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Afon Ystwyth – the story of a river

by John Green
Paperback; 83pp; ISBN 0-9513909-7-X

...it gives a real sense of the joys of the Afon Ystwyth – and of rivers, and West Wales, and of unspoiled nature, in general. Professor Steve Jones, geneticist


 

 

 

This is the first book to be written specifically about the River Ystwyth. While it is not a prestigious or notable river in terms of its size or commercial importance, it flows through one of the most picturesque areas of Britain. This written portrait provides a geological and historical background, but is primarily devoted to the wonderfully evocative landscape through which it flows and the wildlife to be encountered along its route. The river is described through the four seasons, revealing the changes that these bring to the plant and animal life. It is a river which can be easily followed, from source to estuary, on foot.  To assist the reader, a series of short walks are described which, if all of them are completed, take in its full length. This book is dedicated to all those who love the Welsh countryside, its birds, flowers and unique visual beauty.

‘The River Ystwyth can’t compete with rivers like the Tees or Thames for economic importance or the Severn or Wye in length or drama, but it is still an inspiring river’, says John Green. In its short journey it runs through some of the most beautiful landscapes of mid-Wales and, over generations, has nurtured, enraptured and enthused the valley’s inhabitants and its visitors.

John is the author of two previous books about the birds of the area: 'In search of Birds in Mid-Wales' and 'Wings over the Valley – a Birdwatcher’s Diary'. The latter was included in Robert Macfarlane’s ecoclassics list of readers’ nominations of great classics of British nature writing, in the Guardian Review of Books.

John Green’s new book, Afon Ystwyth – the story of a river, is the first to be written solely about the river and the valley through which it runs. John lives close to the Ystwyth and has explored its course over the years and delved into the history of the valley through which it flows. He wanted to tell others about this enjoyable river and the fascinating history of its valley, particularly the role played by Thomas Johnes and the Hafod estate.

His latest book was also born out of his love for the area and an intimate knowledge of its wildlife. His written portrait provides a geological and historical background, but is primarily devoted to the evocative landscape through which the Ystwyth flows and the wildlife that can be encountered along its route. The river is described through the four seasons, revealing the changes that these bring to the plant and animal life. It is a river which can be easily followed, from source to estuary, on foot, and he describes a series of short walks which, if completed, take you along its full length. It is richly illustrated with photos and drawings of the wildlife, and is available from local bookshops.

Professor Steve Jones, the renowned geneticist, author and broadcaster, was born in Aberystwyth on the river’s estuary and is a passionate fan of the Ystwyth and of Ceredigion. He wrote the preface to John Green’s book. In it he says: ‘I was born within a few hundred yards of the Ystwyth itself and spent my earliest years around its waters. My earliest memory is of wading upstream through its shallows in the hope (forlorn for a four-year-old) of reaching the source. A few years later I spent hours with my friends smashing boulders near the river’s mouth to extract fragments of shining lead ore which, like many others, we assumed at first to be silver and which long ago had made local landowners wealthy. Much later again, I walked its whole length, from source to sea – a fifteen mile journey that encompasses as much landscape and more history than many voyages ten times longer.
           
For those who have already dabbled their feet in its clear stream, and those who have yet to do so, this book is the ideal introduction to its history, its peoples, its birds and other animals. It suggest where the reader might direct his tracks to see the best of the landscape – but most of all, it gives a real sense of the joys of the Afon Ystwyth – and of rivers, and West Wales, and of unspoiled nature, in general. As Heraclitus put it long ago (and Thomas Johnes would no doubt concur): No man can stand in the same river twice. Since his day, and since my own youth half a century ago, the Ystwyth has changed, and so have I (the former for the better, as it is less polluted than it was: about the latter, I forbear to speculate). Reading Afon Ystwyth - the Story of a River has made me determined to step in its waters at least once more, before it is too late.’  Steve Jones is Professor of Genetics at University College, London.