True, a pre-dawn of driving Essex rain isn't the greatest of incentives to drag the self out of bed for the long drive to North Wales... but once you've become a Citizen Cairn'd there really isn't an option. You know how it is. A labour of love.
So.... some time later, I park at the Quaker memorial a little beyond the grassy dam which holds back the waters of Llyn Celyn... waters which have concealed Cwm Tryweryn and the former Quaker village of Capel Celyn (hence the memorial) since 1965. Yeah, Llyn Celyn is a sore point in recent Welsh history, but even on this overcast, drizzly morning it is damn attractive. But now for some Welsh heritage which is far, far older, albeit hidden away beyond a seemingly impenetrable woodland screen above and to the north.
The approach is mercifully short - relative to other upland Bronze Age funerary cairns - but not the easiest, it has to be said, an obscure public footpath sign indicating an overgrown route beside a beautiful, tumbling stream (yellow tipped posts) which, clearly, few people ever tread. Persevere, however and you'll exit the treeline at a ruined drystone enclosure where Garnedd Wen - the 'White Cairn' - crowns the rocky summit to your left.... unseen. Damn it to blazes! Crossing the Nant Hafod-Fadog, together with obligatory complimentary bog, the monument is attained only after a short, sweaty struggle up the ridge through knee deep heather. But then nothing of true value ever falls straight into your lap, does it? At least not into mine. Yeah, it's a seriously reclusive 'Howard Hughes' of a cairn - and rather more grey than white - but like the aforementioned, it's substantial and overwhelmingly enigmatic. Worth the effort, then.
It's therefore sad to report that, like most of these upland monuments, Garnedd Wen conceals a somewhat hollow centre. However this was apparently caused by an 'excavation' of yore which, it seems, uncovered a cist... and not the usual walker muppets sheltering from the elements. Ha! The irony is not lost upon me because it's freezing cold, even at this relatively low altitude. However, as I sit taking in the marvellous vistas ...across Llyn Celyn to the similarly crowned Arenig Fawr... west to Carnedd Bachgen upon Arenig Fach.... north to be-cairned Carnedd-y-Filiast...east toward Frongoch where a young Michael Collins was interned following the 1916 Easter Rising.....the ambience of this superb site takes over, an atmosphere several sharp hail showers only serves to escalate into the stratosphere. Sure, the lower landscape may have significantly altered over the millennia, but I'll wager the high peaks look much the same now as they did when a certain Bronze Age community laboured to pile all these stones here. I'm happy to report that the Garnedd Wen still remains upon this hilltop as mute testimony to their efforts. You say it best... when you say nothing at all.
P.S - my thanks to Victor Lindesay and his 'The Old Fashioned Antiquarian' web-site for the inspiration for this visit... see the on-going 'Blogs and websites of possible interest' thread in the TMA Forum.
This is a large Bronze Age funerary cairn sited upon Pen Garnedd Wen, the summit of a heathery ridge overlooking the northern shore of Llyn Celyn. According to Coflein:
'Remains of a large burial cairn in a prominent position on the summit ridge of Garnedd Wen overlooking Llyn Celyn reservoir to the S. The stone built cairn is circular in shape and measures c. 18m in diameter and up to 3.5m in height. The 1921 Royal Commission on ancient Monuments inventory for Merioneth states that a cist and ashes were removed from the cairn in 1860 and this is supported by the presence of a central pit measuring 1m deep and 4m wide.'