems that none of the serious competitive dahlia growers had attended.  But the range of plants in the class of pot-grown and  outdoor planters revealed some discriminating gardeners.  New and exciting cultivars find their way to Gorsgoch gardeners.    A charming Rhodoxis ( a cerise-flowered hybrid of Rhodohypoxis and Hypoxis parvula) vied for attention with some fine fuchsias.

In the outdoor pots I awarded the Best Exhibit rosette to a perfect dome of Bidens ferulifolia ‘Blazing Glory’ overhanging an immaculate trailing yellow Calibrachoa.  There must be some very beautifully appointed gardens and patios in the area.

Bidens Blazing Glory and Calibrachoa at Gorsgoch Show

One of the vases of garden flowers was particularly striking as it featured species with deep purple blooms: buddleia, penstemon and verbena, and some unusual fern foliage.

I was charmed by this deep purple collection of Garden flowers at Gorsgoch Show

This spirit of innovation had also spread to the vegetables.  Among the pairs of cucumbers were two perfectly matched, sparsely hairy, pale yellow yellow globes.  I noted the judge had cut one open to convince the spectators that these unfamiliar vegetables were, nonetheless, real cucumbers!

After completing my duties I roamed the tent enjoying the handicrafts.  It seems many people in South Ceredigion are expert patchwork seamstresses, and the quilts, cushions and table runners took up a great length of the tables.

Just some of the handicrafts at Gorsgoch Show

Perhaps because of the Young Farmers’s involvement there were also well supported competitions classes for 18 and under, and 19-26 year age groups embracing cookery, handicrafts and photography.  In many shows these sort of classes are popular with younger ages, but interest peters out after primary school.

Outside the tent, judges were busy with a dog show and  two horse rings. In one ring there were  beautiful Welsh cobs, and mountain ponies with their colt of filly, while immaculate riding horses and ponies were cantered around the judge in the other.  Burly men wrestled with uncooperative sheep led upon thin white rope halters, and vintage tractors set off on a procession along the adjoining roads.  This deeply agricultural area contains many skillful farmers, growers and crafters as well has historians and scholars.    The display from Coed Fardre Nursery, Talgarreg embraced geneaology, antique tools, scale-models of the many English and Welsh regional varieties of five-barred gate, and 150 different knots all tied in yellow rope!  I am told a book is forthcoming.

Gorsgoch Show

Gorsgoch Show

It is very clear from from the competition in children’s art from Duffryn Cledlyn and Talgarreg Primary Schools that in this part of the world the pupils in Years 3 and 4 know exactly what farm animals look like!  I suspect they also know their vegetables – for it is a long way from Talgarreg to the nearest McDonald’s or KFC.

Eight and nine year-old art  ‘ The Show” at Gorsgoch Show

 

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Remembering Kathleen ‘Kay’ Humphreys

by the Curious Scribbler

When I got to know Kay Humphreys she was a tiny elderly lady living at the far end of the long low row of ancient cottages in the shade of a huge acacia tree at Pontllolwyn in Llanfarian.  There was just one chair for guests which could be reached with difficulty, for she lived a frugal life hemmed in by huge sloping stacks of weekly magazines, the Spectator, the New Statesman, The Week.  The cottage was very much unimproved, cluttered with the memorabilia of her long life.

Loves in her life included the big house, Aberllolwyn, (which had formerly belonged to her clergyman uncles Tom and Griff Humphreys, and which she always felt was really hers), and cats.    A rector’s daughter herself, she delighted in tormenting vicars with theological questions on the subject of cats’ souls, and whether she would meet her favourite cats in heaven.  One of these favourites was our cat, Kevin, a handsome un-neutered  tabby tom who in the 1990s often attended the services at Llanychaiarn Church, where she was a worshipper.   On Sundays when Kevin failed to put in an appearance, Kay would often appear at our door, imperiously asking ” Where is Kevin?”  Kevin became a beneficiary of her will – a legacy which he did not collect because he predeceased her.

In 2004 she endowed her own memorial bench outside the church.  Ever practical, she donated it while she could have the use of it, and on a chilly April morning, eighteen years ago today,  a party of relatives and villagers assembled around her as the Revd Hywel Jones dedicated the bench.

The dedication of the Bench on 3 April 2005

Kathleen Humphreys on her bench, with cousin Mary Ellis and niece Cathy McGregor

By this time in her life Kathleen Humphreys was best remembered for her long-running column in The Cambrian News, ” Kay’s Corner” a weekly opinion piece, which drew on a wide knowledge of folklore, gardening, theology and her own strong ideas.  She had always been a writer, and now, as I assemble her archive and diaries for donation to the National Library of Wales, one gets an insight into a remarkable woman.   She was born in 1916  into a clergy family and grew up at Llangan Rectory near Bridgend.  Her sixteen-year-old diary reveals a girl on the brink of adulthood, aware of male eyes upon her, and already sure that the life of a married woman is not for her.  Aged nineteen she was working in London, going to auditions, and working for Central Editing ( would this be the BBC?).  Her London diaries from the war years unfortunately do not survive.

