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Friday, November 23, 2012

Llan author roots out a jubilee mystery

llanblogger book review

*  Why was Coed Uchaf planted?
It has been said that the beech tree is a symbol for the written word, the innate wisdom contained within it and for ancient learning.
And all can be applied to the latest edition of the book Coed Uchaf by Llangollen author Simon Collinge.
As with the first edition, this centres on a copse of around 100 trees – mainly beech – in the Upper Conwy Valley.
Contained within its 40 pages of stunning, high quality photographs and sparse yet highly descriptive text is the mystery of why the wood, known as Coed Uchaf, came to be planted on a lonely hilltop overlooking the town of Pentrefoelas.
Tradition has it that some individual trees or small clumps of Scots pine – popularly called ‘Charley Trees’ - are the survivors of those planted in Wales after 1745 by supporters of Bonny Prince Charlie to commemorate the Jacobite Rising.
Another tradition is that pine trees were deliberately planted in prominent places in order to mark the line of the ancient routes along which the drovers of old led their cattle out of Wales to the markets in England.
But, appropriately for this year of Elizabeth II’s celebration of 60 years on the throne, the author suggests the answer to the mystery could relate to a jubilee occasion, albeit the jubilee of an earlier monarch.  
In the first edition, he concluded that Coed Uchaf could not have been planted to mark the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887 because a 1906 postcard he saw showed trees overlooking Pentrefeolas and, quite simply, he believed Coed Uchaf could not have grown so quickly.  
However, after further research, he discovered beech trees can grow rapidly, at the rate of up to 10 metres in 20 years.
This fact, he believes, makes it distinctly possible the wood was actually established in 1887.
The latest incarnation of Coed Uchaf itself may have only appeared just years ago, but Collinge believes it is one of many small woods whose roots grow deep in the rich soil of our region’s past.
The Upper Conwy valley is rich in history, a key route between England and the North Wales Coast, and some earlier version of Coed Uchaf could have been a lookout post as the Iberians, Celts, Romans, the Medieval Welsh, kings and queens who all passed by.
The author says, quite rightly, that with his book one can “experience the visual power and unique atmosphere and remember the brief moment, when you see a world which has long existed and will remain after you have departed”.
Simon Collinge is a freelance media producer with over 35 years media production and teaching experience.
Assistant director of media at Yale College, Wrexham until 2008, he trained as a graphic designer. and then taught animation, film and TV production, graphic design and photography.
He also works as an educational consultant for Edexcel, ESTYN and Protocol National.
This is the first in a series of projects by him exploring identity and space.
All photographs are available as prints of various sizes.

The book is available from Courtyard Books in Llangollen, hardback at £29, or direct from, where there is a choice of a cheaper soft cover version at £23.

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