As I make the Fan Dringarth ridge, the thick grey cloud is now right over my head and the temperature drops as I walk into an increasingly strong wind. Here I meet a group of three walkers, the only other people I will see on the whole of the walk today. At length the summit of Fan Llia comes into view ahead, a straightforward plod to the top. The summit itself, at 632m OD, turns out to be marked only with the concrete base of an otherwise vanished trig pillar, but enjoys very decent views of the surrounding peaks. The cairn is further south, off the very highest point but still on the summit ridge. Unfortunately, as I get to within 100 yards of the cairn, it starts to hail, the wind blasting the icy bullets straight into my face. Not the nicest way to make your first site of the day!
Even less nice is the poor treatment that has been inflicted on the cairn itself. There is the usual turfed footprint of a large cairn, boasting excellent views to the south that are lacking from the summit and emphasise the obvious reasons for its positioning at the end of the ridge. Sadly, the mound itself has been badly “altered” by walkers. The stones are flat slabs of sandstone, heaped up into a somewhat shapeless pile. Other, larger slabs have been leant and propped up around the perimeter, giving the whole thing the air of half-built neglect. It’s difficult to respond to such a wilful lack of respect with anything but anger.
All that said, the setting is terrific, even the ongoing hail doesn’t detract on that score, although it doesn’t help photography much! It’s too cold and windswept to linger here for long, body temperature quickly dropping when not I’m moving. Besides which, it looks like a cruel up-and-down to get from here to Fan Nedd, the next summit on my route and so I head westwards off the top, not following any particular path but making generally towards the visible block of Maen Llia far below me. Needless to say, the hail stops within a minute of leaving the cairn.
Dominating the eastern side of Fforest Fawr's Llia Valley, home of the superb Maen Llia standing stone, Fan Llia is a big, stranded whale of a mountain, its flanks eroded by a myriad water gullies. Yes, it rains a lot....
Few people come here, save the occasional die-hard walker or SAS man on exercise. Fewer still come to hang out - in sub-zero temperatures - at the remains of a Bronze Age burial cairn in order to escape for a while from Christmas 'festivities' .. but it takes all sorts, I suppose.
Coflein says "A robbed round cairn located on Fan Llia, on the crest of a ridge, close to a point where the ground begins to fall away steeply to the S. It measures 11.3m in diameter and stands to a height of 0.5m. It is composed of consolidated stones and is surmounted by a small modern cairn of loose rubble".
The distinctive, decapitated summits of the Brecon Beacons rise beyond Fan Fawr to the east, these also crowned by Bronze Age burials. In fact, come to think of it, the Welsh uplands are, in many ways, one huge prehistoric monument. Right on!
Fan Llia is most easily climbed from the local picnic area to the south.
Coflein's description has been updated (24 November 2009) and reflects the poor treatment the barrow is receiving from idiot walkers, which is still ongoing:
The cairn appears to have undergone some attrition by the time it was revisited in November 2009. It now measures 8m (N-S) by 7m and 0.3m high. The modern cairn, which lies just north of centre, is very prominent, layered in coursed stones (presumably taken from the site), but is crumbling on its north and south sides.