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

Bannau Sir Gaer

Stone Circle


It was The Jesus and Mary Chain who (rather melodically, it has to be said) declared that they were 'Happy When It Rains' back in 1987. And to be fair there are occasions when, safely cocooned within waterproofs, I heartily concur with Jim and William's sentiments concerning precipitation. However following a couple of months of what has been - by all accounts - 'the wettest winter ever'... to say I'm somewhat pleased that it's NOT raining this morning would be an understatement of significant proportions. Yeah, even if a thick mass of cloud has seen fit to obscure the high summits of Y Mynydd Du, 'The Black Mountain', hopefully the car won't be in danger of being swept away by the raging outflow of Llyn-y-Fan-Fach. So.... in the circumstances a long overdue first visit to the stone circle upon Waun Lwyd fits the bill very nicely indeed. About time.

Now the first challenge to would-be visitors arriving by car is to safely negotiate the ... er.... how shall I put it?.... very, very minor road from the Red Lion public house, a little north of the village of Llanddeusant, to a parking area at approx SN 797238. [Incidentally there is a 'red kite feeding station' nearby, so be prepared for more visions of feathery wondrousness than you might have otherwise anticipated]. Seriously, the road is pretty rough, although thankfully the 'sump destroying' cattle grid at Blaneau was fixed some years back now.

So, duly fortified by tea - as is the English stonehead custom - the Mam C and I proceed up the gated Llyn-y-Fan-Fach access track for a short distance before veering left to climb steeply above, and roughly parallel to, the near bank of a major gulley carved by the Sychnant 'stream', that is heading approx north-east. A little way further on another gulley, this one cradling the Nant Melyn, can be seen climbing away to the south-east toward the foot of Fan Foel. Ignoring this to persevere with our line, the sight of several enigmatically dark stones soon cresting the horizon announces that, for once, my map-work is spot on. Eh, how did that happen?

The 'circle stands upon (or should that be in?) a saddle between somewhat higher ground to the west and the wild moor of Waun Lwyd to the east, the latter incidentally cradling the source of the River Usk. It is a pretty brutal landscape, particularly with what should be a superb mountainous skyline to the south truncated by low cloud. Coflein reckons there are "at least 18 stones" within the circumference ... "two of these are buried (discovered by probing) and there are two possible outliers to the NW." Note, however, that only a leaning upright toward the east and a large stone to south-east are of any reasonably significant dimensions. But then experience has determined that the stone circles of the Welsh uplands are patently not about size/number of uprights. Not interested. It is the LOCATION of the area subject to demarcation that was clearly of paramount importance to the locals back in the day. To paraphrase the saying, it wasn't the size... but where the stones were put that mattered. Hey, I can live with that 'less is more' minimalist outlook.

Having located the 'circle with such unfeasible ease the sterner challenge is thus to find a spot to hang out and enjoy the superb upland vibe... that isn't under several inches of water. To literally hammer home the point we are subsequently subjected to an intense five minute working over, courtesy of a passing shower. However such tribulations come with the territory, a small price to pay for the privilege of spending a couple of hours or so in such a wondrous place. As mentioned, by far the largest upright stands upon the south-eastern arc, together with a recumbent and number of smaller stones. Intriguingly the RCAHMW lads [Brian Malaws / David Leighton, 6/11/08] hypothesize that the sum of these parts might have once been a substantial monolith not unlike the Maen Mawr, currently shepherding the not so distant Y Cerrig Duon. A possibility, I guess? Whilst pondering such ponderables the mass of cloud I assured the Mam C "would not lift today.... trust me" sees fit to peel away and reveal Y Mynydd Du in all its considerable glory. Yeah, the reverse of Shakespeare's "The clouds methought would open and show riches". The sun, finally able work its fiery magic, sets about flooding the landscape with washes of light of such intensity, such vibrant colour, that I reckon even the aforementioned Reid bothers would have approved? Yeah, fleeting instances of such high drama are what these diminutive Welsh stone circles are all about for me (and I know the Mam C agrees or she wouldn't come)... those jaw-dropping seconds when Nature's arc lights, focussed upon such a spartan stage, seem to fuse landscape, monument and walk on actors together as one.

Albeit just for a moment.
16th March 2014ce
Edited 17th March 2014ce

Comments (2)

Wonderful, wonderful notes, giving a fantastic flavour of what sounds like a great visit. I need to seek out some more Welsh sites, and you've really inspired me to put this one on my list. Perhaps I'll visit soon and see it under April Skies? Ravenfeather Posted by Ravenfeather
17th March 2014ce
Touche. Better feedback than The Mary Chain's! GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
17th March 2014ce
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