A Stoneware Wolf in a China Shop

towards Paincastle

Delivering ceramics is a way to get to know a country. I found myself in the car, ceramic pieces carefully packed in boxes at the back, on a narrow road in the Welsh countryside of Powys, marooned in a sea of wool as a flock of sheep was driven to an adjacent field by two men and a woman. It was warm enough to have the windows open and as the woman walked by, I asked her what breed they were (the sheep, not the people). Badger Face Welsh Mountain was the reply. I nodded sagely, as if I knew my sheep.

green vs brown

The countryside I was driving through was an upland area above the Wye River and I was on my way to Erwood but had allowed the satnav to dictate terms, so instead of going the direct way, I was doing the “picturesque” route via Paincastle, which meant dealing with slow, winding, single track lanes in an undulating landscape,  but it also presented me with the unexpected opportunity to enjoy a rural backdrop that seems little touched by man…. until you realize that the place owes its personality to the sheep that graze it and the farmers that have shaped it through the ages. On this particular early Spring morning the sky was bright and clear, and the green was taking over from the Winter grey and the brown bracken. Clean air and only a whiff of sheep.

clean air

inside one of the Erwood carriages

Erwood itself is tiny but used to have its own train station until 1962. Nowadays, three railway carriages from the 1880s mark the spot, and form part of the largest privately-run contemporary applied arts gallery in Wales, the Erwood Station Gallery. There’s even a diesel locomotive from 1939 parked outside, a restored Fowler 0-6-0 engine. It is only a few yards from the Wye river, and attracts not only anglers, but also walkers and cyclists.

Fowler 0-6-0

A stone’s throw from Erwood is the village of Crickadarn, which was the remote “East Proctor” in the cult film “An American Werewolf in London”. The gory scenes on the lonely moors with the rampant lycanthrope feasting on Badger Face Welsh were all shot in the nearby Black Mountains, but a Stoneware Wolf (yes, sorry) would undoubtedly calm down at the site of the ceramics on offer at the Erwood Station Gallery. Unless there is a full moon, in which case there would be little chance of protecting the fabulous pieces on show from any lupine loss of control.

Werewolf thrilled at having found an Arscott ceramic

By the way, if you have recently developed a craving for raw meat and a sudden fear of water, have begun ripping your clothes off during a full moon, have a unibrow across your forehead, find yourself screaming with anger when it’s nothing to do with Brexit, then you may well be a werewolf. Click here to see what happens during a full moon – warning: remember it’s all pretend.

Some of the pieces on view at the gallery:

fish vase

ivy vase

Following your visit to Erwood you may well want to have a meal, in which case Hay-on-Wye is 20 minutes away by car. There you could spend a whole day just browsing in the bookshops for which it is famous, visiting the Erwood sister gallery, the Lion Street gallery, mainly showing the work of Welsh artists, or prowling around the open market (Thursdays only). Or you can hire a canoe and paddle down the Wye – if you are lucky you will catch sight of a flash of brilliant blue and green dropping into the water. A kingfisher.

early morning River Wye