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




Despite the indignity of now having a twee stone National Trust tablet - bearing the name of the peak - placed upon its summit, the excavated, and subsequently reconstructed, Bronze Age cairn of Pen y Fan still occupies the same spot it has for millennia. The setting, here upon the summit plateau of this, the highest mountain south of Cadair Idris, is 'otherworldly' in the extreme, a desolate area of disintegrating sandstone slabs so uniform it would appear to have had its crown sliced clean off by a gigantic cleaver. Or similar instrument. Indeed, I have a profound sense of being upon something akin to Conan Doyle's 'Lost World', the effect accentuated by the restricted downward views due to the regularity of elevation of the immediate environment. Ha! A natural altar, if ever there was one, just like Corn Du across the way.

The downside to a visit here centres upon the seemingly endless procession of walkers determined to be able to say - in the immortal words of local comedian Max Boyce - 'I was there!' And good luck to 'em, I say, for it is some achievement. And who knows, a glimpse of that cairn may perhaps begin to germinate the seed that may one day flower into another stonehead? Perhaps. As for myself, though, a perch upon the protruding sandstone slabs below to the north is the order of the day. For here the natural world once more takes precedence, a striking panaroma rendered upon the broadest of canvas... the flamboyant sweep of the brush... as in the ridge Cefn Cwm Llwch boldly thrusting towards a Brecon sparkling white in the sunshine, the hillfort Pen y Crug rising to its left, itself illuminated by a passing shaft of light...the elegant skyline formed by The Black Mountains ending abruptly at the English border.... and the little, deft strokes to highlight detail.... a wild foal prancing and skipping far below, much to the apparent annoyance of its mother.. the site of a small defended enclosure upon the lower flanks..... Llyn Cwm Llwch shining like a precious stone beneath a monument to the death of a lost, frightened little boy. Yeah, that is what these mountains are all about. Contrasts.... Grieg's 'Morning' one moment, Holst's 'Mars' the next, but never, ever indifference. They insist you explore the full range and diversity of a sensory perception which, although perhaps fully utilised by our forebearers in the ongoing struggle to survive, is sadly under used by the majority of us nowadays in a society seemingly designed to anaesthetise. In short they make you feel ALIVE!! A primeval injection of reality into the bloodstream. Ha! More please....

Returning to the summit several hours later, all is virtually silent, the plateau almost deserted. Unlike virtually every other summit I've been on, it's almost eerie like this. The contrast, I guess. Hell, it just doesn't look like a mountain top! To be frank, Pen y Fan and Corn Du are very nearly unique in these Isles (the only other comparable pairing I know of are the much smaller Macleod's Tables on The Isle of Skye). Is this what attracted our ancestors so? Hmmm. Slowly I make my way back to the also virtually deserted Corn Du. After the crowds have gone, as they say.....

To be honest I don't know if I'll be back. If not, so be it, since I'm glad I came again. Besides, people will continue to make the pilgrimage to the cairns. Just as they always used to do.
29th September 2010ce
Edited 3rd October 2010ce

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