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Presaddfed (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Fieldnotes

Near the Anglesey Shooting School, in a grassy field of the richest Hooker's Green (what the hell had they been putting on it), with a backdrop of beautiful deciduous woodland, sits this imposing chamber. When we arrived, the Shooting School seemed to be having a clay shoot, so rhythmical pops and bangs broke the silence. Once again, some rather dodgy restoration work had taken place – presumably by none other than Chippy Minton. The most incongruous wooden brace was jammed under the capstone, rather spoiling the appearance of this otherwise very pleasant tomb. Yet again, I was put in mind of the Dyffryn Ardudwy type of monument. In the 18th century, this apparently provided shelter for a family of squatters. I imagine that with a few tarps or similar strung round the chamber, it would be quite snug.

Llanfaethlu (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Fieldnotes

On the way to our final destination, Presaddfed, we screeched to a halt by the roadside chapel of Llanfaethlu, just so Moth and I could hop out of the car and take a couple of snaps of the quite attractive monolith which stands in the next door field. This is much more solid than the previously described stones; much more like the traditional menhir. I liked the way it was still quietly sitting there, despite the Christianisation, and the road passing within a few feet of its field. Again, it enjoyed some lovely views, and the benefit of being utilised as a sheep rubbing post.

Mein Hirion (Standing Stones) — Fieldnotes

Three most beautiful stones stand by a dry stone wall on a rise in a sheep field. The views over Ynys Môn are spectacular, including the modern day fferm gwynt, wind farm. Forming an isosceles triangle, the grey, lichen-fronded stones reach up gracefully to the sky, and look very much like the elegant pair of menhirs at Penrhos Feilw. One of them is indeed extremely phallic. All of them are about six and a half feet high. My summer felt complete as I rolled about in the close cropped turf, flicking away sheep poo and photographing this fabulous trio of stones.

Lligwy (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Fieldnotes

Did I say Pant y Saer was a stunna? Well, this is a stunna with knobs on! Lligwy has the most incredible capstone, a huge rectangle of rock, easily a yard thick all the way round. Interestingly, deep grooves are to be found on all sides of this cumbersome capstone, and I read on the information board a suggestion that they were caused by ropes rubbing into the stone as it was transported to the site. Can't see it myself; why don't other structures have such obvious grooves? It looked more like eroded drilling lines to me, if it were anything manmade.

This really is awesome. A large dug out chamber under the capstone held the remains of 30 people, and even has a reasonable shelf on which to lay a body. Only after squeezing through the constricting entrance way, grubbing around in the chamber for a while, and sitting on the (not uncomfortable) shelf chatting to a lady on the outside, did I later discover the 25 tonne capstone is only held up on three of the eight uprights. Gulp.

Once again, the prehistoric understanding of rock and engineering never ceases to amaze. . . .

I didn't see one earwig.

Pant-y-Saer (Burial Chamber) — Fieldnotes

What a stunna. Despite the fact the capstone has slipped, and the general appearance the stones offer is now that of a boozy looking, drunken effort to stay upright, it is still an awesome structure. Its disrepair is a shame though, as originally, it was clearly a very important and complex site. Pant y Saer means 'Hollow of the Masons', an accurate title, as beneath the capstone are the remains of a rock-cut pit 16 ft x 10 ft x 3ft, which contained the burials of 36 adults, 9 children, and 9 full-term foetuses. Separately, there were two more burials in a possible Beaker cist. At the western end, between the horns of a dry stone wall, there had been the remains of a forecourt. Despite the wear and tear of time, this lovely dolmen still retains much of its prominence, and apart from anything else, is situated in a very good spot for a picnic.

Ty Newydd (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Fieldnotes

Rain was swirling in the gloaming as we reached Ty Newydd, and I was also disappointed to note the utterly insensitive and ugly restoration work on this previously stunning cromlech. However, I suppose we shouldn't be ungrateful, as brickwork aside, we still see the structure erect. Best of all, the capstone offers a decidedly nautical feel; seen from below, it looks like the prow of a large ship. I remembered trips to HMS Victory.

