As Karen is now within a couple of weeks of having the baby I promised I would only have a 'short day' out and be back by noon, so it's up early and heading north to the Brecon Beacons National Park while it's still quite dark. Fortunately I had timed it right and by the time I park it is light and sunny.
Directions: Taking the A4059 north east out of Penderyn you soon arrive on the open moorlands of the Beacons. On your right the first disused quarry you come to is sign posted Cefn Cadlan Quarry (has a metal barrier across the entrance) This is NOT the quarry you need. Instead, keep on the road and in a mile or two you come to another locked metal barrier, also on your right but without a sign post – park here. (It's just before the sign stating POWYS)
If you walk around the barrier and walk up the old track to the quarry you get an excellent 'birds eye' view of the cairns across the road. Looking like small grey islands in a sea of yellow/green grass. Very easy to spot.
Warning – you will need wellies to visit to the cairns if my experience is anything to go by! When you cross the road the land dips down and becomes little more than a marsh, with places several inches under water. The first cairn I came to was the one on its own, a little south west of the main group. The cairn was about 0.5 metres high and about 5 metres in diameter -well preserved with no grass/vegetation growing over it. A two minute walk then takes you to the main group of cairns, all ranging from 0.5 meters to 1 metre high and between 3 and 5 metres in diameter. Although one or two were in poor condition, most were well preserved.
I really liked it here and am surprised that these cairns are not better known. It was a wrench to leave and I would like to visit again one day in the future when I have more time to sit and contemplate. It is quite a striking setting, on flat moorland between two hills with view north to the higher peaks of the Brecon Beacons.
The cairns are only a 10 minute squelch from the road and some of them can actually be seen from the road once you know where to look.
All in all a cracking place to visit and well worth the effort; but remember – bring your wellies!
Further north along the A4059 (on the right hand side) the O/S map shows a 'burnt mound'. If you wish to visit, there is a small parking area opposite. You will see a small pretty stream opposite the parking area. Follow the stream (down stream) and you will come to a point where the stream bends sharply. This is where the burnt mound can be found. Not worth the effort really although it was a pleasant walk alongside the stream.
Now I've been intrigued about what may lie upon this stretch of bleak, high moorland for some time now. Don't get me wrong, even my pigeon Welsh - not to mention map reading skills (ahem) - made it plain that there were cairns here. But, as any seasoned TMA'er will know, there are 'cairns', and then there are proper, Bronze Age cairns worth seriously checking out.
Anyway, I'm down to spend a few days with the Mam Cymru during a period of atrocious weather.... even for South Wales, which is saying something. Torrential rain, swollen rivers threatening to burst their banks, and wind gusting in excess of 50-60mph. Nice. Needless to say the Mam wants to go walkabout, so Cefn Esgair Carnau is a name retrieved from the memory banks as a more or less safe option in the circumstances.
North of Penderyn - the distillery of which, incidentally, produces a very fine whisky (it's true!) - the A4059 swings NE towards the distant flat summits of The Brecon Beacons. Park at the disused quarry entrance at approx 978131 and head NW (ish) across the road onto the moor, trying to avoid the bogs as you do so. Eventually the intrepid traveller arrives at an area of bleak upland defined by that peculiar 'grass' which favours - shall we say - rather wet locations. Four relatively large cairns are to be found here beyond a smaller outlier, with another some way to the NE. The 'daddy' - or should that be 'mother'? - of them, however, lies out of sight to the north at SN97521375, a great pile of stone some 1.7m high overlooking the Afon Hepste.
The siting above the river is, I believe, deliberate and significant. The mountains and hills form a more or less natural amphitheatre around the moor creating a vibe which is, if anything, heightened by the wind and horizontal, driving hail. In short this is some place and I feel stupid for having driven past so many times in ignorance. What's more, the hillside beyond the Afon Hepste leading towards the great peak of Fan Fawr (Waun Tincer) would appear to be also graced with a myriad cairns..... whether these are field clearances, or bear greater ritual significance is another intruiging question left for another day.
All in all a visit is well worth the effort, but make sure you wear your boots!