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Miscellaneous Posts by GLADMAN

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Cwm Bach and Whitmore Stairs (Cliff Fort)

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)

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))

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)

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)

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.

Tongue Wood (Chambered Cairn)

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))

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))

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)

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)

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)

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)

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."

Carneddau Hafod Wnog (Cairn(s))

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.

Cadair Ifan Goch (Natural Rock Feature)

Imaginative locals back in the day reckoned this rocky crag, with some excellent views along Dyffryn Conwy - not to mention across the valley to the northern Carneddau - was a favoured perch of a giant... presumably, to judge by his name, a redhead and therefore not to be trifled with.

Apparently said giant was fond of standing with one foot here and the other upon Pen y Gaer across the way whilst stooping to drink from the Afon Conwy. There are arguably easier ways to slake one's thirst.

Hunter's Tor (Hillfort)

According to Pastscape this aesthetically pleasing site located, with far ranging views, to the immediate approx south-east of the crags of Hunter's Tor, represents the remains of a:

"Triple-ramparted hillfort of stone with shallow ditches, widely spaced with level berms 12m-15.5m wide between each rampart in the ttradition of SW England. Entrance is from the SE with the end of the middle rampart inturned to form an embanked entranceway which joins the innermost rampart. Entrance through the outer rampart and ditch via a causeway. The outer rampart and ditch are obscured on the slopes to the north and west. condition good despite the removal of much stone for field walls by farmers."[sic].

Access is excellent since the hill fort is traversed by a public bridleway... however please bear in mind that car parking, if approaching from the north, is non-existent. I therefore left my car roadside at the nearby hamlet of Barnecourt and walked back down the road, ascending via Peck Farm.

Black Hill (Stone Row / Alignment)

According to the Devon & Dartmoor HER (HERMDV8076) the stone row upon Trendlebere Down (SX76600 79239) is:

"Probably a double row, much robbed, and many fallen stones; one undoubted pair of set stones left standing 940mm apart, face to face. It starts at the south end with a ruined cairn, now reduced to a mere ring-cairn. Terminates at north end in another ruined cairn, also reduced to a ring. At this end there is a mound which looks like an independent cairn. Its centre 15.24m to the west of the line of the row. More probably the remnant of the row cairn, turned back by the roadmen, who have despoiled both terminal cairns. The distance between the centres of the terminal cairns is 125.61m...."

Off road parking is available a little along the road to the north-west.. incidentally a short, stiff pull from here will reward the curious visitor with an audience with the quintet of large cairns upon the summit of Black Hill. Well worth the additional effort. But then I would say that, wouldn't I?

Also worth mentioning is that the stereotypical 'don't visit in summer if you can avoid it' caveat most definitely applies here.

Riddon Ridge Field Systems (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

According to Historic England:

"The irregular aggregate field systems on Riddon Ridge are amongst the most extensive recorded on Dartmoor. Their relationship with the Dartmeet coaxial field system is of particular interest. The settlements and cairns provide useful information on the character of occupation in this area during the Bronze Age and together with the other Bronze Age remains, this monument represents an important and relatively rare instance of an area containing good examples of the major settlement and land division types found on the Moor...."

So, this sleepy, low ridge near to the tourist bustle of Bellever would appear of much more significance to students of Bronze Age domestic life than I assumed... as I chanced upon a very fine, solitary hut circle en-route to the funerary cairn.

More here:

Wooston Castle (Hillfort)

Occupying a north facing spur between Marston Down and the course of the River Teign this complex promontory fort is, for me, by far the finest of a local triumvirate also including Prestonbury Castle and Cranbrook Castle, consisting of a pretty standard defended enclosure supplemented by a massive outer cross bank. This latter feature is much more powerful than the inner defences and, unusually in my experience, sited a substantial distance beyond, anticipating, perhaps, the 'aggressive defence' of medieval concentric castles. There are further earthworks covering the approach to the site, these including a 'hollow way' which Pastscape would appear to regard as contemporary and not, as I assumed, a later stock control feature - a proto-barbican, if you like. Clearly the architects of this 'fort had big ideas and, furthermore, were not afraid to put them into practice.

This intriguing, sleeping behemoth of a site is suitable for family visits as well as the dedicated hill fort head since it is serviced by its own woodland car park reached via a minor road north of Wooston Farm.

During my visit local volunteers were engaged in a geophysical survey... so chances are Wooston Castle may soon reclaim its former standing amongst Dartmoor's elite Iron Age enclosures.

Black Newtake (Cairn circle)

Prospective visitors looking to track down the monuments set within the environs of Black Newtake - that is the area to the south west of Bellever Tor - are hereby advised:

1) Do not attempt to do so in high summer (unless you're a bit of a loon) since the - in places - waist high grass renders identification of monuments a serious challenge. Not to mention very physically demanding. Yeah, tell me about it.
2) Make sure you possess the 1:25K OS map. The 1:50k version does not possess the required detail.

Due to the above I've only listed the damaged, yet seriously evocative cairn circle sited here. However, for what they are worth, I've included further images of two 'cists' I believe I located within the Interpretive Section. However these are very much subjective and open to correction. Naturally.

Beacons Down (Round Barrow(s))

According to Coflein these barrows were only (finally) discovered - from the air - in 2013:

"Pair of well-preserved round barrows, discovered during Royal Commission aerial reconnaissance under snow on 24th January 2013. The barrows sit 60m apart on the northern edge of common land, which also preserves wider-spreading remains of ancient field systems. The smaller western barrow.. (SS88847580)... measures approx. 14m diameter and stands 0.6-0.7m high preserving its smooth, conical shape. The larger, flatter, eastern barrow (SS88927583).. measures approx. 21m diameter and stands 0.6m high...." Toby Driver, RCAHMW, Feb 2013
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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: