Postcards from my Past / 1 Abergynolwyn

I have been thinking about doing a series of ‘Postcards from my Past’ for a while, then Meg over at Morsels and Scraps started her Postcards from the past, and that jolted me, spurred me on.

I am about 6 years old, and the family are camping in Wales, at Ride an Onion….well no, Rhyd-yr-Onen, but my father couldn’t pronounce this Welsh place name. We are having a trip on the Talyllyn railway, a narrow gauge train in Wales, and stopping at the end of the line, Abergynolwyn. The ride on the little narrow gauge train is great fun, noisy, rattling, smoky – I love it. But then there will be a walk, which is something I’m not so keen on, but my father insists.

We get off at Abergynolwyn, and set off walking up quite a slope, through what I recall as a dense forest with scratchy twigs and brambles (there probably were quite a lot of trees, but to my six year old senses, it seemed a thick wood). The walk seemed to go on interminably, ever upward. But suddenly there was something that caught my imagination. We had reached some recently ruined miners cottages. In my mind there is a blue door hanging half off it’s hinges, and my father and I step inside. On the left is a staircase, and I want to go up, but my father says no, it’s too dangerous, and all too soon we return outside. That’s all I remember of this day, but it was the beginning of my love of decay, and the realisation that ruins and abandonment weren’t restricted to old castles, but could be something more everyday, and much more recent…..

Here is an image I did eventually find, of what this place looked like in 1958 (clearly a view from above does not equate with what remains in my mind)…..we would have been there less than 10 years later. You can see the miner’s cottages on the right hand side, and some scrubby trees! I think we would have been walking in from the right, as we ascended up from the railway. and there are some scrubby trees near the cottages!

Image Copyright A.T. Holmes

Many years later (about 20) I return to this area, see if I can find any remnants, but all I see is trees and slate. Acres of slate. The land is now owned by the Forestry Commission.

Yet more years later, I talk to my friend’s mother in law who used to visit this are with her husband, and she told me there still are remnants of the old cottages, just a few bits of walls…seems I was looking in the wrong area, but anyway, even 30 years ago it would have looked nothing like the sight before my 6 year old eyes. They always say don’t go back to places….






  1. Nice to read your story alongside the images, Sue.
    In 1958, also aged 6, I was holidaying in Cornwall. I returned many years later, and was pleased to see that Penryn had hardly changed.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. Ride an Onion! Priceless, Sue! 🙂 🙂 We should all do this. I loved your little memoir and the smelly chuff-along train. Just as you started to describe that saggy door I thought to myself ‘ha, that’s where it comes from’. Beautifully told. More please 🙂

    • Sue

      Oh, thank you, Jo! Glad you like it, and there will be more, probably sporadically…. I am encouraged by your comment, and will be interested to hear Meg, later…

  3. Whacko!!! I love meeting six year old Sue and being present at the genesis of a passion for ruins. I love the way you evoke your eagerness to explore and the adult’s caution that prevents you. You hit the nail on the memory head when you say “it doesn’t equate with what remains in my mind”. Does anything ever?

    It’s great to read you in discursive mode: this post was a different Sue-pleasure. I also liked the way you sourced other perceptions of Ride-an-onion. Definitely more please, and I suppose sporadic will have to do!

  4. Loved your little story and how we got a bit of an explanation to your great love…I agree with the others – more please!

  5. I find that memories of childhood can be quite fragmented – you remember ‘bits’ but it’s difficult to put those bits together to form a coherent story. We visited a ruined deserted village in North Wales, and then re-visited some years later. The cottages weren’t that different but the vegetation had taken over and the whole scene seemed different. I remember visiting the road where I grew up forty years later and whereas I had thought it was spacious, it now seemed all closed in although the houses were exactly the same. Perhaps we appreciate size and shape differently when we are very young.

    • Sue

      Oh, I do think we see things differently when we are young…after all, we are smaller, so the world looks bigger! Do you have any images of your deserted village, Andy?

  6. I can tell, Sue, this is going to be a great series!

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