Karen wasn't feeling too well this weekend so I agreed to take the children out for a few hours to give her a break. The question was of course – where to take them? Somewhere not too far, easy to access and something of interest for all of us?
I read about an English Civil War re-enactment at Caldicot Castle, which would also give me the chance to re-visit two prehistoric sites in the vicinity – sorted!
After a couple of enjoyable hours at the castle (re-enactments certainly help to bring a site to life) we headed north to Gaer Llwyd.
Now, every time I had previously visited/passed by this site there has always been Shetland ponies in the field so I though the children would like to see them. Unfortunately on this occasion the field was empty. Which is probably just as well as the children were both fast asleep! I didn't fancy waking them up to get up close to the tomb so I settled for a good view from the field fence. The tomb was bathed in sunlight and looked quite contented next to the hedge, despite its capstone fallen.
This is a very easy site to access and well worth a look when in the area.
I thought this was a cracking site, right next to the road at a junction. No real need to enter the field as the stones are very easily seen from the roadside. There were Shetland ponies in the field which were needless to say very cute!!
I must admit I'm not too keen on sites in private fields close by houses/roads requiring knocking on farm doors for access. Therefore, upon arriving early Saturday morning to find a thick hedge backed by barbed-wire between the road and the chamber, my thoughts were of the 'oh well, let's get this over with, then.......' variety.
Needless to say this was misguided and not a little premature in this particular instance. Parking in the layby by the chapel - quite an old one, by the looks of it - I walked up the Newchurch (a newer one, I presume) road and knocked at the first house on the left. A very elderly lady with a zimmer frame eventually opened the door, understandably somewhat perturbed to have a Gladman on her doorstep. Nevertheless she was quite happy to grant access to the field in which the chamber resides, as long as I realised she had ponies. What, those three minature specimens grazing nearby? 'Yeah, right', I thought, trying to stop my knees knocking with fear.
In retrospect I can imagine her closing the door with an inward chuckle, saying to herself 'ha! my pyscho attack ponies will soon sort that English idiot out good and proper!' That they did, that they did, the little buggers pursuing me and headbutting me for close on the next two hours, the swines!
But what of the chamber? Despite the proximity to the road the hedge - if not the ponies - allows a decent morning's hang. What's more, it's a pretty substantial structure, too, with a large, slipped capstone and several large orthostats combining to produce a curiously aesthetic whole. OK, we're not talking a St Lythans or something similar, but nevertheless well worth the effort of seeking out.
Just don't expect to be left in peace by the horseys!
Whoa man this burial chamber is too close to the road, and the land it's on is owned by a welsh farmer and there was livestock in the field, dissapointing ? No not at all, the deaf toothless farmer was interesting to say the least, and the livestock was four tiny ponies that weren't afraid at all, but it really is too close to the road, even with the insertion of a thick spiny hedge that hides the road and muffles the
noise a bit.
Six stones define the chamber with the capstone half collapsed inwards, the capstone looks slightly the wrong shape for a capstone its thicker than it is wide, if I was out looking for the top rock to go on my brilliant chamber, the one they got would have been my very last choice.
A nice relaxing visit creamed off with the mini equine.
Visited 28th March 2004: We asked at the farm about access to the tomb and were directed to the house with the orange garage door, a little way up the lane. Here I eventually found the landowner who was happy for us to go and take a look.
In the field where the tomb stands were two very inquisitive ponies who immediately came up to us, then escorted us to the stones. The boys were fascinated by them, but also a bit scared (especially Alfie). The tomb is charmingly dilapidated, with a very off-kilter capstone. There are orthostats still in place, and a number of stones that aren't so easy to place (one almost buried to the north of the chamber). Gaer Llwyd is relatively substantial though. I'd assumed that the stones would be small, but this is a fair sized cromlech.
The stones, the ponies and the sunset made for a very pleasant visit. Also, the farmer and the landowner were very friendly. I was left wondering why Gaer Llwyd hasn't had more visitors. This is well worth seeing if you're in the area. Incidentally you can see the tomb from the lane, but not so clearly from the main road because the hedge is in the way.
Take the B4235 towards Usk, at Gaer Llwyd there is a cross roads by a church. In the field opposite there is this magnificent old burial chamber. I tried to find someone to ask permission to enter the field but no luck so I climbed the wooden fence and went to have a look. If you are going this way have a look it is well worth it.
An old man of Newchurch, near the Gaerlwyd Cromlech, told the writer that Jackie Kent and the Devil threw the stone forming the Gaerlwyd Cromlech at Newchurch West - the same tradition as that about the Trelech maenhirs.
From 'Folklore of Gwent'by T. A. Davies, in Folklore, Vol. 49, No. 1. (Mar., 1938), p. 30.
At Gaer Llwyd, about half way between Chepstow and Usk, is a cromlech—I believe the only one in Monmouthshire—the origin of which is thus accounted for by popular tradition.
"Once upon a time," which may be token to mean in the heroic ages of Gwent, there lived one Twm Sion Catti, who was on more familiar terms than a Christian gentleman (if he was one) ought to have been with his Satanic Majesty, with whom he one day engaged in a friendly game of quoits. It seems to have been a trial as much of strength as accuracy of aim, for the quoits consisted of the stones which now form the cromlech. A believing imagination points out the steps by which each cast was matched by another as good, until on Twm Sion Catti throwing a stone which literally capped them all, and now measures upwards of twelve feet by four, his adversary gave in.
Now, as there was a Tim Sion Catti who flourished in historic times—a kind of Welsh Robin Hood of the period of Queen Elizabeth—we must suppose that tradition, with its usual readiness to group all marvellous actions around one popular hero, has confounded his name with an earlier one associated with the cromlech.
From Notes and Queries, July 27th, 1878, our correspondent being J F Marsh.