|The A4061 is still blocked by snow beyond Nant-y-moel this Bank Holiday Monday; consequently the Mam C and I head westwards in a bid to reach Y Mynydd Du, or thereabouts. Unfortunately time is limited by a late start, so I make a snap decision to park-up at Craig-y-nos [Cliff of Night] and (try to) visit the fine stone row which stands, unseen, above and to the west of the mock medieval edifice, once the home of Victorian diva singer Adelina Patti. The acknowledgement of a farmer - imagine a hybrid cross of Beethoven in his 50's and an elderly W.E. Gladstone driving a dumper truck - serves to fortify willpower flagging at the sight of so much bloody snow! Yeah, the last time we were here, some years back now, it was August and pushing 90 degrees. Bit different today, then.
The route uphill to the row is not that clear, the most obvious public footpath sign - opposite the old mansion - directing the visitor through an area of equine enclosures which may be a little off-putting when filled with the beautiful, unpredictable beasties. In retrospect, however, I guess this is the favoured route if you wish to avoid knocking on farm doors. Needless to say we take the path further to the north and swing round through Nantygwared farm, the farmer kindly allowing us passage through his farmyard, before beginning the relatively short, yet steep ascent to Saith Maen. The going is far from easy due to deep, drifting snow, the Mam C actually completely disappearing within the mantle on one occassion. Ha! Well she does love it so, I suppose. Cribarth dominates the valley to our left, the form and texture of its steep crags accentuated by the conditions. Veering to the right, away from the Nant y Gwared (stream), we pass a small shake hole on our left... and there it is.... a classic stone row set in surely some of the most brutal, yet beguiling winter conditions a seeker of such treasures could wish for? It's seriously cold, though, the frozen waterfall petrified upon a crag to the approx north-west speaking volumes through its inactivity.
Of the stone row's seven othostats the two largest have (predictably, I guess) fallen. The remaining stones - including the lead - are nonetheless pretty substantial..... The alignment leads the eye beyond the confluence of the nascent Afon Tawe and Nant Tywymi to Bwlch Bryn-rhudd, the mountain pass carrying the A4067 between Bronze Age funerary cairn crowned Waun Leuci and Fan Gyhirych, the latter engulfed by a mass of freezing fog. There are further such monuments set upon Cribarth, the peak towering above to the south. Yeah, it is a fine site, especially so bearing in mind the paucity of substantial stone rows to be found in Wales.
But there's more. The usual sedimentary 'red' sandstone - which comprises most of the high South Walian uplands - gives way to limestone here, the peculiar water solubility of which makes it liable to feature cave systems like the nearby Dan-yr-Ogof showcaves... and - more to the point - circular depressions known as 'shake holes'. There is a truly massive - nay, awesome - example of the latter immediately to the north of Saith Maen. View the monument from the far arc of this shake hole and I think you'll agree the placement of the row is no accident. Can't be, surely? In fact I'd go as far as to say this shake hole should arguably be regarded in the same context as the natural gorsedds at, say, Bryn Celli Ddu and Capel Garmon... that is as an integral component of the monument. [I have a couple of further images exploring this association should it be of interest to anyone].
Before we leave this barren hilltop we simply have to visit the aforementioned frozen waterfall... wonderful, but the difficulty crossing the deep snow means we return to the car nearing dark. The Mam C still adores her snow. My head, however, is filled by that shake hole. My old teachers would say that probably explains a lot.
Posted by GLADMAN
3rd January 2011ce
Edited 3rd January 2011ce