There are some places you just don’t appreciate in one visit, and for me Dyffryn Ardudwy was one. The first time I was here I was a bit disappointed by the built up surroundings of the dolmens. Nearby houses and the school seemed to hem in the site and, along with a slightly unsympathetic restoration, one of the chambers was littered with cans and other detritus which indicated it was a favoured party spot for local youths. My next visit was on a grey and rainy day, leaden Welsh skies seeming to bleach the colour from the surroundings as I huddled for shelter next to the tree which canopied the chambers. So today’s visit was one I made just because we were passing. I’m so glad we did.
Like Kammer we parked in the small cul-de-sac of Bro Arthur just past the school, and walked up the short path to the twin dolmens. On this lovely sunny day the site is transformed. Dappled sunlight bathes the monument, and bluebells rather than rubbish, dot the site. I clamber onto the nearby wall to get a more elevated shot of the monument and it’s as if I’m seeing it with new eyes.
The two dolmens are of a good size, and I take a bit more time to investigate the chambers, noting the strange marks gouged into one of the portal stones of the western chamber, which I hadn’t seen before. The eastern chamber is larger, but in places is shored up by some ugly brickwork.
The oak tree growing here is wonderful, and whilst Ellen spends some time sketching the site I climb onto a low sloping branch which is just right to recline on, and contemplate the monument. Although Dyffryn Ardudwy is only the decimated skeleton of the monument it once was the stones around the perimeter allow you to get a sense of the size the monument would have been when covered by a mound or cairn material. Dyffryn Ardudwy is an enigmatic site, despite the relatively urban location, and slightly dodgy restoration, it’s not quite like anywhere else, and retains a special feeling, made extra special on this sublime afternoon. I feel like I finally ‘get’ Dyffryn Ardudwy now!
I visited this site last summer whilst staying in Bala for a few days. I parked just off the main road in a (school?) car park. This was just to the left of the path which takes you from the main road to the site. It is only a small walk and has chippings on the floor so you don't get muddy. It was a lot larger than I expected and it it quite tricky walking over the loose stones to get right up close to the chambers. In fact I nearly broke my ankle here as little Dafydd first insisted on sitting on top of the higher capstone and then decided to throw himself off without any warning! This involved me catching him mid-air but then stumbling backwards over the stones. Thankfully, my ankle was sore but not broken. A very good site to visit with easy access.
We got up early and drove for three hours to get to this double dolmen, parked by the school as it was early on saturday.
For the past hour it has been snowing and it snowed all the time we were there, we indulged in a little snowball fight, Iv'e been lead to believe its compulsory to have one but not to enjoy it.
If only the big dolmen was still held aloft on its own instead of the distracting brickwork, a good place to sort your camera out, out of the rain/snow.
The smaller older dolmen is as perfect a little structure as you could hope for, Ive probably said that more than once though.
Walking in a winter wonderland....
Visited 7th December 2003: We parked in the cul-de-sac called Bro Arthur, walked back onto the main road then made our way up the path to the mighty Dyffryn Ardudwy. Luckily for us the weather was spot on, with good crisp winter sunshine.
It was a dynamic visit. The cairn material made it tricky for Alfie to walk around, so he was in a bit of a grump at first. Then William managed to get his foot wedged between two of the orthostats in the eastern chamber. I rescued him, and after some tears he was back to normal, pretending he was in a 'ty-house' (or is that 'tea-house'). Before we left I squeezed into the western chamber with both the boys, peaking out at Lou (who wasn't silly enough to follow us). The boys thought this was hysterical (so did I if I'm honest).
Visited en-route from London to Holyhead. This site has been on my list of sites I yearned to visit for a long time now, and arriving here I wan't at all dissapointed. The landscape surrounding is peaceful - not exactly awe inspiring, but calm and reflective. We waited here till it got dark then continued on to Anglesey.
One of the first 'real' monuments I met firsthand. Around 1985, Summer on the Lleyn. Found it by virtue of a tourist map, which also indicated that the local shop held leaflets about the monument - I just received frowns and dirty looks when i enquired!
I wasn't expecting such a vast site - again, this was a first for me and the sense of scale and feeling of 'place' was immense. Disregarding the 'sympathetic' restoration by Wimpey during a lunch-break, the monument bleeds antiquity.
I had loaded a high definition film with the intention of getting some shots before approaching the site, and the sun was well over her midpoint by the time i reached the place. The massive oak rustled in the rising breeze, throwing a shifting shadowplay over the backs of the crouched stones.
It was interesting to think that the tree, already several times thicker than my waist, had seen many summers than I could imagine, and yet compared to Ardudwy, its lifetime was a brief crowded hour of furious growth.
Taking the shots between the two dolmens, and looking 'in' to the cramped space, feeling the stones grind and complain beneath my clumsy feet, i had the distinct impression of the genius loci and almost felt myself observed in turn.
Could the smallest of the 2 dolmens be a mistake?
From the pictures I've seen it impressed me of the size, if all the stones that covered it have been removed, it must once have been quite impressive an object to look at and be near.
I wonder if the children at the nearby primary school have any clue what exactly lies to the rear, and if so do they apreciate its importance as the people who built it did and do they play there?
Coeten Arthur - Literally, Arthur's Quoit - a cromlech near Llanddwywau, having the print of a large hand ingeniously cut on it, as if sunk in from the weight occasioned by holding it. It is a large flat stone somewhat of an oval form, about ten feet long, and, in the widest part, nearly seven broad, two feet thick at one end and not more than an inch at the other. It stands upon three rude stone pillars, each about half-a-yard broad. - Ed. Tr.
p152 in 'Transactions of the Cymmrodorion' v1 (1822).
According to C. Grooms (The Giants of Wales. Cewri Cymru Welsh Studies Vol. 10 (Lampeter, 1993)) this stone was one of three quoits thrown by Arthur from the top of Moelfre, and is said to have his fingermarks upon it.
I own a piece of land adjacent to the chambers, a survey has been carried out and a number of anomalies were found, the most mysterious being a 25 metre stone elipse, a 5 metre stone circle within it and and what appears to be an entrance facing the chambers.
There are many other anomalies on the land and the whole area exudes peace and tranquility, you can stand there and watch the sun go down and leave all your worries behind. Our horses love to graze on the land, they seem so at ease with the stones and undulations even if they do trip up from time to time.
We also have five of the largest oak trees in the area growing out of a 'platform' of stones. I'd love to know more about this era but according to archaeologists there is so little information available that the purpose of the remains may forever remain a mystery.
The sad part is the shameful building of the school and the council houses on the land to the west of the chambers, it is also unfortunate that planning consent was given on the land to the north. There was one large enclosure many years ago and this was chopped into smaller parcels when the local authority exercised a compulsory purchase order on the area that now contains the school and the 'affordable housing' we now see ruining the landscape.
I've been thinking about a little information centre so that people can see more of the treasures of the uplands around Dyffryn Ardudwy, would it be of interest to the visitors?
A photo and description of the site, plus links to seven high resolution photos and numerous panoramas (either Real VR which you'll need a plug-in for or Java). Someone's been climbing on capstones (tsk tsk).