Monday, 25 April 2016

Into the Black Mountains Part II : Capel-y-ffin and St Martin's, Cwmyoy

I last visited Capel-y-ffin - well, a little less than 50  years ago, and being very young, remember little other than my parents telling me, maybe as a sop, that there were artists there. It worked. I spent the whole trip with my eyes on stalks, on the lookout for anyone sufficiently exotic-looking to pass as a painter or maybe even a writer, as if I might somehow bask in their Ready-Brek glow as they passed. Much later, I learnt that Eric Gill and his entourage had lived in the monastery there 40 years earlier, and that the poet and artist David Jones had been a frequent visitor.  But I saw no one who might have fitted the bill that day.

I'm not even sure which hill we climbed, though this one looks familiar.  If it is the one, I suspect the fact I remember being told it didn't have a name might well be because it's called Lord Hereford's Knob.  

The chapel of St Mary the Virgin, in the shadow of said Knob,  is delightful, and its diminutive size reminded me of Culbone Church on Exmoor.  

The Rev Francis Kilvert described it as 'owlish', which makes Dru's discovery of owl pellets in the churchyard fitting. 

'I shall lift up mine eyes unto the hills from when cometh my help'

A copy of David Jones' Sanctus Christus de Capel-y-Ffin

Leaving Capel-y-ffin, we headed back down the valley. Up on a hill to our left, I glimpsed a church that looked as if it were melting into the ground. Dru explained that the whole village of Cwmyoy was built on a hillside subject to slippage, so in a way it is. 

I don't think I've ever seen so many toppling graves before. 

The tower of Pisa is 4.7 degrees out of alignment; the tower of St Martin's 5.2 degrees.   

As for inside, Dru's assertion that there wasn't a straight line in the place turned out to be true. 

I started to wonder if the only thing keeping the windows in place was the ivy. 

Back outside, we came across a tastefully lettered headstone to one Arthur Denys Gill. Ah, has to be one of Eric's clan, we thought, but a bit of (admittedly desultory) research has yet to reveal a link. This Gill, it turns out, was a racing driver.
The sky snagged in a tree
Off then for a swift drink at the Skirrid Inn, which could comfortably accommodate a whole blog post all by itself, what with its tales of the days - well, centuries, actually - when the first floor served as a Court of Law and 180 locals were hanged from the beam in the stairwell. For sheep stealing, mostly.  

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