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Kylestrome (Cairn(s)) — Miscellaneous

This is an unassuming, seemingly inviolate cairn set upon a craggy hill side a little to the north-west of the Kylesku bridge, the latter carrying the A894 across the meeting of Loch a' Chairn Bhain with Loch Glencoul to the north and, to my mind, a rather graceful, aesthetically pleasing structure in its own right. The scenery is archetypal west coast, the fine peaks of Quinag applying the pièce de résistance to the approx south.

According to Canmore: "A well-preserved cairn, 15.5m in diameter, maximum height 1.7m. It is considerably mutilated, but otherwise undisturbed; there is no evidence of a chamber." OS (W D J) 21/4/61 and (N K B) 22/80.

Incidentally don't forget to visit the nearby broch (just the other - southern - side of the road) and, if time and circumstances permit, take a boat trip along Loch Glencoul to gawp at Eas a' Chual Aluinn, Scotland's highest waterfall. No less.

Loch a' Chairn Bhain, Kylestrome (Broch) — Miscellaneous

In my opinion this is a particularly well - nay, evocatively - sited monument boasting some quite exquisite views across the loch to the peaks of Quinag.

Canmore reckons what we have here represents the remains of a "Probable solid-based broch".. [as opposed to galleried dun as previously thought]... "situated near the end of a rocky promontory or islet in the large sea loch Loch a' Chairn Bhain; the site is connected to the shore by a causeway made of boulders about 21m (70ft) long, 3m (10ft) wide and 60cm (2ft) high. The islet is now only cut off at high tide" (E W MacKie 2007).

Well worth stopping off upon the drive up/down the north-western coast in conjunction with the nearby Kylestrome cairn at NC21883426.

Llethr Brith (Round Cairn) — Miscellaneous

At c1,722ft Llethr Brith is a reasonably hefty hill for Mid Wales and, in my opinion, well worth a visit in its own right simply for some excellent views toward Teifi Pools, Cwmdeuddwr and, as it happens, Pen y Bannau hill fort. That it is crowned by a substantial, if somewhat vandalised Bronze Age is, as they say, a bonus.

A dead end minor road heads east from the B4343 at Ffair-Rhos allowing punters access to the shores of the aforementioned Teifi Pools. Just after some enclosed fields to one's left a path can be discerned ascending the hillside... follow this and 'up' is the only real direction needed, to be fair.

According to the OS the cairn, sharing the summit with a lonely little tarn, is:

"A round cairn, 14m in diameterb & 0.5m high, having a modern marker cairn set upon its E side." J.Wiles 26.07.04

Hill of Shebster (Chambered Cairn) — Miscellaneous

According to the wondrous Audrey Henshall (1963) this represents "The heavily-robbed remains of this round, stalled cairn of Orkney-Cromarty type are 80ft in diameter"

Whereas the (equally great doing their thang) Ordnance Survey reckoned the following one year later:

"This turf-covered chambered cairn, 1.6m maximum height and approximately 26.0m in diameter, has been mutilated by an excavation trench in the NE. The top has been robbed revealing seven stone slabs forming the stalls of a gallery grave and two portal stones are in the SE corner of the cairn." (N K B) 13/11/64

Worth a wander over when visiting the mighty long cairns upon nearby Cnoc Freiceadain.

Hascombe Hill (Promontory Fort) — Miscellaneous

This pleasingly wooded promontory fort is, according to Surrey Archaeological Society,"a roughly trapezoidal enclosure with the long axis lying north-east/south-west. The position of the earthworks is governed by the shape of the end of the ridge except where their north-eastern leg cuts perpendicularly across the length of the ridge. This north-eastern leg of the ramparts contains the entrance which is set off-centre towards the north-west, and has short out-turned banks on either side".

