Walking into a Photograph
From Planet 225

Diane Bailey on Fay Godwin’s Pont Scethin

Llyn Irddun by Fay Godwin

Llyn Irddyn by Fay Godwin. Image courtesy The British Library Board and National Library of Wales.

It is a hot August day in 2016 when I ascend through ancient oak woodland beside Afon Ysgethin near Dyffryn Ardudwy out into the scale-defying perspective of open moorland. Random boulders and marker stones beside the wide, walled track offer choices of perch for a solitary buzzard that watches for a while from its vantage point, then takes flight. Approached from the east, hidden at the valley’s lowest point, the bridge came suddenly into view, made more visible by the blue tarpaulin attached to the scaffolding erected in June 2016. I was walking into a photograph made 40 years before: Pont Scethin by Fay Godwin.

It was slow going to avoid the watery gullies in the boggy ground, with time to appreciate this frisson of recognition, jumping from stone slab to stone slab curving down to the bridge. Elegant though squat, its low parapets subtly concave on each side; the bridge is a perfect shape for funnelling the cattle away from the river’s edge and over the bridge. It can be crossed in a few steps; and in in 30 minutes by a drove of 200 cattle years ago. Two histories also converge: a history of droving that veined the land with tracks, and the the story of the photographer, and her creative autonomy in this landscape.

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