Thursday, 1 May 2014


Here are some images taken yesterday from Capel-Y-Ffin in the Black Mountains. The name of the Welsh hamlet translates as 'the chapel at the end' and is situated in the scoop of a hidden valley just waving distance from Offa's Dyke and the border. Capel-Y-Ffin lies eight slow miles south of Hay On Wye, up and down a slim, single track road that takes you through some truly awe-some upland moorscapes dotted with miniature ponies, lonely hikers and streaming ribbons of light that race across the emerald massif. William and Dorothy Wordsworth loved this stretch of the gospel path, often referring to it as one of their favourite walks. Today there's some workmen sleeping in their van in the shadow of the prominent Hay Bluff. The neighbouring spur of land pushed into the sky is called Lord Hereford's Knob. A handglider hangs in its invisible cradle.

Sheepdogs chase your car wheels as you enter the hamlet and park up on a verge. One small farmhouse, post box, phone box, the aforementioned chapel and handful of other residencies make up Capel-Y-Ffin's entirety. In 1924 the artist Eric Gill moved his family into the disused monastery tucked up a trail towards the end of the hamlet and founded his notorious religious community there. Examples of Gill's stonework can be seen on the tombstones that cluster around the wonky owlish chapel. The poet/artist David Jones was also a member of Gill's community and recorded his time there in a number of transcendent paintings. In 1938 Eric Ravilious also stayed for a few weeks at the farmhouse, painting both 'Wet Afternoon' and 'Waterwheel' whilst he was here. Furthermore, Bruce Chatwin frequented Capel-Y-Ffin as a boy, admitting that the place had become an emotional centre in his life, his time there shaping his novel 'On The Black Hill'. It's easy to see why so many people have been drawn to and into this rural idyll. There's an incredible hushed atmosphere to the place that holds your expectations like the air in a upturned cup. When a trio of motorcyclists speed through the middle of the pervading calm, they leave in their wake only the river Honddu to intrude upon the silence, quietly reciting the chapel's east window text...

"I shall lift up mine eyes to the hills whence cometh my salvation."