Holloways and old forgotten lanes

‘We pitched the pup-tents side by side on an almost level sward, and slept soundly in the silence under a sky perforated by stars.’ From Notes From Walnut Tree Farm, by Roger Deakin, 2005. Chideock Holloway, Dorset

HOLLOWAYS: from the Anglo-Saxon hola weg, meaning a “harrowed path,” a “sunken road.” A route that centuries of use have eroded down into the bedrock, so that it is recessed beneath the level of the surrounding landscape.

Hints of journeys half-hidden, small segments alerting us to what was once a road, a means to an end.

We seem surrounded by these ancient forgotten lanes in Wales. A Roman road lurks in the heath below our home emerging from “Y Parc” at a bus stop with one weekly scheduled service, a post box, telephone box and a bench . Discovered recently only through drought captured google earth images, it’s truth confirmed by archaeologists and the straight forlorn metalled remnant that leads past a few houses on the edge of our village as it heads out of Segontium as a ghost onwards to Bryncir, Tomen y Mur and Mid-Wales.

Follow the lane from the bottom through to the junction, the road continues across the field to the top
Roman Road, Sarn Helen – Rhos isaf (c) Google

The short section of the pilgrim’s way to Ynys Enlli (Bardsey) that i cycled on daily as a teenager, a lane that seems to burrow through the earth itself, wide enough only for the smallest of cars, invisible to the tourists passing nearby at avaricious speed with their jet skis in tow, their aspirations for the future intact and air-conditioned on the A487 to Abersoch. I have found some sections of this ancient road to salvation, some elements of it form part of the current road, others to be discovered and pieced together into a partial whole, moving back inland to cross the Eryri fed rivers and then back to the coast.

And then following Sarn Helen through mid-Wales, taking a left in Machynlleth southwards to skirt Cardigan bay down in South-West Wales, on our Ceredigion holiday. We make our own immaterial pilgrimage to a Holloway that leads past two un-noticed ancient sites; A Menhir-less hill-top Henge with an unparalleled and unexpected view of the landscape in which it seems to be the absolute centre of, and below it the hidden, open relatively flat space that is called Castell Llwyd, perhaps a settlement, which takes in the Holloway in the primeval wooded valley of Afon Nyfer, a place with little to show of the recent past other than an occasional farm, and the sound of a mobile fishmonger van beeping its arrival. This summer I hope to be back there and spend some time rummaging through the landscape and maps of Sir Benfro/Ceredigion for further fragments of this old sunken road back to the sea.