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Penblewin (Narberth)

Blaenmarlais - Redstone Bank - Henllan Fm

Just north of Narberth in Pembrokeshire is a classic toll-evasion route used by drovers on their way to Carmarthen.

It starts grandly at SN 110159 (#1), where a track turns off the Narberth-A40 road at Blaenmarlais, goes through a farmyard, then plunges down Redstone Bank in a deep hollow lined with oak and beech (#2).  Too narrow for an old road, it could only have been used by horses, mules or drovers evading the toll on the crossroads at Penblewin (120166).


The old maps don’t show a tollgate at the crossroads1.  They show a farm which doubled as an inn – Richard Moore-Colyer refers to it as The Speculation, quite a common name for Pembrokeshire pubs.  It was run by the Gibby family for much of the mid-19C, who were horse-dealers.  (Was the racetrack where the speculation came in?) 


The only mention of a toll at Penblewin is from an advert. by the Whitland Tollgate Trust in The Welshman of 9/9/1842.  It states that tolls were to be let by auction at the Rutzen Arms Inn, Narbeth, on 6th Oct.  A list of tolls for lease follows, ending with "Side Bars2 at Commercial Inn & Penblowen (2) which had been erected since the last lettings of the tolls of the trust".  


That pins the tollgate well enough.  Anyway, what farmer, dealer or drover would go the crazy route we walked unless it was to save money?


After the downhill plunge we crossed the N-S road at Stonyford, squelched through the brook at 123160 and walked diagonally through the field the other side (as the map dictates) to rejoin the hollow-way.  This continued eastwards (#3), uphill this time and still only wide enough for one beast. 


We didn’t immediately notice that the hollow-way was behind us (#4) as well as in front, leading back to Pant-y-gorphwys Farm just north of Stonyford.  Many drovers would have rested there – “gorffwys” is Welsh for ‘rest’ – and rejoined the eastward track without returning to Stonyford.  That’s the only way we could explain it.

At the top of the field the route took on the appearance of an important road (#5) until, after Henllan Farm, it joined the tarmac to Llanddewi Felffre.


It’s a smashing walk; made even better in our case by the fact that spring had appeared that morning (with the scent of wild primroses) – only to disappear abruptly as we took off our gumboots.  (Waterproof footwear, as you can see from the pictures, is essential.)


1 Now a roundabout.
2 Side bars were introduced to catch farmers who only used sections of the roads between the gates.  There were 2 at Penblewin, probably to catch traffic coming from north & south.  Earlier gates would have got the (main) east-west traffic.

Penblewin (Narberth) image 1
Nr Blaenmarlais
Penblewin (Narberth) image 2
Down Redstone Bank
Penblewin (Narberth) image 3
Rejoining Hollow-way
Penblewin (Narberth) image 4
Back towards P-y-G Fm.
Penblewin (Narberth) image 5
Encore une Grande Route