The day had started off grey and full of drizzle, the drive down here had been one of concerned skyward glances, but there was no need, this isn't the north where it's purportedly "grim", this is the south, the deep south, almost as far south as you can go without going to England, and you don't want that.
The sun had shone all day long, which had gone a long way to salve my failed attempt at Paviland cave, but it had done nothing to boost my spirits after the abominable hedges of Samson's Jack, I decided that sunset at a burial chamber was what the day needed to finish it off.
Maen Ceti won out over the Swaynes Howe chambers, it's much less of a walk and with a teenager in tow who's moods swing further apart than heaven and hell, it was an easy decision, there's always tomorrow, after a zoo and the cave part two maybe.
I parked in the moonscape car park south of the big stone, some people were in front of us so we gave them a few minutes head start before starting our preamble across the moor, as per the new stone visiting rule book.
Standing beside the Maen Ceti is a belittling experience, it's like, really big, big enough to be mentioned in the same breath as Silbury and Stonehenge, but it was once bigger, in many pictures you can see the two large pieces that came off one side, when they broke off the whole rock lost its equilibrium and shifted slightly on it's orthostats. The orthostats number is nine and they section off the under side of the stone into two chambers, which is now partly exposed due to the broken capstone. Causes of the broken stone range from ice acting in a crack, lightning and struck by a saint with a sword, or all three.
Standing on top you can see the Great cairn.
The underside of the Arthur's stone usually has a puddle underneath it, it's usual enough for some to have called it a spring, doubtful as its all dry right now, so I squat like a frog and waddle round under it reveling in it's dryness.
The site was just as I remembered it, no smaller no bigger, it's the right colour and the right distance from the road, but what I couldn't appreciate from my other time here was the view to the sea west and north, it was all hidden by a thin mist, but its lovely and clear right now, which is nice, I wonder if it'll last til tomorrow.
It was the end of my day on the beautiful Gower peninsular and it was time to head on home. However, I couldn’t leave without taking the opportunity to visit the mighty Maen Ceti.
I parked in the very bumpy car park (had the place to myself) and headed towards the tomb which is just about visible from the parking area. The nearby Cairn is also visible from here. The sun was still shining in a lovely autumnal blue sky with only white fluffy clouds for company.
It is only a short walk but a cold breeze made me do my jacket up. The last time I visited the path was quite bogy with large puddles to negotiate. No such problems this time although it seems the resident cattle and horses favour the path as their chosen site for emptying their bowels.
I wouldn’t have minded but I didn’t have my bag and shovel with me in order to take advantage of their generosity!
As I approached Maen Ceti I was taken aback by just how massive the capstone is. It was larger than I had remembered - it really is huge. There are many large stones scattered both around the tomb and under the capstone. I noticed that the ground under the capstone was covered in a large puddle.
There are fine views to be had from Maen Ceti and if you ever have the good fortune to visit the Gower be sure to visit.
This is a ‘must see’ site for anyone who is even remotely interested in our prehistoric past. This is one of those sites that never fails to impress – regardless of how many times you visit.
Saturday 20th October 2012
Starting from Penmaen, three miles along the Gower Way - the walk along the top of Cefn Bryn made the visit to this astonishing site all the more memorable. It was a beautiful mid October morning - the sea visible on both sides. So much to see and enjoy, not least the free range Welsh ponies which galloped across the brown bracken.
Maen Ceti is astonishing - a massive capstone standing on several small stone 'legs' with a scatter of smaller stones around. The legs stand in water and the surrounding ground is boggy in places - I believe there are a few springs nearby. Close by too, is a large stone cairn (which felt related).
There is a large (but bumpy) parking area next to the main road. Maen Ceti is easily seen in the distance and can be reached by a 15 minute fairly flat walk. The cap stone is HUGE - as are the views across the Gower. Plenty of people about although this didn't detract from my visit.
The site is found up on high open moorland with amazing views back over to Llanelli to the north. The moor was crawling with shaggy frozen ponies. As you approach it you can see it's big but then - woooo!!! This is so much bigger and more impressive than I had ever imagined up close. The capstone is less of a cap and more of a mighty concrete helmet – perhaps weighing 40 or 50 tons (I kid you not!) - supported by really small uprights which look as if they have been driven into the earth under the vast weight of the elephantine lump above. The whole construction sits in a concave rubble cairn, so it's easy to imagine the original size of this place.
As we drove around, we kept getting sights of the monument perched up there on that chilly heath from miles away.
