A quartet of large Bronze Age cairns stand upon the summit and western flanks of Carn Fflur, a substantial, afforested hill rising to c1,650ft a couple of miles south of the Cistercian abbey at Strata Florida (Ystrad Fflur). Despite the pedigree of the monastic site - the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym is thought to be buried within its environs, accompanied by numerous Welsh princes of Deheubarth - I'd probably raise a somewhat quizzical eyebrow in surprise... Roger Moore style.... should any member be able to pinpoint Carn Fflur's great cemetery on the map at the first time of asking. No cheating now. Needless to say we will never know the identity of the Bronze Age forbears once interned within the great stone piles; however I can't help feeling they should be accorded at least the same respect as their illustrious followers. A naive notion, perhaps?
I approach the 'Cairn of Flowers' from Bryngwyn Bach, the unassuming high ground to the west. Now there are at least two good reasons for this; primarily to visit the excellent half dozen Bronze Age cairns located upon the latter's north-western slopes... and also to avoid sinking, possibly without trace, within the unfeasibly boggy valley separating the western bank of the Afon Fflur from the lower hill. The river, sourced upon the flanks of Carn Gron to the south, certainly appears to be the focal point of this landscape, not least for an almost 'Pumlumon-esque' concentration of funerary cairns. It is very difficult not to assume at least some correlation between these monuments and the naturally exuberant, flowing water.... the very epitome of vitality, of life itself. Not that I feel that 'vigorous' - at least in the physical sense - as I struggle to cross the deep gulley inexorably carved in the hillside.
Carn Fflur's western cairn lies just beyond at SN73956233, although not depicted upon the current 1:50k OS map. According to Coflein it is a.."probable ring cairn, c.16m in diameter & 0.75m high set eccentrically within a possibly later turf-covered stony ring, c.36m in diameter". Although the least substantial and well defined cairn of the quartet, not to mention rather overgrown, the site possesses a large, well preserved cist. Can't argue with that. Next up is a nice round cairn set upon the north-western slopes of the hill at SN74206245. "10m in diameter & 0.5m high", the outstanding feature is the "remains of an orthostatic kerb-ring on the S & W.."
So, onward and upward to the summit? Er, not yet. Since set upon the steep rise to the approx south of the northern monument at SN74276228 stands a massive cairn which, to be honest, appeared much more substantial than the dimensions attributed to it by Coflein ("24m in diameter & 1.5m high"). The location is excellent with far reaching views to north, west and south toward Carn Gron, the summit cairn of Carn Fflur rearing up upon the eastern horizon to complete the set. The cairn possesses internal detail, Coflein noting "a central disturbance / hollow revealing possible cist elements". Yeah, I concur with that. In addition there is "an embayment on the NW side & an annex, 6.0m across on the NE, are thought to be original features". Clearly this was - is - a complex, enigmatic monument. What is it doing here languishing - or should that be 'revelling' - in utter obscurity? I'm truly gob-smacked. And that's a fact.
I finally clamber up through woodland to the top of Carn Fflur to find the summit cleared of trees. Unfortunately this has resulted in a hill top perhaps resembling a landscape in the devastated aftermath of a hurricane strike. Not a pretty sight. There are compensations, however.... yeah, the large round cairn crowing the summit "25m in diameter & .8m high" is accorded sweeping views, except upon the eastern arc where forestry still prevails. Although by no means the largest such sentinel cairn I've had the great pleasure - not to mention privilege - to spend some time upon, this is a fine, well preserved example of the genre. Again Coflein cite "a central hollow shows possible cist elements". Regrettably I found the internal space defiled by a beer bottle discarded by some individual with 'issues'. The beer was of classy origin. Very unlike its erstwhile owner. Needless to say it is there no longer. Anyway as I sit several rain fronts sweep in to give me quick 'working overs'. Soon, however, they are gone and the sun illuminates the scene with a golden glow. Aye, perfection, my perch the ideal spot to observe the surrounding landscape. Carn Fflur might not be the biggest of peaks, even relative to Mid Wales. But it certainly doesn't disappoint in the vibe stakes.
Walking - nay, wading at times - back to the car (no doubt much to the amused bemusement of the farmer working the field across the river in his tractor) I deliberate upon how Strata Florida has laid claim to the 'spiritual' musings of the majority of visitors to this part of Wales. As for myself.... I much prefer the high ground .... of Carn Gron and Carn Fflur. If you decide to come, please make sure you don't lose your bottle.
[Note: all Coflein quotes are courtesy of J.Wiles (22.07.04)]