Details of a 2008/2009 survey undertaken by the Society can be seen online at:
https://www.surreyarchaeology.org.uk/content/hascombe-hillfort-survey

Cwm Bach and Whitmore Stairs (Cliff Fort) — Miscellaneous

Excellent little cliff fort - one of a linear chain gracing this Glamorgan coastline - overlooking Traeth Bach and most easily reached by a footpath from the minor road to the approx east. Note that it's possible to park a car near the junction with the Tre-pit Road (a little west of Wick).

Protected by the steep defile of Cwm Bach to the north and vertiginous cliffs to the west, artificial defences are only really required elsewhere.

According to Coflein:

"Two discrete lengths of bank, ditched on the SE, the northernmost c.40m NE-SW by 10m and 2.0m high, the other c.33.5m NE-SW by 8.5m and 1.5-2.6m high, truncated on the SW, together appear to define the SE side of a roughly triangular enclosure, resting on an eroding cliff-line on the SW and defined by scarps above the Cwm Bach on the N. Air photos suggest that the southern rampart segment continues N of entrance gap, behind line of the north rampart." J.Wiles 26.01.04

Ffridd Bryn Dinas (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Miscellaneous

Ffridd Bryn Dinas ('Ffridd' might be described as being the transitional zone between traditional Welsh upland and lowland) is an interesting, relatively minor ridge overlooking Cwm Maethlon - 'Happy Valley' - boasting some excellent, sweeping views across the Dyfi for (arguably) limited effort. Not to mention the opportunity to gawp at a certain bearded lake. I ask you?

It also possesses two Bronze Age monuments. According to Coflein:

"Originally (1921) this site was reported as two tumuli, with another reported near-by, all three having cists. Subsequently they were differentiated as a round barrow (SN63989969) and a cairn (SN63869959), with the third not located." J.Wiles 30.01.02

For what it's worth I agree with the above succinct statement. To a point. The north-eastern 'tumulus' is, for me, the finer of the pair, a steep sided mound just north of a traverse wire fence bearing the clear remains of a cist upon, or rather within, the summit. A great spot to recline for awhile with the low autumn sun playing upon the nearby llyn. The other, to the approx south-west, has much less 'tumulus', but much more cist still in situ.

But what of 'the third not located'? Could that not be what I took to be a cairn with remains of cist upon the bwlch between Bryn Dinas and Allt Gwyddgwion?

Cairn between Bryn Dinas and Allt Gwyddgwion (Cairn(s)) — Miscellaneous

This cairn... featuring what I took to be remnants of a cist within... sits between Bryn Dinas and Allt Gwyddgwion ('No shit, Sherlock!' I hear you exclaim), the latter the elongated south-western ridge of the wondrously be-cairned Trum Gelli. As such, be sure to pay a visit if heading for the western Tarrens, the monument a little to the right of the path - such as it is - when approaching from the main green track traversing these parts.

Coflein gives the dimensions thus:

"The cairn is 2 metres in diameter and 0.6 metres high. See survey report Tywyn Dolgoch, by M.J. Roseveare, ArchaeoPhysica Ltd." RCAHMW, 14/12/2007

Barone Hill (Hillfort) — Miscellaneous

This fort, crowning the summit of Barone Hill, possesses a fabulous overview of Bute and must have been of great strategic importance back in the day.

According to Canmore:

"..It comprises the remains of an oval stone wall (enclosing an area 62.0m NE-SW by 42.0m) with an outer stone wall on the W and S whilst rocky precipitopus (sic) slopes form an additional defence on the E.

The oval wall survives on the W and S where it is 3.0m wide and up to 1.0m high with many facing stones in situ but there are only faint traces of it on the E. The entrance, though not apparent, was most probably at the 4.0m gap on the S side, which is now utilized by the modern wall. There is no evidence of the vitrification mentioned by Hewison....." OS (TRG) 23/11/76

Ardvannie (Chambered Cairn) — Miscellaneous

This is a pretty substantial chambered cairn hidden away, in light woodland, to the left of a driveway/track accessing equestrian buildings from the A836. Not wishing to look around incognito in such an environment, I duly announced myself at the - to judge by the voices - clearly occupied house... but to no avail. I therefore checked out the monument anyway.

