Phil Maillard: ‘In the Grip of a Ron Berry’: A Correspondence

    Ron Berry and Chris Torrance lived no more than ten miles from each other, as the hawk flies. By road, it’s further – 15 miles or so. Environmentally, it’s further still, with Berry at the head of the strip development of the industrial Rhondda, and Torrance in the upper Neath valley, within the Brecon Beacons National Park.

    The journey between those two places is a remarkable one. Torrance described his cottage as being ‘two fields from tarmac’, which was pleasant enough in the summer, but more of a challenge on a cold wet winter’s day. Beyond the field gate, to the left, a narrow lane drops down to the bridge over the Neath, Pont Melin-Fach. To the right, it twists upward past the farm, past piles of timber on one side, past a beautiful spreading oak in a rough field on the other, and out onto a small plateau of common land. There are views north to the peaks of the Beacons, south to Craig y Llyn above Rhigos (our route to the Rhondda), and south west, on a clear day, to Swansea Bay.

    From here, the road from Ystradfellte drifts down to Pontneddfechan. It’s best taken slowly, to avoid the sheep. Pontneddfechan village is now more of a daytripper destination than ever, since the National Park authorities closed their Visitor Centre and leased it to a cafe. In the summer, cars line the road on both sides for some distance.. Chris Torrance, who walked this way to get his shopping in Glynneath, or to travel to Cardiff for his creative writing class, seemed resigned about the crowds. Ron Berry, I’m sure, would have been less taciturn. Some humour can be rescued from the situation: a large sign proclaiming WATERFALL COUNTRY is screwed to the side of the public toilet…


To Read the Article: In the Grip of a Ron Berry


Phil Maillard first met Chris Torrance in 1967. He published several of Torrance’s books, including ‘The Slim Book/Wet Pulp’ (1986), and ‘Wobbly Chair’ (2003), and also wrote the Introduction to  Torrance’s magnum opus, ‘The Magic Door’ (2017). In 2015, Aquifer published ‘Slipping the Leash’, featuring Torrance, Maillard, and Graham Hartill, which was ‘a gesture of gratitude’ to the landscapes and people of Wales by three incomers. Maillard’s own recent publications include ‘Even Clouds Are Geniuses’, the life and work of poet, Buddhist monk and naturalist Bill Wyatt (2020), and ‘Hafren Blue’, short fiction set along the Welsh coast of the Severn (2022). Phil Maillard is Chris Torrance’s literary executor.



Click here to go back to: Contributors and Links to Pages 1 – 4


From the Junction Box

Junction Box Categories

Glasfryn Project

+44(0)1873 810456 | LYN@GLASFRYNPROJECT.ORG.UK