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Crugyn Gwyddel



It's difficult to ascertain exactly when my third dawn upon Pumlumon arrives... so hostile is the weather. I finally take the hint. Sorry. Outstayed my welcome, Mam. I head for the lower hills to the west of Rhayader, The Cwmdeuddwr - 'Valley of the two waters', or something like that - but neglect to fully close my windows as I descend to Ponterwyd. A face full of road surface water later, I reflect that I probably needed a wash anyway.....

A minor road forks right from the B4518 just west of Rhayader and ascends to a rocky col in the hills between Craig Ddu and Esgair Dderw, the latter incidentally bearing the fine monolith Maen Serth. If there's a small lake below to your left, you're on the right road and you will soon pass a pretty handsome waterfall. Park in the roadside layby just beyond and Crugyn Gwyddel lies over the horizon to the approx SW. A footpath sign indicates a path slanting diagonally across the hillside towards Craig Ddu. Now this is the path you SHOULD take, in retrospect, veering right up the ridge to the OS trig point on Crugyn Ci, and hence west to the burial cairn.... needless to say I take the direct approach in vicious, driving rain, struggling to ford the raging stream and heading on a bearing before becoming engulfed in swirling mist. Suddenly I feel very, very isolated and vulnerable. Hell, how many times have I probably bored others to death with tales of how dangerous the Elan Hills are... "don't get caught in mist unless you know what you are doing etc"... and now I'm having to literally 'walk the walk', so to speak. Oh well.

The mist lifts a little and there is the ridge of Crugyn Ci to my left. I reassure myself... 'see, you are right after all, muppet'.. mounds loom ahead, crowned by standing stones. These turn out to be boundary markers upon natural - I think - outcrops. One, however, is unlike the others, suspiciously artificial in composition, sans boundary stone and bearing several quartzite rocks within a small cairn. I take a bearing to the trig point and am satisfied this must be Crugyn Gwyddel - the 'little cairn of the Irish person', so it is. Ha! Must have been a lazy bugger, too, since I was expecting the standard, large cairn of stones! I huddle behind my rucksack for lunch, trying to avoid the worst of the cooling effect of the hammering rain. Somehow it seems appropriate, a small cairn, arguably not that much to write home about, yet set admist weather so hostile as to be worthy of a Wagnerian cycle rendering photos completely out of the question. Sorry.

I head to the escarpment edge to the south - for misty views of Pen-y-Garreg Reservoir - before making for the OS trig point. The path, such as it is, is superfluous since Esgair Pen-y-Garreg is now a mass of bog. Somewhere here is a supposed stone row. I cannot locate it so assume it must have sunk! Upon arrival I shelter in the limited lee of the trig pillar and have a theoretical debate with myself - would I now use the storm shelter if there had been a disturbed Bronze Age cairn at the summit? I decide in the negative, and to prove the point move to the lee of a crag below instead. If in doubt, look where the sheep go, those masters of mountain survival. But it is not enough. For the first time I can recall in memory - I think - I have gone beyond what I can honestly take, the freezing effect of the driving, horizonal rain causing the very first, initial warning of oncoming hypothermia. Yeah, I must go. Now.

Then.... all of a sudden the mist peels away and sunlight streams across the landscape, revealing Cwmdeuddwr in all its golden glory, the air sweet and fresh after the downpour. Rhayader shines in the distance, the high ridge of Drygarn Fawr/Gorllwyn visible to the south, Y Gamriw to its left. Nearer to hand, the Maen Saeth can be seen through field glasses. I'm virtually dry in no time and the danger is past. Ha! Mother Nature gave me one hell of a kicking and then took pity in the nick of time. Make of that what you will. I pick out Crugyn Gwyddel to the west and decide I wouldn't have missed this experience for the world, small and relatively insignificant as the monument is. Because, quite simply, experiences like this are beyond measure - the landscape, shaped by weather patterns as it is, is the defining feature of these upland funerary cairns. It really is.

I descend via the ridge to the north, diverting to Craig Ddu for more views of Maen Serth before finally reaching the car. So to bed. Thank you and goodnight.
25th September 2010ce
Edited 25th September 2010ce

Comments (3)

Really enjoyed this whole series of fieldnotes. This one takes the cake though. The little moment of sunlight at the end, that's just about right after the drenching. I think I shared a similar feeling in Radnor, after having to take my boots off to wring the insoles (never mind my socks) out, when the mist finally cleared on Bache Hill. Why do we do it? "Because it's there", as I think someone rather more determined than I once said. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
25th September 2010ce
Guess the point about this is these hills are under 2000ft so people may think they aren't 'proper' mountains. Think again.

By the looks of things you'll have to get yourself a van and a black and white cat.
25th September 2010ce
And a driving licence? Ha!

Where is Postie by the way, hope he's not got lost in the hills somewhere.

Re: heights - it's all relative though isn't it? If you walk up Golden Cap, it's still a big climb.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
25th September 2010ce
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