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




Although back in South Wales following a few pretty extreme days wild camping in Mid Wales, there's nevertheless no time to rest up and lie in bed ... not with a pretty rare good forecast for today. Oh no.... weather windows are like gold dust to the explorers of the Welsh uplands. To the hills!

So, with The Mam C on board as insurance against any 'Bryn y Gorlan-esque' megalithic seizures, I arrive at The Gospel Pass, the mountain col where the (very) minor road traversing the length of the beautiful Vale of Ewyas breaches the northern escarpment of The Black Mountains between Pen-y-Beacon and Twmpa. It is a justifiably popular spot, not only with assorted foreign tourists in camper vans and walkers, but with the local wild ponies, too, these a far more genial lot than the usual.

Those wishing to walk the mountains from here have a choice; west to Twmpa, otherwise known as Lord Hereford's Knob (I kid you not, check the map) or north-east to Pen-y-Beacon (aka Hay Bluff). We choose the latter, not only for the exquisite, not to mention easy, walk up the long ridge of Ffynnon y Parc to the summit, but since Coflein lists the remnants of a Bronze Age cairn near the top. Although not the first time we've been here, the cairn is not exactly prominent and the memory isn't what it was, you know? A couple of short, violent squalls come out of nowhere during the initial stages of the ascent to leave an ever improving day in their wake. Twmpa is outstanding in retrospective profile, but it is Mid Wales, ranged along the northern horizon which is arguably the highlight of the walk. As we near the summit, the site of a sadly virtually destroyed stone circle is highlighted below by a group of stationary cars and vans. Aye, they've only gone and used it as a car park, haven't they? You couldn't make it up. No, really, you couldn't. The one - as I recall - remaining orthostat standing forlornly as punters kick a ball about beside it.

And there it is. The cairn, I mean. No fanfares or trumpets I'm afraid since I've rarely seen such a denuded, grassed-over cairn. Really, if it wasn't for the siting at the prow of the mountain, some distance north of the nondescript summit OS triangulation point - and thus benefiting from the exquisite views denied to the actual summit location - I swear you wouldn't look twice at it. However those that do may well notice a somewhat unexpected feature... the side slabs of a cist buried in the turf. The Mam C peels back said turf to make sure. No doubt at all. Jeez, what a grand spot to interne your dead, looking northwards to infinity.

That, then, is all there is to relate about the actual monument. Now to enjoy the reason the cairn is where it is. The views..... boy are they good. Incidentally there is a natural spring, Ffynnon Beacon, just below to the north. Maybe that was significant, maybe not. But it does seem to be a recurring theme. Later we retreat to the Mam C's favourite spot, a (natural) stone literally overhanging the England/Wales border to the south-east. Viewed from here, the 'circle site sits below and to the right of the cairn. Both monuments are trashed by visitors... but I think the cairn has got the better of the deal. Yeah, the summit of Pen-y-Beacon is a good place to be.
26th September 2010ce
Edited 26th September 2010ce

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