'Short, sharp showers' confidently predicted the weather forecaster. For that read 'mini monsoon mixed with sleet'! Undeterred myself, Karen, Dafydd and Sophie decided to have the afternoon at the Cwmcarn Forest Drive near Newport.
Cwmcarn is a nice place to visit with a visitors centre (shop/café/toilets etc), walks, BBQ facilities, children's play park and several viewing points. The bit I was most interested in of course was the Hillfort!
There is room to park at the bottom of the hill (car park number 7) and an information board giving details of the Hillfort. It is then a 20 minute steep walk up to the Hillfort – there is no proper footpath, just an obvious 'path' over the grass.
Two weeks ago I was complaining it was too hot, now it was like the middle of winter. Storm clouds overhead and a biting cold wind – getting stronger as myself and Dafydd climbed the hill. Karen sensibly deciding to stay in the car with Sophie.
It was a fair old climb, particularly trying to carry Dafydd who decided he was too tired to walk anymore and wanting to go back to the car. 'I'm freezing and turning blue' Dafydd informed me – a bit of an exaggeration but I know what he meant.
Eventually we arrived at the single ditch/rampart of the Hillfort which is still about 2 metres deep. We continued the walk up onto the Medieval Motte and Dafydd cwtched into me whilst I admired the fantastic view. Newport, Cardiff, both Severn bridges and across into the West Country. This is quite a spot.
Oddly enough there was a herd of cows also at the Hillfort, many of them sheltering out of the wind in the ditch. Quite why they would want to come all the way up here I don't know. What was more worrying was a single bull who was staring intently at us.
Due to a combination of the cold / wind / bull / rain we didn't stay too long at headed back down the hill to the shelter and warmth of the car.
It costs £5 per car to enter the forest drive which is good value. If you would rather avoid this cost there is access to the Hillfort from a minor road to the east. There are also two cairns next to the track if coming from that direction.
Fairly easy to access. You can drive most of the way up the hill and park below the 'pimple'. A fairly short but steep path will take you to the top. Through the defensive ditch and up the steps onto the top. You can see for miles on a clear day. Unfortunately when I visited it was like 'pea soup' and I could only see about 20 yards!!
A less pleasant story than the 'fairies/bees' is that Twmbarlwm Hill was a fort where the Druids held their courts of justice. And people that had been very naughty, they threw down into the valley below: Dyffryn Y Gladdfa.
Well, that's what I read in the 'keep the references to yourself' Reader's Digest 'Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain. Supposedly Twmbarlwm means 'Hill of the Judge' and Dyffryn y Gladdfa means 'Valley of the graves' - but perhaps a Welsh speaker can confirm or deny this. Elsewhere I've read that the earlier Twyn Barlwm just means 'bare-topped hill'. Not quite so romantic. The story is probably just a Victorian fantasy as it's about druids, based on a convenient mistranslation. I can't see the valley on the map anyway - but do you know this story and where it's set? Whatever, Druids gather yet at Twmbarlwm, as you can see at the Tylwyth Silwri page at http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/silurian/page5.html
I live near Twmbarlwm and I'd read about the "fairies as bees" stories in Chris Barbers Mysterious Wales book.
My next door neighbour is a middle aged bloke who has spent most of his life walking the mountains round here. We were having a chat one day about Twmbarlwm and unprompted he told me that he had seen thousands of wasps and bees "fighting" on the ground on one of his trips ther. I metioned the "fairies as bees" story but he was not aware of it.
Perching above Rhisga (Risca) in Gwent, this Iron Age fort crowns the mountain. On the summit, locally known as 'the pimple' is an impressive mound - a barrow? Though some people think that it's part of Norman defences. Whatever, this place has been a favourite spot for a long time, and people still come to look at the view, watch fireworks, dance at the Brecon free festival, and er morris dance.
I was reading Chris Barber's 'more mysterious wales' in which he recounts a story which sounds like a modern version of your classic 'storm following tampering' story.
In June 1984 Terry Wilmot was helping to repair the erosion done by walkers and scramble bikes to the mound. He was busy constructing some wooden steps when a long swarm of bees appeared and flew around the heads of him and his team. They were forced to stop work for 20 minutes until the bees had left.
Later, on returning to their van, he found the door half covered with the swarm.
In Wirt Sikes' book "British Goblins" of 1880, swarms of bees were supposed to be fairies in disguise. There are other stories of people 'in the distant past' being disturbed by swarms on Twmbarlum.
Of course, some people (terrible cynics who don't believe in fairies) would say you'd expect to find bees swarming in June anyway.
"Whatever was [the mound on top's] primary destination, I am informed by Mr. Owen, that, according to a tradition in the neighbourhood, and particularly among the present race of bards, it was once a celebrated place for holding the Eisteddfod, or bardic meetings.
Twyn Barlwm, being situated on the highest point of the chain which bounds the rich valleys watered by the Usk, commands one of the most singular and glorious prospects which I had yet enjoyed in Monmouthshire; and which cannot be reduced to a specific and adequate description..
He does go on to try though. This is from William Coxe's Historical Tour in Monmouthshire (1801).
A letter from the Reverend Stephens in the November 15th 1935 edition of The Times describes a striking experience on the hill.
There was thick mist from about 500ft, but being perfectly familiar with the route, and enjoying the weird isolation and unfamiliarity of the cloud-cap, I climbed to the highest point, which is marked by a large and ancient tumulus. Standing there, on what is thought to be the last resting-place of a British chieftain, I found I was actually above the mist, and in sunshine. Only the small circle of the ground forming the tumulus was visible and this gave me the sensation of standing on a colossal circular tower rising out of the seas of mist. As I gazed down on the moving surface of the sea, on the side away from the sun I was amazed to find the 'spectre,' a small rainbow-encircled shadow of myself which rose and fell, grew and diminished, with the movement of the mist, and which uncannily mocked all my movements. The spectrum colours were vivid and the experience unforgettable.