Although overgrown and sylvan, the large cairn possesses a clear chamber... not to mention an evocative, wistful vibe.

According to Canmore: "This Orkney-Cromarty Cairn measures 21m in diameter and 0.9m in height. A polygonal chamber lies to the E of the centre of the cairn." RCAHMS November 1977.

There is at least another cairn sited a little north, not to mention what, to my mind, are the remains of a fantastically sited hill fort upon Struie Hill to the south. Great views from that 'un.

Asheldham Camp (Plateau Fort) — Links

Asheldham Camp - Essex Family History


Tongue Wood (Chambered Cairn) — Miscellaneous

Canmore reckons the evocative remains of this chambered cairn located within Tongue Wood are:

"...about 15m in diameter. The kerb of boulders survives intermittently, best preserved in the east and south. Several boulders within the kerb form no intelligible pattern." OS (JD) 26/4/60 and (ISS) 1/7/71

This is a great place to chill out for a while... but surprisingly difficult to locate (perhaps it was just me) if approaching steeply downhill from the A865, such has been the reclamation by Nature. In retrospect keep the tumbling stream to your left and the monument occupies a rise a little before Tongue House.

Achcheargary Burn (Cairn(s)) — Miscellaneous

Yet another monument with remains of cist (most probably) still in situ. The cairn occupies a superb position overlooking the serpentine River Naver.... including an aerial view of the Achcheargary chambered cairn on the other side of the B871. Canmore has this to say:

"This cairn, at the edge of a natural shelf overlooking the plain of the River Naver, measures about 13.0m diameter and 1.2m maximum height, but the west part has been robbed to build adjoining walls. Where the cairn rubble has been cleared north of the centre, a slab edge 0.6m long and aligned NE-SW is exposed; it is probably the remains of a cist". OS (J M) 25/6/77

Allt Ach Coille Na Borgie (Cairn(s)) — Miscellaneous

Canmore has this to say about this trio of excellently sited cairns easily overlooked in the company of the great Skelpick Long and Coille Na Borgie monuments; easily, but, in my opinion, unfairly so:

"Three closely grouped cairns ('A'-'C') centred at NC 718 598 on the summit of a ridge overlooking the mouth of Strathnaver.

'A' the most southerly.. is about 10.5m in diameter and due to the slope is 2.0m high in the west, but of negligible height on the upper east side. The interior has been disturbed in places, but no cist or chamber is apparent. In common with the other cairns there is no evidence of a kerb.

'B' is situated above a small rocky slope. It measures approximately 17.0m east-west by 12.0m and stands to 2.1m high. War-time work has seriously mutilated the cairn on the east side and especially in the centre, where a wall face 2.1m high has been constructed.

'C' ... measures approximately 9.0m east-west by 8.0m and stands up to 1.4m high on the west side. Three slabs protruding up to 0.4m through the cairn material suggests this is possibly chambered; their poitions may indicate they are the back slab and possibly two portal stones of an Orkney-Cromarty chamber". OS (JB) 18/12/78

Visitors to the Achcoillenaborgie broch might, therefore, consider a visit... if so, the cairns grace the hillside to the left when facing away from the road.

Loch Caladail (Kerbed Cairn) — Miscellaneous

Canmore has this to say about this unexpectedly captivating kerbed cairn, set near the beguiling Loch Caladail:

"On a rise, a cairn 10.7m overall diameter and 0.8m high, partly robbed but not deep enough to expose a cist. Six boulders (two displaced) of the kerb survive in the SE arc. The rest of the kerb has been removed, leaving a trench 0.7m wide by 0.3m deep in which the boulders were embedded." [OS (W D J) 5/4/60 and (I S S) 22/7/71]

The monument can be seen from the summit stone grouping of Cnoc na Moine...

