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

Hirwaun Common



Visited 10.8.13

‘Be careful what you wish for – it may come true’ as someone one said.
Well, this was a point in case.

A couple of days ago I was up in these parts visiting the Cairns around Llyn Fawr. I was hoping to also visit the Cairns on Hirwaun Common but run out of time.
‘Wish I had more time, don’t know when I will be up here again?’ thought I.
Two days later here I am.

Following a less than successful visit the Brecon Beacons mountain centre (on the grounds I had left my money home and I couldn’t buy any food, drink or (most importantly) ice creams by card as they ‘don’t get a signal’ we headed home with two unhappy children, one unhappy driver (no latte for Karen) and me hoping for a quick look for the Cairns I missed a couple of days ago.

Somewhat reluctantly Karen agreed to my request and we soon pulled into the viewpoint described previously. The burger/ice cream van was still there but this only made things worse as he was sure not to take cards! Sophie had thankfully fallen asleep and Dafydd (still in a strop following the lack of ice cream) decided to stay in the car and not come with me – something I was later very thankful for.

‘I won’t be long’ I optimistically said as I headed down the road towards the common.
‘I won’t need my boots as it will only be an easy walk across the common’ I added.
How wrong could I be?

Hoping over rust field gate I followed the edge of the trees as this would give me the most direct route to the Cairn marked on my O/S map (Craig-Y-Bwlch). I soon discovered why even the sheep were keeping out of this part of the common!

Despite it being a dry summer and the last couple of weeks in particular had been good weather the ground became more and more boggy the further I walked. I could see that normally this field would be little more than a swamp. The grass was growing on top of ‘mounds’ which stood about a foot higher than the floor level – no doubt this would normally be a foot of water. Still, not too bad, even if my trainers were starting to take a bit of a battering and the ground got wetter and muddier.

SPLAT! – my right leg sunk up to my knee in blackish ‘bog water’ and down I fell – side-on into said ‘bog water’. My notes came out of my pocket and floated on the foul smelling water. My trainer nearly came off as I regained my feet. I was covered.
‘Good grief’ I said to myself (or words to that affect), may as well carry on now.

Onwards I went trying to get to the higher ground where the sheep were. (Who says sheep are daft? – they have more sense than me!). On I trudged, the going getting worse and worse. At times I could barely make any headway. Down again I fell. I was so glad Dafydd stayed in the car. There was no way he could have walked through this and there was no way I could have carried him. This was without doubt the worst walk to any ‘old stone’ site I had ever had the misfortune to endure.

Eventually I made my way to the barbed wire fence and was much relieved to get over it and onto the higher (and much drier) ground. The sheep soon scattered.
By now I was tired, wet, muddy and smelly. I looked for where I thought the Cairn was most likely to be and as luck would have it I chose right.
(Funnily enough on my recent trip to Scotland there were a few occasions when I headed for where I thought a Cairn should be and came up trumps ever time – I must be getting better at this!)

The Cairn is a good one. Only low with nearly all the stones gone but it does have most of the capstone in situ – something you don’t often see. The section of missing capstone is possible the large flat stone dumped on the side of the Cairn? I laid flat on the (dry) grass and peered in under the large grass covered capstone. Nothing to see in the gloom other than some animal droppings. Luckily the culprit wasn’t at home or I am sure we would have both had a fright!

There are cracking views to be had towards the Brecon Beacons and this is a good final resting place. The only thing spoiling it is the large open-cast colliery immediately below – creating a large ‘wound’ into the landscape. The yellow JCBs and lorries were scuttling about.
At least one day they will all be gone and the hillside will ‘heal’ itself.

I didn’t look specifically for the other two Cairns recorded as they did not appear on my O/S map. There was one low ‘mound’ which could have been one of them but there was nothing else obviously ‘Cairn like’.

On my return to the car I decided it would be best to go in a loop, staying on the higher, drier ground, and not the more direct route I had first taken. This proved to be a much better option and although I did have to negotiate one area of bogy ground it was nowhere near as bad as the way I had come – although there was still one barbed wire fence to get over.

As I trudged back to the car Karen’s initial look of annoyance (I had been a lot longer than expected) changed into a big grin as she saw the state of me. Laughter could be heard from the couple in the car I passed. I didn’t say a word. I took my trainers and socks off and put them in the bin – queue more laughter from said couple. I open Karen’s door, ‘you look like you s**t yourself’ she helpingly remarked. Quite.

Despite my misfortunes this Cairn is certainly worth taking the effort to visit. As I said it’s not often you see a capstone in situ and the views are excellent.

Access advice:
Park in the viewpoint car park for Llyn Fawr. Carefully walk north along the busy road (A4061) until you reach the sharp bend to the left. On the right hand side you will see an old rusty field gate with a low dry stone wall to the left of it. Follow the ‘track’ down and cross over the stream. Keep to the left hand side of the fields which is near the cliff face and the driest ground. Keep going and the Cairn will come into view situated on a small high point. DO NOT attempt the more direct route near the trees unless you are some sort of masochist!
Posted by CARL
12th August 2013ce

Comments (4)

I'm looking forward to this one!

I thought I'd probably walk up from Aberdare - the walk from Treherbert station to the viewpoint is nice, but I'd like some different views. The Aberdare line is the next one I hope to make use of, once I've finished exploring the lower reaches of Rhondda Fawr line.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
12th August 2013ce
Wellies may be an idea?!
The Cairn itself is worth the effort.
Hopefully you will be able to confirm the other two Cairns as well.
Good luck!
Posted by CARL
13th August 2013ce
That bad? I don't like wellies for any distance, they end up causing blisters (Postie and I did wear wellies for the Dyffryn Mymbyr circle visit). It would be likely to be a 8-10 mile round trip from Aberdare, there are some other cairns to the south as well.

thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
13th August 2013ce
I would'ny advise wearing wellies for that long but seriously the area of land next to the trees is that bad. They probably use it for training for the World Bog Snorkling Championships! ;-) Posted by CARL
15th August 2013ce
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