Bryn Gwyn (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

On reaching this pair of stones, I think we were all in awe at their sheer immensity. The first, a slender, wide, leaf-shaped monolith, stands a clear 13 feet tall – I thought it looked more like 18 feet, personally. Next to it sulks a brooding, ten foot high rectangular block of rock. Although impressive, I wasn't as keen on the energy of this place. It was in total contrast to the elegant airiness of Penrhos Feilw. There is a suggestion that they are the remains of a stone circle – that must have been one hell of a sight! I think they were a couple of try-outs for comparison, and got left in a field by the early engineers . . .

Bodowyr (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Fieldnotes

Not unlike St. Lythans, Bodowyr stands in the middle of a field, but unlike St. Lythans, it is caged up behind a green metal fence. This prevents it being used as a shippon by cattle, or having chunks hacked out of it by farm machinery. This is a Good Thing, as it is a charming, faerie-magical dolmen, with a capstone that looks like a toadstool cap. Again, like Bryn Celli Ddu, Bodowyr enjoys a great view across to Snowdonia. Cute and charming. Bizarrely, I managed to take a photo which makes it look like an African mud hut.

Bryn Celli Ddu (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

This was the other site with which Kate had seduced me, on a golden day in late October. It was just as beautiful this time round. The vibrant green mound stood out wonderfully against the cerulean blue sky, and commanded a stunning view of Eryri. The uprights and other stones at both sides of the mound were covered with the fluffy, frondy grey-green lichens seen at Trefignath. As ever, the menhir inside the mound just blew me away. I love Bryn Celli Ddu; it has the most wonderful energy and a low, thrumming magicalness. The other thing that thrummed was the back of my head, after I cracked it against the interior lintel – the type of blow to the skull that makes anyone else present want to throw up.

I noticed that some thoughtful people had left an offering to the Goddess on a stone ledge inside the chamber. Millennia ago, the Goddess was often honoured with a burnt sacrifice of a prized bull, a sheep or two, or a few goats - now she has to make do with a handful of peanuts, a wizened crab apple, and couple of torn Quality Street wrappers. Quality indeed.

Holyhead Mountain Hut Group (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork) — Fieldnotes

Parking in the RSPB car park – allowed, we were off bird watching after the huts –we crossed the road and progressed along well kept grassy paths amidst a sea of bracken on the lower slopes of Holyhead Mountain. Some mature American hippies/Bronze Age wannabees passed by, one of them wearing a very nice purpley-russet poncho. The sun shone down warmly, and rounding a corner, I was treated to my first hut remains – and was instantly enchanted. What a corker of a site. White dry stone walls, approximately two and half feet high, shone in the light, contrasting with dark green bracken fronds, vibrant purple heather, and brilliant yellow gorse flowers. The turf floors were cropped close, and despite the exposed position, the whole place looked very 'gentle', for want of a better word.

It was easy to visualise the low conical roofs of the roundhouses, and the people moving between the structures. Having just finished the third in Manda Scott's Boudica series of books, I was put in mind of her Iron Age vision of life. What must it have been like living in a roundhouse on an exposed cliff face? The weather had by now broken into glorious sunshine, but winter gales must have been horrendous as they drove into the cliffs, straight off the Irish Sea. One roundhouse looked as if it would have made a snug bolt hole when the tribe gathered together for food, drinking, and story telling. Presumably though, our North Walian Bronze Age ancestors were nowhere near as nesh as a modern day Southerner – and of course, the climate was warmer in those days.

I thought of how they would have sustained themselves – fish caught from the beaches below, boar raised on the mountainside, and eggs taken by terrifying climbs on the perpendicular cliffs which are home to thousands of sea birds. Tasty! Before we left, I gazed out over the view our ancestors enjoyed. The Irish Sea stretched unbroken to the horizon, and to the south, the mountains of the Llyn Peninsula rose out of the sea in irregular, soft, misty blue silhouettes. It was, quite simply, superb.

