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Bryn y Fedwen

Round Barrow(s)

<b>Bryn y Fedwen</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Nearest Town:Machynlleth (12km WNW)
OS Ref (GB):   SN84069533 / Sheets: 135, 136
Latitude:52° 32' 34.91" N
Longitude:   3° 42' 35.41" W

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Two substantial round barrows crown the large summit plateau of Bryn y Fedwen providing (on an unexpectedly fine morning such as this, anyway) wondrous panoramic views to the north and north-west of Cadair Idris and southern Snowdonia. Assuming my understanding of the vernacular is not that limited, it wasn't always such a great viewpoint, the reference to birch trees (I think) suggesting a fundamentally different prevailing landscape context in the past. I find it difficult to visualise. But there you are. Times change. Nevertheless the traveller is here presented with an opportunity to experience an excellent upland vibe with relatively little effort, the latter courtesy of the minor road which traverses the moorland to the west before sharply descending the escarpment edge. It is possible to leave a car at the entrance to the impressive Glaslyn nature reserve (needless to say don't block the cattle grid like the mindless muppet I encountered).... and simply step over the fence across the road. If not, try the Vaughan-Thomas memorial a little further down the road (not forgetting to tip your hat in posthumous tribute to a true outdoorsman and raconteur) where it is 'just' possible. Incidentally this is also a convenient starting point for an ascent of Foel Fadian, the shapely mini-mountain featuring a large barrow mid-way along its eastern flank.... and a quite wondrous skyline of Pumlumon rising across Uwch y Coed and Glaslyn.

Anyway, I digress. The ascent of Bryn y Fedwen from the road is short, the angle of attack shallow, an audience with the first of the barrows soon attained. According to Coflein this measures "20m by 18m and 1.5m high, foreshortened to the NW by a track and bearing the scars of excavation, an inurned cremation being recorded in 1938 [J.Wiles 15.04.02]." So, no doubt about this being the 'real deal', then. The monument is surmounted by a standing stone almost obscured by the long grass which, unfortunately, turns out to be a boundary marker. Shame, but not unexpected in these parts.

A touch of low cloud, formed by temperature inversion, begins to peel away from Cadair Idris resplendent upon the northern horizon. Closer to hand Foel Fadian lies enticingly to the immediate west, its barrow particularly well defined from here. I quickly come to the conclusion that a visit is required later, a brief interlude at the Gladmobile to replenish coffee stocks notwithstanding. In the interim there is also the magnificent vista of Pumlumon to enjoy prior to the gaze being duly drawn to the east to focus upon the second round barrow to grace this hill top. The short walk across the intervening distance requires negotiating another low fence (or perhaps two?) but, despite the damage suffered by the monument, it is worth the effort. Again according to Coflein... this barrow is actually a little taller than its western neighbour, but, in my opinion, less upstanding. If that makes any sense? Probably not. Anyway the dimensions are given as "18m in diameter & 1.7m high", the monument "...devastated by profitless excavation." Well, one out of two aint bad.

As I sit and revel in the conditions upon my little hill top, convex, grassy contours within pastureland to the south-east suggest to me the possibility that Bryn y Fedwen's Bronze Age cemetery was once more extensive than currently supposed. Whatever, I leave Bryn y Fedwen impressed by what I consider an important addition to the Pumlumon prehistoric canon.
10th November 2013ce
Edited 10th November 2013ce