The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Chambered Cairn


Gwern-y-Cleppa is one of those sites that gives rise to conflicting, contradictory emotions within the traveller. A fine, old longbarrow, with substantial chamber stones still in situ, sitting upon a South Walian hillside. Who could ask for more?

Indeed. Trouble is, this said hillside is yards away from Junction 28 of the M4, overlooking a Newport industrial estate. The noise of traffic queuing upon the slipway waiting to attend the Wales/Australia Rugby International is, er, somewhat distracting, similar to the experience of a visit to Mayburgh Henge, it might be said. But then you wouldn't dream of missing a trip there because of the proximity of the M6, would you? Exactly.

This is why I finally take the plunge (pun not intended, but this being South Wales it'll do) and park up in the Cleppa Park industrial estate in the teeming rain, feeling a little - OK, very - out of place in my waterproofs.... [by the way, thanks to Hamish for the canny directions]. Following the rough farm track across the aforementioned M4, a Welsh pony looks up from its lunch as if to enquire 'English? Thought so..' before resuming munching grass. Hmm - is this a good idea?

The (very) short answer is... Yes. Across the bridge a field of ploughed mud (apparently the Welsh are proud of their ability to 'grow' mud, judging by the tourist adverts) appears to my left, with a barbed wire fence at its far boundary. However I'd advise carrying on a little further before leaving the track and heading towards a ruined building upon the hillside. Here the barbed wire can currently be stepped over with relative ease, so allowing access to the long barrow. It's a good, if not a great site, and I was certainly grateful for its continued survival against all the odds, if also sad for the loss of the landscape it once surveyed. Such is progress, such is economic reality. The tomb itself has othostats comprised of some kind of conglomerate and is graced with several hardy trees. A couple of (empty) vodka bottles - presumably not of Neolithic origin - were unwelcome additions, but note the past tense here. Hanging out in the rain, drinking my coffee and eating sausage rolls, the sheer bizzareness of the moment strikes home... Gwern-y-Cleppa is like the old spinster who won't sell up to the unscrupilous property dealer, striking a defiant stance against the descent into the apparent banality of everyday existance. Yeah, almost as if the old, denuded mound seems to say to the passing cars 'I've seen it all, so bring it on!'

Come to Gwern-y-Cleppa if you get the chance. This impoverished, battered long barrow is a survivor and deserves our support!
8th December 2009ce
Edited 8th December 2009ce

Comments (4)

Great feildnotes Gladman,
I think I may indeed find some time for the old spinster.
postman Posted by postman
9th December 2009ce
Likewise, and you've brought it to life with your notes. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
9th December 2009ce
Lovely fieldnotes Gladman, must get over there soon, while she clings on... thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
10th December 2009ce
Thanks for the comments from such distinguished observers...

Guess we can only report what's there. Prepare to be underwhelmed and sometimes you're right, sometimes you're wrong. But always you come away with that extra little bit of life's richness clinging to your psyche - whatever that may be?

Take care - would be good to add some more photos since I got diddly squat.
10th December 2009ce
You must be logged in to add a comment