Small wonder that poets prosper on the beautiful Trawsgoed estate
Ihave been visiting Trawsgoed, ancestral seat of the Vaughans. The Vaughans became Earls of Lisburne in the 18th century and built an elegant house, encasing an earlier one. Along came the Edwardians, with their shooting parties, and pumped iron. A slip of a mansion was transformed into the Incredible Hulk, the sort of place that can only be run with an army of staff. The inevitable happened; it fell on hard times. One end has been turned into a flat, through an outfit called Stately Holiday Homes, and there I stayed, waking to misty views of what is still a very beautiful park.
The rest of Trawsgoed will soon be converted, it is hoped, by a new owner. The Earls have departed, although the Hon John Vaughan, who works for Savills, is still to be seen there, with his brothers.
It was a Lord Lisburne who built the Victorian church in the village of Llanafan. Another, more singular contribution made by the Lisburnes is the Women’s Institute cottage. A collection of photographs held by Ceredigion County Council shows ladies in print dresses and cloche hats, more than equal to keeping the old-fashioned cottage with its hurricane lamp over the bare table spotless. It is as pretty as ever.
Tucked away behind Aberystwyth, the surroundings of Llanfan are picturesque. A couple of miles away, Thomas Johnes created the dramatic landscape park of Hafod, all caverns and waterfalls, in the late 18th century. In the Victorian period, John Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in South Wales and its Borders spoke sedately of the “romantic scenery” of the dingles. You might think that the best creature to ask about the history of the place was a sheep — and certainly there would be plenty to choose from.
But this soggily verdant country also has another dimension. The Romans sailed round the coast and built a fort here, because of the minerals. The lead mines continued into the 20th century, leaving long, grey bibs where no plant will grow below the mine openings on the hillsides. The count house, which began life as an accounting house for the Lisburne Mine company in 1834, is on the market with Evans Brothers of Aberaeron for £279,500 (01545 570462).
Today, Mid Wales is more a place for losing yourself, or perhaps discovering yourself. You could do this on the Trawsgoed estate, where a five-bedroom cottage with 20 acres is being offered by John Francis of Aberystwyth for £449,995 (01970 612310). If there is only one of you — two at a pinch — Jim RawRees, of Ceredigion, has the very thing: a pocket-sized, white-walled cottage with one bedroom for £125,000 (01970 617179).
The 20th-century poet T H Jones was born in an isolated shepherd’s cottage near Llanafan. I can believe it: the views from some of these cottages and farmhouses would bring out the poet in anyone. Besides, the Swyddffynon mill, with former grain kiln that could be converted and an acre of garden, comes with an asking price of £298,000. A poet, although perhaps not a shepherd, might even be able to afford it.
Clive Aslet is Editor at Large of