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Esgair Ceiliog

Ring Cairn

<b>Esgair Ceiliog</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Nearest Town:Llanwrtyd Wells (14km S)
OS Ref (GB):   SN89776064 / Sheet: 147
Latitude:52° 13' 56.8" N
Longitude:   3° 36' 51.3" W

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<b>Esgair Ceiliog</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Esgair Ceiliog</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Esgair Ceiliog</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Esgair Ceiliog</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Esgair Ceiliog</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Esgair Ceiliog</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Esgair Ceiliog</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Esgair Ceiliog</b>Posted by GLADMAN


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It's always struck me as significant - if not telling - that (the then West) Germany led the way in redefining popular music during the final decades of the 20th Century - Kraftwerk's techno-pop influencing Bowie and thus driving the post-punk electronic explosion - since when a society's immediate past history is so horrific, one can only look to the future, right? Appropriately enough, I reckon Hamburger Peter Heppner nailed this sense of Teutonic emancipation/alienation from the past in Wolfsheim's wondrous 'Kein Zurück' in 2003: "Und was jetzt ist wird nie mehr so geschehen; Es geht kein Weg zurück (And what is now will never happen again; There is no way back)". But is this truly a healthy, progressive worldview and not one simply borne from an inability to face the past, at least for now? Is the past really irrelevant? And if so, what does that say about us 'Modern Antiquarians' so intent upon trying to understand how our pre-history moulded us into what we are today? For better or worse. Sure, we cannot physically 'go back', but is it possible to understand - or at least gain a tenuous insight into - the minds of our forebears? And then what use would that be?

On balance I reckon that, while we can take elements of such a German mindset to heart - don't dwell upon negative emotions etc - the truth should always win out if we are to have any future at all. Orlando Battista once said 'An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it', which I guess is another way of highlighting we homo sapiens' propensity to learn far more by 'ballsing things up' than by acting with the technical precision of, well... Die Mensch-Maschine. It follows, therefore, that one has to try to understand the past to enable any attempt to avoid the mistakes of our history/pre-history?

Of all the negative human emotions it is perhaps 'regret' which is, in the long run, the most damaging if left untreated, gnawing away at one's inner self like a rodent through an electrical cable... or corroding the mind like the blood of H R Giger's myopically savage beastie through a spaceship's hull. Sooner or later something's gotta give, right? Now don't get me wrong, there are many, many worse things in this life than neglecting to visit a prime archaeological site, when in any given locale, due to ignorance of its existence. Nevertheless, I'd wager you won't deny it can be galling not to have taken chances to accomplish something worthwhile, particularly regarding this 'outdoor exploration' lark, where opportunities can be fleeting, fitness not what it once was... the 'tweak' in the knee progressively more pronounced as the years pass. Yeah, none of us is getting any younger. As the gorgeously bonkers Roisin Murphy emphatically stated some years back, the time is always 'NOW'.

The thought occurs early morning as I scan the map at my wild camp above Cwm Ystwyth: do I really want to reprise a visit to Cwm Paradwys in order to see a cairn I happened to miss out on a few years back? Just the one, requiring a half-day at most... when I could experience something brand new instead. I mean let's face it, things are never as exciting the second time around, are they? Luckily, in retrospect, I conclude I should take the opportunity to correct the 'error' since ignorance, as in law, is ultimately no defence. Besides, I seem to recall that image on Coflein did appear rather tasty. The drive southwards through Cwmdeuddwr shadows the sinuous course of the Afon Elan, the artificially corralled waters of which wait patiently behind successive masterpieces of Victorian engineering prowess pending onward progress. Eventually, I reach the southern-most reservoir (Dolymynach) and park up by the 'phonebox' - remember them? - at SN901616. Crossing the Afon Claerwen (flowing from the massive reservoir collecting the copious run-off of western Elenydd at road's end), I veer right at the medieval longhouse of Llannerch-y-cawr to join the track accessing Cwm Rhiwnant, experiencing a flash of deja-vu as I do so. Nevertheless, it is pleasant to experience the walk once again, what with sunlight streaming through the cloud mantle and that special ambience of cascading water below me releasing the endorphins.

To the west(ish), the crags of Craig y Llysiau are surmounted by a standing stone which, if you are that way inclined, may be of interest (I must confess that solitary monoliths have to be in the 'Maen Llia league' for me to consider a primary visit). Continuing onwards, a fine view into Cwm Rhiwnant soon manifests itself as I begin to gain height, the topography of Dalrhiw suggestive of it being a good viewpoint. Duly noted, the track veers to the south, a headwall waterfall hinting at what lies above and beyond: Cwm Paradwys. A little before Carreg y Fedw, that is just beyond a right-hand fork, the track swings abruptly uphill to the left. I, however, maintain my approach line scrambling up the rough slope to attain the green track traversing the cwm... all the way to Bwlch y Ddau Faen and Carnau if one wishes... or even the legendary Drygarn Fawr itself! Err, not today thanks. Yeah, I've smaller 'fish to fry', albeit - as it will transpire - only in terms of overall effort, not quality.

More-or-less opposite the final cascade of the Nant Paradwys, I exit the magnificent stage left and climb steeply to the top of the crags of Esgair Ceiliog, expecting to see my goal, the ring cairn, visible below to the north-east. To be fair.... it is. But not so as I can recognise it with my hopeless peepers first time of asking. More obvious, even to the likes of me, is the great Waun cairn crowning the hillside to my right (SN897599); an essential visit for any Citizen Cairn'd who may not have had the pleasure. As for myself, it takes an uncomfortable period of (quite literally) stumbling around within the trademark tall 'tufty grass' of Cwmdeuddwr (perhaps only rivalled by Pumlumon when it comes to pitiless disregard for the traveller) before I glimpse stone upon the sloping hillside beyond.

