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Foel Drygarn - a favourite place

Foel Drygarn, Have been to this solitary fortress a couple of times, taking the path through the stone strewn field sheep watching warily, leaping the stream and yet have never written any field notes, probably because this area of Wales is so close to my heart.

Sat on high watching the sheep brought down from the hills with chad bikes and sheepdogs, once on Carn Meyn as we stood by the car three chad bikes and nine sheepdogs all from the same honey coloured family raced up the hill, the lazy dogs taking a very bumpy ride to the top. Then the flow of white sheep pouring down the hill almost like a Tibetan prayer scarf against the green turf.

This great ridge of rock at Carn Meyn then the break to the Foel Drygarn ridge reminds you that this grassland part of Wales rests ever so lightly on very rocky ground. An exuberant thrust of the rocks has forced its way upward, this is the 'Welsh Ridgeway,' traders and itinerants have wandered across this landscape from Ireland down to Stonehenge.

The first thing to strike you on gaining the height of Foel Drygarn is the verticality of the stones in the rocky outcrop that faces you, broken into decent sized stone, ideal for standing stone material in prehistoric times. N.P.Figgis describes it thus......This hillfort is thought to have originated in the Late Bronze Age, and to have continued, though not all the time, into Roman times, and that the three separate enclosures may represent three stages of expansion.

"The first enclosure, containing the cairns is surrounded by walls joining rocky prominences on the south and everywhere else by an impressive ditch and bank. The second enclosure, built in a crescent outside the first, is thought to be a response to the increase in the overall population in the Iron Age and is less substantial. The succeeding annexe lower and to the north-west, were thought to function as stock pens".

Now there is some questioning to the three cairns in taking up so much room in the middle of the hill fort, that they are not in fact Bronze age cairns but Iron Age look-outs, but I suspect this is just a red herring, and defensive needs being a priority sometime during the I/A people built a hillfort around these three rather unmovable large stone cairns.. Figgis reckons that Foel Drygarn was an important centre in Celtic times and that gifts were exchanged here; there have been a few scrappy finds of Llanmelin pottery, and a few pale green beads, but they were halved these beads as if such precious gifts were hard to come by, one had been glued even.

Welsh landscape is often remote and wild even today, but the sense of power and grandeur in the Carn Meyn range is still there, if people worshipped anything you can feel it in the magnificent craggy summits. Later Iron Age or 'Celtic' world saw them in perhaps a different light, but the 'otherworld' lies heavy in the scenery, water seeps from the earth in springs everywhere, under stone so that you can hear its quiet trickle but no visible signs.

There is a prehistoric story round here in the wider landscape, where monuments lie scattered here and there and it is well to read 'Prehistoric Preseli' by N.P.Figgis to realise that interpretation of how monuments relate to each other are waiting to be discovered and revealed by archaeology, it is still unexplored!

moss Posted by moss
25th September 2012ce
Edited 25th September 2012ce

Comments (6)

Nice blog Moss, you should write fieldnotes more often. And will have to add Mr Figgis to a future reading list. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
25th September 2012ce
That is a great read, thank you! drewbhoy Posted by drewbhoy
17th October 2012ce
Thank you both, don't get around much as you two do, but enjoy the fruits of your labours ;) moss Posted by moss
17th October 2012ce
In my opinion there is a 'proper' upland vibe on the Preselis..... not unlike Dartmoor or Bodmin. Seems you reckon so too, Moss. There are too many sites around to look to revisit stuff as a matter of course, but some really do beg to go back on the list, do they not? Foel/Moel (never got the gist of this mutation) Drygarn is one such. I'm sure the Mam C wouldn't need convincing to go back, particularly since she had no issues with zero vis at Bedd Arthur.... while I was freaking out, wuss that I am.

Need to get to Bedd yr afanc as well at some point, since that looks my kinda place.
17th November 2012ce
Hi Gladman, It is a part of Wales that I love but if you and your sister should ever go a visiting in the area can I recommend something, though I haven't been there myself*. If you walk past Foel Drygarn towards Carn Meini, turn right and you should find Carn Alw somewhere if you keep heading straight. See this link as to where it is in the landscape...

It is a chevaux de frise, to quote Figgis "the single and apparently simple entrance is approached through the chevaux de frise by a heavy boulder-lined lane-way which has been blocked halfway along, and redirected in a curve, thus making the approach even more devious" Probably an animal enclosure. An I/A spindle whorl(said to be decorated with concentric circles joined by cross-lines has been found close by to the enclosure), also there are field systems up there - late B/A.

*But I shall make Littlestone go next year if we end up in Solva, Buckye was more interested in the springs at the base of Carn Meini.
moss Posted by moss
17th November 2012ce
Noticed that on the map back in January. Now that would be good. GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
17th November 2012ce
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