From Tredegar take the minor road north towards Mynydd Llangynidr. You will come to the village of Trefil where the road turns into a private road for quarry traffic only. Park here. Continue (on foot) along the road until you reach the point where a side road leads to the quarry itself. Come off the road and head east for the highest point. When you reach the summit the cairn will come into view.
I didn’t know about the road being private and I had planned to drive to the point where I needed to head east across the mountain. I parked at the locked metal gate and sure enough a sign stated that the gate was locked after 5pm and on weekends. Two local boys who had also parked up and were taking their mountain bikes off the roof rack told me that it was safer to park here as sometimes they lock the gate outside of these times and cars have been known to be locked in!
I had a quick chat to the boys who said they were looking for the Chartist’s Cave. They also stated that they had been told of a path which led from the quarry track directly to the cave (and therefore near the cairn). I said I would look out for it and I did feel a little jealous as they sped off on their bikes. I plodded slowly behind.
After about 1 mile I reached the point where I originally intended to park / next to the quarry track. It came as no surprise that I couldn’t see any path and instead I trudged east through the heather towards my target.
Every time I thought I had reached the high ground, another ridge would come into view. After my exertions from the morning my poor legs were starting to ache and the cairn continued to refuse to show itself. I was beginning to despair.
At this point I climbed the slope and there, right in front of me was the large cairn of grey stones – bull’s eye! It was with some relief I sat inside the shelter/cairn and had my refreshments. While I rested three mares and their foals came close by. Two were brown and the other a dappled grey. I wonder if these were the same ones Mr G saw?
I took in the scenery and smiled as I watched the two boys I had chatted to earlier struggle through the heather towards me whilst carrying their bikes.
Perhaps visiting on foot wasn’t such a bad idea after all?
The boys had been over to the cave and upon seeing me came over to the cairn. They asked me what I knew about the site and explained as much as I knew. It was nice that two of the younger generation took such an interest – there is hope yet!
The boys asked which way I had come and when I told them they were surprised that I hadn’t taken the path they had told me about.
‘What path?’ I asked ‘I didn’t see path’.
‘It’s not easy to spot from the road’ they replied ‘but it is more obvious when you get out onto the common’.
I took their word for it.
We said our goodbyes, they headed for home and I headed for the Chartist’s Cave.
When visiting the cairn it is well worth the short walk over to the cave. It is not far but you cannot see the cave from the cairn as it is down in a hollow. The cave had an information sign on the wall and is fairly large. It looked a bit like a grotto with ferns growning down from the walls – quite pretty really. I am sure the ancients would have made use of this cave for something or other.
From here I visited the nearby smaller cairn.
COFLEIN has this cairn recorded as Llangynidr West IV -
‘The circular cairn is constructed of small easily-portable stones forming a dense pile and measures 10m by 10m and 2m high. Original cairn possibly altered to make a shelter with an entrance on the southwest side’.
On the way back to the car I spotted a group of ramblers heading the same way. I decided to follow them. To my surprise (and delight) they had found the ‘path’ which the boys had told me about and led straight to the quarry track! I was pretty knackered by the time I got back to the car – the heat and walking were taking their toll.
It was mainly due to Mr G’s field notes that prompted my visit to Mynydd Llangynidr.
I am glad I did. Not sure my legs would agree though!
Well, there you are. Stranger things have happened, of course, but not much prepares the seasoned climber for the shock of a pristine dawn upon a South Walian August Bank Holiday Monday.....
So where to go to avoid the fair weather multitudes? Snap judgement made, we head off towards Merthyr and The Sirhowy Valley. Approaching the hamlet of Trefil, it suddenly dawns on me that I was here only last Christmas to visit the great cairns upon Cefn Yr Ystrad. Suffice to say the conditions are as far removed from that wintery expedition as it is probably possible to get, the sun already beginning to beat down as we set off on foot, none too pleased at the brand new gate and signs prohibiting vehicular access much past the village... apparently your car is likely to be confiscated by the police if you disregard the warnings. Surely the heddlu haven't finally adopted the motto 'if you can't beat them, join them'? Needless to say this pedantic action adds another mile each way. Thanks. On a lighter note, however, I've forgotten my usual sun hat... so the Mam Cymru has provided a rather fetching Aussie cowboy affair from her allotment shed. Strewth, I must look a right muppet. Well, if the hat fits.....
We follow the Nant Trefil past the Trefil Quarries, great scars upon the landscape which affirm that not all South Wales' industrial heritage is in the past tense. Then it's a trackless pull up the hillside to the approx north-east, a family of wild ponies not even bothering to move as a group of noisy trail bikers move pointlessly by at a glacial pace..... ha! ha! Behind us the twin, monumental cairns upon Cefn yr Ystrad crown the hillside - sorry, mountainside - opposite, whilst to the north-west the decapitated summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du are immediately recognisable. There can be only one. Or perhaps two, then, come to think of it. The going is hard, occasional sheep tracks easing progress somewhat but - as you would expect from such annoying creatures - never actually heading where you want to go. Which is towards two large cairns dead ahead upon the wild summit plateau of Mynydd Llangyndir. The larger, now to our left, appears to be Garn Fawr itself... a real biggie... but we decide to head for a smaller example beside the virtually dry bed of Llyn y Garn-fawr, walking across which is a strange experience indeed. To be honest I'm not sure of the ancient providence of this cairn, but it's pretty substantial and its siting, not to mention existance would otherwise appear pointless if not of a funerary origin. There can be no doubt, however, about Garn Fawr, which tops the 557m summit of the mountain beyond the (site of) lake. Duh, it's a monster, subject to the usual 'hollowing out', but massive nonetheless. As we climb to have a clamber about, a myriad flies begin to smack into us... naively, it takes the Mam to warn me that these 'flies' are actually soldier honey bees and if I don't move pretty sharpish I am in deep peril! Yes, seriously! This I do, although the blighters allow me to return in a more sedate fashion later on.
So, does this massive cairn pass the siting test? Think of Melanie Griffith in that restaurant scene. Yeah, that's the one. Apart from the aforementioned Brecon Beacons, The Black Mountains are utterly beguiling across Dyffryn Crawnon to the north, with a certain Garn Caws in the foreground. Say 'cheese' as I push the shutter. Eastwards (ish) I can make out the flat lump that is Blorenge together with its elegant Sugar Loaf neighbour, whilst behind us to the south is the great industrial heartland of South Wales. We lie beside this great cairn and somehow the overwhelming ancientness of this mountain top seeps into every pore. Unlike the fierce sun, courtesy of bonzer Aussie hat. A mare guides her foal this way and that with that somewhat impatient tenderness typical of many a mother, bees of the bumble variety are attracted to heather, not Gladman, and all kinds of other insects and arachnids do their thang. Yeah, unlike yesterday, Wales is benign. But up here benign - OK, relatively benign - can be good. Very, very good indeed.