Listening to my husband tell our children how the valley around us was created by shifting glaciers took me right back to my own childhood. He was reading from a tourist noticeboard in the Brecon Beacons. I recalled my own awe over 35 years earlier, when I learned about it at school, the history of this amazing landscape that I’ve loved ever since I can remember, when those majestic mountains were a playground for family days out.
Memories of my old family are etched into that landscape and I hadn’t realised how deeply until this weekend during our annual visit, when I watched my own children run excitedly ahead as I once did, turning into small dots in the distance and waiting impatiently for the adults to make their way along the soft mossy ground, taking careful steps not to lose their footing.
As we climbed the steep incline I glanced across the valley. The same view from when I too ran so freely up those hills, with my sister and cousins, usually driven by our grandfather in his old Wolsey or Triumph. A short drive from the coal-dusted streetscapes that hemmed the mining valleys below. Sometimes accompanied by our mother, with her tomato-softened sandwiches. Sometimes on our own, to give her a break.
Rainy days, sunny days or simply grey days, the weather never mattered. Adventures could always be found near trickling streams or fern-topped hills. The national park always offered space to play whatever the outlook and even as a child you appreciate its beauty and sometimes its sullen nature, even if you don’t quite have the words to voice it.
And that appreciation remains firm. When you’ve lived and breathed the air around those ancient Welsh mountains, it lives inside you forever. It’s part of your fabric.
I just wish my late mother could have seen her grandchildren enjoy those mountains as my sister and I once did. Boys who usually complain at walking just a short distance in the relatively flat landscape near our home in Suffolk, throwing themselves unstoppably into the challenge of reaching the next Welsh peak.
Retracing my old footsteps in Wales helps to keep those memories alive. For my own children, it simply gives them their next awesome adventure.