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

Fan Frynych

Round Cairn


I've occassionally heard it said by experienced 'stoneheads' that the more sites they see, the less physical remains they need on the ground to be able to fully appreciate a site. I'd go along with this - up to a point - providing the siting of the monument is all that it should be. That is to say a solitary orthostat in a housing estate isn't necessarily going to suffice for me. Place that same stone upon a glowering mountain top, however, and now we are talking! Guess that's one of my many idiosyncracities, for better or worse.

The Bronze Age cairn upon Fan Frynych very much falls into this category... you're either going to love it to bits for its exceptional vibe, or think the not inconsiderable effort required to reach it not worth the relatively insignificant physical remains... Judging by the traces that remain within the soil - sundry embedded stones, a few courses of possible kerb, the possible capstone(?) SC mentions etc - the small walkers cairn occupies but a small fraction of the original surface area of what must have been a pretty substantial monument in its time, similar in stature to many other examples that grace these South Walian uplands (see Coflein's dimensions given in the miscellanous post).

However to focus entirely upon the physical form of what is, after all, a large pile of rocks - albeit a seriously robbed one - is, I think, to miss the salient point... which I would argue is why monuments such as this were specifically placed at such extreme locations in the first place. In other words I believe the positionning was the most important aspect of the monument, the physical marking / occupying of the landscape the primary concern to these people. Yeah, it HAS to be HERE. In my opinion the judgement of the Bronze Age people of Fan Frynych was sound... this is the 'right' place, for it is certainly awe inspiring, even today in our age of science with education for all. One could argue the same applies to the upland stone circles, which often tend to consist of diminutive orthostats arranged in spectacular locations. The precise demarcation of an area of the landscape would appear to have been the key purpose, not the erection of a towering monument to impress the neighbours... our monument is special BECAUSE it is here, not down there, so to speak.

Significantly, perhaps, the cairn was not placed at the summit of the mountain, this, due to topography limitations being notable primarily for its lovely little tarn and not as a viewpoint. The chosen position was in fact near the north-eastern extremity of the mountain, this providing an unobstructed, and thus sweeping vista northwards towards the Usk. To the east, across the Glyn Tarell, rise the Brecon Beacons, the majestic, flat topped summits of Pen y Fan and Corn Du bearing the highest prehistoric monuments in Southern Britain. To the west the fertile field systems fed by the Afon Senni speak volumes. The viewpoint was apparently everything.... and remains so. Of course we must forever speculate, but there can be no better premise for such speculation that to stand here for a few moments - more if you can - and observe.

Today I intended to ascend Fan Frynych via the straightforward route from Forest Lodge cottages. However mountains affect the mind... they really do... a fact the religious people of yore no doubt manipulated for their own ends.. and the ridge leading straight to the summit from the R*man Road to the north 'called me'. Although a little too steep for my ageing limbs, perhaps, it was appropriate. I shall continue to do this whilst I physically can for I am attracted to these high places like a moth to flame. I guess they truly are the abode of the 'gods' that inhabit the human mind.
4th September 2010ce
Edited 5th September 2010ce

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