The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Pen Pumlumon-Fawr



I'll begin with an admission: I didn't actually intend to make my way to Pumlumon's summit today, a sojourn upon Y Garn the relatively modest limit of ambition. However these mysterious uplands of Mid Wales are intoxicating, truly beguiling to this traveller. Lacking - for the most part - the stark, angular rock formations to be found further north in Snowdonia, the attraction here is more subtle... more, well, feminine..... with an innate strength of character. Consider Katherine Hepburn, if you will. Yeah, Pumlumon's contours are generally soft, rounded, the frequent veneer of mist perhaps reminiscent of the alluring movement of silk across the female breast, representations of which the ancients saw fit to erect upon their summits. How can a man resist? As it happens all is clear today, but nonetheless, perched upon Y Garn's great cairn, I am drawn to Pen Pumlumon-Fawr as a moth to the flame.

It is further than I anticipate, much more so than I recall. Ha! Truly, my eyes and memory doth deceive me, the hamstring beginning to tighten as I swing north to follow the fenceline along Pen y Drawsallt to the summit (a handy guide should you find yourself engulfed by the mist.... not so beguiling then, it has to be conceded). Despite such physical 'idiosyncracities' I duly approach the top after a little over 30 minutes, the first of a trio of cairns, erected in north-south alignment upon the summit ridge, crowning the skyline. It is a fine monument, seemingly more or less intact and utilising the bedrock to great effect. According to Coflein:

'The southernmost and best preserved cairn on Pen Plynlimon-fawr. It is 55ft in diameter and about 10ft in height, including a modem cairn on top.... The cairn appears to be founded on a natural boss of rock.... (CADW Scheduling description, 1993)'.

Nice, a great spot to hang out for lunch and take in the majestic, extensive views toward distant southern Snowdonia and the Elanydd, not to mention the coastline of Cardigan Bay and Pen Pumlumon-Fawr's myriad supporting, cairn-endowed peaks clustering around mother... with the added bonus of avoiding the walker punters drawn to the summit as ferrite to the magnet. Ah, yes. It has to be added that, although a worthy cairn to crown the summit peak of Pumlumon, this 'un actually sits a little below to the south. The reason for its survival, no doubt. Guess we should be grateful for small mercies.

Sadly the 2,467ft summit is actually home to a massive, sprawling - it has to be said - shattered mess of a cairn set a little further up the ridge to the north. I have to admit to conflicting, mutually exclusive emotions as I stand beside the OS trig pillar and survey the carnage... overwhelming, breathless wonder at the fabulous vistas stretching to every horizon, humility at the sheer priviledge of being here on such a day as today... alternating with the realisation that here resides a monument with a dual purpose, recognising not only the considerable, back-breaking efforts of our ancestors, but standing also in mute testimony, a damning indictment of sheer ignorance engendering mindless, pointless 'walker' vandalism perhaps unequalled in all Wales? Yeah, what have they done to what must originally have been a true behemoth of a cairn? Again, Coflein:

'One of three cairns upon a summit of Plynlimon... c.10m in diameter & 1.0m high, having several shelters & an OS trig. pillar set upon it. (source Os495card; SN78NE9) RCAHMW AP955040/44-5 J.Wiles 16.01.04'

Note the reference to 'several shelters'.... speaking of which, two 'tough' Welsh walkers arrive to interrupt my bemused ponderings, attired only in T-shirts (for some reason). They agree with my observations regarding the loss of their heritage... before heading straight for the largest 'muppet shelter' to eat, cower from the wind and avoid the views. What is it with these people? I am loathe to share the summit with suchlike, taking my leave in order to view what is arguably Pumlumon's 'jewel in the crown'.... who knows, perhaps for the last time? I head north, passing another cairn, again cited by Coflein as being of Bronze Age origin. On this occasion, however, I'm not so sure - although the positioning is consistent, it just 'doesn't look right', you know? Consequently I must reserve judgement.

Beyond, the summit ridge falls away to the north-east to form the crags overlooking the still waters of Llyn Llygad-Rheidol (the 'eye' of the Rheidol). As the nomenclature suggests, this mountain tarn is indeed the source of the Afon Rheidol, and how wondrous does it look nestling within its rocky bowl! I plonk myself down and ponder once again... Pen Pumlumon-Arwystli rises above to my right, the source of the Wye to its right, that of the Severn (Hafren) obscured by the mountain's tri-cairned bulk. Panning north... Carn Hydggen, with a pair of massive cairns of its own, lies across the Afon Hengwm and..... yes, there they are.... the quartzite blocks of Y Cerrig Cyfammod Glyndwr shining in the sun beneath the (inevitably) be-cairned Banc Llechwedd-mawr. There is more. Hey, it's easy to get carried away and forget I still have to get back down again with a tight hamstring. Hmm.

Time expires.... the universal constant. I decide to retrace my steps and so hopefully minimise any unforeseen eventualities and avoid any 'tarmac bashing'. As the light begins to fail upon Y Garn's massive cairn the horizon develops a pink hue that somehow seems to epitomise Pumlumon today. Understated, yet with an inherent character to take the breath away. Just like a certain film star from Hollywood's golden age, perhaps?
29th November 2012ce
Edited 29th November 2012ce

Comments (3)

"Consider Katherine Hepburn, if you will. Yeah, Pumlumon's contours are generally soft, rounded, the frequent veneer of mist perhaps reminiscent of the alluring movement of silk across the female breast...."

Crikey me......that's a vision.
stubob Posted by stubob
29th November 2012ce
I love the way you make the landscape so alive, i love this because she is, great stuff and very classy. bladup Posted by bladup
30th November 2012ce
Thank you gentlemen. In retrospect probably got a bit carried away with this... but say what you see... and feel. GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
1st December 2012ce
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