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

Glan Hafon cairn

Cairn(s)

Fieldnotes

What is it about me and high places? For a man with vertigo to be consistently drawn to hill and mountain tops over the entire course of my adult life could be considered somewhat paradoxical, perhaps? It's a valid point. Furthermore, any attempt to resolve such a personal conundrum is surely doomed to failure, if only due to lack of objectivity. Well, it goes without saying I'm too close too the subject matter. However, for what it's worth....

Although too young to appreciate the cultural, not to mention social impact of punk as it was happening - in retrospect I much prefer, for example, the insubordinate political potency of SLF than the comically naïve pseudo-Marxist bollocks of first wavers, The Clash - it was the 'question everything you're told' mentality of the movement which has had a fundamental impact upon my worldview. To deploy 'Why?' at the vanguard of the fight against blaggers and hypocrites. A pretty simple philosophy consistent with the DIY ethic of punk: to always see both sides of an argument by actively seeking an alternative viewpoint. Or at least try to. No-one's perfect. Needless to say, putting competing stuff into context can be difficult, requiring a suitable environment to utilise whatever brain matter Nature accorded me, one mercifully free from the inane, misogynist, moronic chants of rappers. Such as the high places of Britain.

Yeah, the aerial viewpoint, by its intrinsically 'detached' nature, challenges one's perception of this crazy, spinning globe and, more importantly, of the antics of the human beings that depend upon it as a temporary stage for chasing passing visions. At least until we all bugger off to Mars with Matt Damon, that is. Hey, what a laugh that'll be. Party hats all round! In practice I've found the results to be instructive, the car full of anger upon the approach to the parking area suddenly of no more consequence, by proxy - in the grand scheme of things - than the concerns of the inhabitants of a nearby ant colony. So, if there is such a thing as 'human spirit'.... a soul... that can (eventually) be determined from electricity flowing across synapses, arguably it is the primeval uplands than best meet the criteria for a 'spiritual domain'. If so, wouldn't it be ironic to note that our Bronze Age forebears appear to already have had that sussed millennia ago?

Anyway, aside from facilitating incoherent musings upon the most fundamental subjects, aerial viewpoints possess other, more tangible benefits... such as the ability to see detail in the landscape that can't be seen from below. No shit, Sherlock? Indeed it was during a visit to the fabulous hill fort surmounting Craig Rhiwarth last year that I first truly appreciated the form of Mynydd Glan-hafon rising across the cwm. Although falling a few feet short of the hallowed 2,000ft mark (1,994ft/608m) - and thus discounted from almost every 'serious' Y Berwyn walking itinerary you will come across - I guess the evidence of my own eyes heard the siren call. So, a hill must be a certain height to be worthy of my boots? Why? Ah, it's that punk ethic again.

Consequently I find myself reprising the ... it has to be said ... rather fine approach to Cwm Glan-hafon upon the green track skirting the south-eastern foot of the overwhelmingly sheer Craig Rhiwarth, one beady eye upon the threatening cloud base. The track forks right beyond some rather delectable woodland to descend to, and subsequently cross, the Nant Sebon. Continuing north, it soon becomes apparent that Mynydd Glan-hafon will offer no easy ride; the ludicrously steep gradient of the path encountered just beyond the deep gash carved by the Nant Ddial makes that as crystal clear as the cascading waters of the latter. The siren's call is strong, however - as Bernard Sumner will no doubt concur - and I eventually arrive at the col between Y Clogydd and Mynydd Glan-hafon itself.

According to Postman, not to mention the lesser authority of Coflein, there are a couple of cairns hereabouts upon this saddle. However I haven't done my homework so press on riding my little pony, so to speak, toward the summit. Despite having used all my vast (and ultimately useless) experience of these things and delayed leaving the path to avoid nasty occurrences of stamina sapping bog... I inevitably encounter an awful lot of the stuff. Too much. But there you are. Nevertheless I reach the summit ridge, taking a bearing from the fence line to the top of the Nant Ddial gulley. Just in case things deteriorate, you understand? As it happens the fence is a useful prompt leading travellers to the actual summit and, beyond a traverse fence to the east, the slightly lower trig pillar. As it is I ignore the latter being more intrigued by a small cairn surmounting a rocky outcrop near the junction.

Mynydd Glan-hafon is a wondrous viewpoint, arguably the best perch to appreciate this fact being the aforementioned cairn. This is not marked upon either the 1:25k or 1:50k map nor, indeed, cited by Coflein. However beneath the obviously modern 'marker cairn' resides a substantial, earth fast footprint. Now to judge by the paths - or rather, the paucity of them - up here upon this deeply unfashionable hill, the possibility of the cairn being erected by walkers is, in my opinion, pretty slim. Furthermore the cairn does not occupy either of the twin summits. So why construct a marker? Just saying. In my opinion this looks kosher. Other opinions most welcome.

As I sit and admire unfamiliar perspectives of the familiar... such as the main ridge of Y Berwyn rising to the immediate north, beyond the natural aquatic wonder that is Pistyll Rhaeadr, the sylvan beauty of the Tanat Valley, the mighty ancient fortress of Craig Rhiwarth etc.... the erstwhile reasonably clement conditions begin to falter as Moel Sych intercepts and subsequently grasps an incoming low cloud base to its not inconsiderable breast. Yeah, in very quick order visibility is reduced to more-or-less zero. For me, it is at times like this that upland cairns invoke the optimum 'spiritual' (here we go again) vibes, the opaque vapour inducing a very localised, almost claustrophobic intensity shutting out the outside world from any deliberations. Perhaps this idiosyncrasy was an integral facet of the Bronze Age plan, the Bronze Age experience? Assuming there ever was one and these monuments were not simply erected by ancient punks disavowing the 'rules'.

Time moves on and, despite having a fence line as my personal guide, not to mention preset compass bearing, the disorienting nature of walking in hill fog never abates. For me. Learning to trust one's judgement when all the senses are saying "Are you sure, you muppet?" has proved a major challenge across the years, one I doubt I will ever meet. But then again, so what? Leaving the sanctuary of the wire - and having opted to place self preservation before additional cairns - I manage to locate the Nant Ddial. Following a very steep, rough descent, the towering flank of Craig Rhiwarth slowly materialises through the dissipating gloom like a cosmic hand operating a rather dodgy natural cloaking device. Bit unpredictable, apparently. The return to the car is joyous, a feeling prevalent of being allowed brief inclusion within a spectacle outside of the normal human remit. Bit like hearing the opening bars to New Rose for the first time.

So... not at all sure I've managed to answer my autobiographical question posed at the start: why do I seek out the high places? Hey, maybe to some degree, perhaps? Although simply pointing at Mynydd Glan-hafon and uttering 'Bleh!' might sum it up nicely enough. But then again, if Dave Vanian and Captain Sensible taught me anything growing up (I'll leave Rat Scabies out of this) it's not to be afraid to challenge my preconceptions, to continually push my limitations (wherever I encounter them, in whatever context), and to try not lose the child inside... that sense of inherent curiosity and wonderment. That alternative 'aerial' viewpoint. Don't let the Ed Sheerans and Adeles of this bloody computer world we now find ourselves in drag you down. Don't use the factory pre-sets, so to speak... program your own sounds. Yeah, who's to say what can and can't be done? Have a go and see. Just try not to kill yourself in the process should you chose to stumble in my footsteps. For me that's the true legacy of the punk ethic, my friends.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
31st March 2018ce
Edited 21st April 2018ce

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