|Some landscapes are iconic, taking the breath away through sheer force of imagery sent cascading along the optic nerve, a tidal wave of electrical impulses temporarily 'short circuiting' the brain. The appeal of others, however, is not so direct, less obvious, more subtle; dependent upon the non-visual complement of senses available to us humans but, arguably, woefully underemployed nowadays. In my opinion The Radnor Forest falls into this latter category. Set within a border 'no man's land' north of The Black Mountains, there is to my mind a real sense of inherent insularity to be found here... local hills reserved for local people, so to speak. Perhaps this has something to do with knowledge of an MOD rifle range located within Harley Dingle, the deep valley driving a north-south cleft through the very heart of these mountains? Perhaps.... but I reckon there is more to it than that, something that can only be provisionally understood by donning the boots and venturing into the 'mists', preferably not the literal kind of course.
New Radnor is key to an attempt to further your knowledge of these uplands, an attractive village still retaining remnants of medieval earthwork defences, not least a substantial Norman motte and bailey castle, the sort of place I (almost) wish I didn't have to disturb with my presence. From Water Street turn right onto the B4372 and then immediately left to ascend a minor road past the aforementioned castle. I park up a little beyond at the entrance to an old quarry... in my ignorance. In retrospect - as long as your car is happy enough with steep inclines - I'd recommend carrying on to park in a forestry car park at the road's terminus. Yeah, save yourself a very steep bit of road bashing at the start. Just prior to the forestry a sunken bridleway heads left, subsequently veering to the right (north) to ascend the tree line. The retrospective and western views become more expansive with every (laboured) step, but it is that which eventually materialises through foliage to the east that I've primarily returned here to see.... a veritable 'Silbury-esque' natural cone whimsically called 'Whimble'. How good a name is that? Marvellous. The 'Silbury' analogy is valid only to a point, however, since Whimble is much, much larger, rising to as near as dammit 600m at 1,965ft. In addition it's what lies on top - rather than what lies within (if anything) - that is of interest here..... a stonking big, grassy round barrow.
The climb to the summit of Whimble is not overly taxing, relatively speaking, from either the west or, in particular, the north-east. Sadly the summit ridge is not of uniform profile being much disturbed by quarrying, although Coflein nevertheless cites a possible enclosure here. Fortunately, however, the round barrow remains very much in existence. Coflein gives the monument's dimensions as being '19m in diameter and 1.2m high.... a more recent cairn, 11m in diameter and 0.6m high, superimposed upon it [(source Os495card; SO26SW14) J.Wiles 14.10.04]'. To be fair it seemed much more substantial when on site.... perhaps the scale image I've added is more conclusive? What is not in doubt, however, is the sublime nature of the views to be had from upon the barrow. It would be a cliche to state they are worth the effort alone, but 'if the cap fits...' Here the 'cap' happens to be a fine prehistoric monument in a more than reasonable state of preservation.
Looking west across Harley Dingle three great gulleys - The Three Riggles (right on!) - can be seen adorning the eastern face of Great Rhos, a striking landscape feature. To the north the gaze is directed across the craggy flank of Whinyard Rocks, one of the few incidences of naked rock in an area noted for its paucity, toward Bache Hill, fractionally higher at 2,001ft and boasting a much more substantial round barrow. There are other examples located upon the intervening ridge, including another of very significant proportions. To the approx north west the summit of Black Mixen is surmounted by an ugly antenna (is there any other kind?), an unwelcome companion to yet another large monument. Rest assured, there are more. To complete the picture - and at the risk of labouring the point - the fine 'Four Stones' four poster (funnily enough) lies below to the approx south east, the apparently once extensive ritual landscape in the vicinity of Walton beyond, not to mention the great Burfa Camp... and Offa's Dyke itself. South, of course, lies the eastern flank of South Wales' great escarpment. Yeah, Whimble is thus a classic spot to sit and..... just.... 'hang'. Eventually, however, I must reacquaint myself with Bache Hill and its ancient wonders. 17 years after the initial event. Is it really that long? 'fraid so.
As mentioned above, one of the barrows upon the subsiduary south-western hill remains substantial, the others, eroded away to varying degrees, extend in an arc towards the north-east.... and the main monument crowning the summit of Bache Hill itself. This is quoted by Coflein as being:
'A round barrow, 20m in diameter and 3.0m high, diched, with traces of a counterscarp. There are indications of possible excavation trenches and an Os triangulation pillar atop the mound (source Os495card; SO26SW11) RCAHMW AP965028/66 J.Wiles 09.09.02'
3m? I can well believe it. Yeah, this is truly an excellent round barrow... a real beauty in fact. To say the location is also rather good would be a bit of an understatement, too, to be fair. Owing to the topography the views it oversees are (arguably) not as dramatic as those from Whimble, but I reckon this fact is countered somewhat by the much more 'isolated' vibe to be enjoyed here... a sense of wilderness, of being in the 'middle of nowhere', neither in Wales nor England, but in some 'otherworldly' place defying adequate definition. Perhaps the cloud sweeping in, thankfully at altitude, colours my perception somewhat? Perhaps I should leave it at that? Whatever, sitting upon Bache Hill's summit is a good place to be.
I return to the car via the western flank of the mountain, the gaping void of Harley Dingle a sight to behold, what with Whimble towering above it to the left. I reach the car at dusk. Out of time, the forestry car park seems an appropriate place to spend the night. Indeed it does.
Posted by GLADMAN
15th December 2012ce
Edited 17th December 2012ce