Her big literary break came in 1959 when she published Days and Moments Quickly Flying under the pen name of Perry Madoc.  It is significant to remember how many women in the early 20th century adopted male cognomens to increase their chance of being taken seriously.  The manuscript had been first submitted under the name of “Pen Severn”.  Perry Madoc was published by Collins both here and in America and was very favourably reviewed in The Spectator, and compared with Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall.   Its knowing portrayal of homosexual school teachers and vulnerable schoolboys would have perhaps been expected of a male author.

Kathleen Humphreys’ 1960s diaries reveal a woman who felt her career blighted by the influential Literary Advisor to Collins, Milton Waldeman. There is more than a suggestion that his rejection of her next manuscript was influenced by her rejection of his sexual advances.   She was no longer resident in London, having moved to Pontllolwyn to be near her uncles.  Two other novels survive in manuscript: The Ink Blot  ( which was rejected by Collins and by Gollancz 1960) and The Coal Scuttle Triptych ( rejected by Heinnemann 1961).  A later novel  The Washerwoman of Sevigny  was rejected by Hutchinson in 1989.  It may have been a disadvantage that she was no longer a face on the London scene, but she was certainly publishing articles and short stories in Punch,  in John O’London’s Weekly and in Argosy.  From the 1960s she was also a regular contributor to The Cambrian News.

All her life, Kathleen Humphreys needed to earn a living  to supplement her income as a writer, and did a number of jobs in Aberystwyth.  Her  Pontllolwyn diaries span fifty years 1953 to 2004,  and record the experiences of her daily round.  Her accounts include  Rosemary Christie, mother of the actress Julie Christie and mistress of Douglas Hague of the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments, the Jervis family of Bryneithin, the geologist Nancy Kirk, Prof and Mrs Parrott, the Thomsons of Glanpaith, the Roberts of Crugiau, the Mirylees at Nanteos, the Condrys and the Chaters as well as many local neighbours.  She was active in the CPRW, the Cardiganshire Horticultural Society, the Ceredigion Antiquarians, and in art and pottery classes.  She never owned a car, and travelled everywhere on foot or by bus, chatting to all she met and often expressing her delight in the scenery, the wildflowers and the weather.

Her handwriting is hard to decipher, but the diaries are surely a treasure trove of local life, as well as  a signpost to a huge output of published writing hidden away in old newspapers and magazines.  I end with a small sample which I have transcribed, the diary entry for 18 July 1959.

Last night I wandered up to Aberllolwyn like a ghost, jumping down over the wall from the woods, now overgrown, and the back all high weeds smothering the wallflowers and sweet williams I had in the old basins and the flowers against the wall! It was exactly like a dream in the dusk with all silent and deserted. I felt so desolate and so acutely homesick I cried bitterly and rained down curses on Uncle Griff and his smug wife and their smug house and on Providence for losing me my home and my little cat.  In two months I have only seen him once, briefly, and then he looked scared, thin and ill. 

In vain I called him, and I sat on Uncle Tom’s seat in the field in despair.  On one last impulse I went down along the bottom of the orchard to the farm and there coming through the entrance to the Dingle from the farm was a glimmer and red and white.  My darling Ginger!  And in the trim, fat as butter and coat very sleek.  How pleased he was to see me, Kissing and rubbing my face with his nose.

By this time it was pitch dark, and warm, and I resolved to spend the night with him on the hay stack.  I climbed up a very steep ladder, Ginger clinging on and purring.  We settled down.  At first it was very cosy with heat rising from the rick but presently my temperature dropped and I got chilly.  I tried to arrange these angular blocks and fetched an old raincoat of Dai’s from below.  Ginger bore it all very well and when I was too fidgety stationed himself near, so I could hear him purring gently. 

Later there was a terrific row below and footsteps.  We were rather alarmed, me especially, but peeping over the top I saw it was Dai and Mrs Hughes with a torch.  What were they doing?  Extraordinary noises of clanging zinc.  They were arranging the fallen zinc sheet from the garden wall before the calf shed to keep the geese in.  And I had nearly settled in there with Ginger for the night!  Why put the geese there? 

The haystack very humid. At daybreak Ginger and I went down through the Dingle to the cottage and into bed.  It is wonderful to have that warm lump once again snuggled up on the bed covers and his purring and sonnerations.  At 2.30 I took him up to the farm and asked Mrs Hughes to give him milk in the cowshed, which she does, the part behind the stalls where the dogs can’t reach.  There  are several tins of catfood in the farm piling up  because no-one has seen Ginger for days and days.

Kathleen Anne Humphreys, Perry Madoc or Kathleen Hatling ( as she was published in Argosy 1944) deserves to be disambiguated and rediscovered.

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