Green ways

Ania theania at
Wed Jan 9 19:17:43 EST 2002

I've just been browsing the DWJ website and came across Meredith's article
on green ways (on ). I
thought I'd add my tuppence's worth.
The Sarn Helen mentioned in the article is a Roman road which goes all the
way from North to South Wales - and back again! ;). Sarn is Welsh for a
paved road. Large sections of it are still in use as a public highway. Some
years ago I lived in Helen House, situated next to it (Mid-Wales, near
Tregaron). The road, as befits a Roman highway, is dead straight for quite a
distance-v. unusual in this part of the world! I now live quite close to
another section of it. The site of the Roman fort of Penllwyn is nearby, one
of many Roman encampments along it.
The course of the old road is indeed broken up by now, some sections are now
green lanes (a technical word denoting roads which didn't graduate to
tarmac-dom!), paths or just gone.
I don't buy the deer connection; the Slavic word "elen" for a deer, or stag,
should be transliterated "yelen", in Cyrillic alphabet the initial letter
looks like E, but the sound is "ye"(cf. Boris YEltsin: same initial letter).
But - quite coincidentally and spookily - the aforementioned Helen House was
by Stag's Head crossroads (named after a now defunct pub, I'm told), and
even more improbably, sarna is Polish for a female deer. Bizarre.
There is a section on Sarn Helen in a book by Richard Colyer "Roads and
Trackways of Wales". And I'm sure I saw a book all about Sarn Helen in a
local bookshop.
I always loved the Helen and Macsen Wledig story, which is told in an old
Welsh tale "The Dream of Macsen Wledig". And I loved the DWJ idea of green
ways becoming the railways of today. In Wales, and I imagine all over
Britain, many are now reverting to being green ways - when Lord Beeching,
curse him, closed many railways in the 1970s, the rails were removed and the
tracks overgrown. Some have been turned into cycle paths and footpaths.
Anyway, Meredith, thanks for the lovely article. Belatedly. But I found it
in the end!

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