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Pen-y-Bwlch (Ystrad Fflur)


<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (Ystrad Fflur)</b>Posted by GLADMANImage © Robert Gladstone
Also known as:
  • Pen y Bwlch

Nearest Town:Llanwrtyd Wells (19km SE)
OS Ref (GB):   SN78036373 / Sheets: 146, 147
Latitude:52° 15' 27.98" N
Longitude:   3° 47' 13.94" W

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Pen-y-Bwlch (West) Round Cairn

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<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (Ystrad Fflur)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Pen-y-Bwlch (Ystrad Fflur)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Pen-y-Bwlch (Ystrad Fflur)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Pen-y-Bwlch (Ystrad Fflur)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Pen-y-Bwlch (Ystrad Fflur)</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Pen-y-Bwlch (Ystrad Fflur)</b>Posted by GLADMAN


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I guess it's a sure sign of advancing years when one notices a progressive tendency for retrospection. OK, scholars may well debate the relative merits - or otherwise - of the human brain's ability to store seemingly countless memories until the proverbial cows come home; however, on balance, I tend to agree with Saul Bellow that memories help 'keep the wolf of insignificance from the door' and are worth the price of alienation from our mammalian brethren. Nevertheless, despite the penchant to 'sugar coat' with lashings of nostalgia, some years really don't have a lot going for them, do they: Callaghan's 'Winter of Discontent'; the Twin Towers atrocity and Foot and Mouth calamity of 2001; the Financial Crash of 2008; Dave's Brexit Referendum and the looming spectre of Corbyn's antisemitic Stalinists in 2016.... which brings us to 2020 - not yet concluded, but already probably the worst global annus horriblis in recent living memory?

Now don't get me wrong; I'm not in the habit of opposing the views of legendary poets. However, when W H Auden saw fit to state 'Put the car away; when life fails, what's the good of going to Wales?', I can only disagree; take the contrary view (although, for balance, note that references to 'Spender' do tend to conjure up visions of Jimmy Nail's sardonic Geordie detective... as opposed to Golden PEN awardees). Consequently, upon (temporary) relaxation of lockdown, I find myself seeking sanctuary upon the relatively untrodden hills of Ceredigion, experiencing another dawn beneath the brutal, yet reassuringly familiar mass of Pumlumon prior to shadowing the alacritous Rheidol as far as an unfeasibly deserted 'Devil's Bridge'. Further south, beyond Pontrhydfendigaid and its superb hill fort Pen-y-Bannau, a prosaically named 'Abbey Road' guides the curious traveller to the Abaty Ystrad Fflur, aka Strata Florida. Yeah, established by Cistercian monks in the 12th Century and later buggered to oblivion by Henry VIII, no less than Dafydd ap Gwilym (himself) is said to be interred under a yew within the grounds. Nevertheless - for me - the finest poetry still lingering here is that inherent within the exquisite Romanesque archway which, as Indian philosophers would no doubt agree, can surely never sleep, regardless of the tranquillity of setting? (presumably, the monks here didn't generate, albeit by proxy, any more 'earthy' verse through the production of Holy Swally, a la Buckfast?). OK, so not 'ancient, ancient' (as Micky Flanaghan might observe) but worth a look in passing before taking the left fork past waterworks to park up just before road's end near a chapel refurbished for better ends than the spouting of dogma: for living. Here it is possible to follow a public path to check out the Llynnoedd Teifi ('Teifi Pools') from the south... another time, perhaps?

My route continues along the road to the south-east, tarmac soon giving way to rough, stony track as it shadows the little Afon Mwyro back towards its source at Blaen Mwyro... or wherever else one might wish to venture within the great green yonder. The track swings to the east, whereby, at the confluence of a plunging stream with the river, the map depicts a right of way ascending the hills to the south accessing the bwlch (col) a little west of my intended destination: Pen-y-bwlch. Unfortunately, the OS's genius for converting topographical detail to the planar... is not matched by my ability to reverse the process. So I miss my cue and walk right by. All is not lost, however, my route-finding shortcomings mitigated by an ability to improvise somewhat after the penny drops. Luckily for my socks, the Afon Mwyro is 'step-over-able' here, enabling me to head across the verdant, soggy pasture to begin a full-frontal assault of Pen-y-bwlch to the left (east) of the stream. Although reasonably short, it is nonetheless a steep, taxing climb to gain the escarpment edge, time enough to ponder why on earth I didn't decide to approach through the forestry to the west? The answer is forthcoming as I finally reach the crest: the retrospective panorama truly a boon for the soul. Looking the other way, the summit of the hill can be seen some not insignificant distance south (more-or-less) across a rough plateau demarcated by the aforementioned forestry.

