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Mam Cymru & the Centre of the World

Extremely generously, Jane, Moth, Cleo and Rupert had invited me to join them on their trip to Ynys Môn over the Bank Holiday weekend, a kind offer snapped up as rapidly as a mackerel snapping up a strip of tinfoil dangling from a hook – the other good reason to visit Ynys Môn being the fishing (which is much nearer to Rupert's heart than big old rocks)

Ynys Môn, or Anglesey, a remarkable island situated above the Llyn Peninsula, is also known as 'Mam Cymru', 'Mother of Wales'. After three wonderful days there, the reasons why became very clear. It is also the driest place in Wales, so naturally enough the rain was pissing down on our arrival, sweeping in magnificently from the Irish Sea which was less than a quarter of a mile from our cosy and bijou holiday cottage.

However, what was a little rain to discovering Jane had totally unwittingly booked the nearest residence on the island to Barclodiad-y-Gawres? It was a bit lovely to have that as the view from the large picture window in the living room. When the arresting Kate and I were courting, almost three years ago, we had visited this stunning dolmen, sans clé. Then, we had peered through the bars at the huge stones in their gigantic cement capsule, before lying by the grassy mound and watching a spectacularly seductive cliff top sunset. As the fiery red sun sank into the sea, Maxfield Parrish-like clouds filling the sky, we looked deep into each other's eyes.
"Clever of you to arrange such a display," I remarked.
"Cost me 50 quid on Ebay, this sunset did," she breathed romantically.

Barclodiad-y-Gawres — Fieldnotes

Saturday morning dawned grey and dry, and inevitably, Jane was like a greyhound out of a trap, with the key to Barclodiad-y-Gawres the hare. Soon, the four of us (Cleo stayed in bed), were rewarded with one of the most spectacular dolmens in the country.

It takes a long time for one's eyes to adjust to the darkness, but finally a very impressive chambered tomb becomes visible. Six stones are decorated with lozenge, spiral, cup mark and concentric circle patterns – the first and most impressive immediately to the right after unlocking the gate and entering the structure within a structure.

The large capstone has been skilfully engineered so as to appear to be balancing delicately and airily on the uprights, when viewed from certain angles. The back stones of the two side chambers are both carved with spiral designs. The best of these are on the eastern chamber – three spirals in a row. The handiwork of a Stone Age monumental mason, perhaps?

Whilst sitting on the comfortable, dry, sandy bank above the gloomy western chamber, listening to oystercatchers and the crash of the incoming tide on the cliffs below, two chaps entered, so I directed them to the Maglite Jane had left by the gate, and pointed out the carvings while giving them a (very) brief overview of the dolmen.

That night, I walked up to Barclodiad-y-Gawres with only the Maglite and a bottle of Jenning's Crag Rat for company. Sitting on the cold cement nub at the roof of the capsule, I looked across the Irish Sea, listening to the waves and the wind and watching the shadowy phosphorence of the ocean as it lashed the cliffs. Below me in their silent, dark chamber, the stones of Barclodiad-y-Gawres were palpably present. I thought about their pecked out, 4,500 year old carvings, and remembered Jane saying "They're just like Gavrinis." and a postcard she had sent me of those remarkable stones. Time slipped for a while. Out on that headland, there was only the night, carvings, stones, cliffs, sea, carvings, sky, a star, wind, clouds, darkness, carvings, Gavrinis far to the east, and the Irish tradition far to the west. The importance of this place was very clear. It felt like both the end and the centre of the world at once. Someone had pecked out those marks so many millennia before and yet their resonance with the world and the elements were as fresh as if they had been made that day. The remote wholeness and connectivity of the place was total. The ancestors were to hand.
treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
3rd September 2006ce
Edited 3rd September 2006ce

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