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Tarrenhendre

Round Cairn

<b>Tarrenhendre</b>Posted by thesweetcheatImage © A. Brookes (23.7.2011)
Nearest Town:Machynlleth (6km ESE)
OS Ref (GB):   SH6838203964 / Sheet: 135
Latitude:52° 37' 1.51" N
Longitude:   3° 56' 39.65" W

Added by GLADMAN


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Fieldnotes

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I once read - in an interview with Andy Partridge, perhaps? - that one of the defining idiosyncrasies of an Englishman (one assumes an Englishwoman, too?) is a propensity to 'make lists'... or was it 'to collect'? Clearly, the memory isn't what it once was. Whatever the case, both could be seen as manifestations of that oft-derided 'insular character' so readily applied to a specific, indigenous male demographic of this island of ours. If so, it's probably fair to say such a generalisation is applicable in my case - with one important caveat: I like to collect 'experiences', memories... not things. Some bad; the majority, hopefully, good. All are worthwhile additions since, as Mr Cope pointed out some years back everything, the positive and the negative, fuels, helps to inform my 'Rock 'n Roll'. Albeit running to a rather more European-esque, sequencer baseline.

Now while naturally, I'm aware that 'writing stuff down' is of benefit to the, er, advancing memory, maintaining the designated hierarchy when planning visits, for example, can be problematic when one is open to influence by external stimuli, by sensory perception. A case in point being Tarrenhendre. Indeed, a return to this relatively obscure outlier of the wondrous Cadair Idris, while certainly upon 'the list' was, to be frank, so far down as to be languishing within the proverbial 'footer'. There simply are not enough days within our fleeting turn upon this global stage, this cabaret... sometimes Liza Minnelli dark, sometimes Ethel Merman bright... this ongoing story of humanity. Factor in the, according to the map, almost prohibitively steep final approach from the south against perceived benefit and we get to the crux of the matter: the vagaries of the human mind (or at least mine)... "So, what's in it for me?" Hey, I guess I'm no different from most other people, right? To attempt to be more succinct: the large, round cairn dimly recalled from my youth crowning this 2,076ft summit - OK, technically a little way to the approx south-east of the highest point (for all us supposed geeks and assorted misfits who've always thought 'Architecture and Morality' wasn't pretentious, simply classic art) - and this inquisitive traveller were not set to rendezvous once again in the foreseeable future... if ever again?

That is until that aforementioned sensory perception saw fit to do its subliminal thang last month as I wandered the bleak fastness of Pumlumon: sea views absorbed, as if by some kind of osmosis, upon the exquisite hillfort of Pen Dinas, rising above Bont-goch Elerch; a shimmering horizon noted upon the sentinel peak herself, Pen Pumlumon-Fawr. Seemingly disparate, peripheral moments, yet electrical impulses across synapses constructing something much more. Yeah, just like the organic, beyond sensual voice of Regine Fetet, infused with 'Je ne sais pas', somehow merged, coalesced with Hard Corps' precise, robotic, Kraftwerkian beats to create a new, sublime synergy back in the mid-80's (or maybe even Vince and Alf, if you prefer?), it required the input of all Mr Partridge's 'senses working overtime' to ensure I find myself parking-up beside the farm access track to Rhos-farch, a little north of Pennal, under a leaden sky promising nothing very positive, to be honest.

The sense of inauspiciousness is heightened by the all too real perception that I am a very unwelcome guest, judging by the brusque refusal of the arriving farmer to even acknowledge, let alone reciprocate, my friendly greeting. What is it with some people? OK, walker/landowner relations can sometimes get a little fraught, with neither party able to claim a monopoly of righteousness... but to my mind, there is no excuse for such sheer bad manners. Whatever, the gurgling Afon Pennal has sufficient class to compensate for any number of apparently ignorant people and I'm nevertheless, inspired to go walkabout. The farm access track bears a ravaged notice proclaiming 'Private Road'... however since such-like are never (in my long experience) an impediment to rural wandering on foot, I head off down the track to join with the public footpath ascending Tarrenhendre's southern ridge. However, upon achieving said junction, a retrospective glance at the exit gate reveals another notice declaring the route I've just taken as 'out of bounds'. I'll leave you to make your own judgement. But what's done in good faith is done, right? The public footpath - or rather stony track - arcs to the left before branching steeply right to advance across the lush grass of Ffridd Rhosfarch, the primary line servicing the old quarry within Cwm Ebol.