As I draw nearer, it becomes apparent that the right-hand extremis of the ridge possesses a rather large cairn. Nevertheless, first things first: the summit, approx a third of a mile to the east. Now it has to be said that the monument to be found here isn't, like the c1,650ft hilltop itself, exactly overwhelming in stature, initially corresponding to the brief Coflein entry:

"Described as 'a scatter of stones', but considered ancient." (J.Wiles 31.01.02)

Upon closer inspection, however, more material can be discerned beneath the turf and, furthermore, within slippage to the west, this stone spread including that magical embedded quartzite. More of this wondrous 'non-foliated metamorphic rock' (well, everyone believes the Wiki, right?) is incorporated within a rather wobbly marker cairn - I won't call it a 'walker's cairn' since, clearly, few see fit to venture this way - surmounting the whole; and it is a fair assumption that the remainder of this modern parasite is but remodelled monument. Yeah, as is often the case in this game, the beauty is in the detail, assuming the eyes and ears of the beholder are receptive enough, naturally. Such as the panoramic 180-degree vista (the other arc curtailed by the forestry) taking in most of the Cwmdeuddwr wilderness, prior to sweeping north to Pumlumon herself; or the 'tumultuous silence' which, while sparing the ears, can almost be said to assault the psyche with its ferocious intensity. Indeed, I'm soon accorded a consummate example of the 'exception proving the rule' when a distant 'whirr' to the east in due course reveals itself to be an RAF Chinook roaring past just above my head in a cacophony of rotary discord before receding, hugging the terrain, making very light work of my ascent route (incidentally I read with alarm reports of a Chinook crashing into power lines in Carmarthenshire a few days later... thankfully with no fatalities).

With silence once more restored to the hills, I sit and attempt to 'take in' the vastness of the sky, the endeavour a summation of seemingly mutually exclusive emotions... the fleeting exuberance of alpha male physical achievement tempered by a very real awareness of being Cope's "Pitiful, microscopic nobody" in the grand scheme of things, fading to nothing when considering the sheer scale of Nature. Hey, perhaps it was these conflicting keynotes which were integral to the Bronze Age locals choosing to intern their VIP dead up here - and in so many similar locations across these isles - in the first place? The subordination of mortal concerns to the immortal: the very earth itself. As if to emphasise the point, the existing expanse of cerulean stratosphere is rapidly obscured by an unforecasted gathering of cumulus congestus discharging yet more water upon this already, er, moist landscape. Just so as this traveller knows where he stands. Or sits, as the case may be.

Waterproofs donned - please, don't ever go without them - I decide to finally make my way to the larger cairn overlooking the bwlch to the west, a possible unmarked 'cist' noted en-route probably nothing of the sort (in retrospect) since Coflein also cites a medieval settlement below at SN77686398. Hey, who knows what the inhabitants of that got up to? A medieval historian, probably. Anyway, the topography here allows for a much larger, stable stone-pile, albeit with an inevitable truncation of view vis à vis the summit monument. Although nowadays largely hollow, there is enough detail still remaining in situ to postulate a former cist with greater certainty than for the feature noted above. There is also clear evidence for a former kerb, which, together with the substantial volume of stone, makes for a pretty pleasing site. The main focus would appear to be looking across the bwlch towards the distant abbey to approx northwest, an association which might be considered appropriate enough, come to think of it.

A perusal of the map while finishing my remaining coffee reminds the wide-eyed traveller of the existence of further cairns overlooking the isolated farm of Blaen-Glasffrwd to the south-west, one apparently featuring arguably Wales's finest cist. However, I reason I have neither the time nor - OK, I admit it - the 'puff' to visit today, let alone do any vibe justice; indeed, my descent now beckons. Baulking at the prospect of reversing the rather 'steep' ascent I decide, in lieu, to follow the forestry line beyond the bwlch and then swing northward, heading for what appears to be an abandoned farm building overlooking the left hand (western) bank of the stream cascading to join the Afon Mwyro far below. OK, not that far below. But far enough. This route follows the public footpath missed on the way up, so how hard can it be? Yeah, right.....

You know, there is something about derelict dwellings - particularly in a rural, upland setting - that I find difficult to elucidate.... as if humanity itself has seeped into the very walls... all the triumphs, disasters, love, fear... hey, life itself, perhaps? I find I have a very real sense of 'intruding' upon something that is private, not my concern, so consequently hurry on by, blundering into head high fern as I do so. Er, OK. Not this way, then? Reversing my steps, I find the path actually descends, very steeply, through slightly less formidable vegetation to the left of the buildings to eventually ford the Afon Mwyro and reach the main track traversing the valley. I glance back at where I have come from and reckon this wouldn't be much easier as an ascent route, to be fair.

The car beckons, bringing the day's walkabout to a close, together with that most English of all elixirs: the cup of tea. Or rather, mug of the same. As I pass Strata Florida Abbey once more, bound for the night's camp at the head of Cwm Ystwyth, I'm more certain than ever that Mr Auden must've had his metrical tongue very firmly within cheek back then. Having a laugh. No poet, surely, could walk a landscape such as this and not be moved by the song inherent within the rushing water; not appreciate the timbres emitted by the natural orchestra of vegetation conducted by the wind... or within the call of the buzzard and kite circling overhead? Surely? Yeah, as Spender might've said: "Give ower, y'a kiddin."
13th December 2020ce
Edited 16th December 2020ce


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The 'Green Desert' of Cwmdeuddwr from Pen-y-Bwlch summit cairn

31st March 2021ce
Edited 1st April 2021ce

Latest posts for Pen-y-Bwlch (Ystrad Fflur)

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Pen-y-Bwlch (West) (Round Cairn) — Links

Pen-y-Bwlch (West), Ystrad Fflur

A pretty substantial round cairn some way to the west of the summit cairn.
1st April 2021ce

Pen-y-Bwlch (West) (Round Cairn) — Images (click to view fullsize)

<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (West)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (West)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (West)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (West)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (West)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (West)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (West)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (West)</b>Posted by GLADMAN<b>Pen-y-Bwlch (West)</b>Posted by GLADMAN GLADMAN Posted by GLADMAN
11th August 2020ce
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