|Solitary standing stones are, I confess, generally my least favourite genre of prehistoric monument. Rules, however, are defined by exceptions.... and I've had my beady eye upon the Maen Llwyd ever since the previous posters highlighted the wonderful location it occupies. But how to get there? Forestry complicates matters from the south and west, Pen-y-Gadair-Fawr and its peers rendering an approach from east and north impractical for all but the most dedicated of stonehead. There are other adjectives. Since the other two gentlemen chose the latter option I, in the interests symmetry, you understand - not to mention altruism for those that may wish to come after - elect an low level approach from the Grwyne Fechan.
From the charming, bustling town of Crickhowell, chambered cairns still overlooking both banks of the Afon Wysg (River Usk) as they have done for millennia, the Llanbedr Road heads uphill past the DanyGrug cottages, trending left beneath the decapitated, fortified summit of Crug Hywel to eventually terminate near Hermitage Bridge. A little beforehand it is possible to park several cars - or it would have been if not for the large blocks of ice littering the environs.... the usual - and, covering the final section of tarmacadum on foot, I veer left upon a bridleway ascending the western flank of a forestry plantation, heading roughly north-west. Pen Twyn Gwyn rears up above the Grwyne Fechan, its crest the location of precious finds of artefacts mislaid/deposited (?) by prehistoric hunter dudes way back when.... truly, it is worth the walk simply to follow in their footsteps. As for the other flank of the valley, that is formed by the highest ground in The Black Mountains, my destination today. As mentioned earlier forestry complicates matters of route finding, although, to be fair, the conditions are soon to prove the primary consideration. Initially I elect to head for Tal-y-Maes farm and pick up a forestry track parallel to the Gargwy Fawr.... however the farm track is sheet ice, dangerously impassable unless one happens to possess the balance and grace of a Katarina Witt... needless to say I have neither. Wouldn't say no to one-on-one lessons, though.
Plan B (no, not the rapper bloke.... that would have been surreal) heads north across fenced fields, west of the farm. Fencelines aren't an issue, unlike the deep snow which renders progress painstakingly, exhaustingly slow. Not used to this. Nevertheless I eventually manage to struggle up to a forestry track following the near flank of the far treeline to the north. Plan B would have been pretty cunning if it had included following this track all the way to the forestry's northern limits, leaving just a short ascent to the right at the end in order to attain the stone; however I decide to head for the little hill of Twyn Du and find myself more or less marooned up to my bits in drifting snow, a sad, forlorn figure pondering what to do next... literally out of his depth. Yeah, in hindsight it was a rubbish plan, so it was. In an attempt to make headway I cut back into the trees, but find the interior choked with a twisted mass of organic debris. Emerging into the light once more two shaggy ponies back away as if not wishing to be seen with such a muppet. Not good for the equine image, mixing with the tourists, you know?
Nevertheless the prize is near at hand, albeit still requiring a final considerable uphill effort to attain. I prepare to be distinctly underwhelmed following such an overwhelming approach. But I am not. Far from it. In fact I'm greatly impressed by the elegant menhir which stands before me, more or less human height and leading the beady eye along the forest-line toward the bwlch between distant Mynydd Llysiau and Pen Trumau to the approx north-west. The upper section of the monolith features a 'step', an argument connecting this with possible sighting upon the aforementioned landscape feature perhaps not excessively fanciful? Then again I'm no expert in these matters. For me that fact that it is so goddam beautiful here, so peaceful, so serene, possessing such an evocative vibe, is what matters.
The serenity can not last, however..... yeah, there it goes again, insidiously burrowing into my psyche.... the unspoken siren call of the high places. Like a moth unto the flame, as they say.
Posted by GLADMAN
29th April 2013ce
Edited 2nd May 2013ce