A flavour of Pen-uwch

Llyn Fanod

Llyn Fanod covers about four and a half hectares and is an area of national scientific interest and is owned in part by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. It is an excellent place to hear the cuckoo in the spring. The awlwort flourishes here and is at its most southerly location in Great Britain. There is a spectacular display of white and yellow water lilies in high summer at the southern end of the lake. It is an ideal place to see dragonflies and damselflies, too.

Llyn Fanod and nearby Cors Llyn Farch, which is a site of special scientific interest, have the special features of having basin mire and fen, a strong aquatic plant community and a mosaic of marshy grassland and heath communities. At Cors Llyn Farch the mire vegetation is characterized by the presence of small sedges and rushes, hare’s-tail cotton grass, heather, cowberry, bilberry, dense layers of moss and a locally rare species of fern, the royal fern. As peatlands have declined greatly in the 20th century due to widespread drainage, Cors Llyn Farch is indeed a unique place.

 (c) Cyngor Llaneitho Council

Llyn Fanod has often been an attraction for tourists. At one time Llyn Fanod was a popular place for swimmers and many locals remember taking a swimming costume to chapel on a Sunday and then heading for a swim in the lake afterwards. But tragedy struck in 1963 when two small children drowned whilst rafting on the lake.

Photo: Llyn Fanod: Eirian Jones

John Roderick Rees

John Roderick Rees (1920–2009) spent most of his life living on the small holding Bear’s Hill, Pen-uwch. He was educated at the local school and then at Tregaron County School before going, at 26 years old, to University College of Wales, Aberystwyth to study under the guidance of eminent lecturers and poets such as T. H. Parry-Williams and Gwenallt. He spent his working life teaching firstly at Ysgol Gymraeg Aberystwyth and then as the head of the Welsh department at Tregaron Secondary School and tending to his small holding. He gave up his job in 1973 to look after his foster mother Jane, who died in 1981 aged 86. John Roderick Rees’s mother had died when he was just two years of age, and Jane had looked after him at Bear’s Hill since his tenth birthday.

He started to compete in the essay and literature competitions of eisteddfodau to begin with. Then he competed in the poetry competitions until 1964, winning 23 chairs in seven years. After a break from competition for twenty years, he started competing again. The mid-1980s were a very successful period for him as he won the crown two years on the trot at the National Eisteddfod: in Lampeter in 1984 and then in Rhyl in 1985. The theme of his 1985 poem was his experiences looking after his sick foster mother during the last years of her life.

Much like his father before him, breeding Welsh Cobs was a particular interest to John Roderick Rees. He achieved great success with his cob Brenin Gwalia.


Cerddi’r Ymylon (1959)
Cerddi John Roderick Rees (1984)
Cerddi Newydd 1983–1991 (1992)

Pen-uwch Sculptures

In 1993 Pen-uwch Primary School was invited by the Welsh Arts Council to research and record in a multi medium art form the history of the village and its adjoining communities. Following detailed discussions between staff and pupils, it was agreed that a research project be planned and developed which would reflect various aspects of village and community life and to identify how historical aspects events and phases had influenced present-day Pen-uwch. The objective was to stimulate the children to identify and investigate those issues which were characteristic of the area.

In planning the project it was decided that we should concentrate on those issues which were fundamental to the development of the area such as education, culture, religion, agriculture and the interaction between Pen-uwch and neighbouring communities.

The outcome of the research and its conclusions is visible to all and is commendable evidence to the outstanding work completed by the children at Pen-uwch school. The subjects exhibited, such as Brenin Gwalia, the famous Welsh Cob, John Roderick Rees the twice crowned bard at the National Eisteddfod, the challenging life of the mountain farmers, education, religion and the paths used by the drovers as they moved their stock from one part of the country to another.

The main focus of the sculptural display is to record and portray the history of Pen-uwch, but art has limited impact unless it is presented in a way which is sensitive and meaningful. The work prepared and delivered by the children, following detailed discussions, was placed on this land at Brynamlwg, a location where nature has a positive influence on what is seen. The sky is a stimulating background to ensure that the art work reacts and responds to the various shades of light. The changes in the colours, which reflect nature, constantly changes the mood and the appearance of the sculptures. The sun, the clouds, the ever changing weather and the subtle changes of light at dawn and dusk presents different perspectives and meanings as nature influences and guides the viewing of the different artistic forms.

The project in reality was not a history project, but rather a cross-curricular theme which encompassed intensive oral discussions, written recording of outcomes, number work, geographical research, team work and a range of artistic presentations which were integrated into one final presentation. The children were enthusiastic when discussing and arriving at decisions on a range of historical issues, but above all else the pleasure and enjoyment they derived from the project was patently obvious for all to see and experience.

John Roderick Rees, the acclaimed bard, Aneurin Jones the celebrated artist, and John Clinch the eminent sculptor all contributed to enrich and develop the children’s skills.

The sculptures were presented as a gift to the community during a special celebration on July 9th 1993. The unveiling ceremony was performed by Mr Bernard Rees, Chief Executive of the Curriculum Council of Wales. The marquee was overflowing with parents, guests, members of the community and beyond.

 (c) Cyngor Llaneitho Council

As John Roderick Rees stated in his winning long poem “Eyes”, the inhabitants of this community have survived the test of time, it is also our wish that the sculptures will reign as a record of this vision.

Don’t you see the handful of us
Clinging desperately to those acres,
Attached like leeches to these few acres?
We are still here.

Ann Davies
Photo: Pen-uwch Scultpures : Elin Morse/Eirian Jones
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