To say it is worth the effort is akin to reluctantly conceding Mozart may have written a few 'half-decent tunes' back in the day. In short, this is, in my estimation, a truly exquisite ring cairn set in perhaps as vibey a location as one could possibly wish for, given the physical outlay required to get here. Let's face it, if any other punter was to disturb you at Esgair Ceiliog, verily, I'd eat my hat. And if you could see my hat, well.... OK, as with numerous other monuments gracing the Cwmdeuddwr Hills, the outlook is more 'aquatic' in nature than originally intended by the architects; that being said, it's certainly none too shabby with Rhos y Gelynnen (incidentally the site of a fine stone row) rising beyond Craig Llannerch-y-cawr to the immediate north, the gaze panning rightward across the Dolymynach and Caban-coch Reservoirs to rest upon the be-cairned skyline of Gro Hill, memorably blundered about upon last year.

As regards the archaeology on display... Bill and Ted's 'Excellent!' comes to mind (with a Copeian 'bass air guitar' for added emphasis), the ring cairn possessing a well-preserved - in fact more-or-less complete - circular footprint, the whole low lying construction forming a curiously grey interlude within a veritable rolling sea of various shades of green. At once distinct from, yet remaining an integral part of, this hillside. In fact, there's nothing for it but to lie back and follow suit for a few hours. For those who may want to do the Maths, Coflein notes:

"...a stony ring bank 2.5m-3.5m wide and up to 0.5m high with overall measurements of 12.5m from east to west by 11.5m from north to south. There is no entrance gap in the bank." [D.K.Leighton, RCAHMW, 8/8/2005]

With a couple of hours still in the 'bank' before I must return to the car, I reject a return to the Waun cairn in favour of a quick shufty into Cwm Rhiwarth from the top of Dalrhiw. Simple enough, right? Haha. Yeah, right. Crossing the Nant Paradwys at the waterfall I'm immediately reminded once again why it's no mean feat to venture 'off-piste' upon the Cwmdeuddwr Hills, the terrain ludicrously rough underfoot to the point of allusions to purgatory. Furthermore, the sky, relatively benign earlier in the day, is now growing progressively darker and darker. The profile of Carnau appears upon the southern skyline as I reach the 'summit', such as it is, of the hill. A few spots of rain... and suddenly I know what's coming. Nevertheless, the electrical storm hits before the waterproofs are in place, but I'm OK. For now. That is until the thunder booms out, echoing off nearby crags with a ferocity that fair short-circuits logical thought. Odin! Yeah, is it any wonder why people came to such supernatural conclusions back then when faced with such Super Natural, mind-blowing occurrences?

Lightning follows, flashes of electricity arcing across the sky uncomfortably near at hand. Hey, did that one just hit the ground? Yes, No? Whooah! This is now serious. I'm engulfed by that peculiar juxtaposition of exhilaration and genuine fear, impossible to categorise, truly alive. Let's keep it that way, eh? High on adrenalin, I throw my trekking poles as far away from me as I can and sit upon the rucksack to ride out Nature's furious onslaught. My mind resurrects vivid memories of a similar time upon The Black Mountains with the intrepid Mam C... and visions of the monument to Mike Aspain (RIP) upon Drws Bach, high up in The Arans.

The storm recedes... as Odin sees fit to lay his hammer to one side again... or whatever. The air washed - nay, scrubbed, thrashed - clean by the preceding atmospheric shenanigans, is a joy to breathe, sunshine streaming across the landscape as vivid gold as old Tut's death mask. Not that I've seen the latter first hand, you understand? Perhaps it's the sheer relief, or senses at the top of their game maybe? Take your pick. However, as Govan's finest Rab C would say, I will tell you this: even being aware of how/why such natural phenomena occur I can fully appreciate why mountain folk of times past thought what they did. Perhaps one needs the practical lesson to obtain the insight?

Distant ominous rumbles remind me that I shouldn't press my luck, so I begin the descent to the banks of the Afon Rhiwarth. Despite evidence of historic mining, Cwm Rhiwarth is an attractive environment defined by Craig y Dalrhiw to the south and Craig Rhiwarth north, the latter topped by the standing stone mentioned earlier. I follow the river eastwards until a ford allows access across the Nant y Dyrys at its confluence. It is a beautiful spot by any criterion, a nearby footbridge across the primary watercourse suggestive of other possibilities to be investigated some other time perhaps? For now I must reverse my outward steps to the car, reaching its rubber-insulated sanctuary without any further cacophonous incident.

You know, there's something to relish about voluntarily experiencing life in what might be termed its 'base' or 'raw' form... as long as nothing permanently detrimental occurs, naturally. Yeah, tell me about it! Brief interludes to offset against - to apply a critical lens to - everyday existence. If we're lucky normality, on balance, is revealed to be tolerable enough, subject to the inevitable variability of the grass hues subject to location, as they say. The key to such an insight is, in my opinion, experiencing some aspects of the way we used to live in order to obtain a different viewpoint, one based upon verifiable evidence and not some loon saying stuff 'just because. Since Mr Well's time machine is yet to be perfected, I reckon our best bet is to use the past as a yardstick for where we are... and where we might want to go. I guess that probably includes revisiting errors before they become mistakes.

Although needless to say, if I had have been fried by bolts from the heavens on Dalrhiw I might well possess a different viewpoint on that. Been inspired to write that follow up to 'Reynard The Fox', perhaps? Or it might have ended right there and then upon that hilltop... Yeah, makes a chap think, doesn't it? Always a good thing.
4th April 2021ce
Edited 5th April 2021ce


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Well preserved ring cairn upon Esgair Ceiliog
postman Posted by postman
9th January 2012ce