Friday, 24 November 2017

Mapping Mountains – Significant Name Changes – Yr Uchafion and 700m Twmpau

Twyn Llech (SO 255 353)

There has been a Significant Name Change to a hill that appears in the Yr Uchafion and 700m Twmpau lists, with the summit height, drop and summit position of the hill being confirmed by a survey with the Trimble GeoXH 6000 which took place on the 28th September 2017, with the height and position of the critical bwlch having been previously determined from LIDAR data analysed by Aled Williams.

The criteria for the two listings that this name change applies to are:

Yr Uchafion – All Welsh hills at and above 500m in height that have 15m minimum drop.  The list is co-authored by Myrddyn Phillips and Aled Williams, with the Introduction to the list appearing on Mapping Mountains on the 4th November 2015.

700m Twmpau – All Welsh hills at and above 700m and below 800m in height that have 30m minimum drop, with the word Twmpau being an acronym standing for ‘thirty welsh metre prominences and upward’.  The list is authored by Myrddyn Phillips.

The hill is a part of the Mynyddoedd Duon (Black Mountains) range, which is an extensive group of hills in the south-eastern part of South Wales, and it is situated above and between the upper part of the Olchon Valley to its south-east and the Dyffryn Ewias (Vale of Ewyas) to its south.  The hill is also situated between the small communities of Craswall towards its east and Capel-y-ffin towards its south.

Twyn Llech (SO 255 353)

The hill was first listed in the late 1920’s by Arthur St George Walsh as E. Ridge (Large peat plateau).  The next listing was by W.T.Elmslie in 1933 as Black Mountain (Frontier), Elmslie also listed another three points along this ridge by the same name.  The frontier part of this name no doubt refers to the course of the Welsh / English border which has been diverted in subsequent years.  The next listing to this hill was by Edward (Ted) Moss in 1939 and 1940, using the name Unnamed Top.

However, Ted Moss’ unpublished notes to these listings have, and I quote; ‘not named on O.S. maps, other sources indicate the name Black Mountain.  See P.T.Jones’ Welsh Border Country p 10’.  The book Ted Moss refers to was first published in 1939 by B.T.Batsford Ltd of London, its full title is; ‘The Face of Britain Welsh Border Country by P.Thoresby Jones’.  There are two references of interest to the Black Mountain in this book; page 10 footnote; ‘The term Black Mountain (singular) or the Welsh equivalent is given in maps to the group of peaks and moorlands between Carmarthen and the Towy:  also, confusingly, to the ridge stretching from Hay Bluff’, and on page 31; ‘Moreover, from just south of Hay Bluff this ‘Black Mountain’ ridge throws out a long narrow spur towards Longtown’.

We can deduct from this that the main easterly ridge that is commonly known nowadays as the Hatterall Ridge was then known by some as the Black Mountain Ridge.  This is substantiated by the use of a ridge long name of Black Mountain on the 1832 Ordnance Survey One-Inch ‘Old Series’ sheet.  The plural form; Black Mountains, also appears as a ridge name taking in just this hill’s summit area on the Ordnance Survey Six-Inch map published in 1887, but this name was dropped by the 1905 publication.  The singular form of this name also appears as a ridge name on the Bartholomew’s revised ‘half-inch’ map that some of the early hill list authors probably used, and although this name appears directly over this hill’s summit on this map, the font and its size matches that also given to other ridge names that appear on the same map, these include; Fwddog Ridge, Gader Ridge and Penalltmawr Range.

Extract from the Ordnance Survey One-Inch 'Old Series' map from 1832

Extract from the Ordnance Survey Six-Inch map from 1887

Extract from the Ordnance Survey Six-Inch map from 1905

Extract from the Bartholomew map

The first person to list this hill as Black Mountain was William McKnight Docharty in 1962, over subsequent years there have been a number of list compilers (and republications of their work) who have followed suit; Bridge 1973, Wright 1974, Marsh 1985, Nuttall 1989, Borman 1990, Adams (page 250) 1990, Hermon 1991, Dawson 1992, Harveys 1993, Dewey 1995, Woosey 1995, Kirk 1996/97, Robert Jones 1997 and Dafydd Andrews 1999, all have followed the premise that the name of this hill is Black Mountain.

In the process of investigating the name of this hill it is important to realise that Welsh as a language is no longer spoken in the area that takes in this hill range, therefore although many hill names that appear on contemporary Ordnance Survey maps are still known as such, the evolution of language has dictated that English names for the occasional hill have materialised.

