Cân y Ffordd Euraidd / The Song of the Golden Road - Span Arts
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Cân y Ffordd Euraidd / The Song of the Golden Road

The story so far… 

This summer we have been delivering Cân y Ffordd Euraidd / The Song of the Golden Road in partnership with Rowan O’Neill and PLANED as part of the Preseli Heartlands Project.

Cân y Ffordd Euraidd / Song of the Golden Road aims to create a radio ballad in response to the Preseli Heartlands from Crymych to Cwm Gwaun. The Golden Road is a name given to the trackway which traverses the seven-mile ridge of Mynydd Preseli (the Preseli Mountains) running from Foel Drygarn to Bwlch-Gwynt.

The project has taken the form of a series of workshops and walks from the communities that reside at the foot of the Preselis and concluded on Tuesday 31st August with a walk along the golden road itself led by Ewan Rees of VIP Wales.

Song of the Golden Road project participants at the summit of Foel Cwm Cerwyn, the highest peak in the Preselis. 

The workshops have been an opportunity to get to know the Preseli area from different perspectives including talks by invited experts and accompanying walks with opportunities for story swapping and sound recording.  The location-based workshops have followed various themes; in Brynberian the focus was the megalithic where we were joined by National Parks Community Archaeologist Tomos Jones and megalithic researcher Robin Heath on a guided tour of the Waun Mawn site.

At Waun Mawn with Megalithic Researcher Robin Heath and Community Archaeologist Tomos Jones 

At Crymych we turned our attention to agriculture with input from Mary Chadwick, the conservation officer for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and Arwel Evans Pensarn, the National Park’s Farming Liaison Officer. On a walk up Foel Drygarn PLANED Preseli Heartlands Project Officer Sophie Jenkins shared her own family memories of sheep farming on the hills, and the process of transhumance whereby Preseli sheep are moved to Castlemartin firing range to graze over winter.

Midsummer Preseli Tractor Run

In Hermon we were joined by Professor Martin Johnes – t.v. historian and a past pupil of Ysgol Hermon who shared his research taking Hermon School as a case study as to the impact of Victorian state education policy on the use of Welsh in Welsh communities in early 20th century Wales.  Cris Tomos gave an inspirational talk about the campaign to save the primary school in the early 2000s including the many protests and courtroom appeals and the subsequent setting up of the Ganolfan after the school was eventually closed.  The afternoon concluded with a poignant walk around Bwlch y Dŵr – the path the school children walked together as part of classroom studies.

A walk round Bwlch y Dŵr  

On one of the hottest days of the year we visited Mynachlogddu where the theme was Religion & Pacifism.  Our shepherd for the day was local historian and writer Hefin Wyn who introduced our subject in the fitting surroundings of Capel Bethel concluding his talk with some impromptu hymn singing.  We learnt about the Brwydr Preseli (The Battle for the Hills) and the ministers that helped to stop the ministry of defence turning the Preselis into a military training ground.  We visited the Waldo Williams memorial stone where we were treated to poetry recitation and some words of wisdom on inspiration, language and translation from Wyn Owens and Rhian Medi.  After lunch at Dangarn we walked on to Carnabwth the tŷ unnos which was the home of Twm Carnabwth leader of the Merched Beca group and then to the ‘ysgubwr’ barn at Glynsaithmaen where the Beca movement first met.

At the Waldo Williams Memorial Stone 

At Rhosybwlch (Rosebush) we learnt about Preseli’s industrial past with industrial archaeologist Dr Peter Claughton who led us on a site visit to an abandoned quarry below the summit of Foel Cwm Cerwyn.  This was a challenging walk over some rough and steep terrain, but it was worth it to experience the quarry returning to nature and the views of the surrounding landscape including sighting a Merlin, the UK’s smallest bird of prey.

Entering the abandoned quarry at Rosebush 

Our final community workshop in this series was held in Cwm Gwaun.  Here we were joined by Hedydd Hughes, a teacher and local historian who teaches at Ysgol Llanychllwydog who has a wealth of knowledge about the local heritage, culture and tafodiaith including traditions such as Hen Galan and the tall tales of Siemi Wad.  Hedydd led us in a couple of songs – including “Milgi Milgi” and brought with her a fascinating display of artefacts, books and items of local interest.  We were also pleased to be joined by National Park Ranger and Cwm Gwaun native Richard Vaughan who shared his memories of growing up and living in the valley.

Story and song in Cwm Gwaun with Hedydd Hughes

At Cwm Gwaun the afternoon session was an opportunity to share music of the Preseli area as participants were asked to bring any music or songs they felt related to the Preselis.  Jacob Whittaker sound recorder on the project shared some of his vinyl collection with records such as Cantorion Ingli and Lleisiau Preseli, a recording of the Preseli School Choir from the 1970s.  We also heard a recording of Canu Pwnc a traditional form of psalm singing from Rhydwilym Chapel.  Judith Rees a project participant even brought her own song which she had recorded with friends the night before telling of their excitement to be visiting the Gwaun valley!

Preseli Recordings

Radio Ballad Production

At Cwm Gwaun we were joined for the first time by Paul Evans who has been appointed Radio Ballad editor and technical producer.  Paul is a sound engineer and an award-winning radio features producer.  He has worked with BBC Radio Wales and BBC Radio Cymru with a track record of music documentary making.  He also has a particular connection to the Preseli area as his Great Great Grandfather was the Choir Master at Pisga Chapel in Llandysilio and wrote his own choral compositions.  We are delighted to be working with him on this project.

Paul Evans, Radio Ballad Editor and Producer 

What Next?

We are now moving into the music making phase of our project and are inviting anyone who plays an instrument to take part in our weekend music making workshop Saernïo Gân y Ffordd Euraidd / Crafting the Song of the Golden Road which will take place on the weekend of the 25/26 September.

These bilingual sessions will be led by experienced community musician Stacey Blythe from the group Ffynnon and are intended to be fun and open to anyone who plays an instrument but perhaps doesn’t have the opportunity to play very often or with others.

Stacey Blythe 

We will use our experiences and research from the project to inspire a soundtrack to the ancient trackway of the Preselis.  If you would like to take part in these sessions we ask you to attend a zoom meeting being held on the 14th September.  Places for these sessions are limited.  If you would like to attend please contact rowan@span-arts.org.uk for more information.

Photos by Sophie Jenkins

For more information about the project you can also view our online map.

The Spirit of the Preseli Mountains whose drum beat accompanied the heart beat of the walkers who made their journey across the Golden Road on the 31st August 2021

Cân y Ffordd Euraidd / The Song of the Golden Road responds to two strands of the Planed Heritage Lottery funded Preseli Heartlands project part of the Great Places Scheme; namely Routes to Roots and Our Museums.  Routes to roots aims to bring people together to explore and identify tangible and intangible heritage, current and past cultural and heritage activities and events as well as existing heritage skills and skills gaps.  Researched material will form the basis for heritage interpretation with different communities creating specific outputs in order to celebrate their local history.  Our Museums aims to explore the concept of museums as experienced traditionally in order to find new and holistic ways to present local heritage especially given the rurality of the area.

This work is part of Planed’s Preseli Heartlands project which has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and is being delivered in partnership with Span.