‘Fair seed-time had my soul’


Observ. xxx. Of the Seeds of Poppy.Robert Hooke, 1635 -1703 Micrographia, or some physiological descriptions of minute bodies made by magnifying glasses with observations and inquiries thereupon’ (MDCLXVII 1667)

‘The small seeds of Poppy, which are described in the 19. Scheme, both for their smalness, multiplicity and Schem. 19. prettiness, as also for their admirable soporifick quality, deserve to be taken notice of among the other microscopical seeds of Vegetables’.

In Micrographia, Robert Hooke put forward the view that scientific instruments might help to make up for mankind’s loss both of sensory perfection and Adamic knowledge, which was a consequence of the Fall and of original sin. Hooke’s plates revealed that many things existed in nature invisible to the naked eye, and that the microscope could reveal many new appearances. Hooke’s book changed completely the way in which people saw the world. Thomas Hobbs of Leviathan fame decided that Hooks’s microscopic light condenser a clear example of the way in which the limitations of human senses could be overcome by their imaginative sensibilities. This discovery meant that scientific investigations could take men like Hooke even further into the natural world and scientists took to travelling the trade routes. Their attentive eyes meant that they would see more than the habitual traveller, and they could record with the utmost precision the diversity of flora and fauna. However,such journeys were not confined to China by way of the Dutch East India Company.
The earliest recorded botanical expedition into Wales was that of the pharmacist Thomas Johnson,(d.1644) In the summer of 1639. Earlier, in 1633, he had brought out the new and improved Gerard’s Herbal. He travelled to North Wales and Snowdonia, and it was Rev. John Ray, who in 1658 travelling alone followed the same route as Johnson. In May 1662, Ray made his most extensive tour. Ray acknowledges the help and plants collected by Edward Lhwyd (1660-1709). Lhwd’s connexions with Cardiganshire being through his mother Bridget Pryce of Glandfraed,at that time one of the many seats of the Gogerddan family. During his Great Tour 1697-1701, he travelled from Cowbridge to Cardigan and back to Hereford, stopping at once again at Gogerddan. Scientific interest gave great energy and inventiveness not only to examining new discoveries and voyaging to retrieve specimens,  but to collecting and recording and of course to the inevitable exchange of ideas and materials. In time these ideas would  be disseminated and come to influence the culture and landscape of Wales.
By the beginning of the 19th century, many more plants were being discovered and classification was becoming more systematic. Sir James Edward Smith was the author of Smith’s Botany and the first President of the Linnean Society and he visited Hafod in 1810. He commented:
‘Hafod woods afford rich harvest to the Cryptogamic botanist… trees are mantled with the most magnificent leaf lichens. Under the wood, vast profusion of Lichen syvaticus. Botanists will find many parts of this (the Peiran cascade) worth his attention. The whole watery face of the rock is nearly parallel, covered in dark-red tough gelatinous substance like soaked leather…’ (A Tour to Hafod in Cardiganshire.. by James Edward Smith, 1810). His words certainly echo Thomas Johnes compelling sentiments when he said of Hafod in 1783:

‘This place appears more beautiful than ever and I trust when finished will realize my ideas of reassembling a fairy scene’ (from R. J Moore-Colyer, A Land of Pure Delight: Selections from the letters of Thomas Johns of Hafod 1748-1816).

Johnes was, it seems from his letters, a highly sensitive and cultivated man who was engaged both scientifically and artistically with the  mountains and waterfalls of Cardiganshire, who saw beyond the country pursuits of some of his neighbours to the beauty and for some , his ideas and plans for Hafod seemed outlandish and bizarre, and he longed for them to share in his vision of transforming Cardiganshire into a cross between the Swiss Alps and Scottish Highlands. However, from the outset, he took his responsibilities very seriously and the key area that took his attention was agriculture, running farms along traditional lines, improving the soil, increasing yields, new crops and exotic breeds as well as creating a Picturesque paradise. Like his scientific and imaginative predecessors , Johnes began to transform the landscape of Hafod through the same spirit of curiosity and moral investigation that characterised the earlier discoveries of Hooke and the early botanists whose journeys uncovered what had previously been invisible to the human eye.


The Peiran Falls , Hafod

‘to the breaking earth  the sky will give

close coverings of rain   spirals of sun

spotted brooks

clover and one bee ‘

from ‘Hafod’.


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