THE journey which Rosa Blanche Williams made on her pony to Hay Market once a week would take her across some unforgiving territory. From Pant Farm at Rhulen the ten miles were a switchback route over Llanbedr Hill and down to Painscastle, back up and over The Begwns to Clyro and across the River Wye at Hay Bridge.
On Tuesday 22nd December, 1925 a snow storm started when she was on the way back. Friends in Clyro, concerned about her safety, begged Rosa to stay overnight but she declined the chance because she was anxious to get back home to her six small children, the youngest being just 22 months. So she pressed on in an epic struggle to defy the elements. Her plight is immortalised by A. L. Davies of Upper House, Howey.
"She staggered on, unknown her course
She clings to mane and rein
The storm's wild encyclon course
Proves human effort vain."
She reached a point a mile and a half above Painscastle, just to the east of Llyn Y March, and two and a quarter miles from home. Here her mount stumbled in the blizzard and the rider broke her ankle in the fall. A little girl staying the night at The Ireland in a strange bed was sure she kept hearing someone crying for help. Several times she went downstairs in the night to tell her aunty and uncle, but they insisted it was just the wind and sent her back to bed. 39-year-old Rosa froze to death 300 yards away on those lonely slopes of Llanbedr Hill.
"The Memorial to Rosa on Llanbedr Hill where she froze to death in 1925"
The story is being remembered as part of a heritage project by Hay Cheese Market. Rosa's remarkable life involved some early scandal when, unmarried, she became pregnant and was sent to Australia. There, she and her husband Tom established a successful business and had another three children. Theyeventually returned home, bought the farm at Rhulen and had two more children.
Marian Lally, now of Llanigon, was a daughter of the youngest child, Ted Breese, who bought the Pant in 1941 after growing up in the care of an aunty. In those days the family still went to Hay Market by horse and trap over the mountain to Painscastle.
"Rosa Blanche Williams riding home from Hay Market in 1920"
Photo credited to The Ken Jenkins' Estate
Many times, when passing the place where Rosa died, she recalls her parents talking about the sad event. It had been her uncle, Tom Lloyd of Pentre Farm, who found her body in the snow by retracing the pony's footsteps from Pig Tail Waterfall.
"There where the storm had spent its strife
Calm lay the peaceful form
The saintly mother; faithful wife
Love, Martyr of the Storm."
A black memorial stone set into an earth bank now marks the fateful spot at Point 6. When I visited in July, the call of the curlew added piquancy to the occasion.
Francis Kilvert chronicled his mission on 3rd July, 1872 to the same area from Clyro to visit the reverend John Price, a man he dubbed The Solitary of Llanbedr. The eccentric vicar lived like a hermit in a squalid grey hut at Point 3.
Both Rosa Blanche Williams and the long-serving minister are buried at the pristinely kept Llanbedr-Painscastle Chapel, where the walk comes to an end. The Solitary's story is told on the information board inside. Our pilgrimage is a slightly more strenuous than moderate ramble with great views. Hay Tours operate less challenging walks from underneath the arches at Hay Cheese Market, where there is also a wall display illustrating the compelling story of the Martyr of the Storm.