|Well, there you are. Stranger things have happened, of course, but not much prepares the seasoned climber for the shock of a pristine dawn upon a South Walian August Bank Holiday Monday.....
So where to go to avoid the fair weather multitudes? Snap judgement made, we head off towards Merthyr and The Sirhowy Valley. Approaching the hamlet of Trefil, it suddenly dawns on me that I was here only last Christmas to visit the great cairns upon Cefn Yr Ystrad. Suffice to say the conditions are as far removed from that wintery expedition as it is probably possible to get, the sun already beginning to beat down as we set off on foot, none too pleased at the brand new gate and signs prohibiting vehicular access much past the village... apparently your car is likely to be confiscated by the police if you disregard the warnings. Surely the heddlu haven't finally adopted the motto 'if you can't beat them, join them'? Needless to say this pedantic action adds another mile each way. Thanks. On a lighter note, however, I've forgotten my usual sun hat... so the Mam Cymru has provided a rather fetching Aussie cowboy affair from her allotment shed. Strewth, I must look a right muppet. Well, if the hat fits.....
We follow the Nant Trefil past the Trefil Quarries, great scars upon the landscape which affirm that not all South Wales' industrial heritage is in the past tense. Then it's a trackless pull up the hillside to the approx north-east, a family of wild ponies not even bothering to move as a group of noisy trail bikers move pointlessly by at a glacial pace..... ha! ha! Behind us the twin, monumental cairns upon Cefn yr Ystrad crown the hillside - sorry, mountainside - opposite, whilst to the north-west the decapitated summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du are immediately recognisable. There can be only one. Or perhaps two, then, come to think of it. The going is hard, occasional sheep tracks easing progress somewhat but - as you would expect from such annoying creatures - never actually heading where you want to go. Which is towards two large cairns dead ahead upon the wild summit plateau of Mynydd Llangyndir. The larger, now to our left, appears to be Garn Fawr itself... a real biggie... but we decide to head for a smaller example beside the virtually dry bed of Llyn y Garn-fawr, walking across which is a strange experience indeed. To be honest I'm not sure of the ancient providence of this cairn, but it's pretty substantial and its siting, not to mention existance would otherwise appear pointless if not of a funerary origin. There can be no doubt, however, about Garn Fawr, which tops the 557m summit of the mountain beyond the (site of) lake. Duh, it's a monster, subject to the usual 'hollowing out', but massive nonetheless. As we climb to have a clamber about, a myriad flies begin to smack into us... naively, it takes the Mam to warn me that these 'flies' are actually soldier honey bees and if I don't move pretty sharpish I am in deep peril! Yes, seriously! This I do, although the blighters allow me to return in a more sedate fashion later on.
So, does this massive cairn pass the siting test? Think of Melanie Griffith in that restaurant scene. Yeah, that's the one. Apart from the aforementioned Brecon Beacons, The Black Mountains are utterly beguiling across Dyffryn Crawnon to the north, with a certain Garn Caws in the foreground. Say 'cheese' as I push the shutter. Eastwards (ish) I can make out the flat lump that is Blorenge together with its elegant Sugar Loaf neighbour, whilst behind us to the south is the great industrial heartland of South Wales. We lie beside this great cairn and somehow the overwhelming ancientness of this mountain top seeps into every pore. Unlike the fierce sun, courtesy of bonzer Aussie hat. A mare guides her foal this way and that with that somewhat impatient tenderness typical of many a mother, bees of the bumble variety are attracted to heather, not Gladman, and all kinds of other insects and arachnids do their thang. Yeah, unlike yesterday, Wales is benign. But up here benign - OK, relatively benign - can be good. Very, very good indeed.
Posted by GLADMAN
1st September 2010ce
Edited 2nd September 2010ce