THIS passage forms part of historian Fred Hando’s journey through Gwent.

During the Ice Age, nearly half a million years or less ago, mid-Wales lay under a vast sheet of ice. Glaciations from this ice shaped the valleys in our own Black Mountains; one glacier dictated the course of the Honddu ('black water') in the Llanthony Valley.

Thousands of tons of detritus rocks, stoned, rubbish were deposited at the mouth of the valley as a quadrant-shaped moraine. This in turn dictated the later course of the Honddu, for while the Grwyne streams flowed westward into the Usk, the Honddu swung north-east-ward to join the Monnow.

When we drive down the Llanthony valley we see ahead of us a long green embankment cut through on the right of the railway. This is the glacial moraine. On the moraine are built the church of St. Michael, the Skirrid Mountain inn, the vicarage, a garage and Treturret.

When in 1958, I organised a survey of our Black Mountains, my guide was Mr Herbert Atkins of Treturret, whom I christened Herbert Mihangel because his handsome house was in Llanfihangel.

The many happy hours spent in company with Herbert and Gwladys Mihangel, sometime on the ridges and summits, sometimes in the sequestered glens, gave me an intimate knowledge of the region and its people - which I could not have acquired alone.

'It would be exciting to have lunch on a glacial moraine,' we felt when the invitation came to lunch at Treturret. So through Gwent in the time of daffodils we drove northward, took the Hereford road out of Abergavenny, crawled through Llanfihangel Crucorney to the car park, waited for a lull in the traffic, and shot across to Treturret, where in the warmth of a typical Mihangel welcome, Ysiad and I forgot glaciers and moraines.

And what a site for a house! From all the east windows of tower and house, bright in the noon sunshine, the view commanded a comely green valley from which arose hills topped by the Grosmont road, and in the south the Matterhorn (in miniature) of the Skirrid. That incredible peak seemed distant; perhaps half a mile; it is neared a mile and a half. I recalled how the Bennet boys used to ride on their ponies from the Court to the summit and back before breakfast.

In borders around the lawn and from a dozen stone troughs, daffodils and tulips sang to the sun. Birds joined in the midday chorus. We turned to examine the house, and all its walls and battlements built of our own old red sand-stone. Treturret seemed, like all the houses and churches of the region, to have grown out of the ground.

'It was probably a ty'r agent - an agent's house,' said Herbert, 'and was later extended. The heavy stone roof is held up by grand oaken timbers; roof, timbers, and walls combines to form a building made for posterity. I suspect that the domestic architecture of today may not last like the Treturret.'

In 1799 Archdeacon Coxe climber the Skirrid and suffered an attack of giddiness at the summit. After descending the mountain he waleked around to the groves of oaks and Spanish chestnuts which formed the avenue leading to Llanfihangel Court which (possibly a reaction after his giddiness) he dismissed thus:

"It is now inhabited by a farmer, and contains nothing but some old furniture a few family pictures, and some good impressions of Hogarth's prints."

He does however include a charming little illustration of the house by Sir Richard Hoare showing it much as it is today, except for the outbuildings on the left which have disappeared. The Skirrid and its landslide are shown to the left , and by a remarkable coincidence a 'white lady' in seen descending the steps.

Seen from the north front, the Court is a solid structure with two gables at each end and a charming dormer window over the central entrance. Picturesque in truth is the formal courtyard at the south-east where above the flagged floor and lily pond arise the grey walls with handsome windows, surmounted by walnut-hued roofs and tall stone chimneys - two of them 'clustered' Elizabethian.

This is an extract from Hando’s Gwent, Volume One, edited by Chris Barber and reproduced with Mr Barber's permission.