Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Nevern’

Storytelling Starters ~ Flying, falling

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

No good signals have been received from Chris the Cuckoo since 5 August. At that point, Chris the Cuckoo was crossing the Meditarranean Sea after stopping in the Po Valley area of Italy on his annual migration south to Africa to the Congo.  Four complete migratory cycles of his have been recorded by the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) using the tracking device with which he was fitted. Now it is feared he has died and the probable reason is the severe drought the Po Valley area has been experiencing this summer.  

Falling – poor cuckoo!

P1070575Severe drought is also what’s causing enormous problems for salmon in the Vancouver area of Canada. As we were hearing from a friend there this week, the rivers are going dry and salmon trying to get upriver to reach their breeding places are not going to be able to do so.

For salmon and cuckoos, it’s a sorry tale. Already the Po Valley area drought is thought to have been responsible for the probable deaths of several others of the cuckoos that the BTO has been tracking this year. To discover the difficulties migrating cuckoos are facing is precisely why their tracking programme was devised. Drought, of course, is one of the worst of the problems: it means the feeding places where the cuckoos stop on their journeys cannot provide them with the sustenance they need for their onward flight.

The cuckoos were much on my mind when we went for a walk around the lovely North Pembrokeshire village of Nevern this week. The 6th century saint, Saint Brynach, founded the church in the village and, among the ancient yew trees leading to the church entrance is the famous Bleeding Yew that attracts many visitors. Nearer the entrance is the beautiful Celtic cross which figures in a sad little local legend in which the cuckoo is central.

 On St Brynach’s day each springtime, according to the legend, a service used to be held around that Celtic Cross. Every year, the vicar and the congregation would  gather for the service in front of that Celtic Cross and wait until, as invariably happened, a cuckoo would fly down and settle on top of the cross. At that point, the service could begin. One year, however, the people waited and waited until they were on the point of despair. Just as they were about to give up, a very wind-blown and battered cuckoo arrived and settled briefly on the cross only to fall dead on the ground below it as the service started. 

Flying – lovely swifts! (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Nature Stories

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Well, the photos this week are of birds – three of a pigeon in Venice plus a picture out of my photo archives of seagulls over the Thames.

But the theme of the words is not just birds but cuckoos.

Why cuckoos?

A while ago, a good friend of mine who is also a storyteller got me interested in sponsoring a cuckoo. To do what, you might very well ask? The answer is that the British Trust for Ornithology is keen to find out why cuckoo numbers in Britain have been on the decline and why cuckoos from Scotland and Wales have been doing rather better than cuckoos from England. So they’ve been tagging cuckoos and, by tracking them on the fantastic journeys they annually make from the UK, down across Europe into Africa and back again to where they set out, they are hoping to discover what problems the different cuckoos face.

Last season, I sponsored an English cuckoo who’d been awarded the name of Kaspar. Alas, he didn’t return from the 16,000-miles or more that  these cuckoos normally travel. This season I’ve sponsored a cuckoo from Ceredigion  in Wales who is yet to be awarded a name. I’ve written in, along with many others, to suggest what name might be chosen for him.

My suggestion is Taliesin. Taliesin was one of the earliest Welsh poets. He lived in the second half of the 6th century and I’ve often told audiences the magical legend about him that appears in the Mabinogion.

Taliesin still sings, I said in my email, and hopefully the soon-to-be-named cuckoo will sing for a long time too.

I recommend the BTO website. Like the tree-sign in my last week’s blog, the material on cuckoos (and other birds too) is a story in itself.

A cuckoo legend:
By tradition, it’s on April 7th that the first cuckoo’s song of the year is heard each year in Pembrokeshire which is my native part of Wales. The 7th April is St Brynach’s Day and, in the village of Nevern where St Brynach eventually settled after making a pilgrimage to Rome and spending some years in Brittany, people would wait for the cuckoo to come and fly down to the old Celtic Cross that is St Brynach’s Cross. And it’s there, they say, that the cuckoo would sing.

One year, the bird was late arriving. Waiting eagerly for it to come, the priest was reluctant to start the service until he’d heard the cuckoo’s song.

Eventually the gathered congregation saw the cuckoo fly down through the trees in the churchyard and settle on St Brynach’s Cross. But the bird looked terribly battered and tired and, after singing for one brief, glorious moment, it fell from the cross and died. (more…)