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The Monsters of Rock Tour

Everyone suffered a fitful night's sleep due to the rough weather of the previous night, but by morning, the clouds were clearing, and another day of Big Rocks was on the cards. We decided to head east across the island, working back round to Holyhead, from where I was due to catch a train home at teatime. Moth assured us there were some very impressive sites to take in, the first of which, Pant-y-Saer, was near Benllech, and the beautiful Red Dwarf Bay – I mean, Red Wharf Bay. The views of cliffs, beaches, woods and sea as we neared Benllech was wonderful, and it is somewhere worth exploring - not just for prehistoric goodies.

We soon found ourselves parking up a narrow lane, before walking up the edge of a cow field and into more bracken, interspersed with blackthorn bushes smothered in ripe sloes, and much prickly gorse. Turning the corner at a thicket of blackthorn, the large rounded capstone of Pant-y-Saer stood out boldly, its whiteness emphasised by the sunshine pouring down onto the green hillside.

Pant-y-Saer — Fieldnotes

What a stunna. Despite the fact the capstone has slipped, and the general appearance the stones offer is now that of a boozy looking, drunken effort to stay upright, it is still an awesome structure. Its disrepair is a shame though, as originally, it was clearly a very important and complex site. Pant y Saer means 'Hollow of the Masons', an accurate title, as beneath the capstone are the remains of a rock-cut pit 16 ft x 10 ft x 3ft, which contained the burials of 36 adults, 9 children, and 9 full-term foetuses. Separately, there were two more burials in a possible Beaker cist. At the western end, between the horns of a dry stone wall, there had been the remains of a forecourt. Despite the wear and tear of time, this lovely dolmen still retains much of its prominence, and apart from anything else, is situated in a very good spot for a picnic.

Lligwy – 'Place of the Earwigs'

We left the Hollow of the Masons all too soon, to make tracks to the historical complex next to the village of Lligwy. Here, one can get a taste of the Neolithic, Romano-British, and Medieval, all within spitting distance of each other. Cool. During our visit, I had been explaining the meanings of Welsh place names to the others, such as that of our local pub – Pant y Ochain, which means Hollow of the Oxen and so on and so forth. Thus it was that Jane decided Lligwy meant 'Place of the Earwigs' – she could be right, as no-one seems to know what Ligwy means! (It's not earwig, that's a chwil in Welsh). Any-way . . .

Lligwy — Fieldnotes

Did I say Pant y Saer was a stunna? Well, this is a stunna with knobs on! Lligwy has the most incredible capstone, a huge rectangle of rock, easily a yard thick all the way round. Interestingly, deep grooves are to be found on all sides of this cumbersome capstone, and I read on the information board a suggestion that they were caused by ropes rubbing into the stone as it was transported to the site. Can't see it myself; why don't other structures have such obvious grooves? It looked more like eroded drilling lines to me, if it were anything manmade.

This really is awesome. A large dug out chamber under the capstone held the remains of 30 people, and even has a reasonable shelf on which to lay a body. Only after squeezing through the constricting entrance way, grubbing around in the chamber for a while, and sitting on the (not uncomfortable) shelf chatting to a lady on the outside, did I later discover the 25 tonne capstone is only held up on three of the eight uprights. Gulp.

Once again, the prehistoric understanding of rock and engineering never ceases to amaze. . . .

I didn't see one earwig.

After leaving Lligwy, Moth was keen to take in Mein Hirion, but the three of us girls were keen to take in a ladies' powder room. "Croeso Amlwch Welcome" said a large rock on the outskirts of the next major town. We drove around searching fruitlessly for a ty bach.
"Huh! exclaimed Jane, "Can't say I feel very croeso!"
Eventually, relief was to be had, which was a good thing, as we would otherwise have wet our pants on discovering Mein Hirion.

Mein Hirion — Fieldnotes

Three most beautiful stones stand by a dry stone wall on a rise in a sheep field. The views over Ynys Môn are spectacular, including the modern day fferm gwynt, wind farm. Forming an isosceles triangle, the grey, lichen-fronded stones reach up gracefully to the sky, and look very much like the elegant pair of menhirs at Penrhos Feilw. One of them is indeed extremely phallic. All of them are about six and a half feet high. My summer felt complete as I rolled about in the close cropped turf, flicking away sheep poo and photographing this fabulous trio of stones.

Llanfaethlu — Fieldnotes

On the way to our final destination, Presaddfed, we screeched to a halt by the roadside chapel of Llanfaethlu, just so Moth and I could hop out of the car and take a couple of snaps of the quite attractive monolith which stands in the next door field. This is much more solid than the previously described stones; much more like the traditional menhir. I liked the way it was still quietly sitting there, despite the Christianisation, and the road passing within a few feet of its field. Again, it enjoyed some lovely views, and the benefit of being utilised as a sheep rubbing post.

We continued westwards, as the cloud thickened, and the sun began to disappear. It looked like we were in for more rain, and I prayed the light would hold out so Moth and I could at least get one reasonable shot of Presaddfed.

Presaddfed — Fieldnotes

Near the Anglesey Shooting School, in a grassy field of the richest Hooker's Green (what the hell had they been putting on it), with a backdrop of beautiful deciduous woodland, sits this imposing chamber. When we arrived, the Shooting School seemed to be having a clay shoot, so rhythmical pops and bangs broke the silence. Once again, some rather dodgy restoration work had taken place – presumably by none other than Chippy Minton. The most incongruous wooden brace was jammed under the capstone, rather spoiling the appearance of this otherwise very pleasant tomb. Yet again, I was put in mind of the Dyffryn Ardudwy type of monument. In the 18th century, this apparently provided shelter for a family of squatters. I imagine that with a few tarps or similar strung round the chamber, it would be quite snug.

The sun finally faded as we photographed this ancient tomb, and megalithing energy was fading equally. As we returned to the car, raindrops began to fall, thus bringing to a close a splendid Bank Holiday weekend. Jane, Moth, Cleo and Rupe dropped me off at Holyhead Station, before going off to enjoy a few more days on this intriguing island. As the train headed south across Anglesey, I saw Trefignath and Barclodiad y Gawres, the blue mountains of the Llyn, and passed not far from Bryn Celli Ddu. Crossing the Menai Straits, I left the Mother of Wales behind me, enriched by the soul of a powerful megalithic heartland.
treaclechops Posted by treaclechops
3rd September 2006ce
Edited 3rd September 2006ce

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