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Trewortha Cairn and Cist — Fieldnotes

This wondrous site reminded me a lot of the not-too-distant Grim's Grave upon Dartmoor and, although not possessing the latter's exquisitely isolated location, may well top it in terms of sheer aesthetic appeal. You know, I reckon it does.

Looking for a reasonably easy time to recuperate aching limbs pushed to their limit during the previous day's 10 hour walkabout around Brown Willy, Twelve Men's Moor, sexist nomenclature notwithstanding, appears to tick all the boxes. So, in accordance with my 'path of least resistance' game plan, I take the very minor road climbing steeply away to the north-west from the B3254 at Berriowbridge. Having safely negotiated Mr Hamhead's far from inconsequential tarmacadam 'bumps', I park at its terminus and set off on foot, heading very approx west along a bridleway (actually a surfaced track accessing Trewortha Farm). With the serrated skyline of Kilmar Tor rising to the left and Hawk's Tor to my right the scenery is appropriately 'rugged'... 'Cornwall-esque', if you like... as if to compensate for any intrinsic lack of significant height above ordnance datum in the area.

Simply put, there is an awful lot going on here upon Twelve Men's Moor - a plethora it might be said - should one possess a penchant for grassy stone piles, enigmatic, roughly circular arrangements of stone erupting from the earth as if discarded dragon's dentures (should've used fixodent)... and, first up upon my progressive linear agenda today, the utilitarian, yet immeasurably evocative little stone coffin: the cist. Far enough removed from our present time to sever any potentially uncomfortable, lingering connection with the macabre, there is something so inherently, demonstrably 'human' about these structures, their fabric seemingly impervious to the inclement weather of passing millennia... yet their former organic content anything but. As everyone of us knows only too well. This example - at SX252755, a little to the left (south) of the track - is a worthy specimen to represent the genre. Although lacking capstone, it stands exposed within its former cairn and, with settlements and associated field system in close proximity, it is easy - I find - to transcend the notion of a simple 'stone box' and contemplate what might have formed the basis of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of those that lived, farmed and died here at the dawn of our time.

Moving on a little further to the west and, again, to the left of the track, I encounter a small group of cairns (SX250752), one of which is a pretty substantial, grassy mound, another what appears to be a long cairn. Whatever the truth of its origin, the latter is certainly a 'long cairn'; however, as is the case with many cairns, I guess the definitive yes/no regarding prehistoric ancestry will only be attained by way of that excavation which will probably never be scheduled, let alone executed. Incidentally, grave goods including a disintegrating BWM 'key' fob are either indicative of the hitherto unknown exceptional technical prowess of the locals back in the day... or one very pissed off motorist in somewhat more recent times.

So, finally, the pièce de résistance is reached following a short walk across the moor to the approx south-west, passing what is, apparently (well, according to the map) a 'mound'. Albeit a not-very-clear-one obscured with summer vegetation. I'm compelled to say upfront that, in my opinion, this obscure 'Cairn and Cist' is one of the most sublimely pleasing monuments I've had the pleasure to encounter in a long while. Yeah, some sites are so joyous, invoke such a feeling of wellbeing in this traveller as to render categorisation superfluous. And this is such a site. Kerbed-cairn, cairn-circle, cairn and cist? Irrelevant. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say... and every wondrously wobbly orthostat surrounding the cist bears mute testimony to such an assertion today. Assuming one concedes 'mute' to solely relate to audible sound; there are other, non-empirical methods of communication. The combination of cist, cairn, uprights and landscape just 'works', you know? As if the constructors of this monument had an epiphany moment comparable with Da Vinci realising he was onto a winner with this Lisa Gherardini and her wicked smile. Why, even the farmer loudly strimming away like a demented Alan Tichmarsh in the field beyond the track doesn't affect the vibe.

Kilmar Tor rises to the south-east. And, as I relax, drink my coffee and think of 'stuff', it becomes all too clear that in order to complete.. to realise the coda... as Ralf Hütter would insist I should... I must return to the car via that shattered skyline of wonky rock. The main tor is riven with cracks as to threaten immediate, catastrophic collapse. The wind batters my person and prompts a fleeting self diagnostic. Why willingly choose to do this upon a supposed 'rest day'? All I can offer by way of explanation is the invitation to come and walk Kilmar Tor if you are able. Like the superb cairn and other monuments clustered below to the north, Kilmar Tor has what it takes. For me.

