Over the half term holiday a couple of weeks ago, I went to Wales to visit family. They live just near Llangollen, a small town nestled in the arms of the mountains, the river rushing through its midst.
The town hasn’t really changed since I was a small child, and I suppose hadn’t changed much even then. There are small winding streets, old stone houses and river gardens, shops where you can buy local art pottery, old books or souvenirs, tiny dragons or slate house numbers, flags and magnets and all the things we take away to decorate our homes, little bits of magic to remind us where we’ve been. A ruined castle sits high on a hill overlooking the town, as do the venerable black timbered halls of Plas Newydd, where two ladies lived together in defiance of both their families and eighteenth century convention.
We did as we always do when we visit. Walked the main street, wandering in and out of small shops where my daughter spent some carefully hoarded pounds, ate in a café (staffed by two fabulously coiffed young men), watched the River Dee as it bubbled over the rocks and under the old stone bridge. Then we went for a walk along the canal path.
The canal was created as part of the great industrial revolution, a smooth straight stretch of water running alongside the ancient river, her waters too wild to carry the boats filled with coal and stone and supplies. The River Dee has a long chronicled history, first mentioned in the writings of Ptolemy as the River Deva, almost two thousand years ago. Deva means goddess, and the river waters were said to be sacred to the goddess of war, their ever changing path as they moved toward the boundary with England said to state which side would be victorious in any given year. So this is pretty cool stuff. In modern welsh the river is still called Dyfrdwy, which translates as ‘the waters of the goddess,’ so the tradition still holds.
I love that kind of thing.
So off we went, walking the gravelled canal path, the ancient waters of the goddess tumbling over stones to the left of us while the canal stretched smooth and unbroken to the right. The day was bitterly cold, the foliage bare golden brown in most parts. Yet there were still signs of Spring to come – a few buds of blossom, snowdrops carpeting the opposite banks. I took some photos and talked to my mother and, as I tucked my hands in my pockets and watched my daughter dancing ahead, hand in her grandfather’s, I felt a great sense of peace. It’s the kind I get when I’m in the Welsh hills, as though I could lie down and wrap myself in the landscape. This is why I call it my heart home, I guess. There is no other place that does this for me.
Do you have a heart home, somewhere you’d love to live if you could? If so, where would it be?