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The Ox or Ych

The Ox Factor..

In Carmarthenshire near the village of Meidrim – a name Tolkien could have conjured up – is a farm called Trafel yr Ych – Trail of the Ox.  The hill behind it has the same name.  (Ych is related to Yken, Anglo-Saxon for oxen & probably the derivation of the Icknield Way.1)  Many cowshoes have been found at Trafel, but none have survived.


(On the subject of lost shoes, we spoke with Dai Morgan of Ffarmers the other day, who used to accompany his father to the Ram at Cwmann near Lampeter to shoe cattle.  He was at a loss when the school wanted a pair of shoes for a historical pageant: his son had to make two new ones.)


Anyway, there must have been a shoeing station at Trafel; and possibly another in the small enclosure behind the fourteenth-century inn Maenllwyd (#1) on the crossroads 200 yards away from the farm (SN 276211).  Between the farm & the pub is the world’s most derelict pine tree that’s still upright, covered in ivy (#2).  Mrs Davies of Trafel says there used to be two; 100 years ago there were probably three.


And the route the drovers were following?   North from Maenllwyd to Bwlchgwynt (275227), where we were told that, up till the 1950’s, rabbit-trains used to leave Pembrokeshire for London every week to feed the capital.  Then on to a deep track gouged out of the hill, marked as a mere footpath on OS Explorer.  Some footpath, some feet: we walked on bedrock all the way up, sure sign that cattle had been before us (#3-5).


From the top we looked down on to the road to Newcastle Emlyn, an important market town & drovers’ meeting place. 


That’s Ych.

1  (Feb 13th 2017)  The knowledgeable Ann Cole from the English Place-Names Society has gently corrected me on this.  She quotes from Victor Watts' Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, who says - and here I summarise: 

The name of this important trackway from Dorset to Norfolk has not been satisfactorily explained.  "Icenhylte" [903 AD] could be taken as Ica's Wood...'Ic[c]a' being an Old English personal name...Another possibility is a connection with the Romano-British tribe The Iceni.

(No place-name authority on the web mentions the Ych connection!)

I find it hard to believe that one "Icca" was important enough to have a road named after him all the way from Dorset to Norfolk & not be mentioned by any chronicler.  So I am backing the Iceni connection...

(That's not Ych after all.)   

The Ox or Ych image 1
Maenllwyd Inn
The Ox or Ych image 2
Pine (centre)
The Ox or Ych image 3
Up the Hill..
The Ox or Ych image 4
..on bedrock..
The Ox or Ych image 5 the top.