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Preseli mountain highs (part one, starring Kammer)

24 May 2003
After a mad dash, driving flat out from Oxford to Newport, Pembrokeshire, in a little over 4 hours, me and my offspring, Cleo, 13, and Rupert, 9, dumped our stuff in our holiday cottage in the centre of the village and immediately went out to meet Kammer and his wife Louise and two sons Will and Alfie at surely the most beautiful viewpoint in the area at SN010384, just above Dinas Head. Having driven up tortuous hairpin bends, fringed by heavily bluebelled roadsides we reached our goal. Looking down in the bright sunshine we could see Parc Cerrig Hirion standing in a field directly below us and over to Newport Sands in the east. See
Dinas Island stood proudly in front of us and Cleo and I resolved to walk round it another day, as indeed we did.

Regretfully, my partner, Traff, and treaclechops weren’t due to arrive for another couple of hours yet, so rather than waste time, we pressed ahead.

We packed the kids back in the cars and Kammer navigated us to Parc-y-Meirw, which is cunningly disguised as a hedgerow, replendant with gorse, bluebells, red campion, kek, young green bracken fronds, foxgloves, white campion and buttercups. Really exceptionally pretty.

Scrambling up the steep rocky hedgerow at the top of the field you could clearly see the the stone row pointed at the promentary at Fishguard off in the distance about 5kms away, where a ferry to Ireland was moored up. My son and I walked down the length of the row and counted 4 standing stones, one used as a gatepost and 3, perhaps 4 fallen ones in the verdant undergrowth. But what a view! You could even see over to St Davids, way out to the west. The stone row seems to follow an ancient track, the lane is very sunken, implying great age. As Cleo bounced baby Alfie on her knee we sat in the long grass and marvelled at the beauty of it all.

What a fine observant chap Kammer is! As we left Parc-y-Meirw, at a crossroad apparently in the middle of nowhere, just under the rocky outcrop of a high mountain, his car screeched to halt in front of us and he ran out to tell me: “There’s a cairn over there!” Well, I couldn’t see it, but we got out to look anyway.

I didn’t see it until he was standing in it. It turned out to be Glyn Gath, a small ring cairn, about six to eight metres wide, camoflagued by lowgrowing gorse and heathers, with a henge-effect up to 3 feet tall in places. Not especially worth going out of your way for, unless you’re really into ruinous ring cairns, but nevertheless certainly worth a shufti if you’re in the immediate vicinity.

The kids were hungry. We tried calling into the chippy in Dinas Cross, but they had *just* closed. Nothing for it, but to return to Newport, gather supplies at the well-stocked garage on the main drag and to whizz round the corner to Carreg Coetan Arthur, just around the corner to dine upon our feast of crisps and cheese and ham pasties and in baby Alfie’s case, his mother’s milk.

Carreg Coetan Arthur is curiously wonderful. It has its own little neatly-tended lawn tucked away in its own plot between some very white, middle class holiday chalets. And yet, as soon as you see it, you realise you have entered fairyland, the closeness of the chalets ceases to matter. Enchanting, bewitching and tear-jerkingly cute, this little dolmen stands like a magic mushroom close to the Nevern river estuary, (from perhaps where the bluestones of Stonehenge were once floated down?) and points at the sacred mountain Mynydd Carningli. We sat in the sunshine, nibbing at junk food, me sketching, and the boys playing football with a plastic bottle.

Mynydd Carningli is actually an extinct volcano and utterly dominates the landscape around Newport and beyond. Traces of its violent, landscape-sculpting past are evident on the beaches at Parrog and Newport Sands, in the form of dark sand… surely a combination of both the fine weathering of the local slate and from lava floes?

Having dined upon the 21st century’s finest rubbish, we consulted the map. Pentre Ifan was only 3 kms away. How could we not go? I had waited to see this for so long. Treaclechops and Traff were still miles away and though I wanted to see this with treaclechops, I had to seize the moment. The light was perfect for sketching and there was no guarantee of good weather in the forthcoming week. We went.

After wading through a sea of bluebells, there it was. Talk about mindblown!! It is truly remarkable. Even my son liked it. My daughter adored it. The capstone appears to hover over only three of its uprights, looking for all the world like some gigantic aerodynamic cuttlefish with Mynydd Carningli lurking just beyond and away in the distance, the Nevern estuary and Newport Sands. PHWOAAR! I sat and made four quick sketches from various angles just to try to make sense of this magnificent beast and capture the deepening shadows that moved around the uprights. I wished treaclechops was there at that moment to capture the shadows on film with her extraordinary eye.

After about an hour, the kids had had enough, and Rupert wanted to go the beach. Who can blame him? He’d been very patient. So we toddled down to Parrog beach to skim stones down by the old lifeboat house. Kammer and Co went on to hunt for standing stones.

We met up again later for a cup of tea with Kammer, just as treaclechops and Traff arrived in Newport. They’d had a very long journey and went straight to pub to drink beer and we caught up with them briefly there. But Kammer’s kids needed to go home, so we said our goodbyes and they left. Meanwhile, I had a week’s more big, old rocks to fit in...

Pentre Ifan — Images

<b>Pentre Ifan</b>Posted by Jane

Carreg Coetan Arthur — Images

<b>Carreg Coetan Arthur</b>Posted by Jane

Pentre Ifan — Images

<b>Pentre Ifan</b>Posted by Jane

Mynydd Carningli — Images

<b>Mynydd Carningli</b>Posted by Jane

Carreg Coetan Arthur — Images

<b>Carreg Coetan Arthur</b>Posted by Jane<b>Carreg Coetan Arthur</b>Posted by Jane
Jane Posted by Jane
31st May 2003ce
Edited 1st June 2003ce

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