Not the Head of the Pass

The woods between Rudry and Parc Cefn-onn are about the limit for my weekly long walk – about 12-13 miles with quite a bit of Up! But there is still plenty to have a look at.

This little ruined farmstead at ST 19223 85750

took a surprising amount of finding. Part of the problem was the name. On the old OS maps it’s Pen-y-bwlch, Head of the Pass – but it’s actually well down in the valley. The current OS marks a track to it – a double-pecked-line track, looking on the map like a forest road, with a bridleway along it and crossing the footpath and the little stream to head over the fields to Ty’n-y-graig.

But there is no road through the woods. Just the footpath south from Coedcae Garw along the edge of Coed Coesau-whips. The old maps put it east of the footpath but the path now goes between the house (to the west)

and what remains of the outbuildings.

(Someone has made a firepit with a lot of the outbuilding stone.)

Once we found it, though, after a couple of false starts, it was worth the effort.

(here’s Nell on the house wall.)

On the tithe plan it’s a farm of just over 20 acres, with a couple of fields along the lane to the north and the rest to the south and east. Coed Coesau-whips on the tithe plan is smaller but still shown as mainly conifers – but John Owen’s idea that the name suggests charcoal production for the iron industry would mean an earlier wood of something like beech and oak. I do wonder whether these little farms like Coedcae Garw, Cwm and Pen-y-bwlch were carved out of the original wood. Then when timber became a valuable commercial commodity for pit props and the plantation was extended, the farms were reabsorbed.

There would also have been access problems. On the tithe plan the access is down the lane past Coedcae Garw,

across the ford

and up a narrow hollow way –

this must have been possible only for a single horse, no room for even a small wheeled vehicle. By 1900 there was a track through the woods, but by that date most of the farmland had been lost to forest. The house is still marked by name but can only have been a cottage for something like a forest worker.

Access may have been what put an end to a lot of these little farms – once farming moved from using horses to mechanical vehicles, anywhere far off the road would have great difficulty in keeping going.

Coedcae Garw

I’m still finding ruined farmsteads north of Cardiff. The number surprises me. We’re used to finding little lost farms in the upland forests – they were no longer viable in the changing economy of the later 20th century and many were swallowed up by the Forestry Commission in the great drive to plant conifers after World War 2. On the fringes of Cardiff, though, you would have thought they could have kept going with market gardening, chickens and dairying – but it was a hard life, and jobs in light industry must have been attractive.

This one

was first spotted by @mikekohnstamm. It’s on the slopes above Lisvane but in the parish of Rudry, where Coed Cefn-onn meets Coed Coesau-whips. On the Tithe Map it’s Coedcae Garw, a smallholding of 11 acres, part of the Tredegar estate and occupied in 1840 by Edward Rowlands. Most of its land is to the south-west, and Edward Rowlands was also farming land down the lane part of the Clive estate. It’s still marked on the 1953 6” map but it may have been deserted by then.

Part of the farm house seems to have been rebuilt in brick, probably in the late 19th or early 20th centuries,

but the old pigsties are still stone.

My grandparents kept pigs on their farm at Cefn Llwyd, a couple of miles to the east. They always took the sows to the boar at the Maen-llwyd, and there was one sow who could find her own way there when she felt like it. I wonder whether the sows at Coedcae Garw went to the same boar.

The name Coed Coesau-whips is interesting. John Owen of Caerphilly suggests it could indicate that the older woods were coppiced to provide charcoal for the iron industry. There was a lead shaft just above Coedcae Garw (still visible on the Rhymney Valley Ridgeway) and the Rudry iron mine is a little further down the Nant y Cwm.

There are also a couple more farms that don’t seem to be on the modern map – Cwm and Ty’rywen. Next week, perhaps.

Even more deserted farmsteads …

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We had quite an energetic Twitter conversation about those deserted farms north of Cardiff.

@mikekohnstamm  drew my attention to Deri-Duon, which is amazingly in the middle of Lisvane, in the fields between Lisvane church and the reservoir.

It’s marked as a ‘cottage and garden’ on the tithe plan, part of the Morgan estate and occupied by a David Thomas. You can just about see the garden boundary under the bushes.

The Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales did an amazingly detailed survey of farmhouses and cottages in Glamorgan, published back in 1988. That describes Deri-duon as a ‘direct entry, end-chimney’ house: in other words, the main door was in the long side wall and went straight into the main room. The chimney was at one end of the house and the stairs to the upper floor was to the side of the fireplace. It was at one time thatched.