OK, before proceeding any further I should declare a fair degree of favouritism toward the Afon Dyfi (Dovey). Yeah, as much as I'm captivated, in turn, by the aesthetic appeal of the Mawddach, the Dwyryd, Snowdon's very own Afon Glaslyn, the wild Ystwyth of Cwmdeuddwr, even... and surely no river executes a more emphatic discharge to the sea than Pumlumon's Severn (Hafren)... only one watercourse rises within the ancient, traditionally lawless heartland of Ardudwy, cradled within the rocky bosom of Aran Fawddwy. I guess, no matter how we might deny it in polite company, we all harbour a fascination for the outlaw, the moody outsider? And this approach to Tarrenhendre offers arguably almost the finest of all vantage points to witness the former Llaethnant continually achieve its full potential. Second only to the view from the summit ridge rising above, in fact. Needless to say, the impact is greater upon the descent.

In due course the path arrives at the bwlch below Tarren Rhosfach, the space more-or-less occupied by sheepfolds, whereby the 'ask' demanded of me by the mountain to reach the top becomes all too readily apparent. Ouch. A near-on vertical ascent upon grass with no discernible path to speak of, the 'zig-zag' depicted upon my map notwithstanding. Which, when you think about it, is not really surprising? I mean, who in their right mind would want to climb up there to see an old pile of stones? Point taken. Particularly with tendrils of unforecasted hill fog beginning to grasp at the summit towering to the north, above the headwall of the cwm of the Afon Alice. Which begs the obvious question, just who was Alice? (wise to leave Roy 'Chubby' Brown out of such a deliberation, methinks?). What is beyond doubt, however, is the fact that I must earn my rendezvous the hard way by expending every joule of energy at my disposal. The fenceline running the length of Y Tarenau's extensive main ridge - some seven miles of it - is an correspondingly awful long time a'coming, something which appears to be a recurring personal theme nowadays. Nevertheless I... eventually... arrive at the crest of what is named Mynydd Esgairweddan upon the 1:25k ODS map, a pretty featureless 'lumpy hump' which refuses to divulge the whereabouts of some apparent monuments listed by Coflein with anything approaching ease. Suddenly feeling somewhat nervous due to the inclement, not to mention deteriorating conditions, I elect to head straight for my ultimate goal... and resign myself to having a detailed look upon my return. The 'umbilical cord' fenceline, reassuringly, heads unerringly to the great cairn of Tarrenhendre. Too unerringly, in fact, ignobly bisecting the monument in the process. But there you are.

And 'great cairn' it certainly is! Despite the dual indignity of wire and rather pathetic modern marker cairn plonked on top, there is no muppet shelter to be found here, the monument seemingly intact and standing apparently inviolate upon its coastal perch. Although featuring a grassy mantle, the cairn boasts a fine profile and relatively consistent elevation. Check! As noted earlier, the great stone pile does not occupy the actual summit of Tarrenhendre. However, to my mind the visitor doesn't need to look far for this apparent oversight, if not error... indeed, the evidence is all around: staring, awestruck, to the south-west, the magnificent vista towards Aberdyfi and Cardigan Bay highlights the anfractuous course of the Afon Dyfi to perfection; to the approx west, the aforementioned ridge of Y Tarenau is seen snaking away toward Tarren Cwm-ffernol and the significantly be-cairned Trum Gelli, the latter visited a few years ago; while to the south, looking across the sinuous river to the upland cemeteries upon Foel Goch and Moel y Llyn - the latter, incidentally, the subject of another localised 'lady in the lake' legend - the gaze, with eyes straining to penetrate the swirling mist, finally comes to rest upon the summit of Pumlumon herself. Pen Pumlumon-Fawr. Mother of Rivers.

