Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The widow's house

Some days when the wind gets up and the sky comes down low and dark over the hills, I have what I call my Wuthering Heights moments. Instead of going straight on or turning left from my house, I turn right and walk up the road with the dog. After I have walked for a mile or so, the ground level has risen about two hundred feet and the patchwork of grazing and hayfields with their hedgerow sashing gives way to the broad-brush canvas of the moorlands. Here the scrubby trees bend with the prevailing wind and the lush green grass is largely replaced by coarse, inedible rushes.

Even after this short distance, the habitat is entirely different - for plants, animals and humans. My own house is almost exactly at the 1000 feet mark, but this is real hill country. Sheep live here for the Summer, but are brought back down to base for lambing. The moor rings with the haunting, bubbling cry of the curlew that spends the Summer months here as well, probing the boggy grass for food. The wind is ever-present and when it snows, which is a frequent event at this height, the white drifts rise in great banks against the side of the road.

Here there is an old, derelict cottage that for years I called the Widow's House. When we first lived here, it was almost entirely swallowed up by nettles and brambles, but a couple of years ago the landowner cleared the surrounding jungle and exposed the little building with a view to renovating it. He even gave it a new tin roof to keep out the elements.

The cottage comes with a couple of acres of surprisingly good grazing. In my eternal optimism about gardening I'm sure that, with some judicious planting of windbreak trees, the area in front of the house could be turned into a productive garden.
I always joked that, if anything ever happened to R, I would buy this house. Its tiny size is far more appropriate to one person living on her own than our own house is. Here I would keep a little flock of milking goats and would be known as the mad widow on the hill. (This is particularly odd as I've never had the urge to keep goats where I live now).

Sadly the owner failed to get planning permission to renovate it in the way he wanted, and he has done nothing more with the house. It looks as though it is going to be allowed to decay even further and end its days ignominiously as a sheep shelter.

So it looks as though I won't be buying it, after all.

Funny how life turns out.


  1. oh, J. the cottage is beautiful. i could see myself living there from just your photographs so i can imagine the pull of this place since you get stand so close to it. "the mad widow on the hill." it's inspired. i love the photos you've shared. i miss land. i miss the sky. i miss my ocean but i would sacrifice living by the water for a view such as you've shown above. big city noise and concrete are what i have now. nothing with a soul. nothing that absorbs the spirit of those who dwell here. i sometimes stand on my balcony with all my plants and pretend i'm in a lovely high rise in New York where everyone lives in apartments. i pretend that i'm part of the hustle and bustle, but it's a lie. i keep myself isolated in my apartment and dream my life away.

    you are surrounded by such beauty. i envy you your walks in the ever changing grasses, trees, and distant vistas you are privileged to gaze upon.

    i'm sorry you won't be the mad widow in your cottage. and i agree, it is funny, melancholy actually, how life can turn out.

    peace to you always.

  2. We're both up late tonight! I feel hyperactive and restless, so will log off soon and jump in very hot bath so that I feel like a pink-skinned hippo and hopefully so hot that I will fall into bed and zzzzzzzzzzzz ...

    What a lovely post ... and pix - almost like a fairytale, except it had a horrid twist in today's reality. We could change your name from J-in-Wales to ... Mad Widow on the Hill ... it has a certain je ne sais quoi about it ;-)

    My Dad took a consultancy with (back in the 80's) Texaco after his retirement from the industry ... for six months ... and he and my Mom lived in Wales - Cleddau Bridge / near Tenby, Pembrokeshire ... the area was stunning, it could take your breath away.

    I loved the way Moose was approx one kilometre ahead of you on the road!!!! I can't let my dogs off their leads because one of them is deaf and scatty to the extreme!

  3. @ womanNshadows: It's funny. Sometimes I go to the city to somehow reconnect with the world. Living up here I feel sort of cocooned from everything else that is going on that it does me good to spend some time where there are lots of people bustling around in their daily lives.

    @ Boo: I hope you had a good night's sleep.
    Pembrokeshire is another lovely bit of Wales. We had some great family holidays there when I was a kid.
    Moose only ever walks 50 feet in front or 50 feet behind, he never walks companionably beside me - it's a collie thing. And he's a complete nightmare on the lead, so it is easier to let him walk on his own.

  4. I've already done what I guess you could call "the mad goat lady", so would need to think up something new to top that. Wonderful photos of a beautiful landscape, J. Seeing the derelict cottage and reading that you have thought you would like to live there makes me smile as I've been looking at simllarlly derelict places and considering buying one to restore as a project to occupy my time and mind. By the way, it looks as though I've got a sale for my farm -- just going through the inspection process this week. If it goes through, I may begin looking for my Widow's Cottage sooner rather than later!

  5. Bev, you made me smile too. I confess I did think of you when I wrote that!
    I have been vaguely considering the possibility of moving to a smaller house, but if I do (and I don't really think that I will), I have promised myself that it will be a FINISHED house; one that I can just move straight into and NOT have to do any restoration work!
    Great news on your prospective sale. Fingers crossed that it all goes through smoothly for you.