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Wild Welsh Wanderings (Part Two)

Ovine Overtures and Lithic Lusciousness

Once we had left the kindly farmer’s land, we stole a glance at our watches, then realised the hour was late, and our throats were parched. And there was a requirement for what the Americans term a ‘comfort break’. “Honey, do you need a comfort break?” (Or ‘Chapel of Ease’ as my ex-wife likes to refer to the smallest room). I digress.

Therefore, we stopped briefly in Caersws, once home to a roman fort, and the convergence of five roman roads. Anna informed us that Caersws translated as, or originally meant (I forget the precise detail, sorry Anna), ‘hand’, as that’s what the five roads looked like as they radiated out from the fort. Today Caersws was home to beer and pasties, but unfortunately, the exquisite Cheryl’s Guinness did not cut the mustard; she said it tasted like it had been in the pipes for six months. Oh dear.

Pushing on from Caersws, we retraced our tracks through the high-banked country lanes. On one occasion Cheryl really proved her rallying mettle, for we nearly went past a required left hand turn. “That’s the one!,” I screamed, as Nicole’s nose was just past level with the junction. Without a word, or indeed, without losing speed, Cheryl slung the car expertly into the turn at approximately 40-45mph, completed the manoeuvre very successfully, and we shot down the road cackling madly.

Presently, we arrived at the side of a field in the middle of nowhere, with a lovely view over Lyn Mawr, and southwards over the rolling Powys countryside. It had become very sunny, but very often, large puffy clouds would obscure the light for several minutes at a time. Yet again, I was wishing for the 1:25,000 map, but it looked as if the standing stone would be very close to the boundary wall and footpath through the field. Plodding up the hillside, past some pens where there had recently been sheep shearing, judging by all the scraps of wool, I looked along the wall for the stone.

“There she is!,” cried the exquisite Cheryl suddenly, heading off into the field, and up a slight rise. Further up the hill, a large flock of sheep began bleating astonishingly loudly and persistently. Following Cheryl, we came to the most beautiful and charming standing stone, our arrival celebrated by the Powys Ovine Choral Society.

Carreg Hir is about five feet tall, wonderfully solid, round, and stout. Greeny-yellow lichens on her northern side were complemented by a large, thick, greasy black mark about her middle; she was obviously much frequented as a scratching post by the members of the choir. As ever, she commanded stunning views from three points of the compass, but the view behind led to the nearby brow of the hill. What *is* that all about???!!!

This particular stone felt very soft, welcoming and nurturing. She’s definitely female. There was something of apple-cheeked farmer’s wives about her, or the warmth and stillness of breastfeeding mothers, or even a priestess-like magnetism. Cheryl and I decided to enhance this magnetism by creating some photographs, especially as we were getting some decent breaks in the cloud. However, just as we were about to start, seven ramblers appeared out of nowhere, and by the time they’d ambled out of sight, we had to wait another ten minutes for the sun to reappear. By this time, Sue had returned to the car with a headache, but Anna stayed and enjoyed the views over Lyn Mawr, as Cheryl and I worked quickly with the light and the breezy hillside. You’re a real sport, Cheryl!!!

By the time we’d finished at Carreg Hir, it was early evening. Sue and Anna decided to return home for a cup of tea, and Cheryl and I drove around through the leafy, twisty lanes for a few hours more. We were delighted to find the sweetest little field with six huge round hay bales in it; this made for a fantastic studio, especially in the late evening light. God, my bush hat could tell some stories . . . and the pics look corking! Although no more megalithing was done that day, we were allowed on private farmland to enjoy a well known local view. A tough struggle up a steep mountain road (during which point, a lady friend called me on the mobile; I’m still not sure whether she thought she had a heavy breather on the line, due to the rasping puffing, or was concerned I was about to have a cardiac arrest), and we were treated to the most *magnificent* view northwards over Powys. We could see for hundreds of miles. Stunning.

A pleasant barbecue on the verandah, and a bottle of sauvignon blanc later that night rounded the day off nicely; and being so tired, everyone had collapsed into bed by 10:30pm. Slept like a baby after all that fresh air!

Wet, Wild, and Worried

On Sunday, Cheryl and I left Sue and Anna’s shortly after breakfast, as we had much photography to try and achieve over the course of the day, besides travelling back home. I can’t say much about it, as it’s not megalithic, but there was one moment when I thought the game was up with regard to my favoured genre of photography.