The house is still there on the early OS (must try to check the date on that) but now just the chimney end of the house remains standing plus walls under the ivy and brambles.

But how long will it be there? Apparently the whole area has been approved for building. This seems a serious mistake. Open spaces like the fields between Lisvane and the reservoirs are a vital resource – if there’s anything we’ve learned during the current epidemic, it’s the importance of open space for physical and mental well-being.

The Royal Commission inventory also includes two of the three Cefn-Carnau farms. Cefncarnau-fawr, the one now a complete ruin on the lane from Bwlch-y-cwm to the golf course, is described as a ‘hearth-passage house’, with the original entry into a lobby formed by one side of the great fireplace and the staircase in the angle at the other side of the fireplace. Cefncarnau-fawr started out in the late 17th century with a main downstairs room and a second unheated room to the west. Later on, a kitchen and cowhouse were added to the east, and later again an extension to the north, towards the lane. Cefncarnau-uchaf must have been completely rebuilt, but it was originally like Deri-duon, with the main door in the long side wall and the staircase in the angle of the fireplace. Oddly enough, the inventory doesn’t mention Cefncarnau-Fach, nor any of the other deserted farmsteads I’ve been looking at. (I did check the grid reference for Cefncarnau-uchaf in the RCAHMW inventory and it’s the one at the top of Cefncarnau Lane, the one marked as Cefncarnau-uchaf on the OS map.)

But looking at the tithe plan for Deri-duon, I spotted a couple more, probably just cottages, on the lanes north of Cefn-Onn country park. Time for another look … and what are these, on the lane down from the ridge past Transh yr Hebog towards Lisvane: a building

and an adit?

And is this another lime kiln, a bit further along the lane from Bwlch-y-gelli to Blaen-nofydd?

and back at Deri-duon, some nice creamy-white mortar for @AncientTorfaen!

Deserted farmsteads (again)

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So is that farm just off the Heol Hir Ty Drav (as on the tithe map) or Ty Draw (which seems more likely)? And is it actually below the track leading to Wern Ddu woods?

The lower track doesn’t seem to be on the tithe plan but it’s difficult to be sure because we are on the edge of 3 parishes (Ty Draw is in the Van hamlet of Bedwas, but immediately to the south is Llanishen, and to the west is Eglwysilan) and the plans don’t exactly line up. Copyright restrictions mean I’m reluctant to post a screenshot of the tithe map, but here’s a sketch plan based on it.

Field boundaries in green, buildings in brown. The red line marks the southern extent of the farm and looks suspiciously like the rather odd little angle of a field boundary just south of the lower track on the early OS map (it’s still just visible on the modern 1:25,000). Also, intriguingly, that  zigzag line is marked as the parish boundary on the early OS map.

So is the farm below this lane, leading down from the gate?

All that can be seen now is some tumbled stone under the brambles at about grid ref ST 17221 85357.

But the real give-away may be this

a patch of currant and raspberry bushes still holding their own against the undergrowth.

The lines of the fields from the tithe plan are also just about discernible under the trees along the lane.

Ty-Draw is marked as a ruin on the c 1840 tithe plan. The fields around it belong to the Clive estate and are occupied by a Thomas Roberts. But where did he live if the farmhouse was a ruin? He doesn’t appear anywhere else on the apportionments for Bedwas, Llanishen or Eglwysilan. Possibly he was sub-letting the fields around Ty-Draw to another of the local farmers: that might not have shown up on the tithe record.

Also, if the southern boundary of the farm is the parish boundary, what might that suggest about the age of the farm? The area to the north of the fields is marked on the tithe plan as a plantation – had the farm been nibbled away by the planting of trees for pit props, and was that why the farmhouse  had fallen into ruin?

It’s hard to see what some farms and cottages have survived and others have been lost. On the ridge above Tongwynlais, both Blaengwynlais and Bwlch-y-cwm are still there, Bwlch-y-cwm with enough garden to look like a smallholding. If Cwm-nofydd is anything like the Difrinn Anovid of that early C11 charter in the Book of Llan Daf, it lasted for the best part of a millennium but is now an overgrown ruin.  John Owen has identified Cefn Carnau in a survey of the de Clare estate in 1295.  Cefn-carnau Fawr, the biggest of the farms, is a ruin. though there are new stable buildings along the lane and the owner is working on some of the Cefn-carnau outbuildings. The farm called Cefn-carnau Ucha on the tithe plan but Cefn-carnau Fach on the OS, is a solid little farmhouse with another dwelling in the converted outbuildings.

