The common is easy to find although if you do have a problem just ask a local! Plenty of places to park and I was surprised how pleasant the common was for a walk. Lots of 'modern' standing stones about - circles / avenues etc. Somehow it seemed a strange place to find these recreations. All in all a nice place to visit. Don't forget to look for the cist (Coed-Pen-Maen) when visiting - not easy but worth the search.
What a strange place! In a wonderful position on common land near Pontypridd hospital are some natural rocky outcrops, one of which is known as the Pontypridd rocking stone. It is very large – about 5 and half feet tall and round, roughly in two pieces like a cottage loaf. I gave it a push. It doesn't rock. In recent times a very nice small stone circle has been built round it. The whole place seems rather peculiar though.
On parking the car nearby these stones some kids were sitting on another large stone and I asked if they knew where the Rocking Stones were. One kid, about 10, said he'd take us to them. His friend asked what the big deal was to which our guide said "they're really cool and everyone wants to take pictures of them". His friend said they're not cool and stayed on his own stone. The first kid was right, the stones are cool and I took pictures. It seems that these stones are a place to hang-out too because they are covered in carved grafitti.
Apparently all of the stone configurations in the fields around are modern and this area does seem to be where modern antiquarians go to make their circles and alignments. I even found what looked like a modern-day version of a burial chamber construction close by (albeit a tiny chamber).
Had reservations about this site, not least because the stone circle around the Rocking Stone itself is relatively young - 100yrs old or so. Nonetheless, it was on the route home from Tinkinswood and St. Lythans.
After some madness driving round Pont-y-Pridd itself, we finally made it up to the steep hillside park where the stone lives. One advantage was the glorious June weather, but as we approached the stone, I did feel it looked a little like a modern sculpture park installation.
Our mood wasn't heightened by finding the whole site littered with fag ends, fag boxes, crisp packets, and most ignobly, a pair of cola cans jammed in the crevice of the 'rocking' part. Helpfully, however, some oik had left a plastic bag lying in the grass, so swift housekeeping soon had the energy more upbeat. The other thing to go upbeat was my blood pressure when I spotted a litter bin only 20 feet away, directly opposite the stone. Small wonder this country has a problem with obesity; everyone stuffs their faces, but can't be bothered to get any exercise by walking to the bin. However, I digress.
I liked the Rocking Stone greatly, and it felt wonderful to lay one's hands on it's smooth, dark, curvaceous sun-baked surface. Very calming and centering. As other contributors have noted, all the graffiti scratched into the top was none too pleasant, but that was soon lost in the energy flowing from the stone. We tarried awhile in the sunshine, taking photos, and came home pleased that we had gone there after all; it holds it's own, despite all the ignomies surrounding it - kind of reassuring, really.
I was lucky enough to witness a Pagan handfasting within the circle when i was at the Uni of Glamorgan across the valley. It was a full moon and the skies were clear (a rare treat around Ponty) with much wine, cider and merryment.
The rocking stone does indeed still rock, although you have to stand on top and bob up and down to make it happen. The stone is heavily carved with initials and names. The bench I'm sat on has a plaque in front of it quoting from the Book of Psalms saying how great the Christian God is.
The 'fine rushing stream' of the Modern Antiquarian's gazeteer is now some slightly damp rock, but the poetic power and pagan significance of the presence of a stream next to such a remarkable stone that looks out over a place where two rivers meet and valleys run off in four directions is great. It is not difficult to mentally erase the dual carriageway whoosing below and the town and see the tremendous natural magificence of this place.
And there's more to this place than the Rocking Stone. Pontypridd Common, which the stone is on, has numerous stones the same kind of size, shape and colour as the rocking stone, huge table/altar-like boulders that really draw the eye and grab the imagination.
Some 200 metres away, following the path northwards along the edge of the hillside towards an obelisk monument, you come to a football pitch sized area of mown grass. Just at the start of this on your right is a stone circle about 15 metres across. When this dates from I've no idea; circles are still being built in Wales, and indeed there's a recent one around the rocking stone. But the stones at this circle feel somewhat older; there are stones missing, and lichens growing on those that remain. They stand only half way up my shin at the largest, and several look broken off.
In the centre is an open cist about a metre deep and two metres long. It's slightly tapered to the south, with a rounded boulder at the north end of pinkish grey granite-type stone.
This doesn't feel like a recent thing to me; recent stone circles are in good condition, and wouldn't be made with missing stones, damaged stones and an opened cist. In fact although I know of many modern stone circles, I've never heard of anyone making a small simple cist. This place doesn't have enough posing to it to be really modern. Anyone know any facts about this circle?
I visited this site shortly after purchasing TMA and I really loved the site. The valley itself is quite beautiful to look at from up here, except for some noise pollution from below the site. The stones themselves are fanastic. The central rocking stone itself, however, has carved names and words on the top, which was saddening. Walking along the "serpent" (a collection of snake-shaped stones forming a pathway to the main circle) I came across the eyes of the serpent, one of which was sadly graffitied with C18 slogans, this was really upsetting so I walked back along to the other side of the serpent to find a Christian prayer on a plague by the stones, I wished they had not put there, since its a Heathen temple. A man strongly connected to the building of the later stones was Dr. William Price, a man I really recommend to anyone exploring our religious roots. All in all, it is a nice place, I recommend it. I just wished they had not desercrated it so.
