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

Mynydd Bychan

Platform Cairn


The Mam C and I approach from the western prow of the fabulous Y Das... following a kamikaze sheep track eastward to circle the headwall of Cwm Dwr-y-coed, the eponymous stream - for here it is little more than nascent - tumbling down the mountain side with the reckless abandon of, well... a base jumping kamikaze sheep, perhaps?

To the south, the main summit ridge of The Black Mountains sweeps away from Pen-y-Manllwyn toward Pen y Gadair Fawr and its Bronze Age cairn, the relative uniformity of topography only serving to emphasise the sheer vastness of the sky, an occasional walker reduced to oblivion within the enormity of such a macro vision. It is certainly a thought provoking spectacle and not a little unnerving, particularly to homo sapiens conditioned at school to view ourselves as the culmination of existence. Yeah, right. We, however, turn back to face the west and advance along the southern flank of the cwm... Mynydd Bychan. Here, in direct contrast, the landscape is subject to such dramatic variance that the gaze is drawn irrevocably downward, no doubt an instinctive reaction to mitigate against the traveller walking blindly to his/her death. The resulting experience is just as dramatically awe inspiring as before, yet curiously more manageable, perhaps more in keeping with standard behavioural 'templates' stored within the human genome? But, don't trust me. I'm not a doctor.

Whatever, this is classic mountainscape. The promontory narrows as we pass a small tarn choked (if that's the correct description) with indeterminable species of flora, the modern cairn - perched precariously upon the mountain's prow a little way beyond - signifying terra firma is about to be at an absolute premium in short order..... meaning the 'platform cairn' should be just about... here. Sure enough, to judge by the arc of compacted stone and apparent small uprights subsumed within, the Coflein people are correct and Mynydd Bychan is indeed crowned by such a monument. OK, structurally speaking the cairn is not exactly impressive. Although I guess by definition, by its very nature a 'platform cairn' would never have been that tall, never have possessed a truly upstanding profile. However such gripes pale to insignificance when I stand upon it and do a 360 degree sweep of the environs. Superlative scenery, indeed; the location surely one of the finest anywhere? The Mam C, ever cool (well except during our previous aborted visit here last year) settles down for lunch. I, on the other hand, can not sit still until I've taken a myriad more (mostly rubbish) images like a hyperactive child having ingested too many 'E numbers'.

Time passes upon our spectacular eyrie all too quickly under the watchful gaze of both birds of prey and the occupants of the rather quieter gliders, both of which ride the thermals here with apparent minimal effort. A green track zig-zags down the northern face into Cwm Dwr-y-coed, probably connected with limited quarrying said to have occurred here at some point in the past. However we decide to descend - very steeply! - directly from the modern cairn in order to take another look at what looked suspiciously like a trashed cairn last time we passed by, albeit under much more stressful conditions. To be honest it still does not look like the result of quarrying, but we are nevertheless none the wiser. Picking up the green track we swing northwards and head for the Wern Frank Wood barrow and hence the car, fording the now rather more substantial Dwr-y-coed en-route.

The Mam C reckons she spots flecks of gold in the fast flowing water. I disagree. 'Fools Gold'. But then again it might be said the whole vibe of this wondrous area is reflected by that of the classic Stone Roses track.... pulsating, undulating natural rhythms releasing positive, uplifting energy. Well worth coming back for.
8th December 2014ce
Edited 11th December 2014ce

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