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Foel Ystrodur Fawr

Round Cairn

<b>Foel Ystrodur Fawr</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Nearest Town:Bala (11km ENE)
OS Ref (GB):   SH8161033948 / Sheets: 124, 125
Latitude:52° 53' 22.47" N
Longitude:   3° 45' 35.52" W

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<b>Foel Ystrodur Fawr</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Foel Ystrodur Fawr</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Foel Ystrodur Fawr</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Foel Ystrodur Fawr</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Foel Ystrodur Fawr</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Foel Ystrodur Fawr</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Foel Ystrodur Fawr</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Fieldnotes

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Motorists travelling south upon the A470 between Trawsfynydd and Dolgellau may well find their gaze irrevocably drawn to the undulating, albeit somewhat serrated, skyline of Y Rhinogydd… prior to Cadair Idris, Snowdonia's last, emphatic hurrah before Pumlumon, seizing centre stage upon the wide screen. As a result none but the most inquisitive - or possibly pedantic? - tourists will consider heading east to penetrate the wild hinterland of the Afon Lliw sandwiched between the near 3,000ft heights of Arenig Fawr and Aran Fawddwy. Only traversed by a gated, single track mountain road, the paucity of traffic here is perhaps understandable, a cursory glance at the map highlighting many apparently more tasty fillings elsewhere. However there is much to be said for adopting a minimalistic approach once in a while, grasping the opportunity to cleanse the landscape palate, so to speak; to get off the beaten track.

Having said that, the start is not overly auspicious: the mock ski-chalet complex of Rhiw Goch suggestive of muppets in shiny new 4x4s enduring 'outdoor experiences' (the former ski centre having apparently now closed down). However all is forgiven when noting this is actually a recycled army training camp. Furthermore the nearby, excellent monolith of Llech Idris (him again) and Sarn Helen/Tomen y Mur stand (if a track can be said to 'stand', that is) mute testimony to the fact that folk have been passing this-a-way for millennia. Anyway... beyond the wooden cabins the minor road follows the course of the Afon Gain to a rather fine little stone bridge before climbing to the summit of Pen y Feidiog, subsequently descending to cross the fledgling Afon Lliw at the farming hamlet of Blaen Lliw.

I feel a sense of everything having a pragmatic reason to exist here... of there being nothing superfluous, nothing but sine qua non. Although, of course, that may well be just middle class fantasy on my part. What is (once again) beyond doubt, however, is the continuity of the human story here, the evidence for which lies above and beyond in the form of two obscure prehistoric cairns. Obscure? Well, neither are indicated upon either the latest 1:50k or 1:25k OS map, so thanks are due to the wondrous people at Coflein. The larger of the pair sits below and to the south east of the summit crags of Foel Ystrodur Fawr and according to CADW "is circular in shape and measures c. 5.5m in diameter. The cairn is shallow and rounded in profile, measuring c. 0.4m tall". [F.Foster/RCAHMW 04.10.2006]. A little to the east of Blaenlliw Isaf farm a livestock gate allows access beyond a drystone wall and proves the key to locating the monument upon its little terrace: once through it is possible to park within an old quarry(?) a short(ish) distance on the left.

Having donned boots and scrambled a little to the north the aforementioned wall will be discerned heading approx north, then, in plain wiry mode, north-east beneath the slightly higher of the rocky Foel Ystrodur twins to the Afon Erwent. Yeah, potential visitors should note that the official bridleway is not much use here, heading eastward. Contrary to my expectations the cairn sits to the north of the fence line; however a helpful stile eases progress in this respect, so no matter the slight faux pas.

OK, the cairn isn't that large, doesn't show signs of a former cist (that I could determine, anyway), nor kerb. In fact not much at all… yet it is immediately apparent that this monument occupies a special place in the landscape. The mighty Arenig Fawr rises, unseen within a mass of opaque vapour, to the immediate north-east, the shapely Moel Llyfnant - to approx north-west - proving a little more obliging by periodically slipping its clammy raiment from the shoulder to reveal a prominent summit (the peak is incidentally well worth an ascent from Blaen Lliw). To the south Dduallt is visible (head for Pont Aber-Geirw and Cwm yr Allt Lwyd for this one), although no doubt The Arans would dominate the horizon in better weather? The silence is absolute, the vibe consequently superb .... so much so that a Citizen Cairn'd can readily absolve the map makers of the oversight, appreciate why the OS passed this one by. Well, c'mon - the local farmer(s) aside - who but a loon 'off-piste' hill bagger would have reason to venture forth upon this wild hillside? Who indeed?

I decide to return to the car in a circuitous manner, via the second of the cairns (at SH81943306) a little to the south-east of the rocky outcrop Bryn Cau. This is a smaller, more ragged affair set upon a saddle just above the road. In other circumstances I might have been inclined to cite it as 'clearance'.... but here, upon this lonely moor devoid of any loose surface stone? I think not! With a superb vista of the Lliw Valley there for the taking just a little to the east, it is abundantly clear that this cairn was specifically sited NOT to overlook the course of the Afon Lliw now flowing toward Llanuwchllyn.

To be fair I have noted other instances of such apparent constructional pedantry elsewhere in the Welsh uplands - e.g the pair of cairns upon the Nantlle Ridge's Y Garn immediately spring to mind - where the act of negating a field of vision has appeared (to me) a conscious decision requiring not a little effort. Perhaps suggestive of local inclusion at the expense of peripheral passers by? Conjecture, of course. But it is a worthwhile exercise to have ventured here to contemplate such things.
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
2nd December 2018ce
Edited 4th December 2018ce