Buttern Hill (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

I approach from Bray Down:

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/154482/fieldnotes/bray_down.html

Having not undertaken any homework back in Essex - well, in mitigation I had expected to push on to Land's End following a few days upon Dartmoor, so had no expectation whatsoever of still being upon Bodmin Moor on the penultimate day of the fortnight - I'm not anticipating much from Buttern Hill. Aside from some sweeping views to Rough Tor under very welcome clear conditions... and the chance to 'reverse engineer' the vista enjoyed from Brown Willy three days earlier. Yeah, I do like different perspectives, me.

As usual things don't go to plan; mainly, I guess, because I like to bring along, as it were, a rough artist's sketch in my mind and fill in the detail as circumstances dictate. Either that, or I've an appalling short term memory. One of the two. Anyway, upon leaving the summit of Bray Down I encounter (presumably) the same herd of brooding bovines I met on the way up. None shall pass. Consequently I detour around and forget all about the settlement apparently sited below, instead fording the river - or is it now a stream? - rather more elegantly than earlier in the day. From here, after hanging out with some wild ponies for a short while, 'up' is the only required direction. As I recall Yazz pointed this out, rather emphatically it has to be said, during the late 80's? I think. But then again the longer term memory isn't what it was either nowadays. Anyhow, whatever the correct timeline, her long, 'stompy' legs would've no doubt made far easier work of the grassy pull to the summit of Buttern Hill than mine. But there you are. One must work with what one has got.

As I approach the summit the first of a linear grouping of reasonably well defined cairns comes into view. Not bad at all. What I'm not prepared for is the 'contents' of the primary cairn... a damn well near perfectly preserved example of a cist, complete with fine cap stone slipped back to reveal the interior. Wow! Incoherent thoughts flash into my brain, which, sort of summarised, I guess relate to the wonder of finding something such as this standing more-or-less intact after all these millennia. Or something like that. OK, the location, the topography, isn't quite as fine - in my opinion - as that occupied by the western cairn upon Bray Down from whence I've just come... but you simply can't argue with archaeological quality such as this, even with the associated cairn being reduced to a grassy ring delineating the monument.

Er, except it seems that you can. It is therefore with a high degree of irony that I have to endure a pair of ramblers, suddenly appearing like the shopkeeper in Mr Benn, do just that, loudly 'debating' over my head what this could possibly be? A kennel, a sheep shelter, perhaps? Thankfully they are soon gone. Now whether the catalyst for accelerating the action was the pungent odour of sheep hanging in the air... or me apparently not going anywhere soon - odd man that I am - is probably a moot point. Anyhow, the trade mark Bodmin Moor 'utter silence' is resumed and Buttern Hill lives again in the imagination, if only for a short while. What price a couple of Bronze Age people somehow turning up in lieu of the now departed ramblers? Ha, dream on. So I do until advancing time dictates I must leave and return to the car.

Yeah, both Bray Down and Buttern Hill are fine objectives for the TMA'er in their own right. However a walk combining the two, in my opinion, might just well be one of Bodmin Moor's unexpected gems.

Bray Down (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

Now, since I'm not in the habit of adding to the physical burden that is my already way-too-heavy rucksack with a copy of the Oxford English Dictionary - nor, I have to admit, Apple's apparently 'wondrous' device, so subjecting my movements to the scrutiny of GHQ - I'm not privy to the official definition of 'idyllic'. Not even sure I've spelt it correctly, to be honest. But no matter, since, whatever the selection made by Dr Johnson's scholarly successors, I'd suggest the following would suffice nicely: "Where the Penpont Water is forded by the Bothwick-West Carne road, Bodmin Moor". Yeah, this is quite some spot to begin my last day in Cornwall. Not so much 'chocolate box', as, upon having eaten both layers of Terry's All Gold, finding a third beneath within a TARDIS-like confectionary dispensary.

A track heads southward, well sort of, following the right hand (western) bank of the water course, Bray Down, a perceived hint of cairn at the apparent summit, rising to my left. The route becomes progressively more boggy in short order, prompting thoughts of crossing sooner rather than later... or perhaps more to the point, why didn't I set off along the left hand bank, muppet? Sure enough, the terrain soon degenerates into a quagmire and it takes all my not-very-copious reserves of ingenuity to find a way across dryshod. Giggity, indeed. Nevertheless, once across, a short, rough ascent brings me to the summit, much to the apparent bemusement of some cows. Well, it is hard to tell. Might have simply been bovine indifference.

