|On the way back from a work trip to one of our fantastic projects in south Wales, I thought I'd take the 'scenic' route back via Heston Brake and Harold's stones which didn't take me too far away from the M4. I was slightly fearful about navigating on my own, (I usually have treaclechops or Traff with me to do this, or a very patient work colleague) but I thought 'wotthehell' and did it anyway, trusting in my memory, a reliable sense of direction and a road altas only.
My first stop was Heston Brake a sadly neglected long barrow/chambered tomb in the most commanding of locations overlooking the on the Welsh side of Severn estuary and it's two beautiful bridges.
It was raining again... well, not exactly rain, more steady drizzle. As I had driven past Cardiff the murk and low cloud closed in and I was pessimistic about gaining any views, which I admit was my primary motive for visiting Heston Brake. As I made my way through Portskewett towards Leechpool (not a place where you'd want to paddle, unless you were a medieval quack, perhaps?) the weather miraculously cleared! OK, so the sun didn't shine, and God didn't appear through the cumulo-nimbus, but hey, it wasn't raining and the cloud had lifted.
This sadly neglected long barrow/chambered tomb has the most commanding of locations on the Welsh side of Severn estuary overlooking it's two beautiful bridges.
I parked in Leechpool (not a place where you'd want to paddle, unless you were a medieval quack, perhaps?), climbed over the stile and walked up the field to the barrow, its outline unmistakable on the skyline, with it's two east facing portal stones jutting out above the horizon. It sits atop a little rise, giving it enough height to be described as impressive. I rather think its hillocktop location is the very fact that has saved it from destruction. The view is wonderful - two glorious modern gleaming bridges engineered to span and link this gaping physical divide between England and Wales. Sadly, not much peace here though, the traffic noise constantly swishes in the background. I wondered about the longevity of this modern engineering I was looking at compared to the the ancient engineering on which I stood. No contest. I had a bit of a scout round, and was surprised to see that the stone outline of the chamber, on top of what is left of the barrow, is still in pretty good condition (underneath the thistles and weeds) and realised that at one time the height of the barrow would have covered this lot - and some! It must've been a wonderful sight!
Onward - and through the tangle of alleys and lanes that is Chepstow. A charming and historic place indeed, but I hadn't planned on seeing quite so much of it, for without a map and with no signposts to anywhere in the town, I became convinced I was fast becoming locked into some hideous Hotel California-like groundhog day. Suddenly I had a brainwave - head for the racetrack, that had to be on the edge of town - but would it be the right edge? It was. And by some miracle I was heading out on the right B-road towards Harold's stones in Trelleck. It was raining more steadily now. My feet were inevitably going to get wet, cold and probably covered in the polite manure of small, woolly hoofed ungulates.
I spotted the stones in a field on the right just before entering Trellech...
I spotted the stones in a field on the right just before entering the village of Trellech from the south. And WOW what an impact! I excitedly passed through the kissing gate into the field. Wading throught the wet grass, thistles and ovine faeces towards the menhirs, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the stones and their slenderness and the mad angles which they tilted! The biggest looked for all the world like a really rather monumental cock, the angle of it making it inescapably look like a gigantic willy! Yes, I liked this place. It made me smile.
So who was Harold? Was he some saxon or medieval dude who liked to compare his own john thomas with these beasts? (If so, show me his decendants!) Were there originally more than three? If not, why only three? What else had been here? What did they align to? Stars? Questions were flying into my mind, but due to the rapidly deteriorating, inclement conditions I wasn't able to sit and ponder as I usually like to. I moved round the stones looking for the killer angle to photograph, and was reminded of the opening title sequence from Simon Schama's brilliant 'History of Britain'. Were these the big old rocks he used? I took some snaps, talked to the fleecy residents responsible for the excrement now causing me to slide around in my open sandals and cursed the weather for not allowing me to sketch.
As expected, my feet were wet, cold and covered in sheep shit. It was time to go home, happy in the knowledge that I'd seen a whopping great stone todger.
Posted by Jane
24th July 2003ce
Edited 10th November 2003ce
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