Mwnt (Rough Draft) Sandmartins burrow through shifting towers. Pilgrim paths, still visible and walked, wind around and around the conical mount. One day, the acoustics of a battle-scream reverberated around this three-sided bay, the Irish Sea rolling red the virgin sand, - a new DNA to mix with the old. The screams now belong to children, cast away from appropriating hands. Some, in a feat of engineering, have dug culverts and dams to divert the course of a stream, flowing over granite onto the expansive beach. Who can count the grains of sand? Or the dreams and neuroses of children? ©Andrew James Murray
Descending once again the conical hill of Mwnt, I was pleasantly surprised to see a small church below me. Bone-White, sun-bleached, it contrasted sharply with the green field it was situated in. I made a bee line for it.
Unable to resist old churches, and also old cemeteries, the Holy Cross Church ticked all the boxes: the building dated back to the 13th-14th Century, and traditionally a church had stood on this site since the age of the Celtic Saints in the 5th-7th Century. And it was an open, cool oasis in the heat of the day.
I had the church to myself, the only sound was the buzzing of a bluebottle trying to find its way back out into the light. Dust motes span in cobwebbed windows.
The dedication of the church to the Holy Cross is a sign of its antiquity, and just inside was a font from the 14th Century, verdigris-tinged, in need of a scrub. How many babies had been baptised here? From those first, blessed ripples, where did the tide of life take them? Did any of them lie in the cemetery outside these walls?
Also of interest to history buffs like myself was a the remains of a 15th Century timber Rood-screen. The carved heads of what are probably the twelve apostles can still be made out, though the one that I studied looked more like a boxer with a flattened nose and cauliflower ear.
I sat for a little while, soaking up the atmosphere, thinking of time and wishing for whispers, when the wooden door behind me suddenly opened and my friend entered.
“I just knew that this is where you would be!”
My wife and kids were in the car, and it was time to head back to our caravan. And so I did, but pushed things by having a quick walk around the small, enclosed churchyard first. Luckily, (for my overheating family in the car), there were many graves but few headstones, and of course the old ones were written in Welsh. It seems the graves of the newly dead had conceded their epitaphs to the English tongue.
History; Natural history; this place was a wonder.
On a beautiful summer’s day I climbed the conical hill at Mwnt, finding myself a spot to sit and stare out over Cardigan Bay, which is an inlet of the Irish Sea. Living in Manchester, over thirty miles from the nearest coast, it’s only when I come to places like this that I get a sense of living on an island.
In a land-locked city of concrete and glass it is easy to forget.
Taking in the blue horizon, some lines from a poem of mine came to mind which underlined this ‘remembering’ of my island roots.
Here it is in its entirety:
Sea View There is a mutual exchange, the boats on the horizon pass each other miles apart but appear much closer together. A white-thimble lighthouse provides scale and contrast to the pelagic braid, while salty notes, redolent of summers past, climb to this terracotta tiled balcony, where we are reminded that we live on an island, perched precariously on the rim of our outer edge, looking out to sea. ©Andrew James Murray