Mr Bickerton's been eulogising about the merits of this obscure site for a couple of years now.... however since my visits to Gwynedd are - at best - an annual occurrence nowadays, it's taken a while to discover what all the fuss is about. But there you. Better late than never.
'Ye Old Bull Inn' is a conspicuously attractive landmark (purely from an aesthetic viewpoint, of course) for travellers heading north through Tal-y-Bont, minor roads accessing Llyn Eigiau and Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen exiting the B5106 to left and right of the building respectively. I select the former, the gravity-defying tarmac climbing steeply away from the fertile Dyffryn Conwy in such a manner as to provide a serious, if not insurmountable challenge to a front wheel drive vehicle under icy conditions. However just the ubiquitous Snowdonian rain to contend with today. So, ignoring a left hand fork heading toward the Coedty Reservoir (incidentally take this to visit Cae Du) I pause above the farm of Rowlyn Isaf to concurrently negotiate a gate and allow the (presumed) owner to overtake and go about his business unimpeded by such as I. Yeah, some people have work to do. Anyway, a little beyond the final gate prior to the more-or-less straight approach to the Llyn Eigiau parking area it is (fortunately) possible to leave a car near a couple of prominent ladder stiles.
Back at the aforementioned gate, this traveller, shorn of protective steel carapace, now subject to all the vagaries of the inclement weather, a substantial drystone wall makes a reasonable enough job of emphasising the contours of the hillside falling away toward the swollen Afon Dulyn. That'll be the way to go, then. The river, sourced within the Dulyn Reservoir cradled beneath the forbiddingly craggy eastern flank of Foel Grach, presents a pretty significant barrier to further progress. Once across (dryshod, although I'm not so competent upon the return!) I continue, uphill now, shadowing the boundary line until a lateral wall (with stile) passively announces I'm but a short distance south of the Hafodygors Wen Cairn II. Unfortunately there is very little to report of the latter, the cairn all but destroyed, its material returned to the landscape to 'go 'round again'. Or something like that.
But what of the celebrated ring cairn? As the previous posts make clear, the massive erratic boulder is the key to its successful location. The monument is set a short distance south (that is toward the river) so even the likes of myself couldn't fail. The position, overlooking the Afon Dulyn, is excellent, in a rather brutal 'upland' sort of way. A quartet of significant orthostats stand within/upon (I'm not sure which) a reasonably well defined ring cairn, such definition no doubt enhanced by Chris's previous gardening exploits. Well done that man. Although a few Bellis perennis wouldn't have gone amiss. The high peaks of Y Carneddau, their summits truncated by an all encompassing mass of grey vapour long since past critical saturation point, provide a suitably brooding backdrop to the west and south-west, the latter, enlivened by the shattered rock of Craig Eigiau, arguably the most enigmatic. Despite the rain - or perhaps even more so because of it? - this is a place to sit and ponder, to think about stuff. Yeah, whatever comes into the head. The profound, the base... the focussed, the incoherent. Random thought... it's all good. Although unfortunately I guess it's advisable to retain some exclusively within my head nowadays. My 'mind palace', as Benedict Cumberbatch might say, albeit one with a bit of a leaky roof, needing renovation.
Speaking of thought .... just what were the architects of this idiosyncratic monument thinking when they erected it all those millennia ago? Is it a unique North Walian 'four poster?' Sure it looks like one. However to be honest I'm not completely convinced owing to the placement of the stones relative to the assumed arc of the stone circle's circumference. Somehow the angles don't seem right for just the four stones? Having said that, I've not had the pleasure of seeing much more than a half dozen of the type, so happy to defer to those that have. Whatever the truth this is, regardless, a wondrous monument set within classic upland scenery and blessed with that most precious attribute of all. Vibe, atmosphere.
It was most definitely getting light now, I donned my waterproof lower half, it was not going to rain but dew is a soaker and there's that river to cross as well, then I was off down the hill towards one of my most favorite of places Hafodygors wen. A northern four poster with a ring cairn around it. I've already removed one small Gorse bush, and almost all of another, it was time to finish the job and catch the place in its best light, sun rise.
The brown patch where I removed the first bush has now almost completely grassed over, but the fingers of the bigger bush have started to regrow, bloody Gorse. I unpack my secret weapon, a flick saw, like a flick knife but a saw, ten minutes in and the sun comes up.
I know from copious map staring and Google earthing that the hill known as Waen Bryn-Gwenith http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/12542/waen_bryngwenith_stone_ii.html is directly east of Hafodygors wen, therefore in line with an equinox sunrise, the big stone right on it's summit is very visible from almost everywhere round here, and if that wasn't enough, fifty yards down hill from it is a probable collapsed dolmen http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/12543/waen_bryngwenith_stone_i.html , A good place for the sun to rise on such an auspicious morning, and the perfect place to see it from.
The sun shone full and bright as it came up over the hill, if it was a more flatter place it would have been a big orange ball, but from here the sun has more chance to accrue it's brilliance. And it was brilliant. The sun seemed to be coming up over the dolmen rather than the big stone, cant be a coincidence surely, two other hill tops near here have big stones on there summits dissuading me of a solar alignment. Behind me the sun light slowly moved down off the mountains and creeped down the hill side to my little stone circle, and bathed us in light. I tried to capture the moment on camera but it never sees the same as me. I renewed my attack on the Gorse remnants till it was all but gone, a small hard knot of root was clutching strongly to some cairn material so I cut it back some but ended up having to leave it as I don't want to damage the stones in any way, hopefully, I killed it, horrendous, I know and I feel badly for it, but each thing has it's place, and seeing as only two people have ever been here, Ive decided that I am the one who decides what goes where. This time next year it will all be grassed over and all will be well for this strange little beauty, if only it was a bit easier to get to, it might get more visitors.
