|I first came to this magnificent mountain escarpment way back in 1993, looking, believe it or not, for The Llyn Fawr (the lake above The Rhondda, that is). Incredibly naive, perhaps, but I got away with it.... and my sense of awe has not diminished with time. Nor has my respect for the inclement Welsh weather!
The latest ascent is made in the company of The Mam Cymru, my sister. Not too canny with map or compass, it has to be said, but a dab hand with anything to do with the soil. And besides, everyone knows women can't read maps and men can't walk and look around at the same time. It's Nature, see.
Fan Foel is, to be honest, a northern spur of Ban (or Fan - sorry I never could figure these language mutations) Brycheiniog, at 2,631ft, the summit peak of Y Mynydd Du, The Black Mountain. From a megalithically-minded and - arguably - general perspective, the best approach is from the Trecastle road to the east. This necessitates crossing the infant Afon Tawe before even beginning the ascent, not the easiest task, even in summer, but then proceeds to follow a lively, cascading stream, the Nant-y-Llyn, right back to it's source. This is no ordinary 'source' either, but the legendary Llyn-y-Fan-Fawr, companion lake to the even more legendary Llyn-y-Fan-Fach.... The path follows the twisting, turning, right-hand bank, past several pretty impressive waterfalls, not to mention a genuine Bronze Age cairn...
...the Maen Mawr and Y Cerrig Duon also visible on the right-hand skyline.... a good place to chill out on the descent. For now, simply follow that stream (!), the landscape becoming more and more brutal until, after several 'false crests', lakeside is attained at 2,000ft, the elegant escarpment of the mountain towering above to your left. Perhaps my favourite upland lake, it's tempting to call it a day here at this exquisite spot. But.... the call is unspoken, never unheard. There's round barrows in them thar hills.
A 'rocky staircase' at the southern end of the lake provides a steep, but safe passage to Bwlch y Giedd and the crest of the ridge above. Turn right here and the OS trig point and 'circular shelter' of Ban Brycheiniog is soon reached. Unfortunately there is no prehistoric cairn upon this summit, 'courtesy', no doubt, of the aforementioned shelter and the muppets who built it. I mean, who would want to cower in a shelter when the view down to Llyn-y-Fan-Fawr is simply magnificent? Ha! Moving on along the escarpment edge, any feeling of indignation is soon alleviated upon reaching the vertigo-inducing buttress of Twr-y-Fan Foel, for this is crowned by an apparently undisturbed Bronze Age round barrow [see misc post]. The siting is amazing, it really is.
The second cairn lies upon the summit of 2,575ft Fan Foel itself. Subject to an excavation in 2004, the finds were somewhat interesting, to say the least. Please see the miscellaneous post and Rhiannon's link for details, but suffice to say it appears Bronze Age people certainly knew how to 'say it with flowers'. To stand here is deeply moving and makes a mockery of the 'R*mans brought us civilisation' dogma I was taught in school. Honestly, does anyone actually still believe that rubbish? My informed guess would be 'yes'. Looking west, Picws Du, adorned by it's own Bronze Age cairn, towers above the waters of the magnificent Llyn-y-Fan-Fach. Strong walkers can visit the peak from here, but I'm afraid those days are past for Gladman..... [Incidentally several 'circles are to be found to the north of Fan Foel, not forgetting the wonderful pair beyond the Usk Reservoir].
Perhaps the most significant aspect of a visit to this wonderful spot, however, is the 'big picture' it conveys of South Walian Bronze Age burial practice. To clarify, glance to the east, across Llyn-y-Fan-Fawr to Waun Leuci, Fan Gyhirych, Fan Nedd, Fan Frynych, The Brecon Beacons, The Black Mountains - a linear procession of burial cairns literally as far as the eye can see; then to the west, the two great cairns upon Garreg Las beyond the aforementioned Picws Du, with examples upon Garreg Lwyd, Carn Pen-y-Clogau...etc.. fading to the horizon. Clearly there was something very serious and widespread going on here... Hell yeah!
Posted by GLADMAN
25th April 2010ce
Edited 25th April 2010ce