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

Fan Nedd (north east)

Round Cairn


Although a deep mantle of snow is blanketing the high tops - but thankfully not the valleys - of the South Walian hills.... and despite a c40mph wind assuring some very serious windchill at altitude... the Mam C is nevertheless in the mood for an Easter upland sojourn. To be honest I'm rather more of a wuss at the prospect of freezing to death upon some godforsaken (right on!) mountain, consequently deciding to play it safer than might otherwise have been the case. Why not pay a (very) overdue visit to the Bronze Age cairn said to stand upon the eastern shoulder of Fan Nedd? Yeah, I've no problem with rhetorical questions such as that.

Passing the wondrous Maen Llia - is there a finer standing stone in all Wales? - we park just prior to where the minor road suddenly plunges diagonally down the precipitous face of Llethr to the Senni Valley below... a couple of vehicles can be safely left here, the spot, a great viewpoint, worthy of a visit in its own right. From here a stile crosses a dilapidated dry stone wall heading approx south-west toward distant Bwlch-y-Duwynt rising above the source of the Afon Nedd... and Fan Gyhirych. After a short while, however, we veer left and, upon breeching the snow line, commence the ascent toward the prominent 'marker cairn' visible crowning Fan Nedd's northern prow. Now some 'experts' will have you believe the Welsh mountains are a doddle to stroll up, completely failing to take into account the most obvious mitigating factor.... the weather. Well it does has a tendency to be somewhat, er, inclemental on a regular basis. I would suggest you pay them no heed and treat the uplands with the respect Nature demands, commands... and in any event deserves. I like to think we take matters seriously and 'walk the walk', although today 'stagger', 'slither' and 'stumble' are perhaps more appropriate descriptions as we do whatever it takes to traverse deep snow and attain an audience with one of South Wales' more strikingly placed Bronze Age cairns.

Bronze Age? Well, yes, the aforementioned marker cairn, quite well built with an inherent 'wonky' charm, surmounts a deceptively large footprint far too substantial - I would suggest - to proffer a credible alternative origin in such a landscape context. Once again placement is everything, the summit of the mountain, without cairn, lying a considerable distance to the south and thus not party to the fabulous northern vista of the fertile Senni Valley to be blown away by here. Furthermore there is an uninterrupted view of the iconic tops of Corn Du and Pen-y-Fan to the east, rising beyond Maen Llia; looking west, those of Fan Gyhirych and Y Mynydd Du fill the skyline. All bear Bronze Age cairns in situ, several excavated to reveal cists. This is truly a location to linger for ... ooh, hours and hours. Except not for quite that long today. The cold is overwhelming, Nature in a most brutal mood indeed. Suffice to say we must move at incremental intervals simply to cope, taking the opportunity to visit the summit and partake of lunch overlooking the nascent Afon Nedd, its waters sourced upon the boggy col before Fan Gyhirych. It's instructive to ponder this is the very same water course which engages in such spectacular aerobatics further down its eponymous cwm.

So, finally.... after all these years.... we proceed to lipslide (yeah!), with occasionally alarming alacrity, down the eastern flank of the mountain heading for the only position I would have conceivably placed a second, lower cairn. Had any Bronze Age big man been mad enough to put me in charge of operations, that is. Funnily enough I am correct. No, really. In solidarity with its higher companion the cairn is low and, to be fair, we might easilly have walked right over it if the snow hadn't been somewhat patchy 'down here'. However I concur with Coflein and reckon it is beyond reasonable doubt, the tell tale covering of moss failing to obscure what could quite probably be the remains of a kerb. Elements of a cist, however, are open to much more debate. Too fanciful, perhaps? Whatever the truth the cairn (once again) occupies a superb site overlooking the Maen Llia, be-cairned and settled Fan Llia providing the riven backdrop. As we hang out in the comparative warmth of this wondrous place a family wander up and seem somewhat bemused by our presence.... although I've a feeling the dad was actually a bit of a closet 'head'. Welcome my friend and spread the word. Leave your cars and take to the hills!
2nd May 2013ce
Edited 2nd May 2013ce

Comments (3)

Great notes as always. In some respects, I reckon the climb up the eastern side of Fan Nedd is the one of the toughest in South Wales. I've been up in snow (same day as our mutual trip to Maen Llia) and not, and I'm not sure which was worse. The tough vegetation is just as ankle sapping as deep snow. A great place to go though. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
3rd May 2013ce
I know what you mean, although you might change your mind if you ever decide to ascend Gyhirych direct from Bwlch Bryn-Rhudd to see that cairn again. Short and, er, straight to the point! And of course Y Grib is on your list, is it not? The crest of Craig Cerrig-gleisiad from the A470 is another very steep one which lends a proper exposed mountain feel to a visit to Fan Frynych.

We were going to have a wander across to the other lowland cairns but decided 'what's the rush?' Leave for a rainy day...
4th May 2013ce
Yeah, but those are loony routes! (well, not Y Grib). Whereas the eastern flank of Fan Nedd seems to be the accepted route up, which makes its relative toughness seem more acute.

Y Grib is definitely on the list, along with a load of Black Mountains group long barrows still left for a similar rainy day :)
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
6th May 2013ce
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