This passage forms part of Mr Hando’s journey through the Gwent.

It was at Gelliroes Mill that some of the earliest wireless experiments in Gwent were made. The miller’s brother and the farmer at Ty LIwyd over Ynysddu were in communication in 1908, and our miller remembers orders for feeding stuffs being received ‘over the air’ before the First World War.

The inner casing of the roof of the mill consists of some of the old box-seats from Bedwellty Church. We spent a gay half-hour tracing the names scratched on panels - among them ‘Sarah Jones and Joseph Jones of New Tredegar.’ Near the mill in the old days was an inn, now disused, prettily, styled The Woodman’s Delight.’

Our tour of the valley was followed by visits to delightful old people who gave me memories and legends of their beloved Islwyn. The youngest of nine children of Ty’r Agent, Ynysddu, in 1832. Tv’r Agent (the ‘Old Machine House’) is no more, but Greenmeadow and Ty’r Glyn, later homes of the poet survived.

He went to schools at Tredegar, Newport and Cowbridge, and to a college in Swansea. It was at Swansea that he fell in love with Ann Bowen, the beautiful girl who inspired his early poems, and whose death in 1853 clouded his life - a tragedy which produced his greatest poem, ‘Y Storm.’

Later he married Martha Davies, of Swansea, and they came to live at Ty’r Glyn. Martha was ideally suited to tend the highly-strung, sensitive poet, and her loving sympathy and devotion are remembered in the valley to this day. ‘What do you recall of Islwyn as a man?’ I asked Mrs. Walters, aged 92, of Glenside.

She thought in silence for hall a minute, and then murmured, ‘He was well-liked. He was witty. He was nervous after dark, but while he was still alive we knew him to he a great man. On one dark night Islwyn was visiting a cottage a short distance from his home. When the time came to return, the two girls of the cottage accompanied him, lighting his way with a candle. Suddenly his servant jumped out from behind a bush and for a joke, blew out the candle.

Frightened beyond measure, Islwyn ran back to the cottage, quite sure that the light had been extinguished by a dead lady who walked that lane.’ `Islwyn,’ she continued, ‘kept a bantam cockerel indoors as a pet. To amuse the children, of whom he was very fond, he would request the bird to sing, whereupon it would crow.’ Little by little, from Mrs. Walters and Mr. George Morgan (aged 90) and others I was able to paint a mental picture of Islwyn. I see him as a short, slight eyes and hair, a broad calm brow and a gentle voice and manner. Childless, yet loving children, loviri,g also his ght man, with brow home and his dear wife, he was one with his people, who revered him. for many other sensitive souls, he found solace in a pipe of tobacco, and frequently or while he smoked one, he filled another. He played a harmonium. He was Secretaryintotwthoe, Ynysddu School Board. Maybe tobacco was a heaven-sent sedative following these activities.

Though I cannot read his greatest poems, I am convinced that Islywn’s shin hfe - for he died at forty-six - was filled by an art devoted to the highest. His love for his people, like his love for his master. brought the angels from heaven to Cwmfelin, and my short visit to the Valley convinced me that the influence of those angels, like the influence of IsIwyn. remain, strong and sweet.

Gelligroes Mill is off the A4048 just south of Pontllanfraith. Cwrt y Bella church site is at Gwrhay to the north of Oakdale off the B461 which may then be followed to Crumlin to see the site of the great viaduct that once spanned this valley. Turn left here along the new road to reach Aberbeeg where the packhorse bridge may be seen. Return via Crumlin and Abercarn to perhaps visit the Cwmcarn Scenic Drive and Visitor Centre.

From the heights above Tredegar the Sirhowy has tumbled and frothed its way down to Cwm Argoed. During the ages it has cut its way so that the western bank is precipitous. the eastern gentle. But what of its extraordinary name? It seems clear that ‘Sirhowy’ is a modern corruption of its old name Sorwy, made up of two water-words. ‘Sur’ and ‘wy,’ which Arthur Machen insisted were Saxon and were brought hem by the Celts in their journey west-wards from the ‘Land of Spring.’

‘It was it diverted stream from the Sirhowy which turned the wheel of your mill,’ I suggested to a lady of the village.

This is an extract from Hando’s Gwent, Volume One, edited by Chris Barber.