And so the subliminal workings of this challenged mind achieve their goal by finally reversing the perspective of last month. Yeah, for me there can be no doubt behind the placement of this cairn. It had to be, surely, the epic outlook such a position presented, the overview of the Dyfi reaching the sea? To check this theory out, as any good scientist would insist an enthusiastic, er, layman should, I make my way to the summit to discover it is, indeed, simply not in the same league as its panoramic neighbour. OK, that's not to say the views toward Dyffryn Dysynni, yet another upland cemetery gracing Allt Lwyd, not to mention Cadair Idris (although the latter is mostly subsumed in vapour) are not expansive - hey, I even reckon I can make out the iconic hill fort upon Craig Yr Aderwyn? - but, let's face it.... the Dyfi is the business around these parts and, owing to the relatively uniform topography of the summit plateau, this traveller can only conclude the great cairn is where it needed to be. Needs to be, in fact.

And there's more. Following lunch perched upon the craggy eastern face of the mountain, looking across to Tarren-y-Gesail (Y Tarenau's cairn-less summit top) progressively losing an ongoing duel with the all-encompassing hill fog, I return to the cairn to chill out - a little too literally, unfortunately - and discover a further, completely grassed-over monument a little to the approx north(ish) of the star attraction at SH6839103998. According to Coflein, this represents:

"Remains of round barrow standing 1m high and eroded away to an almost rectangular shape on the windward sides. Approx. dimensions 7m x 4m. S.D. Lowden, Archaeophysica, 1 June 2006."

So there you are. In fact Coflein cites another prehistoric site, but that is not forthcoming in the billowing mist. Perhaps it's just me? Checking the time I realise I have to make a move to reach the car before dark. Like, er, now? So I begin the descent and, despite another quick review of Mynydd Esgairweddan, do not discern anything I could say, with my hand on my heart (not that I'm attempting to dump Kylie, or anything, you understand?) matched Coflein's descriptions. But there you are. The descent back to the bwlch is not exactly what tired, aching legs would choose if they were sentient, but what has to be done, has to be done... and the views of Dyffryn Dyfi, free from the gathering gloom, really are exquisite compensation. Arriving back at Rhos-farch I briefly consider ignoring the 'Einreise Verboten!' but, in accordance with my moral code, decide to give the landowner the benefit of the doubt and stick to the 'official' route. I mean, how far can it be? And no one with a realistic, holistic view of life in 2019 would deliberately take actions to discourage tourism, the very economic lifeblood of Wales? Surely not? Hmm. Prospective visitors should note that it is, in fact, a considerable diversion so I leave you to consider the intelligence/morality of suchlike. So, more-or-less dead on my feet, I finally arrive back at the car. It's been a long, challenging day, both physically and mentally. And, upon reflection, one I wouldn't have undertaken if it hadn't been for the subliminal deliberations of this lump of grey matter we call the human mind. Ah, introspection. Guess it's what separates us, alienates us from the other creatures inhabiting this crazy, spinning globe. I mean, Molly, my cat, will truculently bite me one moment, yet smooch up 30 minutes later as if nothing had occurred. No sense of 'memory'? Or maybe she's simply ruthlessly manipulating me for her own ends? Dunno. But there's no way she would ever consider climbing a mountain. Lazy cat.

However, if 'introspection' is, indeed, what locked us out of the primaeval forest and gives us so much pain... joy and, crucially, hope for the future... You who are about to be introspective - I salute you!
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
19th January 2020ce
Edited 25th January 2020ce

Miscellaneous

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The Tarrens are a compact group of mountains to the south of the great Cadair Idris and separated from it by the deep rift holding Llyn Mwyngil (better known as Tal-y-Llyn Lake).

Much encroached upon by forestry plantations though the Tarrens are, the main ridge linking Tarrenhendre with Tarren-y-Gesail still provides a fine walk, particularly for those with an interest in ancient burial cairns, since the former - at 2,076ft - possesses three examples in varying states of preservation at SH68350395, 6838203964 and 6839103998.

According to Coflein the round barrow is:

a 'large round barrow 12m diameter approx. with small stone cairn on centre which is clearly a later addition. Original round barrow is covered in peat with some stone now eroding out of it but is generally in good condition. Area of possible original stone quarrying to the W and NW of monument. Round barrow is approx.1.5m in height. Field boundary runs right over the middle of the monument'.

Note that the mountain is also the site of a Spitfire crash on 22/10/42........
GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
7th November 2009ce
Edited 17th November 2019ce