Penrhosfeilw (Standing Stones) — Fieldnotes

These two lovely stones are in the middle of a field, and would have commanded a fabulous view across Ynys Môn when first created. Reminded me of nothing more than a gateway or spiritual portal, and I was put in mind of a reference to the rune known as Thurisaz: ' Thurisaz is also held by some to be the gateway rune. It can represent powerful forces available for your use. The decision you have to make - the gateway facing both ways - is how to use them. Thurisaz exhorts you to choose your path and take action before it is too late. Which path will you choose? What force will you employ - attack or defence? This is the problem with Thurisaz- the chaotic element that makes it so dangerous and difficult to deal with.'* Sure was some big gateway stuff going on here. These are a beautifully matching pair of stones – elegant, poised, subtle. Very other-worldly. I liked 'em.

* Quote from

Trefignath (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

For once, ignore the surrounding landscape when visiting this place, otherwise you will be entirely distracted by the gigantic aluminium smelting plant just the other side of the A55, which runs below Trefignath. Focus instead on the monument itself, think to yourself how much it is reminiscent of Dyffryn Ardudwy. (This was the first thing to strike me about the site – further reading revealed that the esteemed Frances Lynch had indeed proved it had a complexity the same as Dyffryn Ardudwy). Pay especial attention to the two tall pillars at the chamber entrance, and the chamber itself, which is quite something. The huge capstone appears to have broken in half at some point in time. The second chamber is minus its capstone. Jane's immediate reaction was that the whole thing looked like French allee couverte. Haven't seen one, so don't know. Sounds fun, though. I liked Trefignath, despite the drizzly rain, and particularly liked the nobility of the main chamber and the hairy, frondy, fluffy grey-green lichens that grew all over the stones.

Barclodiad-y-Gawres (Chambered Cairn) — Fieldnotes

Saturday morning dawned grey and dry, and inevitably, Jane was like a greyhound out of a trap, with the key to Barclodiad-y-Gawres the hare. Soon, the four of us (Cleo stayed in bed), were rewarded with one of the most spectacular dolmens in the country.

It takes a long time for one's eyes to adjust to the darkness, but finally a very impressive chambered tomb becomes visible. Six stones are decorated with lozenge, spiral, cup mark and concentric circle patterns – the first and most impressive immediately to the right after unlocking the gate and entering the structure within a structure.

The large capstone has been skilfully engineered so as to appear to be balancing delicately and airily on the uprights, when viewed from certain angles. The back stones of the two side chambers are both carved with spiral designs. The best of these are on the eastern chamber – three spirals in a row. The handiwork of a Stone Age monumental mason, perhaps?

Whilst sitting on the comfortable, dry, sandy bank above the gloomy western chamber, listening to oystercatchers and the crash of the incoming tide on the cliffs below, two chaps entered, so I directed them to the Maglite Jane had left by the gate, and pointed out the carvings while giving them a (very) brief overview of the dolmen.

The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle) — Images (click to view fullsize)

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West Kennett (Long Barrow) — Images

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Silbury Hill (Artificial Mound) — Images

<b>Silbury Hill</b>Posted by treaclechops

Avebury (Circle henge) — Images

<b>Avebury</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Avebury</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Avebury</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Avebury</b>Posted by treaclechops

The Rollright Stones (Stone Circle) — Fieldnotes

Upon arriving, the first noticeable change was the structured lay-by with a now dedicated wheel-chair friendly footpath leading to the entrance of the stones. Neither did it appear necessary to scramble over a rickety stile to get to the King Stone – there seems to be proper access via a small gate. I was keen to see what the circle would be like now its exterior was expanded by the purchase of land to the south.

No disappointments on this score. Moving away from the visitor's hut, the circle opened up before me, more able to breathe within its landscape than for many years previously. It looks fantastic. What made it look even more fantastic was the sunshine spilling over the weathered, twisted, pitted stones, singing out the colours of honey-coloured oolitic limestone, egg-yolk yellow lichens, and olivaceous-green mosses. To the south, a wide, rustling field of sun-baked golden wheat rippled and shimmered in the warm breeze. Fluffy white cumulus clouds sailed in stately fashion across a sky of rich, uplifting blueness. Wild flowers poked up through the grass, and clumps of coltsfoot sat the base of some of the stone, their dark glossy leaves contrasting with the rock. Perfection in Oxfordshire.