This post appears as part of the weblog entry Gower power
Working in Swansea, I took the team out to Arthurs Stone to show them what real entertainment was. The parked camper hid the stone so we headed for the triangulation point before we saw it and then headed across the bog. OK so they sank a bit. It didn't warrant all that moaning. Anyway this was a great site. It's one big stone. The views are stunning and the sun was about an hour off setting between the two hills to west. Couldn't convince team to stay and watch. The lure of pubs and expenses was too strong. I'll have to come back another night
Returned to 'the stone' as we locals call it. Now the foot & mouth verboten signs have gone, I realised how much I missed the freedom to be there! Has anyone else noticed - it takes minutes to reach the stone from roadside, yet it seems to take aeons to return! Aaaaaah - it's a NICE kinda hurt!!! Incidentally I notice that Arthur's Stone and Maen Cetti are listed separately - is there a reason for this - I'd always been told the stone and Maen Cetti are but two names for the same stone...(Gower)...or is there another Arthur's Stone in S. Wales? Love to you all, M'lass of Crofty haha.
There seem to be a lot of water in the vicinity, what with the water under the stone being 'seldom dry', and the same book mentions springs dedicated to St. George and the Blessed Virgin in nearby Reynoldston. This is something about the holy well just to the south of Maen Ceti.
There is also on Cefn y Brynn a remarkable Well, called Holy Well, a very copious Spring, which has the remains of Antiquity about its square Inclosure: Tradition hands down its celebrity for great cures, and it has been customary for the adjacent Neighbourhood to resort to it on Sunday Evenings to drink its water, and pay the tribute of throwing in a pin.
King Arthur's Cromlech, or as it is usually called, King Arthur's stone, stands on a high and bleak hill..
..Some authors who have described this Cromlech, say it has but eight columns: but Pedestres examined the whole very minutely, and on getting under it, he discovered that on the east side, there are two blocks of stone placed close together, thereby making nine, out of what had been noticed as only eight....
...We are told that a spring of clear water rises from beneath it, known by the name of Our Lady's Well.. .. there was not one drop however there at six o'clock P.M. on the 11th of June, 1833.. [he thought] he might discover an indication by grubbing downwards a little among the bones of mother Earth. But no:- it was all dry. He then looked at the sea - he cast his eye towards the mouth of the river, and the line of coast: - the tide was out.*..
..It is called the Stone of Sketty:-- and "like the work of the Stone of Sketty," has passed into a Welsh proverb to express an undertaking of vast difficulty.
p349-351 of 'A Pedestrian Tour of Thirteen Hundred and Forty-seven Miles Through Wales and England', by (a bit of a card,) Pedestres (1836, v1). You can read his witticisms online at Google Books.
Chris Barber in his 1986 'More Mysterious Wales' has the Welsh version: "Mal gwaith Maen Cetti' - like the labour of the stone of Cetti.
*this refers to the folklore mentioned below, of the tide and spring being sychronised.
Maen Cetti, on Cevn-y-bryn, in Gower, was, says ancient tradition, adored by the pagans; but Saint David split it with a sword, in proof that it was not sacred; and he commanded a well to spring from under it, which flowed accordingly. After this event, those who previously were infidels, became converted to the Christian faith. There is a church in the vicinity, called Llanddewi, where it is said that St. David was the rector, before he became consecrated a bishop; and it is the oldest church in Gower.
From 'Iolo Manuscripts: A Selection of Ancient Welsh Manuscripts, in Prose and Verse' by Taliesin Williams and completed by Rev. Thomas Price (1848).
A species of divination is still practised at Arthurstone, by the neighbouring rustic maidens, who have little idea that they are perpetuating (perverted indeed in its object,) the rites of Druidism and the mysteries of Eleusis in their propitiatory offering. At midnight of the full moon, if a maiden deposit in the sacred well beneath, a cake of milk, honey, and barley meal, and then on hands and knees crawl three times round the cromlech, she will see, if "fancy free," the vision of her future lord; if her affections are engaged, the form of the favoured youth will stand before her, fearfully bound to answer truly her questions as to his sincerity.
. An early version of the folklore mentioned below. It's got to be worth a try.
Tales of the Cymry: with notes illustrative and explanatory
By James Motley
.. I found some five years ago that there were [magical rites] connected with Arthur's Stone (Gower), though denied by my informant. But she "did hear that gels went and walked round it to see their sweethearts - a long time ago - and if they didn't see him they took off their shawls and went on their hands and knees - nobody is so fulish now." This from a young girl at Port Eynon.
Oh right. Just their shawls then is it. From p339 in 'A Fisher-Story and Other Notes from South Wales' by E. Sidney Hartland and T. H. Thomas, in Folklore, Vol. 16, No. 3. (Sep. 29, 1905).
From 'Rude Stone Monuments in all Countries - their age and uses' by James Fergusson, 1872.
