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Wild Welsh Wanderings (Part One)

Shiny! Black! Sexy!

The exquisite Cheryl and I were thrilled at the prospect of going to Wales for the weekend, and staying with chums of mine who had recently moved to Powys. Not only was it great for me to be catching up with old mates, there was also the opportunity for megalithing, and my version of landscape photography – avec la femme nue . . .

So, late on Friday afternoon, we collected a gleaming black Renault Clio from the car hire place. How it gleamed! How it sparkled! How it shone! Gorgeous and lovely, she was immediately christened Nicole – elle est tres belle! She also, we discovered, went like stink. Which was just as well, as we left Oxford very late – and I was to discover over the course of the weekend, that not satisfied with being a super model, Cheryl also has a desire to become a cross between Reubens Barricello and Louise Aitken-Walker . . . put it this way, with a Gatecrasher CD booming out (my, Nicole had an awesome stereo in her), we got from Junction 10 of the M40 to Kidderminster in one hour. Which was nice. Hair-raising, but nice.

Driving over Clee Hill, with it's stupendous views, we eventually dropped down into Wales, and arrived in Newtown late evening, with the Doors blasting forth. A short while later, we were settled on Sue and Anna's vast decking verandah, gazing down a beautiful valley to distant hills. A warm breeze drifted through a night full of stars, and, sipping on ice-cold Chardonnay whilst catching up on gossip in good company, I began to pore over the OS Map by the subdued solar evening lights. There is nothing to beat planning a day's megalithing under these conditions, I can assure you.

Interestingly, I discovered very little posted on TMA with regard to this area of Wales. I hadn't had time to research anything properly, and only managed a sketchy, dashed troll through TMA prior to leaving Oxford. I thought we were heading into a Neolithic desert, but closer inspection of the map revealed dozens of cairns and tumuli, and a few standing stones and stone circles. I began to get excited. This was looking promising . . .

After an extremely late night, we had a splendid fry-up sat outside on a slightly overcast Saturday morning. Above us, a pair of buzzards wheeled and kew-kewed at each other, and at the table, Sasha the cat eyed up my chipolatas. After a hearty breakfast, we piled into the cars, and headed out to our first location – Y Capel.

Never Forget The 1:25,000 Map

We drove up a long and increasingly remote country road miles from anywhere, to the top of Mynydd Dwyriw, eventually reaching the turning for the track that seemed to lead to the circle. Unfortunately, it appeared we had to go through a farmyard of some description. Arse. Just as we were about to ponder the trespass/don't trespass question, a battered blue 4x4 barrelled up behind us – rather unbelievably, indicating to turn into the farm premises! I flagged the farmer down, and asked politely if was the right road for the circle."Ah, you want to see the circle, do you?" he asked, looking all at once bemused, surprised and rather pleased. "Yes, that's fine, just follow me, then go through two gates, over a brook, and take the track to the right."

What a stroke of happy fortune, and how friendly he was; if we'd been in England, I suspect we would've had a more robust reply. So we followed him into the farmyard, then set off along the deeply rutted, gravely mountain track.

It was at this point that I began seriously worrying about the £100 deposit I had put down on Nicole. Cheryl's driving was exemplary, but the track became rougher and rougher, deeper and deeper, and eventually, as we reached a field full of beautiful cows, the most horrible graunching, scraping noise came from Nicole's bottom. Merde!

Leaping out of the car, I looked underneath, relieved to find that only grass appeared to be clinging to the underside, and that no underside was clinging to the grass three feet behind us. Nonetheless, being a shade on the porky side, I elected to do a reprise from 'Ice Cold In Alex', and walk alongside the vehicle. This achieved the desired effect, and we cleared the blackspot successfully.

Driving as far as we could up the advised track, we eventually ran out of road, and pulled up on the springy turf. Looking round in what we thought was the right area, we were unable to see anything that looked like a stone circle. Lots of sheep! No stone circle . . . On the horizon, we could see an interesting rocky outcrop, and decided it must be thataways, so off we tramped, me labouring under a 24lb rucksack with my camera bag inside. Puffing up the hillside, and through what would undoubtedly be a treacherous marsh in the winter, we finally reached the tor. It was a beautiful tor, commanding stunning views, but no evidence of a stone circle. Not good.

It was at this point that I wished I had two things: 1) a 1:25,000 OS map of the area (never go megalithing in Wales without one, mark my words) and 2) Jane's uncanny ability to sniff out a megalith. As this wasn't to be, and the sun was breaking through the clouds, Sue and Anna chilled on the tor, whilst round the corner, Cheryl and I created some pictures.

After a while, we decided we weren't going to locate the circle, and opted to move on to the next stop. As we reached the car, however, up bowled the friendly farmer on his tractor. "Did you find it, then?" he asked. "Er . . .no," we replied. "It's up through that gate over there," he replied, pointing to a gate I could barely see, "And 100 yards to the right." Ah. That would be it then. We'd gone way too far past it; how I ached for a 1:25,000 map!

Following his directions, Sue Cheryl, and I walked through a grassy field on top of a small ridge. Either side of us, the mountainsides swept up in a shallow bowl shape. We still couldn't see the circle, so fanned out for better coverage. Just as we were thinking it was a lost cause, one small upright stone about 2.5 feet tall poked up from the lush grass. Nothing else did.

Looking down next to the stone, I saw some much smaller, flatter stones half-obscured by the undergrowth. Following them along, and tripping over a couple, I began walking the edge of the circle, as did Sue and Cheryl from different points. After we had traipsed round it a couple of times, we realised we had a circle easily as big as the Rollright Stones – which was very exciting! I have to say, though, it was the most Homes & Gardens circle I have yet come across; very neat, with similarly shaped stones evenly placed. I almost expected to find a garden gnome sat under a particularly bushy thistle; happily, I didn't. Odious bloody things, garden gnomes.

This circle is beautifully placed, and feels very calming; a sense of security is engendered by the gently sweeping hills either side, and looking down the valley, the most beautiful vista led out to distant mountains on the horizon. It did not escape my attention that two of these mountains looked remarkably like a pair of breasts. Splendid.

Feeling refreshed, we returned to Nicole, and set out for our next choice of megalith, Carreg Hir standing stone. As we did so, the friendly farmer came by again, and I thanked him for his hospitality. I also asked him if knew anything about the circle. "No, we just leave it alone. Don't know anything about the history, really, don't have the time. Glad you liked it though." So I figure it's not a Homes & Garden creation, but something that has been stewarded for hundreds of years. I hope so; it felt very much like it had been.

treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
4th September 2003ce

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