Strolls ‘n’ Stories recently guided a group of eager guests in the wilder parts of the Brecon Beacons. Walking along a ridge way path looking over the Carmarthen Fans, the host, Jan Little, led her guests on a 5-mile circular walk down to Llyn y Fan Fach lake.
Welsh, meaning “Lake of the small hill”, Llyn y Fan Fach is located on the northern margin of the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire, South Wales and lies within the Brecon Beacons National Park. Some call the lake eerie; others feel at home there. Either way, there was magic afoot that day as we passed the mini waterfalls up to the lake.
This event was wild nature at its best combined with mystical stories arising from the landscape. The most popular folklore legend connected to the lake is the story of the Lady of the Lake. Guests came to witness the telling of her truth as Jan, brought the character to life.
Many think that the legend of this Lady is a myth, but guests got to hear her side of the story that day.
We called her and she appeared.
I always come when called. Perhaps you believed me dead or purely a faery tale, a made-up story to delight the young. Yet I am one of the Gwragedd Annwn, the beautiful fae creatures who live in the lakes and rivers, a branch of the Tylwyth Teg, the Welsh Faery.
My human husband called me too, vowed to love me and never strike me. Yet three times he did and I returned to the lake from whence I came… Not because of the little impatient touches on the shoulder that he gave me. No, those make you feel sorry for my husband that I should count them as blows. No, I left for other reasons, to do with the old ways and if you wish to know my true story then you must be prepared to plunge with me deeper into the waters of this lake and understand the separated nature of fae and man.
Jan led the group through views of fabulous mountains, famous for their rich herbs if you know where to look! We stopped for lunch on the top of Bannau Sir Gaer and were very happy to have another walker we bumped into join us for the rest of the walk.
Back down a steep gap in the mountains we made our way back to the lake, where we heard from Rhiwallon, the Lady of the Lake’s human son. He told us of how his mother guided him to become a famous herbal healer and physician to Rhys Gryg, one of the princes of Wales. We heard how his herbal remedies are recorded in the Red Book of Hergst held at Jesus College Oxford and also in a manuscript at the British Museum. We learnt how he and his sons became known as the physicians of Myddfai. A few of his remedies made us smile especially the one of how to take care when applying the recipe for baldness, that hair should not grow in unwanted places!
Making our way back to the car park from the lake, the stroll concluded with a final story under the faery tree.
We heard from John Jones, surgeon and the last physician of Myddfai. He told of body snatchers in London as a basis for scientific research and the drive to cut things off and cut illness out. And the Lady of the Lake left us with her vision of the NHS.
After our journey through the old ways of healing to modern science today, we relaxed, paddled in the brook and discussed the day.
If a visit to Llyn y Fan Fach is in your future, you may be lucky to hear the Lady of the Lake’s haunting song brought to you on a gentle breeze or get a glimpse of her in the dark and mysterious waters. If you’d like Strolls ‘n’ Stories to guide you there, feel free to contact us to discuss a private walk.