The loss of Welsh as a spoken language is also the reason why some Welsh hill names are no longer known by the farmers in the Dyffryn Ewias (Vale of Ewyas), as they are English speakers with a great knowledge of their patch of land, but the loss of spoken Welsh has resulted in an occasional Welsh hill name being lost.  This includes the knowledge for the name of this hill, and to retrieve the first clue to the Welsh name of this hill we have to venture in to the deepest, darkest depths of England and visit Craswall and David Gains.

At the time of my research in to this hill’s name David was aged over 70, his father was born in the Craswall valley and his mother in the Olchon Valley.  The more people I contacted in this area, it was always David’s name that kept cropping up as the person who knew the most about the hills.  

One of the first names David gave me was The Thieves Stone, he continued; ‘It’s hanging out on a slope, straight on top of the ridge, just on the Welsh side and about 3-4ft wide’.  I asked him when and how he had first heard of this name, he replied that his father had told him, he also told me that he’d heard; ‘If a sheep grazed the land around the stone and kept by The Thieves Stone it would never get maggots’.  David could be the last person to know the details about The Thieves Stone, as I contacted just about every other farmer of note around this hill range, and the other 34 people did not know a name for this outcrop or hill.  Neither did David for the latter, remember Welsh as a language has been lost in this area, and although the name of The Thieves Stone is now only preserved orally in English, its Welsh counterpart is still written on Ordnance Survey maps and appears as Llech y Lladron on the 1:25,000 Explorer map.  Llech translates as Slab, Flag, Slate or Stone, whilst Lladron translates as Thief or Robber, therefore Llech y Lladron can translate as The Thieves Stone.  This still doesn’t give us the name of the hill, I asked 35 people in all, all from the farming community, both on the Welsh and English side of the hill range and nobody knew a name for it.  Thankfully such events were uncommon during my place-name research, but as evidenced for this hill, it did happen on occasion. 

The next part of this ever expanding jigsaw puzzle to consider is the use of distinctive terms for the word ‘hill’ in certain Welsh areas, as in; Moel in the Moelwynion, Tarren in the Tarennydd, Ban or its mutated form; Fan in Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons), Fforest Fawr and Y Mynydd Du.  The area taking in the Y Mynyddoedd Duon (The Black Mountains) is no different, look at the names and you’ll see the word Twyn, as in; Pen Twyn Mawr, Pen Twyn Glas, Twyn Mawr and Twyn y Gaer, all of which appear on current Ordnance Survey maps.

We know that this hill’s main named feature is Llech y Lladron, it may be justifiable to think that the hill would take its name from this, well, it does!  The long forgotten name of the hill appears at SO 247 355 on the Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer map; Twyn Llech, it’s been on the map all along!  It has just required a bit of detective work to piece the jigsaw together.   Don’t worry where the name Twyn Llech currently resides on Ordnance Survey maps, it has suffered a bad case of hill name slippage over the years, which is not an uncommon event.

Extract from the current Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer map

The name Twyn Llech can be followed back in time, as it appears as Trwyn Llech on the 1832 Ordnance Survey One-Inch ‘Old Series’ map positioned on the connecting bwlch between this hill and Hay Bluff, whilst this same bwlch is named as Waun Llech on the preceding Draft Surveyors map, with the present lower position of the name Twyn Llech on contemporary Ordnance Survey maps being traced back to the early Six-Inch maps.   

Extract from the Ordnance Survey One-Inch 'Old Series' map from 1832

Extract from the Ordnance Survey Draft Surveyors map

When the hill was first included in the listings that would later become the Yr Uchafion and the 700m Twmpau, it appeared under the name of Black Mountain, as previous compilations were followed.  This is not a practice that I now advocate as with time and inclination place-name data can be improved either by asking local people or by examining historical documents, through this form of research an appropriate name for the hill can usually be found, and in the case of this hill it was the detective work as laid out above that concluded the name Twyn Llech as being the most appropriate for this hill.

Therefore, as a result of local enquiry and detail from historical and contemporary Ordnance Survey maps this hill is now listed under the name of Twyn Llech in the Yr Uchafion and the 700m Twmpau.

ills of Wales, and are reproduced below@
The full details for the hill are:

Group:  Mynyddoedd Duon

Name:  Twyn Llech

Previously Listed Name:  Black Mountain 

Summit Height:  703.6m (converted to OSGM15)

OS 1:50,000 map:  161

Summit Grid Reference:  SO 25520 35383  

Drop:  154.5m (converted to OSGM15)

Myrddyn Phillips and Aled Williams (November 2017)

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