The summit of Bray Down is crowned by - in my opinion anyway - a trio of cairns. OK, only the western-most is particularly upstanding nowadays... but the survival of an arc of large kerb stones is more than enough supplementary detail to compensate for the assumed robbing of its near neighbours. As Mr Hamhead notes, exposed natural outcropping can be seen within the cairn, prompting deliberations as to whether this was intentional, symbolic, or utilitarian in nature. Or just plain lazy. Or damn clever. Whatever the truth, a truth now forever lost in the ever receding depths of time, this is a great cairn with excellent views across Bodmin Moor and, nearer to hand, within sight of a nice little logan stone. As for the other two monuments.. the middle, bearing an OS trig pillar, is ravaged but clearly rather substantial back in the day... whilst the eastern is substantially overgrown, of no great height, but nonetheless displaying a not inconsiderable footprint.

Furthermore, a triumvirate of upland cairns, unlike people, doesn't make a crowd; rather an appropriate environment generating a vibe imploring the visitor to plonk oneself down and partake of possibly upland Cornwall's greatest resource: utter silence. A revolutionary act, perhaps, in an era of information overload arguably reaching critical mass. Yeah, Robespierre and the other Jacobin nutters might not have approved, but there you are. Of more concern is the abundance of aerial insects in the immediate vicinity of the western cairn. Or, more specifically, their identity. Well, seeing as ancient cairns are, in my experience (not to mention the Mam C's) prime locations for bees to establish a hive, one has to take these things seriously. Fortunately the creatures are particularly noisy flies. Annoying, but without a sting in the tail, so to speak.

Lazing in the sun upon Bray Down (don't you just love the inconsistencies of the English language?) - particularly following the flash floods experienced earlier in the week - is a great way to spend a few hours. However eventually Buttern Hill calls from across the valley. Time to complete the walk:

http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/10341/buttern_hill.html

Cox Tor (Cairn(s)) — Fieldnotes

The concluding afternoon of a fortnight's deliberations in the far west country duly arrives... and with it, that curious, emotional juxtaposition of muted acceptance of the party's imminent end with the warm, still glowing embers of time well spent. Such ambiguous, inconclusive moods perhaps should not be conducive to rousing finales, even accepting that sitting around upon hill tops doing, frankly, not a lot, could be considered 'rousing' by most. However, as chance would have it, Cox Tor plays host to just such an event today. For me. Well, it's a personal thing.

The portents are not good when, following a memorable morning at the isolated Ingra Tor my megalithic antennae, fine tuned by a fortnight in the field, duly overload upon arrival at what can only be described as a massive, and furthermore full car park below and to the south of the tor; that is, at the point where the B3357 begins a steep descent toward Tavistock. What is this all about, then? Bemused, I watch punters of all shapes and sizes, seemingly attired for the pleasantries of the beach, disgorge from vehicles to head northwards across the gently undulating hillside toward the unseen summit above and beyond. Subconsciously looking for a reason to opt out, not to join the merry throng, I check the map once more, only to reaffirm that, according to the wondrous OS people anyway, Cox Tor is indeed crowned by several 'Cairns' depicted in that beguiling, 'antiquarian' typeface. Guess it would be rude not to, then.

To call the ascent short and straightforward is pretty much like saying, "come to think of it, the bloke with the moustache and hat in Frankie didn't do a lot, did he?" Consequently it's positively affirming to find that, upon arrival, the summit of Cox Tor is a wild, rock strewn, uncompromisingly brutal place. With extra wind and cold to send my poorly clad fellow punters heading back to their cars in short order. Dartmoor-esque, you might call it. In fact there is so much loose rock surrounding the summit outcrop that, at first, the penny doesn't drop that here we have another fine example of perhaps that most enigmatic of West Country prehistoric monuments... the tor cairn. OK, I know the stone row is Dartmoor's signature feature; but, for me, there is just something SO primeval about (apparently) venerating the living rock itself.

As it is, however, the sight of a fine, round cairn a little way to the immediate north has me hurrying away to take a look and, concurrently, take in the wider views. It is a pretty hefty stone pile, perched upon the northern edge of another, lesser outcrop and with expansive views to all point of the compass save the south, that being reserved, as you would expect, for the ever more intriguing summit. Looking north-east the landscape is vintage Dartmoor, seemingly desolate, featureless moor... but in reality packed with prehistoric treasures, tangible reminders of the people who once called Langstone Moor and its environs 'home': a stone circle, numerous cairns, cists, monoliths... hey, even a hill fort crowning White Tor. Looking west the visitor has no need to attempt to reconcile such apparent ambiguities, a series of patchwork fields leading the eye toward Cornwall and the mysterious, rolling hills of Bodmin Moor. But that's another, wondrous story.

