The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

Foel Cwm-Cerwyn

Barrow / Cairn Cemetery


Mynydd Preseli... the very name evokes images of jagged, rocky outcrops looming over mist-wreathed slopes, shifting masses of vapour analogous to the metaphysical apparitions the human mind has always deemed appropriate to inhabit such locations. Is it any wonder this should be the case... when none other than the Stonehenge 'bluestones' originated here prior to their epic journey eastwards, although whether this involved extreme human agency or glaciation remains a hotly contested point. It's perhaps somewhat ironic, then, that it is the very absence of such mist - a (relatively speaking) high cloud base - which prompts a belated return to this wondrous place.

The majority of first time TMA visitors to Mynydd Preseli will no doubt - and with good reason - head for the central and eastern hills... for the iconic stone setting of Beddarthur, the trio of massive, Bronze Age cairns crowning the hillfort Foel Drygarn and... of course... Carn Menyn's legendary spotted dolerite. But what of the actual summit of the massif, Foel Cwm-Cerwyn? Granted, the OS map depicts a couple of ancient cairns upon its ridge, but seemingly nothing to warrant the not inconsiderable diversion from the aforementioned highlights. What's more Mynydd Preseli, like the majority of the (to my mind) comparable Dartmoor uplands, fails to reach the 'magic' 2,000ft altitude so beloved of hillwalkers. Suffice to say not high on most people's lists, then. It certainly didn't make it to the top of mine with a great deal of alacrity, but there you are. Better late than never, or so they say.

Parking to the approx south, near the entrance to Fronlas farm, I follow the signposted bridleway northwards towards prominent woodland, the peak - for want of a better word - rising shyly upon the left hand skyline. It looks like it will prove an easy ascent as I veer left at the trees before making the proverbial bee-line for the summit. In retrospect it is perhaps better to stick with the tree-line and follow it north, particularly since I encounter a couple of high barbed-wire fences and generally make a right 'pig's ear' of my approach. Eventually, however, both the summit and the promised monuments are attained, the wind, fierce and bitterly cold, making a complete mockery of any notion of this being 'easy'. Coflein cites three Bronze Age cairns at this brutally evocative, uncompromising spot.... I'm only aware of two during my visit, however, a large example crowned by an OS trig pillar upon a concrete base, overgrown with reeds and grasses which obscure form, and a substantial, grassy cairn a little to the north. The latter has a hollow summit featuring an internal stone slab, perhaps a remnant of the cist found upon the excavation of one of the trio, according to Coflein a cist containing an 'inverted urn cremation'. This monument also possesses what may be the remains of a kerb, two substantial orthostats upon the eastern arc and another to the west. Nice. Not to mention superb views eastwards across Cwm Garw to the heart of Preseli. Yeah, perhaps it is all in the mind, but this place truly sends shivers down the spine... could be the wind, I guess. But I reckon not.

There is more. A further large, apparently 'unopened' monument lies upon the lower northern ridge of the mountain. According to Coflein it is:

....flat-topped, sub-circular, measuring some18-19m in diameter and being 1.2-1.5m high, apparently undisturbed. (source Os495card; SN03SE12)'

As I sit upon this isolated grassy top, Foel Feddau's annoying walker's cairn rises in profile to the approx north-east. The map cites another ancient cairn beneath this modern desecration. But is it worth the detour? There's only one way to find out. Walk some more of Mynydd Preseli. What a drag.
13th February 2012ce
Edited 14th February 2012ce

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