Sunday, 24 April 2016

Into the Black Mountains Part I : Llanfrechfa, Abergavenny, Crickhowell and Llanthony Priory

As soon as they saw us at the edge of the churchyard, the whole flock came charging across two fields and shouted at us for five minutes before deciding that we probably weren't about to feed them and wandering off again. 

The Church  of All Saints in Llanfrechfa was the first stop on a jaunt into the Black Mountains, culminating in an art event at the Grade  listed farmstead, Llwyn Celyn near Llanvihangel Crucorney.  

For now, though, we were fending off hungry sheep and pushing ineffectually at the (locked) church door. 

Not that it mattered, as this is where my companion, Dru, spent several childhood years, and just taking in the view from the high churchyard while she gave me the historical and geographical information I needed was a fine start to our journey. 

A quick stop in Abergavenny for a mug of tea and a toastie in the market cafe and we continued on our way to Crickhowell, which I'd only ever driven through before.  I could have spent a small fortune I don't have in The Tower Gallery, but instead confined my extravagance to a pack of poetry cards and this photo of Crickhowell's Mari Lwyd, a rather more macabre feature of wassailing custom than anything Somerset has to offer.  

I love the way there seems to be a hill at the end of every street in Crickhowell.   

Just as we were debating whether the People's Republic of Crickhowell was the preferred holiday destination for the inhabitants of the People's Republic of Stokes Croft, the owner popped out for a little chat. Turns out Tim Rossiter is an artist originally from Bristol.  (Dru's photo.)

Another thing I like about Crickhowell is the children's play area right next to the Castle ruins ... 

... and the way visitors ignore the path the authorities provide for climbing the Castle motte and make one of their own. 

A quick consultation of the map and we were off again, this time to Llanthony Priory, with me relieved that it was Dru driving the Moggy up long, single-track lanes rather than me.  
Dru had visited Llanthony Priory many times before, and told me how once she had stayed in a room in one of the original towers with no plumbing and a chamber pot.  

I was struck by how it is spring in the valley and still winter on the hills.  All the same, it was pretty nippy, so we went into the abbey crypt - now a bar - for a drink.
Then over the road and into the terraced church I'd nearly missed, being so bedazzled by the ruins and the trees and the hills. 

Originally the infirmary of the priory, St David's was converted into a church in the early 18th century. I think it's one of the plainest I've seen. 
After that we headed on up the valley to Capel-y-ffin. More about that anon. 

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