MARTHA MORGAN COUNTRY PREVIEW
Martha Morgan Country is located in north-east Pembrokeshire, on the northern flank of the undulating hills of Mynydd Preseli. The region has a very distinctive character, with a spectacular coastline and an inland area dominated by craggy hills, deep wooded valleys and the upland moorlands of Mynydd Carningli, Mynydd Dinas and Pen Caer. The western edge of the region is somewhere near the village of Mathry, and the eastern limit is the Teifi estuary and the twin settlements of Cardigan and St Dogmaels. Most of the region lies within the "Mynydd Preseli" part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which is altogether rougher and wilder than the other parts of the county which have more fertile farmlands and larger towns and villages.
For various reasons, the region has escaped from many of the effects of urbanisation and industrialisation, and the "mix" of town and country has not changed dramatically since Regency times. The farming landscape is dominated by smallholdings and small family farms, and there are still wide expanses of common grazing land. Hundreds of prehistoric features have survived, and in the more modern built environment there are "heritage" features at every turn -- castles, ancient churches and chapels, and farm buildings and minor gentry houses which have (with the help of strict National Park planning controls) maintained many of their original features.
Brian John's eight novels of the Angel Mountain Saga, published between 2001 and 2012, describe the adult life and times of Mistress Martha Morgan, between 1796 and 1855. Martha has become the most popular heroine in Welsh literature, and more than 80,000 paperbacks from the Saga have now been sold, with fans from every part of the world. Many more have been sold in Ebook editions. For many readers, Martha represents "Mother Wales" since she encompasses in her character most of the virtues -- and the vices -- of the people of Wales. For others she is a very modern heroine, refusing to submit or conform, and determined to fashion her own destiny at a time when women (even among the gentry) had very few rights. For most of her life she is a widow who runs her own estate -- something that is virtually unheard of in Regency and early Victorian Britain. And it is not easy for her, here in the "Wild West", given that corruption is rife and that resentment and social discontent lead to protest and violence in every one of the eight stories of the Saga.
The centre of Martha's world is the house called Plas Ingli and the mountain of Carningli, which dominates the landscape of Newport and the adjacent coastline. She has an almost mystical relationship with the mountain, feeling that it is a part of her, and that she is a part of it. So "hiraeth" is at the heart of the story -- this is the place in which Martha belongs, and which she longs for when she is anywhere else. And while she is in residence, she has her "angels" (her family and her faithful servants) to look after her and to rescue her from one misadventure after another.......
In the "Martha Morgan Country" project, our objective is to portray this very special part of the country through images of its glorious landscapes and its fascinating historical heritage -- linking everything to the world that Martha Morgan knew, as it would have been two hundred years ago. At the heart of the project is a photographic portfolio of images taken by Newport photographer Steve Mallett. Some of the images are landscape shots, and others are of Mistress Martha herself, in familiar settings. The model for the photography is Rhiannon James from St Dogmaels, the current Miss Pembrokeshire, who has a striking physical likeness to Martha as she is described in the books of the Angel Mountain Saga. We have all had great fun finding and portraying key locations from the stories and using them to capture some of the action and the mood swings of the stories themselves.
"Literary tourism" is currently seeing something of a renaissance across the UK, and we hope that this project will draw many new visitors to this part of Pembrokeshire, whether or not they happen to be hunting for Martha's house or her grave, or other key locations in the Angel Mountain Saga.
Some images from the area
Note: most of these are from my own collection, and are used in the "title bar slide shows" on the new web site. Steve Mallett's photos are in a different league, and are used in the main portfolio.
We are very grateful to the following for their support while we were working to build up the portfolio of photographs:
Glen and Brenda Peters
Mike and Jane Hall
Ian and Sandu Baker
Mark and Alison Jaap
Rita and Andrew Davies
Martin and Donna Dutton
Robin and Lisa Watson
Richard and Jenny Goswell
Eifion and Mandy Griffiths
Some images from the area
NEW WEB SITE
The proper "Martha Morgan Country" web site is now published -- using photos from the portfolio of photographer Steve Mallett and featuring Rhiannon James as Mistress Martha Morgan.
This project was first suggested by James Parkin of the Pembs Coast National Park, and after expressions of support from various bodies we received great practical help from Kate Lindley (and her successor Natalie Pusalkar) of "Refreshing North Pembrokeshire" in bringing the project to fruition. RNP also kindly put up match funding, and we are very grateful to the Management Board for agreeing this. We also thank the following bodies for their help in promotion via link exchanges etc:
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Preseli Tourist Association
Pembrokeshire County Council