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

Pen Caenewydd, Mynydd Myddfai



Mynydd Myddfai forms a relatively low lying ridge (rising to a max 1,444ft / 440m) located to the north of Y Mynydd Du, a postscript, if you like, to the mountainous drama of South Wales' 'Great Escarpment' prior to encountering the more homogeneous upland landscape forming the enigmatic 'Green Desert' of Mid Wales. Never having previously captured my imagination... more fool me ... curiosity was finally, eventually, aroused whilst revelling in Nature's full-on assault upon Carn Glas yesterday. What's that over there? Sure enough a glance at the map duly revealed the magic word 'cairn' depicted numerous times in that fabulous antiquarian typeface... not to mention a similarly represented 'Tomen-y-Rhos'. What's not to like?

The small village of Myddfai is a welcoming sight following a somewhat 'rollercoaster' approach from the Trecastell-Llanddeusant road to the south. Yeah, guess the OS people must have used up a year's quota of those 'steep gradient' arrows upon that one 'single-track-without-passing-places'. Nevertheless it is a wondrous ride... in hindsight. A short onward climb to the south-east sees the Mam C and I locate the bridleway near the dwellings at Sarnau [c289783]. It is possible to park a car at the rather soggy entrance, an equally insalubrious, not to mention badly overgrown onward route leading us to the bwlch between Twyn Rhyblid and Pen Caenewydd to the east.

Here a ferocious shower clatters into us with all the unbridled gusto of kids fleeing school at home time, forcing the impromptu donning of waterproofs prior to clambering up to the crest of Pen Caenewydd's western spur near an isolated, rather enigmatic copse of trees. As we begin to move up the ridge it is immediately apparent that Mynydd Myddfai is a quality viewpoint, the far reaching vistas belying its relatively modest height. Northward a patchwork of fields within the fertile Twyi valley lead the eye toward the bare Mid Walian uplands cradling Llyn Brianne and the reservoirs of Y Elanydd - and perhaps, on an exceptionally clear day, even Pumlumon herself? The southern aspect is possessed by Y Mynydd Du... lock, stock and (Jamesie Cotter's) two 'leafy twigs'. So, worth the excursion for the 'mere' aesthetics alone, but what of the archaeology? The location of the first cairn is soon attained.

SN78932885: although well positioned to take full advantage of the aforementioned views, the cairn is a little difficult to make out initially... until the Citizen Cairn'd radar has been duly calibrated, so to speak. Yeah, these things can take time, following which the form of the monument is obvious. According to David Leighton [RCAHMW, 9/1/01] "The stony mound measures 9m in diameter and 0.3m high and it has a generally disturbed appearance." Guess that's a succinct enough appraisal of the current situation.

SN79172898: located further up the ridge beyond a stile this ring cairn - "a stony ring bank averaging 1.5m wide and 0.2m high enclosing an area 13.5m (E-W) by 11.8m [DL, RCAHMW, 02/92]" - is of much greater interest having been set just south of the ridge crest, apparently intentionally upon sloping ground, so as to present its interior to the south. As such views to the north are obscured. It is a great spot, the vibe intensified courtesy of sunlight streaming from a fracture in the cloud base. Interestingly there is a small cairn set a little to the north of unknown origin....

SN79492888 / SN79482891: we move on, 'walking serpentine' in belated solidarity with the memory of the Silures, the tribe who caused the bloody Romans so much trouble in these parts, to the summit of Pen Caenewydd. Two nice upland cairns - apparently also ring-cairns - still stand just below the highest point in true Bronze Age style, the northern, the more substantial and well defined of the pair, located a little below its neighbour. The northern measures "9m (E-W) by 7.6m and 0.3m high", the southern "about 5m in diameter within a stony ring bank about 1.5m in thickness and up to 0.2m in height [DL, RCAHMW, 9/11/04]. Both monuments are superb viewpoints, except to the east where the mountain's bulk negates such, the southern possessing perhaps the finest linear view of Y Mynydd Du extant, cairns visible crowning its summits all the way from Tair Carn Uchaf (I think) in the west to Fan Foel across the way. To re-enforce the fact, a partial rainbow arcs to the north. Yeah, this is a very good place to be, despite conditions which can obviously not decide whether they are coming nor going. I joke to the Mam C that Nature is so clearly self-evidentially female. But wisely, I think, decide not to pursue the matter....

Following a megalthic picnic it becomes difficult to even contemplate overcoming the inertia to leave this modest, yet utterly beguiling hill top. Yeah, the true summit of Mynydd Myddfai.... and Tomen-y-Rhos.... looks a long way to the east. However, for once, time is on our side.
22nd March 2014ce
Edited 24th March 2014ce

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