Driving up from South to North Wales, the weather is so unfeasibly good (not just for September, but for any time in Wales) that I decide to do a wild overnight camp in the Cwmdeuddwr Hills en route. Well, it'd be rude not to, I suppose - not now that Nature's gone to all that trouble........
I take the minor road from Llanwrthwl, intending to revisit the large cairns upon 2,000ft Y Gamriw in clear weather, when another cairn - Carn-y-Geifr - catches my eye on the summit of Drum Ddu across the valley. Further investigation of the map reveals the Carnau Cefn-y-Fford conveniently placed on the ascent ridge. That's settled, then. Mustn't pass up the chance to open up new vistas and what-not. New cairns on the horizon.... Right on!
One car can just about be parked (without blocking the field access beyond) at the point where tarmac becomes stony bridleway, a short trudge down which brings the Carnau Cefn-y-Fford into view to the left. Veering onto boggy grass now, with a semblance of path, three cairns in varying degrees of preservation (one with a prominent orthostat) are passed before two biggies come into view either side of the approach. The landscape is wilderness personified, the high surrounding hills/mountains (the relative classification is academic in my view) benign in the sunshine, but lethal at any other time for the unwary walker and hiding untold bogs only discernible by the change in vegetation. For me, this is how prehistoric sites are meant to be experienced, with just the wind perhaps carrying the echoes of what once transpired here....... perhaps. The cairns and landscape merge into one - it seems to me the cairns ARE the landscape. Evocative beyond words.
I continue onwards and upwards roughly SE to the summit plateau of Drum Ddu to find a family group of three utterly dishevelled, yet beguiling, wild ponies eyeing me suspiciously from the Carn-y-Geifr, before coming over to check me out - perhaps sensing 'this one's not gonna cause us any issues'. The moment is worth the price of admission alone. If there was one, that is. Sad to relate, however, that the cairn, impressive from afar, has unfortunately been turned into sheep shelter, so some of the vibe is lost. The views, nevertheless, are awesome, the Y Gamriw cairns, in sharp profile upon their own ridge reminding the traveller how adept the Bronze Age people were at ritual theatre. Perhaps the individuals responsible can be regarded as that period's forerunners of a Shakespeare, manipulating their audiences for dramatic effect? In short, you have to have the right seats to be in on the party since Y Gamriw's massive cairns are not visible from below.
And Drum Ddu and its environs sit in the front row. In this weather, anyway.
From Llanwrthwl go south west, eventually the lane turns into a track and then becomes impassable so an uphill walk is required. When youve followed the path up to a sadlle in the hills , the hills rise up to the east and west, head east past the diminutive standing stone. Just past the menhir is the first out of at least five cairns, this one is the smallest. Head uphill on the rather vague path and then the two big ones come into view. They did have shelters built into them but I pushed them in (hope they wer'nt original features) Slightly down hill is a ring shaped cairn, but I doubt it is supposed to be so as it is now only a crescent of cairn material. Down hill and towards where the valley drops down is the last cairn I found,smaller than the last three but larger than the first, ( hope that makes sense) it had a stone standing up in the middle of it, probably put up by the shelter builders, its prostrate now.