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

Moel Faban, Carneddau

Cairn(s)

Fieldnotes

From where I parked the car near Pen y Gaer the small mountain takes on a pyramidal shape, a footpath leads from the road straight up to the top, but seeing as I went to the hillfort first I had to climb a couple of fences untill the path and me crossed paths. On the way up I followed a samll stream thin enough to step over, but big enough to be teaming with fish at least 6inches long, species unknown, salmon or trout probably.
Half way up the slope I came across a circle of stones, not a stone circle and too small for a hut circle or shelter. Strange.
As I neared the top the weather did what it does best, it didnt rain, oh no, that would be too heavy handed, the clouds came in and the views that I so love faded away, mountains are like that, they want to be appreciated they want to be adored but they don't want it to be easy for you, they only rarely show themselves completely
like a shy yet demanding stripper.

The first cairn arrived at didnt look ancient but more like a walkers cairn to show that your at the top, but it has the best view down the Ogwen valley.
The second cairn is the real McCoy, it almost shuns the view back into the mountains and concentrates on gazing out to sea or perhaps more probable onto Anglesey, always the most special of megalithic locations in Wales.
The cairn has been converted into a walkers shelter, I dont know if this is proper, but, I started to try and make it look more like a cairn again, just a half hearted attempt for half an hour, the spirits may have looked kindly upon me as I swear the cloud looked to be thinning and the sky had a more blue colour.
The second big cairn has also been shelterized so I gave it another half hour reconstruction, not so anyone would notice, but atleast there were no more precariously placed boulders threatening to fall on an unconcerned shelterer.
By the time I reached the last cairn in the line the mist was really dispersing, and I felt my endeavours at reconstruction were appreciated.
This cairn is the biggest one here, so big that it contains three walkers shelters, and one breakaway shin high shelter. The bigger hills come into view out of the mist Gyrn to the north-east and behind that Moel Wnion, but Gyrn Wigau and Drosgl remain stubbornly hidden.
I only gave the shelters a cursory pushing in and as I sat down to appreciate the views opening before me a final large rock fell just 10 inches onto my little finger, it didnt break but it was a right mess, luckily my extremities were freezing so it didnt bleed much. Time to start back, by that I mean another walk along the ridge this time in sunshine and then down the slope to the other cairns and the fortified settlement above Rachub.
It was still a small price to pay for the clouds to part for me and the mountains show themselves to me.
Gladman was right, they are worthy of a visit in the own right, and then some.
postman Posted by postman
12th December 2010ce
Edited 12th December 2010ce

Comments (11)

Beautiful photos but it looks cold, what is to be done about walker cairns I wonder or at least messing up the original cairns, are they just used for windbreaks? or is there some sort of tribal instinct amongst walkers to erect shelters.... moss Posted by moss
12th December 2010ce
I can't fathom it niether, theres three big cairns up threre, if someone had taken the more than considerable time to hollow out one of their centres, why waste time doing it to all three, only one needs messing up. But as I took stones off the top I could see that they had been there a long time as the rocks underneath hadn't discoloured over time.
So they must have been this way for some time, maybe a geologist or lichenologist could say how long, but it makes me think that they were first dug into for treasure hunting.
postman Posted by postman
12th December 2010ce
Interesting your observation " it almost shuns the view back into the mountains and concentrates on gazing out to sea or perhaps more probable onto Anglesey...".... is the same as I noted for the main Drosgl cairn. It would definately seem the coast was the focus for burial cairns in this area. That is they weren't sited to look up to a 'Main Man' on Llewelyn or Dafydd, but might have been intended as a group looking down upon the living below.

GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
12th December 2010ce
Building shelters on summits is something some hill walkers do , it doesn't usually interfere with anything prehistoric/historic so really a case of ignorance . I doubt if anyone will really suffer if a wind break gets destroyed ,although there are some that that are quite important e.g. Carn Eige (NH 123 261 ) built by the OS ,has to be climbed into and possessing a visitors book basically if they can't handle the weather they shouldn't be there or at least expect a shelter . tiompan Posted by tiompan
12th December 2010ce
Wouldn't agree that it doesn't usually interfere with anything prehistoric in the case of Wales - North, South and Mid... there are a multitude of burial cairns which have been hollowed out - thus destroying any internal arrangements which may have existed for all time - and now act as storm shelters. In my experience this is a major, widespread issue in Wales. I guess the moot point is whether the initial hollowing of any particular cairn was the result of treasure hunting/excavation/the farmer looking out for his sheep or not. If the answer is 'yes' the walker in general can be forgiven.... what's done is done. If 'no' they need - in an ideal world - to be held to account for vandalism to stop them bloody doing it again. Not that that's going to happen. How could it be policed?

