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Cilgerran & the Teifi

Travelled to Cardigan the other day; lovely town.  There’s a ‘ropewalk’ on the southern edge, the start of a drovers’ trail (#1) to Cilgerran, the scene of a lively market and “one of the most important cattle fairs in Pembrokeshire”, according to Shirley Toulson.  It was held on August 10th, St Lawrence’s Day.  20,000 Castlemartin Blacks were assembled in Cilgerran for their journey to England in 1804, apparently.

 

 

(I’m becoming more & more convinced in my old age that 90% of long distance cattle-droving was done in autumn.  There would still be spring droves, but mostly of beasts bought by south-eastern graziers the previous autumn and fattened on roots, hay & grass during the intervening winter.)

 

 

The path goes through the Pentood Marsh (SN 183459), hard enough to negotiate even after Ceredigion has spent time & money on bridges & duckboards.  It’s hard to believe drovers would have taken cattle through the bog unless toll-avoidance was their number-one priority.

 

 

After Rhiwlas Cottage (SN 185446) the route becomes a pleasant forest walk and the village (ex-town) of Cilgerran is even pleasanter.  On the way into town, in one of the back alleys, we passed #2.  The chimney convinces me it was not once a barn but a drovers’ doss-house.  Note a blocked-up window just visible at the end; you can see it better in the Wikipedia article on Cilgerran – where you can also see #3, a famous picture of the market in the late 19C which has NO RELATIONSHIP AT ALL to the High Street now!

 

 

Besides a selection of old pubs, a fine church, a nice ruined castle and a busy high street, Cilgerran has the Village Stores.  This is run by the friendly & industrious Liz, whose home-made selection of hot snacks & cakes are a treat.  And her flapjacks are the best in the world.  That’s official.

 

 

And that’s where the good news stops.

 

 

We walked expectantly down to the Teifi for a walk back to Llechryd.  Chris was telling me how full of fish the river is; that President Carter used to call it the best stretch in the world for salmon and trout; that there are otters in the banks... 

 

 

...well, not since Dec. 20th 2016.  Slurry poured into the river has killed the fish and all you can hear & see is continuous brown frothy muck flowing down into Cardigan Bay.  It will take six years for the micro-organisms to grow back, many more for wildlife to return.  It’s a tragedy.  I found myself writing a poem:

 

 

In Memoriam Afon Teifi

The salmon and trout won’t be leaping

Down on the Teifi today;

There’s a line of froth steadily sweeping

Down-river to Cardigan Bay.

 

The raven’s still doom-prophesying

From an oak on the path to Llechryd;

But the kingfisher isn’t replying –

He’s had to go elsewhere to feed.

 

The banks now are lifeless and muddied,

While the noxious froth snakes in between;

Where living things hovered and scudded

Not one flash of life’s to be seen.

 

Otters left when the water was dirtied

And the Teifi’s death-warrant was signed;

And each otter’s holt that’s deserted

Points a finger of blame at mankind.

Cilgerran & the Teifi image 1
Outside Cardigan
Cilgerran & the Teifi image 2
Drovers' Doss-house?
Cilgerran & the Teifi image 3
Cilgerran Fair c.1890
Cilgerran & the Teifi image 4
One Farmer Did This