Appropriate Placename

The Miscellany includes an article originating in 1973 from the pen of the Vicar Revd Richard Rhys commenting on the capacity of the Welsh language to describe accurately in one or two words the location or characteristics of both physical features (hills, slopes, streams, woods and fields) and man-made additions.

As a Welsh speaker, his was an authentic voice, but one of his references recently caught our attention as being oddly at variance with our observation and near destruction. He draws attention to “Redwern” (on the steep road down to the Monmouth/Trellech road) and recognises this as the “ford of the alder trees.” He comments “…but it is high up and far from any stream which would need to be forded.” This may appear to be the case but he overlooked the habit of water running off the high ground when it is water-logged, flowing across the road, always at the same place – and it is not difficult to imagine such excess water forming a stream before the road was metalled of such a depth that it had to be forded or bridged.

A chance acquaintance some years ago confirmed that at one time – according to his grandad – the stream appeared and disappeared just as the “run-off” does now. The only difference is that in the days before the road was installed, it had to be forded; today the run-off sometimes freezes and becomes a sudden hazard, as the writer discovered to his horror soon after he settled in Penallt. As my chance acquaintance said, “If there had been no ford, the place would not have been named as it is!” This incidentally is yet another example of man’s pretence that he can ignore the ways of water and get away with it. Blocked culverts (inadequate in size anyway), silted ditches, hill-side fields enlarged by removing