West Kennett (Long Barrow) — Fieldnotes

We reached the longbarrow to find a small group of people reading the information board. I took photos like a woman possessed, desperate to take something back with me to North Wales, a decent set of pictures to reflect on when away from this most magnificent of places. It was thrilling to touch the stones again after so long, wonderful to stand in the small forecourt before walking once more into the dark, imposing chambers. Again, the structure of the place struck me through new eyes; the size of the rocks, the creation of this space, the awesome nature of the whole. It occurred to me that the stones appeared very much like the bones of the earth. Once again, memories of times past drifted through my mind, especially the last visit, which was strange and dark. I didn't want that memory to stay with me, but it persistently floated back, until a sudden trilling chirr and resonant, urgent wing beat broke the dark chambers' air. More squeaks, more wing beats, a dart of movement, and a swallow swooped out of the entrance, up the face of the forecourt stones, and into the night. A few moments later a rush of air signalled its return – they were nesting inside one of the chambers!

I hid behind a large stone and watched them fly in and out, while Moth and Jane sat above the entrance to watch their unerring, acrobatic passage back and to the nest. We were the only people there, immersed in the magic of the muted night's colour and smells, the timelessness and atmosphere of the long barrow and its stones, the sounds of wind through grasses and swallows' wing beats and chirrs. The feeling of re-birth, renewal, regeneration and life filled the place, and any dark memories were chased away, to be replaced by light and airy vibes of positivity.

Avebury (Circle henge) — Fieldnotes

After a while the urge to stroll round the complex became very strong, so I set off in a clockwise direction, beginning at the lattice work of gnarled beech roots crowning the eastern dip in the henge. It was then the sheer magnitude of the Avebury complex hit me again, somehow through older, wiser eyes. The size of the embankment and ditch struck home, and I recalled telling one of our neighbourhood children that it had been dug out using antler picks and shovels, the spoil carried away in baskets. Standing still, I looked at the chalk beneath my feet. It was densely packed, hard and dusty. Friends have deer antlers hanging by their back door; they're not especially large, and I tried to imagine what it would feel like to begin scrabbling at the chalk face with a similarly shaped smooth-handled bone pick. Can't imagine it would have made much impact. What a feat of engineering Avebury is – henges built 5,000 years ago, yet still supporting the footfall of millions of visitors a year.

Gazing across the rooftops of houses within the circle, and watching people playing with a frisbee in the north-eastern quarter, they appeared diminutive, tiny against the vast circle and sky. What would it have been like to stand on the henge when there was no village, when presumably it was built for the populace to bear witness to whatever form of rite and ceremony, under open skies and the theatre of the circle? How could you see what was taking place? Was the henge a form of seating, or was it to provide a barrier to arcane and esoteric practices? Could you lie on it in comfort to star-gaze all night?

Strolling round the henge and through the stones, memories of previous visits filled my mind, individual stones calling up reminders of who did this, how this happened, where particular photos were taken, what conversations took place. I smiled inside, at a tapestry of life, friends, lovers, experiences and growth woven over the years amidst the stones – stones that never change, yet can change your life in subtle degrees from the moment you enter their world.

Cerrig Pryfaid (Stone Circle) — Images

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Ffon-y-Cawr (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

<b>Ffon-y-Cawr</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Ffon-y-Cawr</b>Posted by treaclechops

Rhiw Burial Chamber — Images

<b>Rhiw Burial Chamber</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Rhiw Burial Chamber</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Rhiw Burial Chamber</b>Posted by treaclechops

Maen-y-Bardd (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech) — Images

<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Maen-y-Bardd</b>Posted by treaclechops

Y Meini Hirion (Stone Circle) — Images

<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by treaclechops<b>Y Meini Hirion</b>Posted by treaclechops
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"Out of the strong came forth sweetness"
Treaclechops died on 4 January 2007 after a three-month battle with cancer. She was 38.

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