21 December 2013

Watery heavens and Ls

Visited what could/should be two of Gwent's premier wetlands today, Llandegfedd Reservoir and the lower valley of the River Usk.  No sign of the reported diver sp. at the reservoir and little else of note except five Goldeneye and the emerging skeletal form of Dwr Cymru's new visitor/watersports centre.  A visit to most of the vantage points along the valley between Usk and Newbridge-on-Usk didn't produce as much as it should have either; despite all the flooding, the highlights were just a healthy dose of common larid and five Bewick's Swans.  If the Usk Valley was managed as a nature reserve/flood alleviation area/carbon sink it would be a flipping gem of a site. 

The moist valley bottom of the River Usk as seen looking east from Llandowlais (click on the image for the larger version).  On the opposite side sits Llanllowell, a hamlet with more Ls than houses.  Also dotted along this stretch are Llanusk, Llanbadoc, Llantrisant and Llangibby.  According to local legend, all the Ls originated from place names further upstream, torn from their towns and villages during a prehistoric flood and, in some cases, borne hundreds of miles on the torrent before being washed up where the valley widened and the river's mind began to wander.  I guess this explains the comparative lack of Ls in Gilwern and Govilon, and why it was necessary for the English to add a second L to Crickhowell.  Of course, the tale does raise questions regarding the origin of the valley's voiceless alveolar lateral fricatives, I mean, all these places have got them and they can't have had them before.  Did they survive the trip adhered to each storm-tossed letter?  Are they the natural result of two unprotected Ls rubbing up against one another?  Are there invisible swarms of them in the Welsh skies silently waiting to alight whenever two Ls are placed in close proximity?  We may never know, someone should do a PhD on this sort of thing and find out.

No comments: