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Bryn Rhudd (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Fieldnotes

Woody Allen - if I'm not mistaken - once noted "Success is 80% turning up". Come to think of it, perhaps it was 90%? Whatever, I guess the moral of the story is you need to be 'in it to win it'. Can't really argue with that. Now I've never been much of a gambler... calculated risks taken with reasonably favourable odds of success being much more my style (suffice to say the spectacle of The Citizen Cairn - attired in a gaudy 70's Elvis get-up, naturally - placing 'everything on black' in Vegas is not likely to astound the mug punters any time soon). Nevertheless, I reckon there's a pretty good chance Mr Allen wasn't referring to visiting upland cairns in Mid Wales, irrespective of arithmetic......

To perhaps explain - or not - consider the twin, grassy heights of Bryn Rhudd and its neighbour Banc-y-Gwyngoed, rising due east of the charming village of Llanddewi Brefi: both are annotated with the siren call of the antiquarian type-faced 'Cairn' upon my map and, at just c1,575ft and c1,456ft respectively, both seemingly offer a lot of potential prehistoric 'bang' for one's buck, so to speak? And that they certainly do. Problem is the curious traveller can not simply just 'turn up', as at a lowland site - sardonically or otherwise - meaning the chances of a successful visit are subject to diminishing returns even prior to pulling on one's boots. Then again this may well be an inherent part of the appeal of the upland cairn: the distinct element of pilgrimage?

Anyway, rising from my wild camp within the wondrous Abergwesyn/Irfon Valley some distance due east, an unseasonably clear dawn sky ensures I envoke 'Plan A': a day upon the high hills. To be fair, these 'plans' do tend to progressively rival the hapless Baldrick's shenanigans these days. So, after launching the poor car up 'The Devil's Staircase', as one is obliged to do, a road closure necessitates an unforeseen detour south (without even the contents of one of Max Boyce's fabled 'billy cans a'brewing' as recompense), prior to crossing the Afon Tywi and swinging back northwards, via Soar-y-Mynydd. The onward drive to Tregaron possesses intrinsic value so no need to rush, the beyond-velvet voice of Karen Matheson upon the CD player further emphasising the point. Inevitably, I miss my turning to Tyncae, being thus obliged to double back from town before parking up as near as I can to said farm.

A green track heads uphill to the approx southeast toward Tan-garn-felen, prior to ascending Bryn Du subsumed within forestry above and beyond. The supposedly great cairn of Garn Felen - not positively identified last year - is located (somewhere or other) within the trees above and to my left; however, I (wisely as it happens) decide to focus upon the task at hand. Forestry tracks are a bit of a slog at the best of times so the sight of open hillside when it finally presents itself is welcome. Yeah, the north-eastern ridge of Bryn Rhudd drawing the gaze toward a large cairn perched upon the summit.

The going is rough. Trackless, in fact, the physical effort demanded of me upon this very un-Mid Walian morning making a mockery of any notions of Bryn Rhudd being a 'minor hill'. Haha, yeah, methinks even Billy Ocean might well have had cause to pause for thought faced with an ascent of Bryn Rhudd. There are, however, compensations: the initial (apparently nameless) top is found to bear a couple of small Bronze Age cairns at SN7006156248. Not bad for starters. The obvious line of ascent continues to the south-west, the views opening up across Cwm Brefi to the Mid Walian heartlands as height is gained, before approaching the summit from the approx south alongside a fence-line. Coflein lists an array of additional monuments here upon the southern flank of the hill, some of which I reckon I identify, hidden/partly hidden within the industrial-strength upland grasses. No doubt I walk right by others, either hidden in plain sight or perhaps too weathered to say one way or another? Topping the list of the latter is an apparently substantial ring cairn unfortunately nowhere to be seen. I conclude it must lie prohibitively too far down the slope for an audience today. Another time, perhaps?

Initially, I somehow contrive to find the great summit cairn a tad disappointing after expending so much effort to get here, the ancient stone pile defaced by a surmounting dry-stone wall in a manner (vaguely) reminiscent of a dodgy postcard punk's mohawk, the effect rendered all the more bizarre by the otherwise all wire fence-line. What's that all about? The deflation is short-lived, however - not to mention farcical in retrospect - a gate allowing access to the western arc of what is actually a very substantial monument, indeed. Of far greater importance, of course, I'm pleased to relate that the summit of Bryn Rhudd is a superb viewpoint. As always, ultimately it's where they decided to place these funerary cairns that counts, regardless of how large or small they are.

The vibe - that beyond-special 'upland ambience' I have sought out all my adult life - seemingly hangs in the air like a super-oxygenated Cretaceous atmospheric throwback. Yeah, stay here overnight and perhaps Martyn Ware (the bloke from the original Human League with the dodgy 'politics') might feel compelled to pen a song about your accentuated dimensions? Whatever - and leaving concerns of potential gigantism to one side - the stone pile is truly the optimum spot to plonk oneself down and enjoy. Just enjoy 'being' for a while. Hey, that's what it's all about, right? Why (if one is able) should a personage limit his/her experience to viewing the environs of a noisy, crowded beach, dodging footballs hoofed about by annoying little blighters... when, with a little more effort and imagination, one may literally gaze into the ever-expanding infinity of the heavens? Nuff said.