And the Cefn Carnau of the tithe plan (Cefn Carnau Uchaf on the OS) is now a private rehabilitation hospital.

At the end of the lane from Cefn-carnau Fach, Pant-y-gollen is not on the tithe plan and is an un-named cottage on the early OS but is now a substantial house. The farmer at Cefn-carnau Fach told me Pant-y-gollen was once a shop.

Blaen-nofydd is also a substantial farm with converted outbuildings,

while the farms along the lane are long gone.

That’s about as far as I can get without delving into the census returns. In the comments on an earlier post, John Owen said he hadn’t found Bwlch-y-Gelli on the 1851 or later censuses but tht Bwlch-y-Llechfaen was on the 1861 and 1871 ones. But they are both on the OS map – I need a date for that before I start drawing any more conclusions.

I’ve updated my earlier posts with grid references, inserted a photo pf the limekiln near Bwlchygelli, and corrected my earlier reference to Bwlchyllechfaen as Bwlchygelli.

More deserted farmsteads …

Well, this is Bwlchygelli, at ST 16711 84736

just where John Owen said it would be, in the dip between Blaen-nofydd and the Heol Hir.

Can’t think why I hadn’t spotted it before. Perfectly obvious that heap of stones was once a building.

‘ Brains first, and then Hard Work’ said Eeyore.

John Owen suggests Bwlchygelli and Bwlchylechfaen  could originally have been squatter settlement on the older estates of Cefncarnau and Cefneinion. There was lead working in the area, and there are the remains of quarries and limekilns on the lane from Blaen-nofydd – this is the limekiln at ST 16595 84695.

Both farms were small, not much more than smallholdings: possibly early industry provided some casual work for wages, with the farm worked mainly by the women of the family for sustenance. That was quite a common pattern in early industrial areas.

I’m still not sure about Ty-Draw, though. There’s no evidence of a structure down the hill.

There are some possible features just below the track,

but the house marked on the tithe plan is further down. Part of the problem is that we are on the edge of 3 parishes so the lines on the plan don’t totally match up, but I’m wondering if it could be further down the slope again, below the track that goes towards Cefn Carnau Lane.

(Also it’s Ty Drav on the map but I’m sure it should be Ty Draw.)

Nell will be pleased to have another look.

All that’s left of Ty’n-y-parc now seems to be this ruined cowshed at ST 17830 85903,

though there are some tumbled stones under the trees.

John Owen remembered a forester living there in the late 1950s but the forest has now completely taken it over.

Another puzzle. The farm marked as Cefn-carnau-fach on the early and current OS maps is the one which is called Cefn-carnau-uchaf on the tithe plan. The farm called Cefn-carnau-uchaf on the OS is just Cefn Carnau on the tithe plan. Who is right – or did the names change?

Lost farmsteads: update

My old student Dave Standing (tweets as @AncientTorfaen ) suggested that the mortar in the farmhouse walls might give an idea of dating. We had an energetic discussion of this on Twitter and I’m not sure how well it works – but in general it’s suggested that the paler the mortar, the earlier the building, and when you get to the C19 it’s the dreaded black mortar.

Of course, all this is dependent on being able to see the mortar in the first place. Here are the walls of the unidentified farmhouse in Coed Wenallt: you’d have to take these apart to get mortar samples.

This was the only wall I could get to at Cwmnofydd:

rendered and heavily patched with cement, but is this a bit of creamy-beige mortar under the render?

 

And the farm at the top of the Heol Hir: quite a lot of coarse pale greyish-brown (while balancing precariously on a pile of logs, with the dog on the lead because there were sheep about …)

Looking again at the map, I realised I’d misidentified that farm. It’s not Bwlchygelli but Bwlchylechfaen. Bwlchygelli is back a bit along the path AND I HAVEN’T SPOTTED IT – time for another trip. The moral of this is that you need both field work and desk-top survey.

We went up the ridge towards Rudry Common then down the lane towards the Wern-Ddu clay pits. When we were nearly back down at the Heol Hir we spotted this at about ST 17270 85337 –

spoil from the old quarry, or is it suspiciously rectangular?

(You can just see Nell on top of the ‘wall’ here.)

There is a farm marked in the area, Ty-Draw, marked as a ruin on the 1840 tithe plan, but from the map it looks to be below the track, and down quite a steep slope.

Then there’s Ty’n-y-Parc, the other side of the railway tunnel and in the woods towards the Rudry road at ST 17827 85906. Not sure if that one is still there – there’s something on the modern map but it could be a ruin.

Watch this space …