Ach A' Chorrain (Chambered Cairn) — Miscellaneous

Wondrously located overlooking the Kyle of Durness, I had the good fortune to visit - albeit at the end of a long, packed day - under superb evening conditions. Contrary to usual procedure I've taken the liberty of listing successive Canmore entries to highlight how the fabric of our cairns are changing in the course of a few decades:

"A prominent round cairn, 15.5m in diameter and 2.1m in maximum height, which has been robbed to build an adjacent sheepfold. No chamber or cist has been exposed, nor is there any indication of a ditch or retaining circle". RCAHMS 1911; Visited by OS (F D C) 2 May 1957.

"A disturbed passage of which two pairs of uprights and one capstone are exposed". Information contained in letters from T C Welsh 24 July and 10 August 1972.

"A bare stone, chambered cairn approximately 14.0m in diameter and 1.6m high; early modern structures built of cairn material intrude on the NE periphery. The passage, in the SE, and the chamber have been partially cleared exposing in the former two sets of slightly displaced uprights, one with lintel slab in situ and the latter a single orthostat". Visited by OS (J M) 16 November 1978.

Mynydd-y-Castell (Hillfort) — Images (click to view fullsize)

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Mynydd-y-Castell (Hillfort) — Miscellaneous

The low, coastal hills stretching between Maesteg and Port Talbot are crowned by a number of ancient earthworks/enclosures of which this, to my mind, is certainly the finest... a powerful, univallate hill fort overlooking what is now Margam Country Park.

J.Wiles (11.12.02) reckons it is: "A roughly bean-shaped enclosure, c.270m N-S by 140m, on the summit of an isolated hill, is defined by a bank and ditch, generally reduced to scarps, counterscarped in places."

The site slopes away from steep, rocky natural defences protecting the southern aspect to the Nant Cwm Phillip covering the north and, despite the presence of a disused reservoir upon the summit, a visit here is a (natural) joy to behold thanks to copious woodland upon all but the eastern flank; there's also a 'Minning Low-esque' copse on top for good measure. The defences are pretty substantial, too.

Now although an approach from the country park seems obvious, may I suggest an alternative? A little east of the main entrance on the A48 a minor road signposted 'Discovery Centre' (or something like that) heads north. Follow this to its terminus near Graig Goch where a few cars can be left. Here a path heads westward through the Deer Park - or, if you prefer, ascend to the Ogwr Ridgeway Path above - and will lead you straight to the eastern flank of the fort. Well worth the effort.

Nant Mawr, Fforest Fawr (Round Cairn) — Miscellaneous

Not shown on either the current 1:25k or 1:50k OS maps, I had RCAHMW to thank for highlighting these two wondrously sited cairns. Located upon either bank of the deep gash in the hillside carved by the Nant Mawr as it joins the Nant y Gaseg, Nant y Gwair and numerous other seasonal watercourses in assisting the nascent Afon Dringarth feed the Ystradfellte Reservoir, there are, in my opinion, few less congested spots in the entire National Park.

The downside to this isolation is reaching the cairns in the first place. As it was I approached from the west, ascending the northern aspect of Fan Dringarth to descend steeply toward the prominent sheep folds a little south (downstream) of the Nant Mawr's confluence with The Afon Dringarth... needless to say this meant ascending the mountain once again upon the return. But there you are. And besides, there is a superb aerial view from Fan Dringarth as compensation. Punters wishing to avoid mountain climbing might wish to consider an approach from the reservoir itself.

Anyway, according to David Leighton (RCAHMW, 17/07/2008):

1) Northern cairn - "...The stony mound... measures 12m in diameter and rises to 1.5m high. An edge set slab on its east side suggests a possible kerb otherwise obscured..."

2) Southern cairn - "...The slightly oval stony mound measures 8m (E-W) by 7.5m and 0.75m high... The interior has been robbed out leaving a hollow of irregular shape about 3m across."

