Which Ty’ n Mynynnd?


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We drive down lanes so narrow that the car’s bumper sensors, designed to tell you when you’re getting close to hitting something, scream the entire time. And at the same time that we find one Ty’n y Mynyndd, we discover that there is another!

We have a chance encounter with someone who lives at one of the Ty’n y Mynyndds.

And, we also pick up an eighty-year-old piece of royal gossip.

On a brilliantly sunny afternoon, we head out confidently. We don’t actually have directions; we’ve lost them since our last visits decades ago. But we’ve found Ty’n y Mynyndd on our map and the route makes total sense to me. But as the road gets narrower and narrower and signs become tinier and tinier, it is clear that we’re not on the road I meant to take. We press on, mainly because there is no way in hell I am going to back this vehicle down those steep and windy lanes. Turning around is not an option.

We meet a walker who listens to our story, looks closely at our map and tells us that our route–which we had thought was the wrong one–is actually the right one. We meet her–a Canadian who married a Welshman–somewhere after Llangoed but before Llanddona. We make a few stops for photos of fields, hills and ocean, and then take a hard right where the phone booth used to be just outside Llanddona (the phone booth is still on the map, but we didn’t see it anywhere). Then, we wend our way past Glan-yr-afon, Wern-y Wylan and Wern Hall (which we later learn was the site of secret royal trysts between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson). We head down toward the sea, as the walker told us we would, but then stop. We think we’re too close to the sea. Then, three young walkers round the wooded bend in the lane before us.“Excuse us!” we say. We explain our mission. One girl’s eyes pop. “I live at Ty’n y Mynyndd!” she says, astonished. As are we! And then “Hughes is the name?” she says, with even more excitement. “Was there a Sarah or an Ann?” she asks? No, we say, it was an Ellen and an Owain Thomas. Turns out she and her friends had just passed through an old cemetery on their beach walk and those were the names they’d seen on the stones.

But we want to know about her home. “Is it old?” I say. “It’s so old we don’t know how old it is,” she says. “Is it a farm?” we ask. “No,” she says. It’s a little settlement named Ty’n y Mynyndd, but her family’s house is also called Ty’n y Mynyndd. And, even though we think it must be close, we’re actually not very near it, she tells us. It’s in Pentraeth Forest. We don’t know where that is, but we love the name. Then my eyes focus on the sign just behind her. It’s a list of farms and there, at the very bottom, is the name “Ty’n y Mynyndd!”IMG_0971

“Look!” I say. She and her friends turn. They’d never seen that sign and never heard of this Ty’n y Mynyndd. We decided to check out this one out, since we’re here. I start to offer them a ride home and then decide against it, since we are strangers. We say goodbye to each other and we begin driving up a steep lane that is narrower and ruttier than any I have ever driven before. There are houses, but they’re new (relatively speaking). Then a gate blocks the road. I walk into the yard of Penwydden, a house just below the gate, to ask directions and to see what, if anything lies beyond the gate that blocks the road above us.

We make new friends, Peter and Cilla, who fill us in on a lot of history (and also give tips on shopping and dining out). There are stories of lords and their grand plans, families selling out (asset stripping is the term) and royal dalliances. This Ty’n y Mynyndd (the name means mountain farm) was one of five tenant farms and the last of the five to be actually farmed–it was a working farm until the 1990s. Once heathland that was a favorite hunting ground for one lord, it was reforested early in the 20th century. Those trees wouldn’t have been there in Owain Thomas’s time. Our new friend says that we can park in his driveway (I bless him heartily for that) and that we can cross the gate using the stile and the road will take us right by Ty’n y Mynynnd. It’s all legal, because the road is also a public footpath. It’s just not legal to drive on it–not that I would if I could; it is too damn narrow.

IMG_0959So on we press, up through trees filled with singing birds, and fields with mountain and sea views as well as the ocassional junk pile and one massive steel shed packed with cars and car parts. We descend the hill and there is Ty’n y Mynyndd! It’s an old stone cottage with a modern glass conservatory on the front. There’s a small apple orchard and a variety of old stone outbuildings in various stages of disrepair. A pair of Wellington boots is parked outside the door. No one is home. It’s not the Ty’n y Mynyndd my mother and I each visited separately years ago. So we wander and wonder as the sun starts to set. Is this the right Ty’n y Mynyndd? Will we ever know?

Perhaps tomorrow, when we pick up a copy of Owain Thomas’s birth certificate at the Anglesey Registrar’s Office, Shire Hall, in Llangefni, we’ll find out more.

Meanwhile, it’s been a sunny day for us!
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