|Three cromlechs, I know them so well, Wales is in my blood, its greyness, rain, soft winds and birds are part of the patchwork of my life. The empty roads, winding lanes that have no signposts, softly rounded mountains of the south west, the sheep blending with the stones, soft green mosses and dark bogs of squelchy mud, tumbling sparkling clean rivers and the marvellous blue of the sea with the great crouched rocks that always reminds me of reclining lions heading out into the deep.
This time Carreg Samson, Carreg Coetan Arthur and Pentre Ifan is all we can manage in the day, a brief flirtation with the Presceli mountains and a determination to look at the landscape to see why these three great cromlechs are situated where they are.
Everyone knows the walk down past the Longhouse farmhouse to Carreg Samson, this time a field full of young bullocks and sheep greet us, the field is covered in muck, even the cromlech itself has a brown oozing pond surrounding it, the day to day world of the traditional Welsh farmstead continuing through the millenia. Julian Cope's words "and the cromlech is an ancient stone rhinoceros, caught mid-charge in one instant and destined to remain here forever' is apt.
Its bulk, its size, is an extraordinary testament to human 'oneupmanship'. Aesthetically we modern humans find these great stone barrows pleasing, and yet the people who put them up may have had different ideas, the stones may have been chosen for their 'prettyiness', the white quartz flecked through the great stones, or religious connotations. Somewhere I read, that the great capstones may have already been lying in a particular spot and this is the reason we find them where they are.
Carreg Samson looks out to sea, to the little island that stands so close to the shore, if we concentrate on the peaks on Strumble head, then Garn Fawr, Garn Gilfach and Garn Wnda are the ones that dominate the landscape, all having some evidence of Neolithic ritual, according to Geo.Nash/Geo.Children's book. One of my theories is that the people who built these cromlechs came from Ireland and got homesick, or at least when they built their burial chambers it was with an ancestral longing in their hearts to return to the homeland! Whatever, Carreg Samson is the second greatest megalithic monument to Pentre Ifan's famed beauty.
Before I tackle that creature, first of all Carreg Coetan Arthur just outside Newport, a small perfect mushroom of a capstone, stained a beautiful bronze by the lichen on the seaward side. It stands in its little garden protected by the bungalows that have grown up alongside. I am quite pleased with its suburban setting for the simple reason that IT IS protected by the presence of people. You can sit on the little stone wall and contemplate its upturned capstone which only catches two of the four stones supposed to be holding it up. It's unusual in the fact that it is a lowland cromlech situated near the estuary and has been described as a Portal dolmen, which N.P.Figgis says in his book is not so, recent excavations have shown that there was no 'H' shaped three stones at the front like Pentre Ifan, so it never had a portal stone. Apparently the stones might go down another metre into the earth due to the build up of plough soil. It seems that there might have been other uses to this dolmen, there were cremated bone powder found in several places, under one of the sockets of an upright the cremated dust was dated at about 2700 bc. It's dominating peak is Carn Ingli, and of course it follows the same legend of stone throwing from the top, as St.Samson did with his little finger at Carreg Samson.
Pentre Ifan; Here comes my anti-social moan, why oh why does it go onto the tourist trail of brown signs. Okay its easy to find amongst the welter of lanes but then what happens? everyone goes there, whilst we were there a continuous stream of cars pulled up, visited, jumped up and down on the stones if they were children, took photos and then left. Suddenly I saw this beautiful monument threatened by over exposure (witness Stonehenge and Avebury). I know Wales needs tourists and money but surely it would be better to leave Pentre Ifan in the backwater of peace and quiet.
A model closed portal dolmen that is how Nash describes it, a closing down of its religious function or its burial function, whatever? Its classic, gorgeous 'flying' slender capstone tilting towards the Afon Nyer valley. Stones and sheep hardly distinguishable from each other, the grass softly mounding the stones underneath. This is rocky country, deceptively beautiful and green, look to the ridge above and you will see three stone crags, I think the ridge is called Carnedd Meibion Owen. For me the three stone outcrops reminded me of the 'gorsedd' crags that you often find near to the many cromlechs on this particular part of the Pembrokeshire coast.
Figgis gives an early probable date of 4000 bc, and its interesting in the three interpretations that are given (and too long to go into) but it seems that there was an early single standing stone, and then the later burial mound with forecourt and covering of soil.
And we found Brynberian, why was it so difficult three years ago when I drove past on a cold morning that falcon (not sure what great bird it was) sitting on the fence, each time he turned his head to watch me as I went back and forth along the lane! Though this time I did'nt go looking for the water monster (Bedd y Afanc) grave in the bog, basically because we had a great storm the night before and lots of rain but one day I mean to visit...
Monuments in the Landscape series; Neolithic Sites, Pembs. George Children and George Nash
Prehistoric Preseli - N.P.Figgis
The Modern Antiquarian - Julian Cope
Posted by moss
26th August 2010ce
Edited 26th August 2010ce