I think all antiquarians will agree with Sir Gardner Wilkinson in assuming that this is the stone of Cetti mentioned in the Welsh Triads... the 88th* Triad speaks of the three mightly achievements of the Isle of Britain; the raising of the stone of Cetti, the building of the work of Emmrys, and the heaping of the pile of Cyvragnon.
A very short distance away at SS497899 there is a holy well. According to Marie Trevelyan's "Folk-lore and folk-stories of Wales" (1909) it is "a spring which is said to flow with the ebb and flow of the tide. It is called Ffyn[n]on Fair, or Our Lady's Well. The water therefrom was lifted in the palm of the hand while the person who drank it wished."
The site is not miles from the sea in any direction, as it is on the Gower peninsular, but it's still hardly close, so its alleged ebb and flow would make it rather special.
I have later found out that Camden mentioned this in his 'Britannica':
They are to be seen upon a jutting at the north west of Cefn Bryn, the most noted hill in Gower; their fashion and posture is this, There is a vast unwrought stone, probably about 20 tons weight, supported by six or seven others that are not above four feet high, and these are set in a circle, some on one end, and some edgewise or sidelong, to bear the great one up. The great one is much diminished of what ithas been in bulk, as having five tons or more by report, broke off it to make millstones, so that I guess the stone originally to have been between twenty-five and thrity tons in weight.
The common people call it Arthur's Stone; under it is a well, which, as the neighbours tell me, has a flux and reflux with the sea."
Could it be true about the millstones? Or would it be unnecessary bother?
When we visited this burial chamber we took a bus from Swansea to Reynoldston village (just down Road). Anyway talking to the driver he said that people have called it Arthur's Stone mistakenly. Apparantley it used to be known as the 'Arth' Stone, 'arth' meaning 'bear' in Welsh. He also said that the chamber has an allignment with the great bear constellation and this is the reason for the name.
I do not know if it is alligned to the great bear or not but it would be interseting to find out. It is intresting that the burial chamber is kind of 'bear' like. It has a massive cap stone like a big body with these small stumpy legs!
Ashe [quoted in Grooms, 1993, p.115] writes that 'Legend has it that when Arthur was walking through Carmarthenshire on his way to Camlann, he felt a pebble in his shoe and tossed it away. It flew seven miles over Burry Inlet and landed in Gower, on top of the smaller stones of Maen Cetti.'
At midnight, when the moon was full, young maidens would test the fidelity of the men they loved by offering the stone a cake baked from Barley meal and honey wetted with milk. They would then circle the stone three times on their hands and knees, knowing that if their man appeared before they finished their final circuit he would make a faithful husband.
The famous Druidical Monument, called Arthur's Stone, mentioned by Camden, is in this Parish, and is situate on the North side of Cefn y Brynn: it is supported by six rough Pillars; there are four other Pillars standing alone, which supported a part of the Stone, now broken off, by what means, unknown, though it is said that it was broken off for the purpose of making Mill-stones, but was afterwards found unfit for the intention: several smaller pieces have from time to time been broken off, chiefly through mere wickedness, so that it is much decreased in size; it is supposed to weigh now about Twenty Tons, and to have been brought from a distance, as it is of a different quality to the Stone found upon the Hill: underneath it is a Spring of water, seldom dry. A great quantity of loose stones, thrown there by the Country people, served to hide some part of the Pillars, but were cleared away at the expense of Mr. Lucas.
On the summit of Cevn Bryn is a large cromlech, called Arthur's Stone, a vestige of Druidical antiquity, which Camden and other writers describe as being composed of a different species of stone from any found in this part of the country : this, however, appears to be erroneous, as it is the common pudding-stone, or millstone grit, of the country; and, within the recollection of persons still living, a huge fragment, which had been broken off with great labour, by means of wedges, and intended for a millstone, was found totally unfit for that purpose, from the cavities left in the surface by the falling out of the pebbles of which it consisted. The principal, or covering stone, is eleven feet in length and six feet and a half in its greatest breadth : it rests on twelve supporters, for fixing which the earth appears to have been excavated, and by the side of the cromlech lies the mass above noticed. A supposed miraculous well beneath this monument, which was said to ebb and flow with the sea, appears to be nothing more than a collection of water, after heavy rains, in the cavity formed for the insertion of the supporters, which fluctuates according to the weather, and which, as attested by intelligent persons residing near the spot, is frequently dry in hot summers. This cromlech is supposed to be alluded to in the historical triads of Wales, as one of the three Herculean labours. There are several mineral springs in the parish, to which medicinal properties are ascribed : of these, the most celebrated is Holy Well, on Cevn y Bryn mountain, to which, in former times, miraculous efficacy was attributed : it was generally frequented on Sunday evenings during the summer season by numbers of persons, who drank the water, and, according to an ancient custom, threw in a pin as a tribute of their gratitude.