Fan Llia (Round Cairn) — Images

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Nant Mawr, Fforest Fawr (Round Cairn) — Images

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Fan Gyhirych (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Fan Gyhirych</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Maen Llia (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Maen Llia</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Carneddau Hafod Wnog (Cairn(s)) — Miscellaneous

According to Coflein [J.J. Hall, Trysor, 13 July 2005] this diminutive cairn sited near the wondrous Pistyll y Llyn is:

"The northernmost of two possible funerary cairns on Carneddau Hafod Wnog. A small cairn, probably funerary, 6m in diameter at its base and 0.75m high, and built on top of a natural outcrop...The top of the cairn is flattened, with a slight depression in its centre, filled with numerous quartz boulders. The origin of the quartz is debatable - they may have been added in the recent past".

An excellent approach to both cairn and waterfall - the latter, to my mind, one of Wales' finest cascades - can be made from Cwm y rhaiadr at the terminus of the road heading south-eastward into the hills from Glaspwll.

Moel y Llyn, Ceulanamaesmawr (Megalithic Cemetery) — Folklore

Llyn Moel y Llyn - the hill's haunting upland tarn - is, it would appear, referenced in Caer Arglwyddes, 'The Lady's Field', sited below to the west. According to Dr Gwilym Morus: "I had a conversation with an old lady who’s father had been born at Cae’r Arglwyddes, and according to her the name of the farm refers to a ‘lady of the lake’ folktale about the small lake up on Moel-y-llyn".

So, yet another reason to visit this enigmatic northern outlier of Pumlumon crowned by a quartet of Bronze Age cairns....

https://welshmythology.com/tag/cwm-einion/

Pen y Foel Goch (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Should the somewhat more adventurous visitors to Ceredigion happen - whether by chance or design - to arrive at the hamlet of Ponterwyd, astride the A44, with a desire to head north... I dare say that, upon pondering awhile (as you do) they may well be tempted to emulate the locals and take the single track 'short cut' across Pumlumon in lieu of the looping, coastal route via Aberystwyth. And why not, since, although by no means endless, the possibilities that will present themselves are nonetheless multiplex, albeit at the mercy of the not infrequently inclement weather? Particularly for a traveller with a megalithically calibrated mind and/or an eye for an inspiring landscape: one, even today, still infused with legend; that subliminal, pseudo-metaphysical condiment forever seasoning the human story. For this is the land of Glyndwr and Taliesin, where almost every summit is crowned by a Bronze Age cairn, as if echoes of mighty deeds literally turned to stone upon the Medusa's searing gaze. Ah, if only these mountains could talk, what tales would they tell, eh? Well, perhaps all is not lost in the mists of time, for listen carefully and Pumlumon really does speak for itself: the 'piping' call of the soaring Red Kite; the cacophony of the nascent Hafren (Severn, Britain's longest river), Wye and Rheidol as they cascade from their lofty sources upon the main ridge following heavy rain; the wind audible in ubiquitous long grass concealing wetlands which once ensured Henry II's knights floundered to their doom...

But what of the green foothills which sweep northward toward Dyffryn Dyfi from Nant-y-Moch, fleetingly glimpsed upon traversing our aforementioned minor road? Surely but a minor diversion before entering the domain of Idris and, on.. er.. somewhat firmer historical ground, Vortigen, Owain Gwynedd and Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, not to mention Edward Longshanks himself? The answer to that is, in every respect, a resounding 'NO'. Firstly, access to the area is far from straightforward, it being necessary to negotiate the descent of Cwm Ceulan to Tal-y-Bont and approach via very minor roads exiting the A487 to the north; secondly, there is simply so much to see... from one of Wales' premier waterfalls (Pistyll y Llyn), Moel y Llyn (with it's very own 'lady of the lake' tale, to Cwm Einion. Ah exquisite Cwm Einion, perhaps better known to the occasional tourist as 'Artist's Valley' owing to formative visits from one JMW Turner and, much more recently, home to a certain Mr Plant who (apparently) was inspired to write 'Stairway to Heaven' here with some other bloke amongst the ancient tilio-acerion native woodland. Furthermore, with almost every hill top once again crowned by a Bronze Age cairn, stone circle or chambered cairn, the Citizen Cairn'd must really take notice...

