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


Burial Chamber


An unsettled Monday (27.6.2011) takes me to the little village of St Nicholas, a couple of miles west of Cardiff. I'm here to see two of South Wales' most famous prehistoric monuments, tucked away in the low-lying fields of the Vale of Glamorgan.

Leaving the village behind to the north, the OS map shows a long distance path, the Valeways Millenium Heritage Trail, providing an off-road route to both of today's sites. Nicely waymarked, it leaves the minor road over a stile and into fields of pasture. So far so good for the first two fields, but the third brings something of a problem – a herd of bullocks, far too curious for my liking. In some haste to leave their field, I manage to catch my trouser leg on barbed wire, cutting a 6" slit from knee to shin. Damn.

So I arrive at Tinkinswood in less than ideal spirits. Nevertheless, the first sight of the enormous structure goes some way to improving things, until I sit down and realise that the slash in my trouser leg continues into my leg and I am bleeding quite badly. Oh dear, this isn't going especially well. Antiseptic wipe and plaster applied (see, I was prepared), it starts to rain. Good grief.

I take shelter under the capstone itself – it's possible to stand upright under it in places and despite the muddy puddle in the centre there are places to sit out of the rain. Sadly, there is a lot of rubbish strewn in here and on the mound. My equilibrium isn't quite right here, and after the rain stops and I've taken a few pictures, I decide to head off to St Lythans. I will be back here later anyway, hopefully for a longer stay.

After my first experience of the Heritage Trail, I decide to abandon the plan of following it to the next site and instead make for the nearby road along the permissive path. As others have noted, there are a number of very large slabs of the local mudstone that forms the Tinkinswood capstone tucked away in the trees and neighbouring paddock. I had read that the capstone itself was dragged from here and that a matching gap had been found amongst the trees.


I return on my way back from St Lythans. This time I approach along the permissive path rather than trying any footpaths.

Once again, rain is threatening. I have a few things to look for this time though. The plan of the monument from George Nash's excellent "The Architecture of Death" shows several intriguing rows of stones running N-S within the mound at its western end. I find the tops of a few of these, barely protruding. There is also a finely presented stone-lined pit cut into the top of the mound, next to a jumble of large blocks. The pit may be a cist from a secondary burial. The mound is neatly revetted by (restored) drystone walling, which rather oddly continues across the face of the blocking slab in the forecourt, leaving only a small portal that presumably was the original point of entry into the chamber itself.

This time, I go round and collect all the rubbish I can find, about half a carrier bag's worth of tealights, filter tips, drinks bottles, sweet wrappers and even the charred end of a fence-post. That done, I immediately feel much better about the place. Strangely perhaps, even the pylon has little effect on my mood here, it seems the litter was the more pressing intrusion. It's a shame to find such a magnificent site left in a state – the wags may keep "amending" the info board to show that the monument is "in the care of the Goddess", but if so she's not doing a right lot to look after the place.

The rain comes in, heavier this time. Once more I take shelter inside. There is often a comforting feeling in watching heavy rain fall when you're safely indoors and that feeling is very strong here, sitting under the protective capstone and watching the water lashing down and running off the stones. The chamber is a fascinating place to spend time. The inner faces of the stones, like those at St Lythans, have been worn smooth in many places. Whatever the purposes the chamber was used for in prehistory, it has certainly seen a lot of people coming and going over its vast timespan, rubbing the surfaces smooth. The rain retreats and advances again over the next two hours. A couple of people come and go, one dog walker stops to chat for a few minutes in between the showers. It is nice to spend this amount of time at a single site, something I rarely do on my trips out. I will definitely be back here again; it's a bit special.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
20th July 2011ce

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