Rounding off 2018 and welcoming in the New Year is a new exhibition by Brecon Beacons-based photographer Neil Mansfield. ‘The Nedd Valley’ presents a selection of work of the area produced by Neil over the last five years.
Neil reflects on the allure of the area and his approach to the photography on show…
The Nedd Valley is remote. It’s peaceful and populated only by a small number of farms, a National Trust cottage rental, a standing stone, a wonderful mountain, limestone pavements, waterfalls, a roman road, sink holes, underground rivers, caves and a lot more, but that’s not why I tread it’s many paths.
It is wild, wonderfully wild, the whole area was only connected to the National grid in 2005, so it retains a desolate untouched feel. The Nedd sits in a valley which adjoins the amazing waterfalls country of the Brecon Beacons, so visitors (thankfully) are instantly drawn to the Sgwd y Eira’s of the park (the waterfall you can walk behind) rather than taking the “no through road, right hand turn” into the valley. My head tells me that this sign is enough to put people off entering, it’s a small country lane, with little room for passing and only a few pull ins.
Writing about the Nedd is tricky, it’s a mental retreat, a personal escape. I can explore for hours without bumping into a soul. Life needs that escape, your head needs it too.
Exploration is difficult to achieve these days, as so many paths are trodden. However, in the Nedd , I’ve walked through limestone kilns, traversed over fallen tree trunks spanning rivers, climbed waterfalls, got lost in woodland but I still made my own path both physically and metaphorically.
I don’t plan or pre-visualise my photographs, I bimble, I wander and I often get lost. I certainly don’t rush to a viewpoint for the best available light in the Nedd, I might not even take a photograph, but I’ll always have my notebook. It’s full of Nedd ramblings, words, drawings, map references and lost paths!
Thinking about the Nedd and it’s history, I wanted my photographs to feel like they fitted the landscape, not shouty sunsets but a sense of place, I wanted to show the landscape used, manipulated and how its intimately weaved together.
Writing the endnote for Thomas Joshua Coopers magnificent “Scattered waters” David Bellingham wrote “….an interior intimacy that is conditioned by familiarity…”
As I have no personal association with the Nedd Valley, no childhood memories to draw from, just countless visits in snow, wind, hail, rain and sun it was through that exploration that my familiarity grew. Sepia is a much maligned tone, so the choice was a difficult one, however, it feels right, it fits the Nedd Valley, it makes a connection to the old and mixes with the new.
I hope my Nedd Valley encourages you to spend time in your own personal Genuis Loci, enveloping yourself into its geographical history, getting lost and filling your own notebook.
Nedd Valley exhibition - Friday 30 November 2018 - Sunday 6 January 2019
(Private View 6-8pm Thursday 28 November)
The International Welsh Rarebit Centre
High Street, Defynnog
Brecon Beacons National Park
Opening hours: Wednesday - Sunday 10am - 5pm
Venue Tel: 01874 636843