We had been looking for locations involving water, and after chatting up some locals in a Llangurig pub, found ourselves driving down a very steep, hairpinny road affording clear and fabulous views towards a reservoir and river below. This location was miles from anywhere, literally, and the sweeping mountains surrounded a broad, barren plain that stretched for a good couple of miles. At the confluence of river and reservoir, the road widened after crossing a clanky metal bridge, and there were parking areas near the riverside. A few camper vans were parked up, and half a dozen cars, but the only people we could see were two rambler types absorbed in the flora and fauna of the heathery river bank. What made this such a stunning location was the geological sculpting in the river – the water had created hundreds of ripples in the rocks, reminding me of Utah rock formations. Quite simply, it had to be done.

“I don’t care,” said Cheryl, “What a fantastic place!”

As soon as the sun struggled through the clouds we were skipping across the river (fast, deep and dangerous), from rock to rock, me scrambling up the bank side with the camera, and clutching a Nikon lens in one hand. Gulp.

We took several pictures before the sun went in, and the shoot was deemed a wrap. Pausing only to rescue Cheryl’s pants and trousers from the fast running water, where they had been blown by a gust of wind, we made it back to Nicole as a bunch of kids arrived on the scene. “Well,” I said, loading the gear in the boot, while Cheryl organised a dry set of clothes, “We timed that just right.”

It was then that I caught a glimpse of a white car driving down the mountain pass towards us. Nothing in that, you may say; but this particular white car had gaudy blue and yellow Day-Glo squares all along the sides, and a blue, semi-transparent, shiny box on the roof. It was the word ‘HEDDLU’ emblazoned over the bonnet that really gave the game away, however.

“Oh shit!,” I exclaimed, “I don’t believe this! We’re going to get done for the Public Indecency Act – but we’re miles from anywhere!!! This is so bloody remote!! Just my luck . . . quick, let’s get in the car and shove off,’ I hissed under my breath, as the police car crunched to halt ten yards away from Nicole. I had visions of being incarcerated in the Llanidloes slammer, and having to ring Jane to post bail on me; or some similar woeful situation.

“I’ve got to get some knickers on first,” said Cheryl calmly, not in the least bit rushed.

“Nnnnnggggg,” was about my only response, as a blonde policewoman got out of the patrol car. . . . . . and turned in the opposite direction, investigated a car in the car park, then returned to her motor, swung it round, and clattered back over the bridge up the mountain.

“Bloody hell,” I said as we got into to Nicole, “That was fortunate. Thought we were going to get done, there.”“Well, it would be about the best thing to get done for,” Cheryl said philosophically, driving off over the clanky bridge. I thought of the American photographer, Spencer Tunick, and had to agree. . .

Stone Me! It’s Stunning!

We drove homewards, stopping only for a meal, and to visit Arthur's Stone at Dorstone. Cheryl had been most insistent that I see this site – and I’m damned glad she was; although we only had ten minutes or so there, and the weather was poor, I was deeply moved by this broken, hugely impressive burial chamber. It’s utterly fascinating, and must have been awesome in it’s heyday.

What particularly interested me was the curving entrance passage, and the size of the chambers. In addition, the capstones are massive great slabs of rock; truly amazing. This somehow comes across as a splendid cross-section diagram; odd, as they are all like that, these broken chambers. But one really gets a sense of it here.

The views were also wonderful, and I wanted badly to spend some time sitting contemplating the universe, life, and women, despite the crap weather. But time was pressing, and we had to return to Oxfordshire. With a heavy heart, I threw my pack in the back of Nicole, and we drove away. The stereo was on, and Led Zeppelin’s ‘In The Evening’ filled the car – the most apt, moving, and beautiful music for this stupendous site. Thank you, Cheryl, for being so bloody insistent.

We finally got home after a brilliant weekend, and out of all of us, Nicole looked the worst for wear. Where she had once been black, sleek and shiny, she was now smeared, streaked, and smothered in grey-white dust, and her foot wells were full of sheep poo and gravel. She had been off-roaded from mountain tracks, through fords, along the sides of hedgerows, into a farmyard or two, and driven like a rally contender. The only miniscule scuff was picked up on a hub cap outside the Eynsham off-licence once we were home! Nicole proved that these French girls are full of va-va-vooommm; Cheryl proved that English girls know how to utilise va-va-vooommm, and everyone had contributed to a most excellent weekend. I’ll drink to the next one!

Carreg Hir — Images

<b>Carreg Hir</b>Posted by treaclechops
treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
4th September 2003ce

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