The beautiful weather this week had given me 'itchy feet' and I was desperate to take advantage of it. A day off work and here I was, back up the Brecon Beacons for the first time in many months.
This time I had my neice for company as she is very keen on history/prehistory and also managed to get the day off. She had only previously been to a couple of prehistoric sites so I thought I would treat her to a day out up the Beacons.
The first port of call was Cefn Sychbant Cairn. Easily found and easily accessed. The recent dry spell of weather had made the ground pretty dry underfoot and we crossed the moor from the road without difficulty or wet feet.
The hill cloud had not as yet lifted and the breeze was cold. Danielle was suitably impressed by the cairn and I did my best to describe what it was, when and how it was built etc. This was Danielle's first ever cairn - not a bad one start off on!
The only down side was the amount of rubbish along the side of the road. The usual stuff - plastic bottles, beer cans, wrappers etc. I filled a bag to take home with me but there was still a lot left behind. What's wrong with these people? They don't realise how lucky they are to have the wonderful Brecon Beacons on their doorstep. At least there was no litter at the cairn - couldn't throw it that far no doubt :(
Lying just south of the minor road traversing Cwm Cadlan at its eastern end, this massive monument may well qualify as one of the easiest visited major upland cairns in all South Wales (please refer to my Twyn Bryn Glas field notes for approach details, should you be so inclined... amongst other stuff). Needless to say I had no idea it was here before Carl's note. Ahem.
Just a short stroll from available parking within a disused quarry, the monument stands surrounded by what Coflein terms 'solution holes'. Now I'm not quite sure how these differ from the ubiquitous 'shake holes', but assume - OK, hope - a non-geologist such as I can be forgiven such craven ignorance. As I approach it is immediately apparent that, as well as being a seriously large cairn, the monument also retains elements of quite substantial kerbing in situ. What's more I discover just the one empty plastic milk carton upon the great stone pile... not even a full pint, at that.. where, so close to the road and in overwhelmingly plain sight, I had expected a veritable rubbish tip. A very pleasant, unexpected surprise indeed. Famous last words, but perhaps the lack of 'central excavation' may have something to do with this (current) happy state of affairs.
The cairn is not alone, another (which I did not visit due to impending darkness) set a little to the approx north-east, the great ring cairn some way to the west at SN98321087, unseen in the advancing gloom of dusk. Oh, and according to the map there are quite a number more 'round about upon the flanks of Cefn Sychnant. Numerous others to the north.
Unfortunately fast approaching darkness ensured I did not have time to do this site justice.... consequently I left it - together with a neighbour further east at SN98921108 - for another day.
Set to the approx north-east of the much larger monument at SN98551095, the exact form appears uncertain. According to Coflein the monument is:
"...a grass-grown stony ring bank 0.3m high, 1.2m wide...diameter of about 10.5 to 11.5m. There is slight evidence for an inner kerb of larger stones. In the 1950s 'a wrecked central cist' revealed a sandstone disk 4cm in diameter and 1cm thick, now in the National Museum" [David Leighton, RCAHMW, Jan 1983].
As for the cairn located at SN98921108:
"...defined by two stony arcuate banks on the east and west separated by a distance of 10m and suggesting an overall diameter of 15.4m. The banks are 2m-3m wide and 0.25m high.... On the cairn’s outside west edge is a embedded a thick sandstone slab, perhaps the remains of a kerb. It is not clear if this is a remnant cairn... or a ritual monument of the ‘hengiform’ or ring cairn type...." [David Leighton, RCAHMW, 19 Oct 2010].