Picture
   Heolgerrig = the Rocky Road. Once called Pen-yr-heolgerrig.
   This is a road I often walk, leading to the broken track at the very top (see picture), at the official border with Rhondda- Cynon - Taf : no passport required, just walking boots or a Land Rover.
   The spine of the giant whose name is Pen. Look closely, you will see his shadow.
   At times an escape. Other times directly into the sun, blindingly of an afternoon.
   It was once over and down into Abernant and a pint as a reward when you got there.
   Once at the edge of a large opencast site, with its patrolling security guards, dubious 'lagoons' and old-fashioned blasting, which would shake the whole mountain like a fracking earthquake!
   Up the road past the bus-stop, with only 'Republic' left from a poster someone pasted on back in the Jubilee days.
   Up past the carpet man's house. He used to be a builder, yet his house has never been finished for the 30 more years I've lived here ( a toilet still waiting in his back-yard for installation).
  Past a house with a swimming-pool and nobody ever using it.
  Past the Protheroe's Funeral Parlour always flying Y Ddraig Goch and no Unionists outside creating havoc.
   Past the bungalow where Barney the Boxer once lived (with some humans, I imagine!) : legendary hound of these parts who could nose-dribble a brick all the way down the hill to the Post Office and beyond. A Lionel Messi of dogs.
   Past our large village's one and only playground, consisting solely of swings. In the trees and bushes behind, I saw for my one and only time a much-heard cuckoo.
   Up past the last houses with nearby fields and their baths for horses to drink from, where the heather, gorse, broom and bramble don't bloom these dark days.
   Up into the conifers and dumping ground, where you can witness suspicious meetings. If ever a series like 'The Killing' were set in Merthyr this is where furtive deals would happen ; secrets buried in the shade.
   In summer, stooping low to pick wimberries. In autumn,  carefully plucking blackberries from the nettle-nuisance hedgerows.
  Up till the benchmark and you feel 'cerrig' beneath your feet, so much sharper than the rounded word of 'stone'.
   Occasionally, you can meet and chat with the most interesting of characters on Aberdar Mountain.
   Like the owner of the last house, with its tipper trucks and small cranes in the garden, who's always on look-out for signs of opencast, but who tells me he isn't opposed - far from it - he'd welcome the compensation.
   Or the itinerant scrapman in his Bluebirds cap, who tells me his days are spent roaming the hills searching valuable wires and metals. He has a bag on his back to prove it and even claims to own a scrapyard.
   I've written many poems inspired by this walk over the years, but it is very much the starting-point and an integral part of my next novel for teenagers entitled 'Question Island' and due out from Alun Books this September.
   To the main character Andrew, this rocky road is definitely a means of escape. It's here, on the moorland off track, where he finds a stone which changes his life forever.
  And near the novel's end, in the thick forest he has an encounter which has everything to do with his past and that object he found.
  It is possible to become a giant there at the summit, as Andrew discovers, yet also to feel that your head is small while your body has grown huge, just like the 'cawr' Bendigeidfran in the paintings of friend and Merthyr artist Michael Gustavius Payne (which can be seen in the Canolfan on High St.).
   Trudging upwards I feel my heart beating too fast, like a caged animal against bars. My breath short and snared : lungs in the sharp points of a trap. Knees creak and ache like the drag of rusted bolts.
   Music helps so much. Shut off from birdsong, yet open to flocks of folk, jazz and rock taking my mind with them like the air-traceries of jets.
   Downhill, only the songs and  calls of birds, and the Expressway, with its quick-passing cars and trucks reaching from the Valley floor, like the foot-stamps of that giant himself.
   It's possible to glide down, almost float : a bird released at last to follow the straight line ; a homing pigeon heading for the warmth and comfort of its coop.


                                     UP    THERE

Up there on the mountain
don't ask questions :
why else on a road
which leads to rubbled lane,
which has no destinations?

There, where there are no cameras
only buzzards hanging above moorland,
where police patrols don't go
except when their helicopters
hover like giant dragonflies.

Between prickly gorse and felty broom
under the shade of pines :
the low slink of vixen,
the night snuffle of badgers ;
a package passed, hands shaken.

Up there on the mountain, 
where the tarmac is broken
and a dumped sofa sits in the clearing.
Don't look too closely into car-windows,
or disturb those hidden mounds.    

 


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