Sunday, 15 August 2010

Barefoot to Cefn Croes

I said a sudden flurry of new posts...but frustratingly the internet connection has been too intermittent...(one of the major contradictions of my off-grid-obsessed self is an inability to survive without broadband)...

A day of solitude from Llangurig to Devil's Bridge on Weds via controversial Cefn Croes...I know nearly all wind energy developments have caused controversy but somehow this one sticks in my mind because it was so publically opposed over the internet & even has its own publication emotively titled (not unlike my previous blog!) the 'Battle for Cefn Croes'. I was almost nervous to visit.

Still defeated by my trainers I walk barefoot up the road from Llangurig that ends in a bridleway over the hill to Cwmystwyth. The last time I came this way was on Merlin in 2000, the day before my birthday, rehearsing out loud my microbiology research seminar presentation I was giving the next day, in another life as a biology PhD student. (So walking along this road barefoot is somehow reconciling the perceived divide between arts & sciences on a personal level & in some intangible way.) The turbines weren't there back then but I still get the now familiar jolt of excitement as I crest the hill & they appear - last seen as a glimpse on the horizon from Bryn Titli.

This time I am singing ('Oes gafr eto?' a popular one on this trip) & genuinely hoping I don't see anyone to confirm my eccentricity as a stereotypical happy hippie. I needn't have worried, I don't see a soul (apart from the turbines - do wind turbines have a soul? Now I have been spending too long in the hills. They do have maintenance engineers though, & I leave a message spelled out with gorse & heather twigs under a turbine for their next visit) until I emerge after hours of forest tramping at the Arch, which I realise I still know nothing about (a stone arch in the middle of nowhere; part of Hafod estate or something older??) because rather than reading the information panel, I get into conversation with some lovely folks (& Toby the speaking dog) from Ilfracombe in a very cool orange VW camper.

We talk about Six Degrees & the potential for getting depressed about runaway climate change; 'doing your bit' only to learn whole governments, nations & corporations are still massively apathetic & polluting. But lots of positive talk about renewables & the sculptural quality of wind turbines, as alien & appealing as the Angel of the North... provoking the usual question when is art, art? I expect it's far too much of a leap of imagination but maybe if we reframed the intention of turbines as art objects which happen to produce energy...? This already a stimulus for another (aerial dance) project in the pipeline...

I hobble the last few miles into Devil's Bridge; compensating for my achilles has taken its toll on my knee. So frustrating & the Hafod Arms offer me ice & strapping but I make plans to take the narrow gauge steam railway back to Aber for another osteopath's appointment the next day - ridiculous but necessary, I can't take any chances with my joints (psoriatic arthritis).

This decision was good timing as the next morning it's pouring & there's even rain blowing into the open train carriage. Find myself having a nostalgic cry - my love of the landscape here was cemented by a teenage spent riding in this valley, crossing and recrossing the tracks of this little train on a mad chestnut Arab mare who once crushed my knee (same one being delivered to the osteopath) in a gateway onto the train tracks & who crashed to the ground with me on board from flat out gallop on the hill above (we were both as surprised as each other & got up, miraculously unhurt, shook ourselves & carried on). Record the sound of the train's whistle which echoes up & down the steep valley all summer & is one of my subconscious defining ambient noises of home.

Aber town is heaving, at the height of the tourist season, it feels like a metropolis, i'm weaving between more people than I've seen in a week - or than I would even see in a month if I kept repeating this walk over & over. It made me realise that it's people who disrupt my notion of tranquility far more than turbines. Their inanimate presence, making visible the power of the wind, actually heightens my sense of the spine-tingling bleakness of remote places. Certainly at Cefn Croes, with a nagging injury, I felt vulnerably far from any civilisation.  

There's not much the osteopath can do for my knee in one session but I buy some new footwear & meet my mother in the dentist's for a lift home where I'm touched to discover she's been marking my progress in pencil in an AA road atlas on the kitchen table. Low tech as always...

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