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

Crugian Bach

Stone Circle


Firstly a confession. I actually planned to visit this very obscure stone circle back in September last year... yeah, had the map co-ordinates and everything... until I proceeded to lose them like a prize muppet, consequently spending the time at the wondrous Carn Gafallt cairns instead; not a poor substitute, it has to be said in my defence. However one of the annoying idiosyncracities of 'unfinished business' is the manner in which it manifestly refuses to stay filed away in that compartment within the subconscious labelled 'for future action'. Oh no, the brain - at least mine - doesn't work like that, instead wheedling its way into conscious thought when least expected; hence one year on, I'm back. No choice in the matter.

Dawn arrives over the Elanydd - incidentally not far from the Roman camp upon Esgair Perfedd - accompanied by close-set fronts of vicious, driving rain. Nice. One would have thought a good spot for locating a reservoir or two.... Thankfully, however, the clouds possess not so much a silver as a golden lining, sunshine breaking through the intervals in the mantle to flood the landscape with light of an incredibly intense hue .... the sort of intensity that only occurs when the atmosphere has literally just been cleansed of its impurities. Magical. Mustn't waste this. So, heading toward Rhayader, I veer right along the B4518 before crossing a bridge signposted 'Elan Village'. Following the minor road to Llanwrthwl, climbing steeply past Cnwch farm, I park at the entrance to the tarmacadum road giving access to 'the Clyn farm' (if you pass Talwrn farm you've gone too far). Another rain front hammers upon the car roof and I wonder what motivates me ... what drives me... to do this? No really, what? To be honest, I think I know. Perhaps one day I will find the appropriate words. As I step out into the downpour the farmer approaches. Appropriately in the conditions he 'fishes' for information. 'Returning, or just off out?' says he, or words to that effect. Put on the spot, I volunteer that 'I might just go have a look at the cairns marked on the map' a torrential downpour... and wait for the incredulous retort. It is not forthcoming and, consequently, I'm intrigued. I go for broke, waiving an arm vaguely to the south-west... 'and apparently there's a stone circle somewhere up there I'd like to see'. It seems there is and the farmer's bloody well proud of it. He gives me directions.... 'stand with your back to the trees and head for the cairn upon the far ridge.... the circle is just before the final rise to Y Gamriw' (or something like that). Blimey. Top bloke, a credit not only to himself, but to his family and to Mother Wales. See we CAN get along if BOTH sides act like adults, treat the other with due respect. Needless to say one good turn deserves another, of course, the Essex boy helping to move the farmer's herd of cattle down the road prior to setting off uphill.

Passing the forestry I revert to type and, instead of following the farmer's directions, proceed to make a right pig's ear of finding the 'circle by logically seeking out the OS co-ordinates as given [note that these have been subsequently amended - and I reckon are more or less accurate!] In short, the 'circle is not where it should be, that is just below the south-western end of the rocky ridge that is Crugian Bach. Plan B is to orientate myself upon Y Gamriw's prominent cairn - as, er, advised - and walk forward in circular sweeps until (eventually) I notice an orthostat which looks 'wonky' enough not to be a boundary stone.... but something ever so much older. Aye, it is.

Coflein states there are 18 stones incorporated within the circumference of this stone circle. Perhaps, although some are so diminutive, so (apparently) inconsequential that I reckon only a thorough excavation could arrive at a definitive count. But then again, so what? The largest standing stone here would probably go unnoticed at Avebury.... yet the vibe here is - in my opinion - so far in advance of that justly famous site as to be beyond compare. It really is. Don't get me wrong, I'm awed by Avebury. But here I feel as if the very landscape itself was deemed so special, so evocative, that anything other than a distinctly underwhelming demarcation of a sacred space was thought to be taking the piss out of the gods residing upon the surrounding high places. The pattern is indeed repeated across Wales... inconsequential uprights standing beneath the high peaks. Nevertheless this clearly represented the real deal, at least for the people dwelling in the shadow of Y Gamriw millennia past, if only because both Coflein and CPAT cite numerous outlying standing stones and cairns in the immediate vicinity. Obviously there was a lot more ritual activity occurring here than might immediately be apparent to a casual visitor. Ha! As if a 'casual visitor' would ever come here! A further point of interest in this otherwise archaeologically low key stone circle is the presence of a centre stone - according to my experience, as well as that of a certain Mr Burl (by all accounts) this is pretty unusual.

I stay and enjoy the exquisite vibe for - I think - some three hours. Time seems to have little meaning here as the sunlight illuminates the moor and Y Gamriw broods above. Some natural sequences appear, well, simply meant to be. Inevitable. Eventually, however, the farmer's earlier complete acceptance of my wish to see 'the cairns' becomes too much. I must go take a look... what does he know that I do not? Probably quite a lot...
17th December 2012ce
Edited 17th December 2012ce

Comments (6)

Great notes and the farmer sounds like one of the better ones, if only it was always that way. bladup Posted by bladup
17th December 2012ce
Yes great writing, taking us on the journey to this small stone circle, the size problem of course is not really puzzling, the Welsh prehistoric builders were less ego centred than the people who constructed the three great beauties of the south west.....

moss Posted by moss
17th December 2012ce
Thanks both. Yeah, I guess the people here - unlike those further east - were only too aware that their gods were literally looking down on them.... very much knew their place.

I understand Cerrig has also been here and struggled as much as I to find it. Which is good. The 'finding' I mean, not the struggling. The farmer was certainly no shrinking violet and in my face... but clearly he gets the ancient vibe.
17th December 2012ce
Another one that's on the list for next year, if I can work out how to get there. thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
17th December 2012ce
Gladman,You're right about it being a bit of a mystery trip, took me 2 attempts to find it, but it's definitely worth it, as you found out.
You can reach it on foot from the Elan valley visitor centre to the North, which I believe has a bus service from Rhayader. You can cross the river on the bridge that goes to Elan village, just East of the visitor centre, and then, immediately, turn West, follow the river upstream, all on good paths. This will take you up past Caban Coch dam, and you then follow the path around the southern shore of the reservoir until it heads uphill when it meets the stream that rises up by the circle. You'll find a smaller damaged dam a little uphill on this stream. This dam was blown up in the 2nd world war by the team that were developing the bouncing bomb, there's an info board there for it. Just follow this path all the way to the top, and the circle is in the shallow valley to the south, somewhere. Not easy to spot till you're closeish because the stones are small and it's quite a reedy area. Nice walk in good weather.
It's not too far from the circle to head up over to Y Gamriw and it's cairns, but that adds a fair bit to the time needed , so probably a dry weather summer walk, and there are other things around to really make it a serious expedition if you want to. This is a very rich area for some great sites, but not without putting in the effort. You will love it.
Posted by cerrig
17th December 2012ce
Cerrig, you're selling it very well. Now, if only that nice Mr Postman was reading this ... thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
17th December 2012ce
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