The story I’m about to share with you may be dangerous to know if you happen to bring the subject up in Dyfed, Wales.
The fact as to whether the ‘Which Way Winds’ legend is true or not sparked off such controversy amongst historians in Dyfed that it almost tore Dyfed’s community apart. With the bantering and debating from Dyfed historians came much interest from ‘outsiders’, from far away places such as England ( . . . across the bridge) and unheard of places such as Europe that 40 years or so ago were practically unheard of. In fact, when the German historian Siegfreid Hintenberg visited Dyfed he was beaten with leeks and driven out of Dyfed for good. You may hear the odd conversation down the local pub about the legend, whispered in low, guarded tones in Welsh, if you are lucky. However, if you are an outsider, the barman will usually give them a disaproving look and then glance your way to make the locals aware of your presence. If you bring up the subject, people in Dyfed will dismiss it as nonsense. And if you persist in bringing up the subject, well . . . just make sure your life insurance is up to date beforehand . . .
Here is the legend, the tale . . . the closely guarded secret that brought ‘outsiders’ into Dyfed.
A visitor to Dyfed may sometimes be perplexed and puzzled to see trees and shrubs bending in opposite directions, seeming to defy their usual patterns, leaning away from the prevailing wind. The reason for this is bound up in legend, almost forgotten by the people of West Wales.
When the Norsemen invaded the southern coast of the country a great many years ago, they drove the native inhabitants back into the hinterland, until it soon looked as if the whole of Wales would be swallowed up by these fierce and terrible invaders.
Druids, soothsayers and bards deliberated and argued amongst themselves for many hours about ways to stop the total destruction of their homeland. So, they decided to consult the recluse, poet and thinker, Dewin ap Medrus.
On hearing the news, Dewin ap Medrus entombed himself in a cave near what is known as the Aber Gwaun Valley. For six days and nights he thought long and deeply, with only his shadow, cast by a single candle, for company.
When at last he emerged from the cave, he gathered the young men of the disintegrating tribes of Dyfed around him and explained the plan, which was simple and almost child-like.
Dewin ap Medrus had noticed that the Norsemen took their raiding directions using the local trees and shrubs. By following the wind-bent branches they knew that if they became lost in battle, they had only to march in the opposite direction to the wind-flattened foliage and twisted boughs to find themselves back at the coast and to the safety of their longships.
The young defenders were instructed to pull and bend the branches of the trees so that the prevailing winds appeared to come from the opposite direction.
So successful was this in confusing and halting the enemy that the practice continued long after Dyfed’s tormentors had vanished. Indeed, to this day many old trees and shrubs may still be found in sheltered spots leaning in all directions.
The confused Norsemen eventually left the people of inland Wales in peace, because of the strange winds of Dyfed, which they named the ‘Which Way Winds’.