Which brings me, eventually, to Foel Goch, a seemingly minor coastal hill overlooking the Afon Dyfi as it nears the end of its short journey to the sea from Creiglyn Dyfi, the latter cradled beneath the mighty crags of Aran Fawddwy. I say 'eventually' because I make a farce of the initial approach by car... losing my nerve as I pass Bedd Taliesin and backtracking to the A487 to finally park up, rather sheepishly (appropriately enough in these parts) in a farmyard east of Tre'r-ddol, at Llety-lwydin, Cwm Cletwr, to my mind the only feasible option. Now on foot, the road descends very sharply from here to a T-junction, the right hand selection arriving in due course at a habitation on the left overflowing with free range chickens and other creatures pleasing to the senses. A public footpath sets off to the east ranging above the northern bank of the Afon Clettwr, the initial lush, green pasture giving way to a more coarse, upland domain. That'll be Foel Goch, then.

As usual I haven't done my homework - note to self: don't... it's far more interesting this way - so, having found the 'Cairns' depicted upon my map here, upon the southern flank of the hill/mini mountain, to be less than convincing, I head for the obvious, large cairn crowning the skyline to the north-east. Clearly this must be Pen y Foel Goch. Except, of course, it's nothing of the sort, being in actual fact Carn Wen, a little below and to the west of the summit monument at SN68979274. According to RCAHMW (Dave Leighton, 30/7/12) this, one of numerous 'White Cairns' to be found in Wales measures "13m (N-S) by 17m (E-W), its shape distorted by slippage of material down steep west side of the summit; height 1m-2m." Yeah, it's a pretty substantial cairn... but the compelling reason to come here is the location which, to these eyes, is extraordinary for the relative low altitude. It really is. The stunning Dyffryn Dyfi, its river meandering to its all-inclusive conclusion, takes centre stage... but there is much more: the brooding, central ridge of Pumlumon surmounting the horizon to the south-east, Cadair Idris - with the seriously be-cairned, tautological Tarren Hills to its left - soaring sentinel to the approx north. Things (arguably) get even more interesting nearer to hand, initially just across the Afon Clettwr at Caer Arglwyddes, 'The Lady's Field', where there are a number of cairns, one with impressive cist still in situ visited back in 2012. But why 'The Lady's Field'? Well, according to Dr Gwilym Morus (Welshmythology.com)... "All became clear when I had a conversation with an old lady who’s father had been born at Cae’r Arglwyddes, and according to her the name of the farm refers to a ‘lady of the lake’ folktale about the small lake up on Moel-y-llyn". Things begin to fall into place... since Moel y Llyn, rising due south-east of Carn Wen, possesses a quartet of cairns in addition to its legendary feminine bathing facility.

A short, yet sweet scramble brings me finally to Pen y Foel Goch, featuring a further substantial cairn at SN69519285, that is a little to the approx north-west of the actual summit. Again according to Dave Leighton, this "measures some 10m across, allowing for distortion caused by slippage of material down the steeper west side. Robbing has left the eastern perimeter of the cairn as a grassy ring, its height 0.3m". If anything, the vista to be enjoyed from this monument is even more impressive/expansive than from its neighbour below to the west. The fundamental difference, I guess, is the sight of yet another cairn, upon Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (aka Esgair Foel-ddu) just under a mile distant to the east, beckoning the footsore modern antiquarian onward with its silent siren call. Nevertheless, what with a significant height loss to contend with - all too often the tired hill walker's nemesis - I immediately give up any notion of an attempt today as falling within the 'so near, yet so far' category... only to find my impetuosity, if not curiosity, has decided otherwise and launched me half way down the slope before counter-revolutionary reason can react. Ha! Emotion over reason? Right on!

