Open up any map of Fforest Fawr Geopark and the distinctive place-names leap out. To anyone who has an understanding of the Welsh language, these names add another layer of detail to an understanding of the landscape.
Welsh is a language rich in terms for natural features – after all Wales can boast a great diversity in its countryside. There are, for example, many different terms for ‘hill’:
- bryn/fryn (bank)
- tyle (rise/slope)
- moel/foel (‘bald’ rounded hill)
- ban/fan/*bannau (peak/s)
- rhiw (slope)
- mynydd/fynydd mynyddoedd (mountain/hill)
and ‘cliff’ or ‘rock’:
- tarren/darren (rocky edge)
- craig/graig *creigiau (cliff/s)
- carreg/garreg *cerrig (rock/s)
- maen/faen (stone)
and indeed for wet ground!
- gwaun/waun (moor)
- mign/fign (bog)
- pant (hollow – often wet!)
Apart from the normal form of words (in bold), common mutations are shown and an * indicates spelling in plural use.
Each of these can say something about the nature of the ground before we even set eyes on it.
Colours too, abound in place names:
- gwyn/gwen *wynion (white)
- du/ddu *duon (black)
- melyn (yellow)
- coch/goch *cochion (red)
- glas/las (blue/green)
They might relate to the rocks below or else to the colour of the vegetation above.
Welsh belongs to a different family of languages from English. In common with its siblings – Breton and Cornish – and its cousins – Gaelic and Irish – its words often ‘mutate’. So, for example bryn becomes fryn, ban becomes fan, du becomes ddu and glas becomes las. Take time to learn a bit (or a lot!) and you won’t regret it. It will open up a new window for you on Wales and indeed on Fforest Fawr.