A farmhouse stands high above the Garw Valley, right on the edge of the steep hillside – with thick walls and comfortable low built rooms. In front of the house a clump of fir trees stand, as a bold landmark for the neighbourhood.
It has been the home of many generations of yeoman farmers, the Thomas’s of Braichycymmer.
The path down from the farm is steep and rough; and down below is the straggling town of Pontycymmer stretching in rows of grey stone houses, close by the noisy, dirty river and the railway line. Up here the bracken grows in wild profusion, and no is sound heard but the bleat of the mountain sheep.
But up from the valley floor comes the mingled din of a colliery district, the whistle of a railway train, the rattle of coal waste falling on the nearby tips, and the clink-clank of the drams laden with coal.
There is a terrible stillness about a colliery town; the same collection of small shops, the same big public houses, and the same groups of men standing idly in the streets.
Pontycymmer is no cleaner or dirtier than the rest. A long walk down Oxford Street, and at Pantygog we turn left up a steep street and then up again onto a rough path till we reach the mountain side, and can look across at Braichycymmer farmstead once more, and Garw Fechan beyond, with Mynydd Moelgilau standing bolder in the background, a long climb upward soon brings us to Llangeinor Church.
This ancient parish church with its square tower overlooks the wide valley,which stretches across to Bettws. I love this place,full of green meadows and white painted farmhouses.
Under Llangeinor on the east side as we descend the sheep paths through the fields, we pass by the old Pant-Yn-Awel farm, once the home of the Jenkins family.
A short mile down the road, and we reach our journey’s end, the village of Blackmill. It is a pretty little village in a sheltered hollow, where the river runs prattling over the stones, and full of the drowsy humming of the bees in the gardens.
50 years ago the good people of Blackmill were known as ‘the sportsmen of Melin Ifandu.’ For that is its old welsh name. They hunted, every man and boy, from the Landlord to the Minister in his chapel. They were fine fishermen too, and on the bacon rack of many a small farm hereabouts, a fine smoked salmon could be found.