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Strata Florida...

Strata Florida Abbey (SN 746657) is worth seeing, although there’s not much of it left (#1).  The one reminder of better times is the memorial to Dafydd ap Gwilym, the meistersinger of medieval Wales (if I am allowed that phrase and if I've spelt it right), under a yew tree.  I am so glad that Ceredigion has improved on the makeshift memorial I once saw there.  Google it if you're interested.



The abbey was founded in 1164 by an enterprising group of Cistercians, a strict order believing in the virtues of a hard life, who had an offer of land in an unpromisingly barren area.  The monks kept sheep, horses, pigs & cattle on 15 various granges (#2), thus making a major contribution to the economy of the area.  Would that they were there today…the local economy direly needs a 21st Century boost, but not in the destructive way Cadw has chosen (see below, para 4).


Back to the monks, who – and this is hard to believe – introduced sheep into the farming system.  They were the first to hire shepherds and use ear-cuts for sheep-ID.  By 1292 they held numerous fairs1, owned 1,300 sheep and 400 cattle & farmed 6,300 acres of arable!  Gradually, then, they began to lease the land, live off the income and the Cistercian values collapsed.  At the time of the Dissolution there were only six monks left to evict.


Drovers came through to buy their animals, of course, taking them eastwards to Rhayader or south-east then south to Abergwesyn (via Nant-ystalwyn).  We began to walk the latter path (#3-5) till it became impassable… The internet draws bikers and 4WD fanatics from all over Europe to race along these ancient paths; they have worn what Cadw still laughingly calls a “green lane” down to bedrock or churned the peat up into deep quagmires (#5).  And the season is non-stop.  We didn’t encounter one bike or 4WD, luckily, but there would have no chance to hear wildlife or enjoy the walk if we had.

One enterprising adventurer asked me if it was safe to ride his horse down the drove road from the abbey.  I said No, stay away unless your horse is bomb-proof.


I know it’s a hard choice.  The shops and pubs were empty, now they’re often full.  Trouble is, the bikers etc. are even trespassing on to the old “Monks’ Trod”, their pilgrim route; this is not allowed, but how does one stop them without littering the mountains with barriers? 


I’ll stop moaning.


1 Ffair Rhos (= Heath Fair) was the largest of the fairs.  It is a village today.

Strata Florida... image 1
The Abbey
Strata Florida... image 2
The Granges
Strata Florida... image 3
Bedrock on top..
Strata Florida... image 4
Strata Florida... image 5
...and at the bottom, this.