Nov 15 2012 By Tim Prevett
Picture by Tim Prevett
Do you believe in fairies? I’d like to but am not sure. From time to time I get a whiff of places which give a vibe of being near the Realm of Fae. In August 2011 perhaps the Tylwyth Teg -welsh for the fair folk - perhaps said a hello while out for a walk in North Wales. It would be fantastic if they had.
We had done a long day’s walk around Beddgelert, up over the mountain dropping down within sight of Dinas Emrys hillfort (with links to Merlin, Arthur and Vortigern). The descent to the town was muddy and in places verging on a precipitous scramble. So much for footpaths! Pausing for an ice cream, we went through the town back along the riverside walk next to the Welsh Highland Railway back to the National Trust car park.
The woods between the last bridge of the Glaslyn River before the marshes and estuary and the National Trust car park at Nantmor are very special. I first visited there very early one morning in 2007 while researching my "Roads and Trackways of North Wales" book. I was looking at the sequence of bridge widening underneath the bridge (Pont Aberglaslyn) insofar as I could - part of an old coach route from Croesor to Beddgelert. That’s a walk with a sense of wilderness to it, one which I can’t recommend enough.
While going to and from the car park I felt so acutely conscious, senses sharpened. Energy seemed to imbibe the woods and getting caught up in the vibe was easy. I said to myself "if there's a place where there ought to be fairies, it's here". Whether or not fairies are there or even exist it was a special solitary moment. Remembering it makes me feel warm inside, I’m sure my pupils dilate and I feel enlivened.
Roll on to August 2011. I recounted the 2007 experience at river level before climbing up, "if there's a place where there ought to be fairies, it's here". Indeed the sensation felt strong as we walked through the woods. OK, I was remembering the previous visit so the suggestion I ought to feel 'something' was already there in my mind.
Several minutes later we passed a gentleman, who, with a bright twinkle in his eye and smile in his voice without invitation remarked to us, "These are very MAGICAL woods aren't they". The tone and meaning communicated the same perceived awareness I had on these two visits. Quite made my day. Someone else had had the same feeling as me and spontaneously communicated and connected with me on that. We had passed many other people, including a handful of people at that location. No others took it upon themselves to remark to us.
Interestingly it turns out there is a magical connection with the bridge at Aberglaslyn; folklore attributes its original building to The Devil, and links it to a demonstration of cunning in the face of diabolical deviance from Robin Ddu. Black Robin the Magician was a 15th century poet from Anglesey but is said to have outwitted The Devil at this spot.
Magic or at least a sense of it has permeated this spot for centuries. Having driven through the narrow lanes at a snail's pace to walk the wilderness towards Croesor, the woodland around Dolfriog Woods felt similarly enchanting. Mossy 'dry' stone walls, towering veteran trees, gnarled roots, strong scent of leafmould and a sense that something 'other' is not too far away. A longer visit and actually stopping there at some point is imperative to imbibe the feel of The Ancient, maybe even encounter the atmosphere of the fairy realm. Whatever the ultimate truth, it is a very special place.
Pitcure and words copyright Tim Prevett