The ethics question, I guess, comes into play when someone is depending on finding shelter at a particular point. Not an issue when we're talking about a minor peak like Moel Faban near a road, but Pen Pumlumon Arwystli, for example? Do I have the moral right to reverse something that (just might) save some badly equipped person's life? I would say 'yes', but others might disagree.

GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
12th December 2010ce
The high cairn bug has indeed got me , only the weather can stop me now, and it does, frequently.
The time I went up Drum I was with me best mate and climbing buddy, when I started to push in the stones on the cairn he looked at me like I was mad, vindication for me was a bright double rainbow, mountains communicate with us through the medium of weather. (never ever say the R word whilst on a mountain)
postman Posted by postman
12th December 2010ce
Maybe it would have been clearer if I had added "when it does " at the end of " Building shelters on summits is something some hill walkers do , it doesn't usually interfere with anything prehistoric/historic so really a case of ignorance ." The worst that can happen when there is no shelter , for those that might expect one , is to get a little wetter or colder .
You shouldn't expect to find shelter at summits , in many respects that was the cause of the Cairngorms disaster when a five children and an instructor died in the early 70's . The result was destruction of the shelters on the plateau .
tiompan Posted by tiompan
12th December 2010ce
Well I've followed some of the stories through on HA, there has been 'restoration' of bronze age cairns by groups, one such was on Dartmoor (30) which is no mean feat, Fan Foel is another, and a couple on the Yorkshire moors. The ruling on destroying ancient monuments is there ...
http://www.britarch.ac.uk/caf/wikka.php?wakka=CADWAncientMonumentGrants

Yesterday on Countryfile there was a section devoted to the destruction and damage caused by motorbikes and 4x4s in the countryside; in the case of the Brecon Beacons hillforts though, the owners of the 4x4s helped to mend the very visual scarring of the trackways, so maybe its better to get people on your side
perhaps education of both farmers and walkers is the only answer, or good signage on the mountains which would be a pity visually...
moss Posted by moss
13th December 2010ce
Recently the summit cairn on Tinto Hill was damaged. It is the largest Bronze Age cairn in Scotland. It has never been opened or excavated. It was the trig point column located on top of the massive (four metres plus) cairn which was wrecked but this stupid act involved the burial cairn itself being damaged. It is not known whether the destruction was about removing a OS trig point (thus "restoring" the monument to its original state) or whether it was mindless vandalism.
Just about everywhere I travel in South Lanarkshire the might of Tinto is looming down at me. The top of Tinto Hill is visible from many points all over Central Scotland. I saw it in early October from the top of Goatfell on the Isle of Arran, I saw it yesterday from Fife and I've seen it from Ben Lomond. The huge cairn on the top must have acted like an ancient trig point to our ancestors as much as it does to many people today. The modern trig point which capped it (to my mind) did nothing to detract from the original monument.
I just fear that once the damage starts...
Howburn Digger Posted by Howburn Digger
13th December 2010ce
Good points made here.... worth a forum thread really. Agree with tiompan that walkers shouldn't rely on summit storm shelters, period. Bothies, I guess, are another matter, but these are few and far between in Wales (there is/was one upon Foel Grach) but I gather more prevalent in Scotland. No problem with that as long as you know what you're letting yourself in for. Just don't mess with the cairns!! GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
13th December 2010ce
Yep the Lowland hills like Tinto and the Lomonds are seen from a huge area that their much bigger cousins further north never get anywhere near .
Ahhh Bothies , I love 'em , particularly at this time of year when a tent means a long cold night and you just might manage to get a wee fire , some of my happiest days and nights have been spent in bothies but they (bothies ) have suffered from vandalism too .
tiompan Posted by tiompan
13th December 2010ce
You must be logged in to add a comment