As many of you know my recent collection is inspired by the Black Mountains of the Brecon Beacons National Park Wales and its ancient woodlands & animals that once roamed the area, like the Deer of Parc Lodge, the once medieval Deer Park and also the wildlife that you can see today. Animals that I have grown up with and regularly see whilst waling in the area all great sources of inspiration for me.
Before I start a new Animal Head I like to spend time studying the animal in its natural surroundings, where possible, and try to get up close and personal to get a sense of scale and characteristics. Imagine my excitement when I got a call from a Local Hill farmer saying that Highland cattle have been ” turned out on the hill ” I had to go and see if I could find them.
All I knew is that they were on the hills at Gospel Pass (Bwlch yr Efengyl) in the Beautiful vale of Eways. Dubbed Wales Highest road Pass, wedged between Twmpa and Hay Bluff. The name Gospel Pass is derived from the 12th century Crusaders who were preaching and made passage through there.
The route I took was Abergavenny to Llanvihangel Crucorney turning left just after the Skirrid Inn. Wales Oldest pub which dates back to possibly 1100’s. It is said that Owain Glyndwr rallied his men in the cobbled courtyard before raiding nearby settlements that supported the English King. Legend also has it that the famous Judge Jefferies held court there and as many as 180 hangings took place.
Pootle on throught the lanes toward Llanthony Valley, if you look up to your right you should see the little old crooked church- Cwymyoy Chapel situated beneath the Hatterall Hill, You then reach Llanthony abbey on right.
” The priory dates back to around the year 1100, when Norman nobleman Walter de Lacy reputedly came upon a ruined chapel of St. David in this location, and was inspired to devote himself to solitary prayer and study. He was joined by Ersinius, a former Chaplain to Queen Matilda, the wife of King Henry I, and then a band of followers. A church was built on the site, dedicated to St John the Baptist, and consecrated in 1108. By 1118, a group of around 40 monks from England founded there a priory of Canons Regular, the first in Wales.” Courtesy of Wikipedia
As you Climb out of Llanthony The landscape gets more wild passing through Capel-Y-Ffin and on up to the hill over the cattle grid. The rumble of the cattle grid marks entry into the wild Black Mountains.
I stopped in a pull in and set about searching for them. Its difficult to believe because of their sheer size but they are difficult to see from a distance as they blend in so well with the landscape. I could see shapes moving in the distance and managed to get quite close without disturbing them. They were settled down in the valley and not easily found from the road hence the bit of footwork.
What Magnificent Beasts they are and to see them in what would be there natural habitat made it all worthwhile. Observing the animal in its natural environment is crucial when trying to recreate the characteristics and personality. You could certainly see lots of personality in them as the scratched, chewed and kept an eye on me. Photographs are always a valuable aid when back in the Studio creating the fauxidermy trophy head as making sketches out in the field can be very difficult due to the wild weather that the Black Mountains is synonymous with . Its fair to say I am totally smitten by them:-)