Finding Graig Ddu – The Cottage In The Forest
It wasn’t so much a case of love at first sight, mostly because I hadn’t lived without electricity before, and the cottage was pink! I wasn’t sure which would be more of a challenge.
It was definitely a case of it finding me, though. After 4 years of travelling I was familiar with synchronicity, but in the 2 years since coming home, somehow the magic of it had drained away. Unmistakably, it was here again now.
After 12 years of marriage, 4 of which were spent tethered to one another by the motorbike, engrossed in the euphoric highs and despairing lows of overland travel, it all unravelled 2 years after returning home. Consumed by claustrophobia, I fled. The Black Mountains had called.
Graig Ddu is hidden away in the depths of the forest. Invisible. In 1991 the mature Douglas firs and Western Red cedars towered above the cottage, the closest ones no more than 50 feet away from the back wall. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Synchronicity fascinates me. Like a ball of tangled thread, there appears to be no beginning and no end, as events enfold and unfold within each other.
The story that follows sets the scene as a perfect example of synchronicity – of how Graig Ddu and I stumbled across one another.
It started with a chance meeting between friends in Safeways car park in Abergavenny. I was oblivious of this until I had call from a total stranger asking me if I would house sit for his 3 collies and a horse for 2 weeks. Where? Capel y Ffin. Where?Capel Y Ffin, I discovered, is a tiny hamlet at the top of the Llanthony Valley in the heart of the Black Mountains, at the foot of Gospel Pass.
With my life upside down and nowhere I could call home at the time, I agreed to meet him.
I wound my way up the valley. It’s strange how country lanes always seem so much longer the first time you drive them. Up and up, past the Half Moon Inn and then into single track lane with passing places. On and on steadily climbing until I reach Capel Y Ffin – one farm, a church, a chapel and a phone box. Turn left before the Chapel and wind up past the old monastery on the left. Past Talsarn and over the ford. Up again, even steeper now. Reach the mountain gate. Haul on the handbrake, leap out of the car and open the gate as fast as possible, scramble back into the car, a hill start to challenge them all, and repeat the process to close the gate. On up the strip of tarmac, running straight across the hill now. Windows down and I can smell the mountains. Finally, the roof of a tiny cottage attached to a stable comes into view.
Blaen Y Cwm (Blan Ee Coom) where I would spend the next 2 weeks, had electricity supplied by a generator. Flick the first light switch on and the generator fires up, turn the last switch off and it shuts down. It was this or candles for the next 2 weeks. Living like this would set the scene for the necessary change of mind-set I was going to need to live at Graig Ddu – whose existence I was unaware of so far.Without this, I wouldn’t have known if I could take the next step and live without electricity all together.
I was all alone. No-one I knew, knew where I was. It was Autumn, and wild, wet and windy. It was sublime. I walked the dogs and rode the horse across the hills and made my first pot here.
I mentioned in passing to the stranger that I was looking for somewhere to live and he replied that he may know of something. So, without knowing the friends, who met the stranger who lived at Blaen Y Cwm, who knew the woman who was looking for a tenant for Graig Ddu……….
Synchronicity at its magical best.