The intervening terrain is rough, trackless, featuring areas of severe bog. Standard practice for Pumlumon, to be fair. However the cairn is worth the not inconsiderable effort and is again exquisitely sited, this time gazing down into the equally compelling Cwm Einion at SN70779256. Now I've no idea whether Mr Turner made a foray up here - to this very spot - to be similarly entranced by the ever-changing light playing upon the legendary Moel y Llyn to immediate south-east. I doubt it. Hey, perhaps Timothy Spall might know? But if he did, it would explain a lot, methinks... for his work invokes, nay encapsulates the vibe I feel at places such as this. Mr Leighton reckons the much more mundane technical specifics are "11m NE-SW by 9.0m & 0.9m high". Unlike both Foel Goch's cairns Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr's monument has unfortunately been defaced, given a hollow centre. The reasoning behind this is even more obscure than the usual 'built by ignorant muppets' since, clearly, no such fool has taken shelter here in a very, very long time, to judge by the presence of a tenacious tree of indeterminate (to me) type occupying the space. Now that, together with the other 'Plant' life formerly found within The Artist's Valley, I can live with. Way to go, my woody stemmed friend! As if to mark the moment.. a rainbow arcs across the valley. Time to leave. Since it is a long way back... and who knows what other legendary idiosyncrasies these unassuming northern 'foot hills' of Pumlumon have up their collective 'sleeves' to bestow upon unsuspecting punters after dark? Hey, perhaps some of the more artistic people associated with this magical area were brave enough to find out? Perhaps.

Carnau, Cwmdeuddwr (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Now it might be considered paradoxical - in the extreme - to talk of a 'Green Desert of Wales'. Particularly when an already saturated ground simply can not absorb any more of the seemingly incessant torrent of water issuing forth from looming nimbostratus. Nevertheless I understand where that celebrated Welsh raconteur and walker, Wynford Vaughan-Thomas, was coming from when he employed the epithet to determine the wild, upland region of Mid Wales between the military domain of Mynydd Eppynt and Pumlumon, doyen of Welsh rivers. Yeah, despite only breeching the 2,000ft criterion in a handful of places, these deceptively brutal hills demand the utmost respect. Paths, where they exist at all, possess the disconcerting habit of luring both the wary and unwary alike into lugubrious bog, the 'industrial strength' grass the very antithesis of terrain suitable for ageing knees and ankles. Tell me about it.

So why do I return again and again to submit myself to such privations? Well, aside from subscribing to the teachings of Marx - Groucho, that is... not the dialectical German, nor his modern far left 'disciples' - and not wishing to belong to a club that would willingly have me as a member, I guess it is because the implied feeling of 'wilderness' here is - arguably - without parallel in all Wales. Even the UK, perhaps? And nowhere is the aura more apparent, for me, than at the highest point of Cwmdeuddwr, the summit ridge of Drygarn Fawr itself, crowned by the remnants of two ancient cairns in turn surmounted by massive, idiosyncratic beehives worthy of association with the soulful jazz canon of Amy Winehouse. Yeah, it was whilst chilling out here last year that I noticed a small cairn below to the east... Carnau... with another a mile or so further north. Duly noted for future reference. Intrigued, it seemed to me there is no end to the Bronze Age sorcery of Mid Wales?

The great reservoirs of Cwm Elan have their southern terminus at Llanerch y Cawr where a restored medieval long house still affords a glimpse of times past... right here in the present. However to briefly shine a light upon an aspect of the human story a little more obscured by the mists of time - and, usually, the aforementioned nimbostratus - it is necessary to don walking boots and follow a track westwards above the access road for Rhiwnant farm, subsequently veering south to head for the exquisite Nant Paradwys. After approx a mile the cascading river is my cue to scramble up the flanks of Esgair Ceiliog to the left (east) in order to visit a fine cairn at SN897599. To be honest this is a more than adequate prime destination; however my curiosity gets the better of me and... well, you know how it is?.... I find myself continuing along the bank of the river toward Bwlch-y-Ddau-Faen upon a path that is, in reality, more stream than anything else.

