I've never been to Cwm Cadlan before. OK, it's not an admission to induce involuntary muscle spasms in any reader, to require the immediate live saving application of the Heimlich maneuver, even..... Nonetheless, having driven about South Wales for not far off 30 years - hey, I started young - I must confess to feeling like a prize muppet now I'm (finally) aware what archaeological treasures can be found here. Better late than never, I suppose.
The small village of Penderyn, encountered when heading north upon the A4059 from Hirwaun, is probably best known nowadays for its whisky distillery, the finished product, by all accounts, rather good.... not that I'm qualified to comment upon such things myself, you understand? Also of note is the Lamb Hotel standing beside a cross-roads, the right hand turning (assuming we are indeed travelling north) indicating 'Cwm Cadlan' upon a signpost that Russell Crowe might well have earmarked for the ark in his forthcoming film, had he passed this way earlier looking for locations. Well, bearing in mind the recent rain..... True to form the minor road snakes through a valley immediately at odds with the industrial landscape a few miles to the south. The 1:25K map depicts numerous cairns and burnt mounds - how they got 'em to 'burn' in Wales I'll never know - upon the flanks of Mynydd-y-glog and Cefn Sychnant to my right; however I'm here to check out some of TMA-er Carl's recent observations near the head of the cwm. I also intend to return to the summit the ridge Cefn Cadlan, forming the left hand flank of the valley as I approach.
A little prior to the cattle grid where the road begins to descend through forestry to the Llwyn-on Reservoir, there is a small, disused quarry where it is possible to park a car. Not only possible but desirable, too, since immediately opposite stands a rather fine cairn gracing the near flank of Cefn Sychant. Yeah, as bold as you like. Blimey. One for later, that. Chill out in the evening, so to speak. Presently, however, I set off up the shallow hillside to the north, that is more-or-less parallel with the aforementioned treeline and, following an initial false alarm (loose rocky strata), soon arrive at Twyn Bryn Glas a little to the right (east) of a minor summit. The location of the monument is precise - almost pedantically so - the substantial cairn set just below a plateau of eroded limestone 'pavement' outcropping, the latter according wonderful views of the snow-capped peaks of The Brecon Beacons to north-east and Fan Fawr to the north, not to mention the similarly be-cairned Cefn Cil-Sanws to approx south-east(ish). All, save a hint of this scenic beauty, is summarily denied the traveller upon the cairn, arguably with authentic Bronze Age intent? Perhaps this was to ensure primary focus was upon Cadair Fawr, rising to the north-west? Perhaps.
Whatever the idiosyncratic placement determined by the Bronze Age mind signified - guess we'll only ever be able to theorise - I'm glad, from a purely selfish viewpoint, that they saw fit to bury their VIPs in locations such as Twyn Bryn Glas. Yeah, this is an ideal spot for the Citizen Cairn'd who fancies a bit of peace and quiet for a muse - away from the comical rally boys below - without a significant outlay of energy. Somewhere to enjoy the silence. I move on after a while to subsequently clamber up to the summit of Cadair Fawr. However I was impressed by both archaeology and vibe at Twyn Bryn Glas. I'd like to come back some day for an extended stop.
From Pendaryn take the minor road east sign posted Cwm Cadlam. Keep going until you come to the end of the open moorland and you see trees on both sides of the road (a stone wall surrounds the trees). You will see a road warning sign – cattle grid – park on the verge near the sign. Follow the trees on your left up hill. When the trees turn to the right, head for the high ground on your left. Once at the highest point have a rummage around and you should fairly easily spot the cairn.
Karen stayed in the car with the children who were both (thankfully) asleep. It took about 10 minutes to get to / find the cairn. There is a lot of stone sticking out of the grass here and there would have been no shortage of material for the Cairn builders.
I sat on top of the Cairn for a while and admired the views north towards the higher peaks of the Brecon Beacons – the tops of which were powdered with snow. The sun was shining (for a change) and there was only the slightest of wind. You don’t very often get this type of weather up here but when you do the Beacons are a fantastic place to visit.
The site has a remote and bleak feel about it (in a nice sort of way!) but the feeling of solitude you get when visiting such places is something to savour. The madness of the ‘normal’ world seems a very long way away. Speaking of which, it was time to head back down the hill and the car and the world beyond.
This is a site I would recommend for the enthusiast only as you pass two very similar Cairns (which can be seen closer to the road) on the way here. The one advantage this Cairn does have however is that here you cannot see the road and therefore it has a more ‘remote’ feel.
'Located in a sadle surrounded by low hills is a round cairn measuring 9.8m in diameter and 0.8m high.
The cairn was excavated in the 1950s when the the mound was found to contain a boat-shaped enclosure within which was a disturbed primary burial associated with Overhanging Rim urn fragments'.