Sunday, 29 December 2013

The Old Homestead

Yew Tree Cottage a very special place
A bit of a nostalgic look back at a very special place for me today - Yew Tree Cottage, Llanllowell.

The small cottage nestled deep in the beautiful surroundings of Llewellyn's Dingle, is where I grew up with my younger brother and sisters from 1960 onwards and later moved back to as an adult and lived for another 9-10 years before moving into Usk around 4 1/2 years ago.

My Mum and Dad bought Yew Tree Cottage back in 1958 for the princely sum of £200. It was in a very bad state and actually had a demolition order on it. They managed to get this lifted and got permission to rebuild the cottage, although ironically considering there was a demolition order on it at the time, a condition was that they left the four main walls of the stone cottage standing.

View of the cottage from the other side of the stream
My parents had met while they were at teacher training college in Derby and Loughborough. Dad, from Yorkshire and Mum an Usk girl. They both loved the area and often walked the surrounding countryside and lanes and discovered the ruined Yew Tree Cottage while out walking and fell in love with it. Dad got a job teaching at Llantarnam Secondary school and my Mum at Usk Secondary school, both teaching PE. They began work on the cottage, living with my Grandparents in Mill Street Usk, after they got married in 1958. I was born in 1959 and we moved into Yew Tree when I was 1 year old in 1960. My siblings were born in very quick succession.  My brother Jonathan in 1960, Caroline in 1962 and Josie in 1963,  so the tiny Yew Tree Cottage was soon full of boisterous, noisy children. It was small inside, but that never seemed to matter much as we had the big outdoors just a step away with a one acre garden with a stream running through it to play in and free run of the adjoining fields and woods where we built dens. We never seemed to be inside very much at all in those days, we were out from dawn till dusk, only coming back to re-stoke with food. It was a fantastic place to grow up.

Working on my raised vegetable beds ready for Spring
My family continued to live in Yew Tree Cottage until 2000. After my Mum died in 1988, Dad lived in the cottage on his own and then with his new partner. In 2000 Dad decided to move to Dale in Pembrokeshire to be close to the sea and enjoy sailing his boats and my ex and I bought Yew Tree Cottage from him. We did a lot of work to update the property, new windows,  redecorating, re-plumbing and re-wiring,  putting in a bore hole to replace the spring water that previously fed the cottage, a raised bed vegetable garden, a bridge over the stream and fencing the wonderful orchard of old varieties of apple trees that my Dad had planted. I enjoyed keeping chickens and growing
produce and it was a great place to live. But sadly it wasn't to last.  It was a real wrench to leave Yew Tree 4 1/2 years ago, but my marriage breakup in 2007 meant keeping it was no longer feasible on my own. However, I am very lucky that I can live in Usk and I love my current house and location beneath the walls of Usk Castle. The present owners have also done more work to it, but Yew Tree is currently back on the market - details here.

Although I have moved from Yew Tree, there will always be a special bond with Yew Tree and the wonderful valley Llewellyn's Dingle - for me it is still one of the most beautiful places on earth.

You can walk (or drive, or cycle but the road is steep) the lane that goes up through Llewellyn's Dingle. Go through the hamlet of Llanllowell  towards the Greyhound Llantrisant and under the bridge, take the first turning to the left signposted Llangwm - the narrow lane rises up through the valley and there are wonderful views at the top looking back down across the Usk Valley to the mountains in the distance. At the top of the lane when you reach the hamlet of Coed Cwnr,  you can turn left and follow the bridle path back down until it joins with the Usk Flood Route - a beautiful walk if you have the time. Turning right at the top takes you down through the village of Llangwm to the Usk. Chepstow road.

Yew Tree in the snow

Molly and Bess enjoyed  10 years living at Yew Tree - pic taken from an old tree I used to sit on and contemplate life!

On the hill 'The Graig' above Yew Tree where we roamed free and
wild as children!

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