Bwlch-y-Ddau-Faen - the 'Two Stone Pass' - is an enigmatic place. Assuming wild, windswept moorland a couple of miles from the nearest road is your thang? Firstly there is a natural spring here amongst the peat hags; secondly, a number of standing stones protrude from said peat to varying degrees forming an irregular 'ring', as opposed to 'circle. So why the colloquial reference to 'Two Stones' when there are substantially more than a pair of stones here? As I said, enigmatic place, augmented by a fine, sweeping view toward the Great Escarpment of South Wales dominating the southern horizon. Reassuring to find everything in its right place, so to speak. For what it's worth, I'm tempted to think what we have here is a typical, if disrupted upland Welsh ring. With numerous diminutive orthostats barely breeching the current surface it just feels 'right', you know? It is difficult to hypothesise a satisfactory reason why these tiny stones should otherwise be here. But there you are. All is silent now, almost overwhelmingly so; however the location is significant, the past cacophony of untold drover's agitated cattle seemingly hanging in the wind just out of human audible frequency.

Carnau rises a little further on, the route, somewhat ironically perhaps, marked by a couple of boundary stones clearly of relatively modern genesis. Although not in the same league as its neighbour overlooking the cascades to the north, the cairn, although dishevelled, is substantial enough and, unexpectedly, features an arc of kerbing still in situ. Although, in retrospect, its very isolation is probably to thank for such welcome preservation. With Drygarn Fawr looming to the west and Gorllwyn to the east it soon becomes apparent that, far from being in the middle of 'nowhere' as the map, not to mention my preconceptions suggested, Carnau is in fact an integral piece of the Cwmdeuddwr Bronze Age jigsaw situated close to a main thoroughfare across this landscape. Furthermore, what a wonderful, invigoratingly wild vibe this place possesses! A rarefied, somewhat esoteric atmosphere further amplified by a succession of progressively more brutal weather fronts sweeping along Nant Paradwys. Not everyone's cup of tea, but there you are. Needless to say this contrary Englishman duly satiates his thirst with coffee.

Time marches on toward inexorable darkness ensuring I must all too soon leave and retrace my soggy steps to Llanerch y Cawr, boots long since succumbed to the sheer volume of surface water. Yeah, The Green Desert of Wales is no place to be benighted without shelter. As Vaughan-Thomas would've known only too well.

Fron Goch Camp (Hillfort) — Folklore

Dick the Fiddler's Money

The adventures of rakish Richard (a 'fiddler' in more ways than one, not to mention waste of space husband to his long suffering wife) featuring his dodgy bewitched seashell currency obtained whilst returning home from Darowen. The hamlet displayed some pseudo-political 'comment' of very dubious intellect in its windows at the time of my visit. Hence I did not attempt to engage any local - why waste my time? - instead making straight for the excellent Fron Goch Camp rising above. Superb viewpoint, it has to be said.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/wfb/wfb27.htm

Moel y Garnedd, Gwastadros (Cairn(s)) — Folklore

Bala Lake

Long, long ago, there was a fertile valley where now roll the waters of Bala Lake.

"At last he reached the top of a hill, some considerable distance 'from the palace".... Although the story isn't specific - mythical legends, eh? - I guess it's not utterly unreasonable to suppose Moel y Garnedd, overlooking Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake), may have been the inferred destination of the harper... being an old man and presumably not up to a trek up any mountain proper:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/wfb/wfb23.htm
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Hi, I'm Robert ... aka Citizen Cairn'd. I've a passion for attempting to understand the lives of the pioneering prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, seeking out the remains they left behind in order to ask myself "why here ... why did it matter so... why such commitment?". Needless to say I'm still pondering such intangibles. Just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' with this land of ours, with ourselves - our past, our present and our future; a reference point for those of us perhaps struggling to make sense of this so-called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981.... danke, mein herren.

George Orwell - '...during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'....

Martin Gore - 'Like a pawn
On the eternal board
Who’s never quite sure
What he’s moved towards
I walk blindly on'

Truman Capote - 'Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour'.

John Lydon - 'It is a reward to be chastised by the ignorant'.

Winston Churchill - 'KBO'.

My TMA Content: