Thesweetcheat and myself have been looking forward to this one for weeks, ever since his rummaging among Cofleins blue spots payed dividends with an unknown stone circle. Gladman's pictures and ever eloquent field notes brought it to the fore and last Saturday we had our turn at finding this slightly contentious but essential to see stone circle.
As usual I picked Alken up at the railway station at 9 am, but unusually Eric the boy wonder was joining us on this Snowdonia'n expedition.
The weather was behaving itself, we all had our wellies, and our waterproofs, nothing seemed amiss, it should have, but it didn't.
Parking was sought and attained by llyn Pen Y Gwryd, parking was 2 squid, we donned the bog walking attire, then it hit me, not only had I not brought my camera, I hadn't even charged the battery, it had totally escaped my mind. Damn and blast, never have I been so remiss in my stone hunting, crap crap crap, I told myself it didn't matter too much, i've got eyes in my head, I'll just have to try to remember hard what I was seeing.
We started the walk by crossing the small river on a little bridge and followed the river up the very boggy hillside. This waterway also constitutes the boundary between Gwynedd and Conwy. En route upwards I noticed Alken had got left behind, I turned to see what was keeping him, he's taking a picture of course, I was momentarily brought down, not for the first time today neither.
We reached as high as we needed to reach and followed the river towards Llyn Cwmffynnon, not seeing the circle immediately we squelched and sucked our way over to the rocks with the solitary tree, they always seem to know the way, no really, if you lose your bearings go to the nearest tree, take a minute and you'll soon be sorted out.
From up on these rocks the surroundings really knock you for six, Glyders Fach and Fawr are large, close and very rocky, but like Gladman says it's crazy Crib Goch and bumpy Bwlch y Moch that really keeps your eye, Moel Siabod across the valley seems just an after thought.
The tree did indeed have the answer, it was obvious from up there that the circle was back the way we'd come, nearer to the Llyn. So we waded off towards where we'd been directed, then above the heather I saw a stone, then another, and bingo, Eureka, Its here.
The circle isn't circular, its an oval, an ellipse it is. There are five standing and three fallen. A large earthfast? boulder is approximately in the centre. I watch wistfully as Alken takes his photos, I concentrate on the stones and the surroundings, and Eric starts his motion to go. Quiet boy we've just got here.
The stones are quite different in their shape, one is thick and blocky, two fallen stones are sharp and pointy, another is wide and slim and set facing the side of the circle. We note from the compass that an equinox sunset would set behind Crib Goch, and maybe a winter solstice sunset would set between two prominent peaks perhaps Y Lliwedd.
Two walkers with nothing else to do could have set it up its true, but would they have chose this nasty bog to do it in, a nice dryish hill top isn't far away, would that not have been a better choice. The only conclusion is that it must be ancient, and when they were erected it was dryer, any newness to the stones could be attributed to the constant submergence of the stones. Eric is by now needing food and the toilet, we agree that this is a bonafide stone circle and anything more to be learnt of it will have to wait for another time. We descend on the Gwynedd side of the river which turns out to be dryer, but only just.
Later that day I wonder what the weather will be like tomorrow and begin to hatch a plan to return the next day.
We do too, Eric and me take our bikes up to Aber falls again, and then race the failing light back to the stone circle, I marvel at Eric's single mindedness to reach the circle before dark. Photographing the stones turns out to be harder than Id liked, the camera doesn't like the dark and some were very blurry, I did learn something new about the place, but its just that i'll have to come back again in drought conditions or snow and ice.
This stone circle whilst now situated in a bog is perhaps one pf the best placed circles in Wales, it certainly has the best view that i've ever seen from a stone circle.
It's unlikely - in the extreme - that anyone would happen to simply 'chance' upon this diminutive stone circle, set just beyond the north-eastern tip of Llyn Cwmffynnon, an upland mountain lake acting as temporary repository for the (substantial) run-off of the towering 3,000ft plus crags of Glyder Fach and Fawr. To my knowledge not even Burl, the man himself, has highlighted this stone circle, so kudos must go to the wondrous people at Coflein.... and to TSC for passing the info on. Although the site is not as obscure as a glance at the 1:25k OS map of the area might suggest - this is, after all, at the heart of central Snowdonia's prime walking country - the same map depicts a tiny lake more or less where the monument sits, a satellite frozen in orbit around the impossibly evocative source of the Nant Gwryd. To be honest this is a bit of an exaggeration.... but not significantly so since the landscape is very wet indeed. Suffice to say, then, that only someone seeking the vibe, that 'essence' of the hills which a man with my command of the English language will never be able to adequately define, should make a pilgrimage here. Pilgrimage? The word invokes images of religious devotion, blind faith. Leaving one's brain at the counter. Hell no. Guess I should clarify I feel no 'supernatural' presence at these sites. Just overwhelming wonder at the Super Natural world. Yeah, the whole is most definitely greater than the sum of its cold, soggy, misty parts. However you most certainly need your brain to fit the bits together.
My visit today was prompted by the all too recurrent curse of every visitor to the UK uplands... a low cloud base. But there you are. Where would we be without ethereal vapours to obscure the stage of the age of legend, to act upon the primeval instincts embedded deep within the human mind... yeah, the very mists of time itself? The approach to the 'circle is suitably dramatic, ascending the right hand bank of the thundering outflow of Llyn Cwmffynnon back to its source, fleeting glimpses of grey - nay, black - crags materialising above only adding to the sense of drama. Eventually the lake shore comes into view.... at a prominent stile look for a distant rock colonised by the only tree within the cwm.... the circle is located a little to the left of this line of sight, set before a craggy section of the lake's shore within DEEP marsh. Needless to say I walk on by, oblivious, drawn to the clear water's edge... before finally placing myself within the landscape. But then I would suggest a circuit of this wondrous mountain tarn is a given. It would be rude not to.
None of the orthostats of the stone circle are large. But then what's new in Wales? The encircling crags, their height if anything emphasised by the obscuring mist, so completely dominate the site as to engender a feeling of mild claustrophobia. Yeah, there can be no pretension here. I count five stones still a'standing, albeit within their own personal pools, three more fallen (at least)... plus two (?) lying within. Not so sure about the latter, since the surrounding landscape is liberally 'sprinkled' with rock and one may be naturally 'placed', so to speak. As you would expect beneath Wales' rockiest mountains. Hanging out here is not easy - for obvious reasons - but I have no choice. The thought suddenly arises.... I've walked in North Wales for over 20 years. Thought I knew it like the back of my hand. How wrong can you be?
So why here? Why erect your 'circle in a spot that must (surely?) have always been subject to the most extreme vagaries of the climate in these parts? One answer may be not that obvious today... that of the elegant, sculptured summit of Crib Goch which would dominate the skyline to the approx west if not for the low cloud. Another could be the positionning near a river source, the very definition of life on this planet? To be fair the latter seems to be a recurring theme encountered during my upland wanderings in Wales.
P.S. - Central Snowdonia has adopted a policy of very much biting the hand that feeds in recent years... to my understanding much against the wishes of locals ... by imposing excessive parking charges in some areas. The laybys near Pen-y-Gwryd are covered by these draconian measures, so I would recommend parking a little further down the road toward Capel Curig.
Stone circle defined by 4 upright rectangular slabs and a further 6 recumbent slabs with two recumbent at the center. The circle is 14 m in diameter with the average stone size being 0.5 m tall, 0.34 m wide and 0.12 m thick. The circle is situated in a very wet area close to Llyn Cwmffynon. The surviving uprights are tilting and loose. K. Laws, Engineering Archaeology Services, 30th January 2005.