After sitting out a brief, yet violent weather front, I check out another, apparently less well defined cairn a little further to the approx north to find it appears to be a pretty substantial ring cairn - as opposed to robbed round cairn? Perhaps not. An extended walkabout highlights at least one additional small cairn before, gazing across to White Tor and its tor cairns, I - finally - make the connection. Returning to the summit crags, now in brilliant sunshine, the surrounding girdle of shattered rock is obvious, in retrospect. Duh! The summit area is way, way too small to have been a habitable defended enclosure, so I have no doubt that something rather splendidly incomprehensible to my modern thinking - for better or worse - was going on back in the day.

Yeah, clearly Cox Tor was a significant member of the canon of Dartmoor's upland sites back then. What is also certain is that it is the perfect locale to end a fortnight in the west. When something promising so little ends up delivering so much one can only shrug one's shoulders and go with the flow...

Fron Goch Camp (Hillfort) — Images (click to view fullsize)

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Pen y Foel Goch (Cairn(s)) — Images

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Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (Esgair Foel-ddu) (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (Esgair Foel-ddu)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (Esgair Foel-ddu)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (Esgair Foel-ddu)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (Esgair Foel-ddu)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (Esgair Foel-ddu)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (Esgair Foel-ddu)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (Esgair Foel-ddu)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Cerrig Blaencletwr-Fawr (Esgair Foel-ddu)</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Pen y Foel Goch (Cairn(s)) — Images

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Waun, Cwmdeuddwr (Round Cairn) — Images

<b>Waun, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Waun, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Waun, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Waun, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Waun, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Waun, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Waun, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Waun, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Waun, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN

Carnau, Cwmdeuddwr (Cairn(s)) — Images

<b>Carnau, Cwmdeuddwr</b>Posted by GLADMAN
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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.

I make no claims for my contributions except to state that I've done my best to relate what I've seen. Yeah, enjoying the moment has always taken precedent. If you like what you see why thank you. But please do your own thing. Think for yourself.

So cheers... to Mr Cope for being his inspirational, annoying, confrontational self, showing that field archaeology can be FUN! - hey, who'd have thought it? ...to my sister (the wondrous Mam Cymru) for using her female 'micro' vision to help me see the detail throughout an ongoing re-exploration of the South Walian uplands, albeit upon dodgy ankles, knees etc... to my own mam for insisting 'young men should have adventures' (that was a while back, now).... and my Dad for unwittingly inspiring a profound love of high places. Oh, and to Aubrey Burl for those pioneering guides BC.... 'Before Cope'.

For what it's worth some of my other inspirational people are:

Charles Darwin (for his humanity... amongst, er, 'other things');

And then, in no particular order:

George Orwell; Michael Collins (things are not often black and white...); Winston Churchill (for all his many profound faults... since without him I would not be here now); Martin L. Gore; Big Steve Chamberlain (sorely missed); Mr Beethoven; Giorgio Moroder; Richard Dawkins; The Pogues (for my North Walian soundtrack); Sophie Scholl (words fail me); W A Mozart (ditto); Michel Faber; Manic Street Preachers (the true spirit and voice of South Wales); Alan Pearlman; Nigel Kennedy; Will Shakespeare; Kraftwerk; Harry Hill; Claudia Brucken; Marc Almond; Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; Christopher Hitchens; Mulder and Scully; John Le Mesurier .... and anyone who has ever asked 'Why?' - the true legacy of punk. Thank you Mr Lydon.

Oh, last but not least, Gaelic beauty Karen Matheson... the Scottish trips wouldn't have been the same without that voice. 'The call is unspoken, never unheard'.

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

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

W E Gladstone - 'Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic'.

William Blake - 'A truth that's told with bad intent; Beats all the lies you can invent'

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

Christopher Hitchens - 'Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.'

Margaret Thatcher - 'It pays to know the enemy – not least because at some time you may have the opportunity to turn him into a friend.'

Jo Cox - 'We have far more in common than that which divides us'.

Sarah Cracknell - 'I walk the side streets home; even when I'm on my own...'

Winston Churchill - 'KBO'.

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