|Perhaps if I was a drinker, a Christian, a capitalist or not a woman I might like Christmas. But I'm not, so I like to flee it if possible. This year Moth and I escaped immediately after the 'festivities' were over to visit friends in South Wales who also don't like Christmas. I wanted in particular to visit the Gower peninsula. But we thought we'd have a look at some stuff en route to the kingdom of Swansea.
What a strange place! In a wonderful position on common land near Pontypridd hospital are some natural rocky outcrops, one of which is known as the Pontypridd rocking stone. It is very large – about 5 and half feet tall and round, roughly in two pieces like a cottage loaf. I gave it a push. It doesn't rock. In recent times a very nice small stone circle has been built round it. The whole place seems rather peculiar though.Around Crickhowell
From Pontypridd we drove up into the valleys, singing 'Bread of Heaven' as we went, towards Crickhowell. Around Crickhowell there are quite a number of sites worth seeing, though I would argue none of them are A-list Hollywood sites, (although Moth thinks the Fish stone is.)
The growing stone is a very tall, slender menhir, standing sentinel by the roadside about 12 feet high and provides a certain surprising quirkiness at the entrance of a military training establishment. It didn't need medals or stripes or pips to give it authority.
In the village of Llangenny, very close to Crickhowell two standing stones are marked on the map. One stands very small and looking rather forlorn and alone at the bottom of the valley. It's nice though, and I'd like it in my orchard!
Llangenny is a small picturesque village, tumbling down a steep hillside so we drove through in an attempt to find the second stone on the map at SO237188. In thick impenetrable woodland, overgrown with brambles and dry bracken we didn't stand a cat in hell's chance of finding it, so we moved on.
Out on the other side of Crickhowell on the edge of a village recreation ground is Carn Coch burial chamber. There's not much left to see here, but I liked it. A grassy mound with a bit of rubble poking through here and there and a single flat capstone is all that remains. It's been disturbed a bit too, as its outline is not smooth or distinct. Half a mile out of Crickhowell right by the busy A40 is all that remains of Gwernvale burial chamber.
It has as tremendous view of the very unusually shaped Sugar Loaf hill on the other side of the valley.
It is scarily close to the road! It now signals the entrance to a posh hotel. The stones, all about 2 feet tall and 2 feet across, clearly mark out a main chamber and entrance passageway, but the rest of the tomb is long gone. No mound, no rubble, no nothing. The only thing to indicate the tomb's original size and scale is a number of marker stones. Once, it might have been as big and impressive as Belas Knap or Stoney Littleton. My guess is that much of the cairn material was used to build and repair the road.
A short walk through the woods following the line of the river Usk brings you to the Fish stone... in theory! Actually the path through woods is 30 feet up a steep slope and the stone stands in the grassy inaccessible valley below. Being a confident walker, Moth decided to head off down the slope and seek it out, trespassing merrily. I didn't! I could see the stone tantalisingly close below, but there was no way I was going to be able to reach it. It's crackingly tall – perhaps 18 feet or more and intriguingly fish shaped, with distinct fins projecting from its narrowest sides.We continued on to Swansea where we met up with our Christmas-hating friends.