The (what appears to be equally) large cairn crowning Banc-y-Gwyngoed is clearly visible a little over half a mile to the west, beckoning the traveller on like, well... a beacon. OK, I admit I'm tempted. However, I reluctantly make the decision that I simply do not have enough energy 'in the tank' to carry on any further today. Mañana, mañana, my friends. Besides, these visits are not about 'ticking sites off of lists'... but relishing the moment while one can. I use the time to hang out upon Bryn Rhudd's summit plateau, stalked from above by Red Kites... and from below by all manner of creepy-crawlies. And there's more, a subsequent foray to the northern rim revealing not only superlative downward views but a further couple of small (potential) monuments. Yeah, it would appear the great cairn is the focal point - the crowning glory, if you will? - of an extensive Bronze Age cairn cemetery? As the late, great, Michael Caine probably never said: 'Not a lot of people know that'. Not bad for a supposedly obscure Mid-Walian hill.

Needless to say, time flies... here upon my sun-drenched perch; consequently, all too soon I must reluctantly consider the descent. Duly considered, I reckon a reverse of the outward route is the safest option in the circumstances, given the dodgy terrain underfoot. So that is what I do, finally arriving back at the car upon very, very tired, achy legs. 'Running on fumes', as they say. I decide to spend the night above (and somewhat to the east of) Cwm Berwyn, fingers crossed for the weather to hold, so permitting a visit to Banc-y-Gwyngoed the following day.

https://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/20127#post-178193

Dunraven (Cliff Fort) — Links

Dunraven Cliff Fort, near Ogmore-by-Sea, Vale of Glamorgan - Part 2


Part 2.... Careful now x 2

Dunraven Cliff Fort, near Ogmore-on-Sea, Vale of Glamorgan - Part 1


Taking a wander upon the great cliff fort. Careful now.

Carnau Gwynion (Cairn(s)) — Links

The Carnau Gwynion, near Ystradfellte..


Everything's alright at the not-too-pearly 'White Cairns'.

Graig Fawr (West) Enclosure (Hillfort) — Links

Graig Fawr (Summit Enclosure), near Pontardulais


I wandered lonely in a cloud...

Dunraven (Cliff Fort) — Images (click to view fullsize)

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Graig-ddu, Black Mountains (Round Cairn) — Images

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Plas-y-gors (Round Cairn) — Links

Plas-y-gors, Fforest Fawr


The Bronze Age cairn near Plas-y-gors, Fforest Fawr, Powys

Graig-ddu, Black Mountains (Round Cairn) — Links

'Chillin' upon Graig-ddu, Black Mountains. Literally.


Not located upon my first visit here, the excuse to return was gratifying. If at first, you don't succeed, Mr Kidd...

Carnau Gwynion (Cairn(s)) — Images

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Plas-y-gors (Round Cairn) — Images

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Gelli-Nedd (Hillfort) — Links

Gelli-nedd Hillfort, near Ystradfellte, Powys


A circuit - I would say 'walk', but rather more of a 'stumble' owing to the surface rock outcrops - of this fine, compact hillfort.

Gelli-Nedd (Hillfort) — Images

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Ysgubor-Wen (Cairn(s)) — Links

Ysgubor-wen, Ystradfellte


Main cairn of the (apparent) trio near Ysgubor-wen, north-west of Ystradfellte.

Ysgubor-Wen (Cairn(s)) — Images

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Previous 50 | Showing 51-100 of 12,630 posts. Most recent first | Next 50
Hi, I'm Robert ... with a passion for attempting to understand the lives of the pioneering prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, seeking out the remains they left behind in order to ask myself "why here ... why did it matter so... why such commitment?".. Needless to say, I'm still pondering such intangibles. Just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' with this land of ours, with ourselves - our past, our present and our future; a reference point for those of us perhaps struggling to make sense of this so-called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981.... danke, mein herren.

Should my amateur posts prove an inspiration for others to venture into the Great Outdoors... please bear in mind the hills and mountains of these Isles are unpredictable, potentially dangerous places. Ensure you have map/compass/waterproofs... and know how to use them, even in high summer. Weather conditions can change bewilderingly quickly, so don't get caught out. Unlike some, I prefer to engage with landowners wherever possible. Being a cartoon 'class warrior' - such as Monbiot - might be jolly good fun for the frustrated 'rebel'... but not for those who follow in their footsteps. I find requests for access are rarely declined.

George Orwell - 'The essence of being human is that one does not seek perfection.'

Martin Gore - 'Like a pawn
On the eternal board
Who’s never quite sure
What he’s moved towards
I walk blindly on'...

Truman Capote - 'Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavour.'

Oscar Wilde - 'The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.'

John Lydon - 'It is a reward to be chastised by the ignorant.'

Winston Churchill - '“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.”

Ultravox - 'Taking shelter by the standing stones
Miles from all that moves....'

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