Friday, 22 September 2017

MAY MORRIS AT COCK-A-LOFTY

view uphill towards Cock-a-Lofty today



IN SUMMER 1933 May Morris (MM) and Mary Frances Lobb (MF) spent a month above Hay-on-Wye, camping on a grassy spot beside a stream beneath woodland, on open ground known as Lower Tack Common.  I don’t know how they chose the location, which was presumably familiar to walkers climbing Hay Bluff and Lord Hereford’s Knob.  Starting from Kelmscott in Oxfordshire, they travelled to the Crown Hotel, Hay, and then ’went forth in a car driven by a young man with a brilliant red head, to hunt our camping ground’, on a stony road uphill beyond Cusop.  At New Forest Farm ‘Mr Gwllym, the son’ directed them further up to a wooded glen with a gurgling stream, where ‘very shortly we found a still likelier place (though thistly)  sheltered and graced with a lawn-like slope.’ 




The next day they shopped for supplies and drove back to the spot where – in May’s detailed holiday diary – ‘MF and I are soon busy destroying thistles with a sharp hoe we bought, so that when the boy comes up again with the camp outfit, we are ready to pitch the tent, perspiration dropping from every angle of us!’
‘The nearest farm is a small high-perched cottage standing out against the dimmer colours of “the Mountain”, as they call our nearest height (1500).  The delicious name is Cockaloftie (spelling?), kept by Miss Pryce.  We went to call on the lady in the evening, to ask if our mail might be delivered to her house.  The stream below was gay with forgetmenots and musk, and two pretty Hereford cows were grazing on the steep slope’.

The mail duly arrived at Cock-a-Lofty, brought right to the tent every morning, the postman even offering to wait for replies, and perhaps also indulging in curiosity regarding the campers, for May was over 70, elderly and slight, while MF was 55, robust, tall and customarily wearing countrywoman’s breeches.   Miss Pryce’s dog (‘collie by nature’) also visited daily, as did the cattle, annoyingly. ‘MF has to head them off. As it is they have dirtied our lawn’.


View from close to camping ground today
MF undertook much of the practical work, digging trenches, damming a pool in the stream, cooking on a primus stove. ‘We have a flat space, backed by a hollow against steep incline covered with bracken.  A bank alongside and in front a ‘lawn’ of fine grass where our beech-shaded parlour is,  sloping down to the stream. This little corner has a peculiar charm which never fails to touch me as I get the morning water; it curls at the foot of  a rounded hill’.

In Hay they bought butter, bread, ginger-biscuits and two large jars, which MF filled with 14lbs of jam made from whinberries –‘an immense success’ - stored in their alfresco larder.

New Forest Farm
At New Forest Farm below Cock-a-Lofty,  they met Mr Gwllym senior, ‘a tall handsome elderly man with an engaging smile’, who talked well and amusingly about a previous camping party that was drenched by rain.  MM and MF bought milk here, together with cream cheese made by Miss Gwllym.  Some days later Miss Gwilliam (MM was spelling phonetically) showed them the big oven, ‘which goes a great way back’, in which ‘she does all the baking once a week in the old-time way, bread and cakes and pies etc. It is a handsome old house which she keeps beautifully, unaided.  A fine staircase and there used to be a gate at the bottom of it.’

Below New Forest was Mrs Lloyd at Llangwathan, who offered them cider, ‘in the cool of a handsome old parlour, shining with cleanliness, with deep windows, great beams with bacon-hooks and panelled walls.’    The Lloyds called at the camp a day or so later, bearing cream and more cider, receiving coffee and cakes in response.  Later, MM and MF created a ‘Llangwathan cocktail’ combining the farm’s cider with their own whisky.  A fortnight later they were shown over the  gabled farmhouse, a ‘veritable little old Gothic building’ with fine internal doorways, oak-panelling and deep window-seats. The staircase was part-stone, part polished oak, leading to roomy attics and great beams with long cusped arches beneath the roof line.  Outside they admired the pink pigs and ‘put in a plea for one of the hams’, having previously tasted delicious home-cured slices from the Gwlliams.  Towards the end of their stay Mrs Lloyd sold ten pigs at Hereford market.

For a few days when MF was sick (blamed on a good lunch of goose, followed by beer and walking in hot sun) MM spent her time on embroidery and painting watercolour views ‘when the evening light was right for the fairy-like vision of the valley between cliff and hill.  Then an enormous yellow moon rose over the ferns in a cloudless sun-set sky.’  On their final evening Miss Pryce came down from Cock-a-Lofty to pick blackberries, saying ‘she wishes we lived somewhere up here’ so she might see them more often.
Entrance to camping ground today 

 



No comments:

Post a Comment