|Castell Rhyfel is an Iron Age hillfort uncompromisingly located, at an altitude of c1,650ft, upon the ridge separating the valleys of the Groes Fawr and Groes Fechan... tributaries, or so I believe, of the Afon Groes. From a military perspective it would no doubt have proved virtually impregnable, an assumption given practical credence by the simple act of attempting to climb up to the thing! However the position is so exposed that, noting the relatively insubstantial defences - not to mention the nascent watercourses and the myriad surrounding Bronze Age cairns - I can't help surmising whether there might have been an overriding ritualistic aspect to the site that may need to be taken into account?
Approaching from Tregaron [see Carn Gron fieldnote] I choose the natural line of ascent along Banc Mawr. Naturally enough, I guess. As I gain height I soon encounter a relatively significant crossbank and ditch. The immediate conclusion is that this forms an outer defence for the 'fort. However something does not seem right; firstly all the collapsed stonework lies on the inner flank of the bank; secondly, and arguably more to the point... the ditch lies behind the bank! Furthermore the feature extends all the way down the slope to the Groes Fawr, suggesting some landscape boundary. But of what period? Hmmm.
A further uphill slog brings me, not before time, to the hillfort. As mentioned the enclosure occupies a fabulous setting, the views wondrously expansive, particularly toward Tregaron, looking down to the Groes Fawr.... and north to Y Garn and Carn Gron (my ultimate destinations today). Pretty much everywhere save straight up the ridge, then. In fact the only disappointing aspect is the lack of definition of the apparently univallate defences. According to the now familiar Toby Driver :
"The enclosure is roughly pear-shaped, with overall measurements of 133.0m west-southwest to east-southeast by 110m transversely (dimensions from NAR). The defences, such as they are, comprise a low earth and stone bank up to 4.0m in width, and varying between 0.5m and 1m in height externally... the `rampart' was probably only ever intended as a low footing for a palisade"
So, perhaps light defences were all that were considered necessary owing to the inherent natural strength of the site? Or does a ritualistic interpretation hold water? Then again..... back in 1988 the then CADW warden (Burnham) noticed what might be termed a natural 'chevaux-de-frise' arrangement to the south-east, possibly a sufficiently powerful portent to found the enclosure per se? Perhaps a citadel fortified by Nature itself might have been just what the local Druid ordered? Whatever the truth of the matter, Castell Rhyfell is certainly just what the Drude ordered. So many questions to ponder as I reluctantly leave and continue my quest for Carn Gron....
P.S. - Prospective visitors might be interested in taking a look at a prostrate stone laying a little below and to the east of the enclosure at very approx SN735599. Probably a naturally occurring erratic... but perhaps someone might know otherwise?
Posted by GLADMAN
22nd November 2013ce
Edited 27th November 2013ce