Coffin route blanket laid to rest on Black Mountain

Something remarkable unfolded deep in the heart of Brecon Beacons National Park  last Monday.   Visual artist Ann Jordan’s hand knitted 20ft wool blanket was carried to the Black Mountain and sewn with heather seed to help repair an ancient peat bog.

The  twenty foot circular Cwtch blanket – knitted by Swansea based artist Ann Jordan – returned to its origins on the beautiful Black Mountain, Llyn y Fignen Felen peat bog where it was sewn with heather seeds at its final resting place.

The blanket was carried to the area of bare peat by National Park Authority Conservation Manager, Paul Sinnadurai – it is intended to help restore the area and conserve the peat.

Resembling freshly fallen snow, the impressive eight kg blanket was knitted in 2009 from 12 miles of yarn from local Black Mountain sheep,  it took 1,500 hours of knitting and more than 140,000 stitches.   When the blanket was completed in 2010 it was named ‘cwtch’ and laid in an ancient burial cairn on the Black Mountain to pay tribute to an ancient walking route dubbed the ‘coffin route’.  The route earned its name when men from the farms around Llanddeusant left the village and walked over the Black Mountain to find work in the quarries and coal mines – it was the time of the Rebecca Riots and wool had reached rock bottom prices.  When the men from Llanddeusant died in the mines or quarries their bodies were carried homeward over the Black Mountain by the men from Brynamman.   The men were met halfway on the Black Mountain by the men from Llanddeusant who carried the bodies back home so they could be finally laid to rest in the churchyard of St Simon and St Jude at Llanddeusant.  Centuries before, the Parliamentary Act of 1666 had decreed that all corpses should be buried in a woollen blanket in an attempt to save the British wool industry from foreign imports so the bodies of the men were always wrapped in woolen blankets.

Ann Jordan said of the project:  “I am absolutely delighted that the blanket can be returned to the earth from whence it came and will hopefully play a role in repairing the bare peat that is in decline in that area.  I made this blanket to represent the decline of the wool industry, to mark the old coffin route that not only quarry workers and miners walked along, but also a trail that farmers’ wives followed –knitting as they walked – over the Black Mountain.  I believe it is very important to celebrate the Black Mountain’s history as it is forms a part of our shared cultural inheritance realising a collective memory through the blanket.   I have set up a Facebook page for any walkers who come across the blanket and want to share their comments or photos. ”

Paul Sinnadurai, Conservation Manager for Brecon Beacons National Park Authority said:  “This is one of the very first conceptual art projects Brecon Beacons National Park Authority hosted in the landscape and we think it’s very fitting that it’s laid to rest back on the Black Mountain to rejuvenate new life.”