But, that's not all folks. First I head over to the other very nearby cairn, it is just a bump now, but I decide to take a closer look any way. Nothing much to see at all really, but interestingly the big stack of rocks is half way between cairn 1 and 2. I return to the four poster and make ready to walk about. I remember Coflein saying something about a hut circle round here somewhere, I follow the river, with a vague memory that its near to it. I didn't find it first time I came here, but I did this time. A large ring of small stones, on a slightly higher than the ground platform, two small wind shelters/sheep pens ??? have been formed from the stones. Not a particularly inspiring ancient monument, but it's position is in a gorgeous setting, rushing river below, more recent ruined building across the river and every where trees, ferns and mosses, with mountains never far from view.
This is, I feel one of the most underrated, under visited and one of the most interesting and important sites in North Wales. As Bladup pointed out it is almost a carbon copy of Fontburn four poster in Northumberland http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/6354/fontburn_dod_wood.html
and I wholly agree. But from my first visit I decided that it was unfair to have gorse bushes molesting and hiding two of the four stones, so last time I came I took it on as my duty to remove one of the gorse bushes as best as I could. That was almost six months ago, and I wanted to see what it looked like now, so armed with my trusty shears I stumbled and staggered back to the four poster, as my last visit of the day. My camera had run out of batteries, this can happen after ten hours of photography, and 639 photos, but I took it anyway just in case it let me have a few more pictures, it did, but only five, then that was it.
Some small patches of grass have started to regrow in the brown patch left by my handy work six months ago, and it looked like someone had already made a start on the other bigger gorse bush, unless that was also me getting a head start last time. So I laid into it with more gusto than someone whose been up for over thirty hours should have, at the time I felt no pain or fatigue, but the day after I ached in places that don't ever get used, and still hurt now three days later. But in the end the bush was gone, it looks a bit of a mess, so i'll go back in the autumn to tidy up and finish off. Then in a couple of years I'm sure people will be coming from far and wide to see the only four poster stone circle in North Wales, and will have no idea the toil involved by a single person unknown. Clandestine gardener, that's me.
After a fair soaking at Gwern Gof Isaf hut circle near tryfan, I was not quite reluctant to get back out of the warm car, but the idea of waiting for a dryer day had occurred to me that's for sure. But that's not the postal way, I opted for walking boots (that are still waterproof) instead of wellies, picked up the shears and strode of into the misty wilderness.
I parked by the cattle grid this time and followed the wall down to the river which had more water in it than the first time I came, I was almost certainly going to slip off a rock and get wet., well, wetter than normal, but I made it across, grumbling but no wetter than when I started. From the other side of the river it's just a case of finding the big rock and the four poster is about 50yards away. River crossing aside no problem.
You may have noted that I was carrying shears with me, my first visit had been somewhat frustrated by two inappropriately placed gorse bushes, they are right on the cairn itself and half obscure two of the four stones.
The smaller of the two bushes had all but died and the entire plant was removed easily in less than half an hour. I hasten to add that absolutely no damage occurred to the structure of the cairn or to the stone. The ground isn't too pretty where the bush was , but I'm sure that a good summer will green right over the brown patch.
It's not like anyone but me ever goes there, If you feel like complaining feel free, (I may have a go at the other gorse bush if no-one does) but I feel the site is better off for having me as a friend, and now the only four poster in North Wales has 50 % less gorse coverage and will soon look the better for it.
I felt this trip was a going to be a bit special just six miles into it when we had a close encounter with a barn owl of which Iv'e seen maybe a dozen all of them at or going to or from the stones. Then the police closed the road and we had to detour half an hour out of our way.
Almost there the road goes crazy steep and hairpinny, Eric near wet himself and scolded me for going too fast.
We parked at the footpath sign and I squeezed effortlessly into the one car parking place, there is a carpark further along but it gets so full theres no room to turn around.
We crossed the stile and headed off into the wilds, the first thing you notice about the area is its jaw dropping beauty, I dont know if it was the early morning light shining on the colours of Autumn or the buzz of exploration but I didnt even see the second thing you notice and thats how quickly your feet and lower legs get wet, being a stoopid 'uman that usually narks me off, but not today, this is better than perfect.
On the south side off the Afon Dulyn are lots of rocky outcrops, hiding amongst them are the ruins of inhabitants past, from here across the river the land rises slowly untill it aburptly goes up climbing into a mountain. boulders share the hillside with spikey gorse and it is here that Hafodygors wen hides, the only clue to its location is a nearby rock the biggest on this side of the river, the ring cairn is fifty yards south.
I almost couldnt beleive it when I read Cofleins discription of it, the words that most jumped out from the page are Scottish four poster, and that is what it looks like. Four large stones much akin to the Goatstones are surrounded by and partly in a low ring of cairn material, it looks like any four poster ive been to only with a ring cairn.
Over the mountain is circle 275 a five stone ring of Irish origin why not have a circle of Scottish origin, we already have the Radnor four stones, so I dont see much reason why it cant be. My only problem is this what are the chances of finding something like this whilst doggedly clicking on blue spots on the coflein map, surely there must have been more stones in the ring and these are the last four left, but you never know.
Its appearance is inescapeable, if it waddles, quacks and looks like a duck...........