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Carn Wen (Gwastedyn)


<b>Carn Wen (Gwastedyn)</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Also known as:
  • Druid's Circle
  • Gwastedyn Hill

Nearest Town:Llandrindod Wells (9km ESE)
OS Ref (GB):   SN982663 / Sheets: 136, 147
Latitude:52° 17' 5.79" N
Longitude:   3° 29' 33.19" W

Added by Rhiannon

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<b>Carn Wen (Gwastedyn)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Carn Wen (Gwastedyn)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Carn Wen (Gwastedyn)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Carn Wen (Gwastedyn)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Carn Wen (Gwastedyn)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Carn Wen (Gwastedyn)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Carn Wen (Gwastedyn)</b>Posted by GLADMAN


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Travellers heading south upon the A470 - or at least those with a tendency to, perchance, lift their eyes above the horizontal plane - will note, upon leaving the limits of the busy town of Rhayader, a substantial ridge dominating the skyline. This is Gwastedyn Hill, and, although rising to no more than c1,565ft, the 'summit' is conspicuously crowned by a neat 'beehive' cairn of the type so beloved by visitors to the erstwhile 'wilder', more inaccessible heights of Cwmdeuddw feeding the famously nearby Elan Valley Reservoirs with their not inconsiderable watery excess. However, appearances, as are often the case, are deceptive here, for no Bronze Age VIP was interred upon that rocky spine. Indeed, a rusting iron lattice-work 'beacon', set upon a post beside the cairn, commemorates a much more recent event... that of Queen Elizabeth II's 1977 Jubilee. An event which this then proto-Modern Antiquarian spent dressed as a pirate... well, as the wondrous Mr Ant said, 'ridicule is nothing to be scared of'... attending the local street party, whilst Mr Rotten and his dodgy cohorts had their collars 'felt' by the Thames river police. And Rod Stewart apparently got to No.1. Apparently. Don't get me wrong; The Pistols were just stupid kids.... but out of the mouths of babes, as they say. Curious how 'criminality' is sometimes defined, isn't it?

Nevertheless should one decide to park up just beyond the sewage works (on the right) and follow the (unsigned) public bridleway, steeply up through trees beside a tumbling stream in the general direction of Bwlch-y-llys, an equally taxing pull up the bare north-west flank of the hill will bring ample reward in a fantastic panorama to all points of the compass. Here the Royalist can drink his/her fill... the prehistorian, however, must head to the true summit of the hill some way to the approx south-east, where.... well, to be honest I don't think anyone's been able to define just what the hell is going on.

Two things, however, are apparent to me today: the remains of a substantial cairn still stand at SN98686614... the Carn Wen (White Cairn), one of a number so named in the extended locality; and secondly, the inclement weather, the peripheral effects of Hurricane Irma no doubt, is certainly in no hurry to leave. But what can you do? Except offer heartfelt 'thanks' to the wondrous institutions of Berghaus and Karrimor for the blessings of their waterproof garments. Not so much in physical genuflection, you understand?.... but such a posture does have much to recommend it when faced with rain seemingly not in obeyance of the laws of physics.

In my opinion Carn Wen is worthy of the honour of such personalised nomenclature. As Coflein duly notes, it features "...the remains of a substantial bouldered kerb and a possible cist". Always welcome features to find associated with one's upland cairn. Furthermore, to seal the authenticity deal, as it were, "A battle-axe, a bracelet and some other relics' were recovered in 1844 and a large erect stone was noted at the centre of the monument". So, clearly, what we have here is but the shattered remnants of what once was. But it is enough. Large, erect stones notwithstanding. However there is more... apparently much more, for immediately to the approx north-west stands the circular 'Druid's Circle' feature, currently interpreted as "a roundhouse and enclosure" (at SN98676615), whilst to the north-east, three further cairns have been recorded by CPAT. None of this detail was obvious to me, I have to confess. Although, in mitigation, lashing, freezing rain and swirling hill fog do tend to adversely affect observation. If not authentic upland vibe.

After a couple of hours the weather's onslaught finally triumphs over my resolve and I descend back to the car... ironically in brilliant sunshine. Yeah, Gwastedyn Hill is a curious place. Just what an apparently prehistoric 'enclosure' is doing immediately adjoining a bone fide summit burial cairn is, of course, open to much debate. If Iron Age, perhaps it was indeed - for once - actually associated with those enigmatic Druid priests, holding ceremonies with meaning now lost in the mists of time, if no longer, thanks to penetrating sun, opaque mists of H20?
17th September 2017ce
Edited 18th September 2017ce


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From Archaeologia Cambrensis (1858), in an article about the history of Radnorshire:
Near to the above-mentioned place, Cwystudwen [Gwastedyn, Nantmel], are two remarkable carns, named Carnwen, and Carnfach, that is, the white and the little carn, each being of an elliptical form, and having in the centre an erect stone of superior magnitude ...

On the eastern extremity of this hill, and on a farm named Gifron, is a place which the common people distinguish by the appellation Gwar-y-beddau, that is, the ridge of graves; it consists of three mounds, or elevations, in which tradition reports three brothers, who, returning from the wars, quarrelled, fought, and fell by each others' swords, were interred.
In Coflein's description, Carn Wen is described as a much robbed cairn with a bouldered kerb and a possible cist. 'A battle-axe, a bracelet and some other relics' were found in 1844. The three cairns in the folklore are said to be 20-110m to the north east. Coflein calls the other cairn 'The Druid's Circle' - it might be a prehistoric enclosure with a roundhouse inside.

They are mentioned in Camden's Britannia (originally published 1607, this from the 1722 edition):
On the top of a hill, call'd Gwastedin, near Rhaiadr Gwy, there are three large heaps of stones, of that kind which are common upon mountains in most (if not all) the Counties of Wales; call'd in South-Wales Karneu, and in North-Wales Karned-heu. They consist of such [?] stones from a pound weight to a hundred, &c. as the neighbouring places afford; and are confusedly pil'd up without any farther trouble than the bringing them thither, and the throwing them in heaps.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
26th May 2010ce
Edited 16th August 2011ce