The picture in TMA gives a great impression of this site - all realistic looking modern stones and the giant rocking stone bang in the middle. When we visited, it was the usual valleys weather, with low cloud, drizzle, fog, etc. This seemed to concentrate the view down the Taff valley as the hills were obscured. Another treat is a small ring and cist about 200 yards west of the rocking stone on the common, just follow the path. The small stones enclose an area of about 20 feet diameter, with a well defined stone cist in the centre. Quite well preserved, even if small kids do use the cist as a hidey-hole. Worth a visit. Just as an aside - I was at the Poly of Wales for 4 years just over the valley and never knew this existed !!
I used to play on this when I was a younger. I went back there recently to visit family and friends (My old computer teacher lives over the road from the stone). The stone doesn't appear to rock like it used to - you had to stand on it with your feet in just the right place to get it to move. Still, it is (on a nice day) a lovely place to look up and down the valley - not the prettiest place in the world, but a place I used to call home and as such makes me feel at peace.
The stone here represented, known in Welsh as, Y Maen Chwyf, (the Rocking Stone) is situated on the western brink of a ill, called Coed-pen-maen, in the parish of Eglwysilan, Glamorganshire, above the turnpike-road from Merthyr to Cardiff, and nearly equidistant from both towns. From this spot may be seen the celebrated onne-arched bridge over the Taff, near Newbridge, and fine views of several ramifications of the neighbouring hills and valleys. [..] The name of the hill, Coed-pen-maen, (viz. the Wood of the Stone Summit) is doubtless, derived from this stone [..]
A moderate application of strength will give it considerable motion, which may be easily continued with one hand. The under-side slopes around towards the centre, or pivot, and it stands nearly in equilibrium on a rock beneath, the circumstance which imparts to it its facility of motion.
The prevalent opinion of the surrounding inhabitants respecting this ancient stone is, that the Druids imposed on the credulity of the country by pretending to work miracles from it, and that they offered human sacrifices thereon; vulgar errors that are not sustained by the most distant allusion of the primitive British bards and historians.
Found the following verse sometime back and wrote about it, Iolo Morgannwg was obviously an interesting character but fought shy of truthfulness....
As the sun, so shy, speeds on to hide behind the western hills
I stand within this
Ancient circle with its rugged stones
Pointing to the sky
Like the digits on the clock of time -
The time that has refused to move,
As if the keeper of this heather hearth has gone to bed
Remembering not to lift
The fallen weights of Time and Space.
The first verse of one of Iolo Morgannwg’s poem, some would call him a fantasist who created an idea or vision of a Celtic Druidic order in the 18th century.
His first meeting of the bards was on Primrose Hill in London, where he had erected twelve stones called the Great Circle and a central altar stone known as the Maen Llog, this was in 1792. It is said of Iolo that he constructed an “elaborate mystical philosophy which he claimed represented a direct continuation of ancient Druidic practice. His use of laudanum may have contributed to this fabrication, though many of his writings fall between a small truth and a large imaginative myth that he wrote!
In 1795, a gorsedd meeting took place at the Pontypridd Rocking Stone, near Eglwysilam in Glamorgan. This was a huge slab of natural slate stone (the Maen Chwyf), and this stone became a meeting place, though the circles were yet to be put up.
The word gorsedd, which in Welsh means throne, but is also loosely used as a coming together of bards. Julian Cope in his book The Modern Antiquarian says of this rocking stone ‘that it stands high on the ground overlooking the confluence of the two great sacred rivers Rhodda and Taff,’ and that this gorsedd stone must have had great significance in prehistoric times. The stone is surrounded by two circles plus an avenue but the circles are not prehistoric, and it now sits in a pleasant landscape next to a small cottage hospital.
An insight into what those Victorian druids got up to, courtesy of Wirt Sikes:
Midsummer Eve, or St. John's Eve (June 23rd) is one of the ancient Druidic festivals, still liberally honoured in Wales. The custom of lighting bonfires survives in some of the villages, and at Pontypridd there are ceremonies of a solemn sort.
Midsummer Eve, in 1878, fell on a Sunday. Upon that day the 'Druids and bards' at Pontypridd held the usual feast of the summer solstice in the face of the sun. There is a breezy common on the top of a high hill overlooking the town, where stand a logan stone and a circle of upright stones constituting the 'temple of the Druids'. Here it is the custom of the present-day adherents of that ancient religion, beside which Christianity is an infant, to celebrate their rites 'within the folds of the serpent,' a circle marked with the signs of the zodiac.
The venerable archdruid, Myfyr Morganwg, stands on the logan stone, with a mistletoe sprig in his button-hole, and prays to the god Kali, 'creator of sun, moon, stars and universe'. Then the white-bearded old man delivers a discourse, and new members are initiated into the 'mysteries'. Occasionally these new members are Americans from over the sea, and they include both sexes.
Large crowds gather to witness the impressive spectacle - a shadow of the ancient rites when from Belenian heights flamed high the sacrificial fires. It was a former belief that these fires protected the lands within their light from the machinations of sorcery, so that good crops would follow, and that their ashes were valuable as a medicinal charm.