Archaeologists examining a Bronze Age burial mound on the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire found meadowsweet pollen grains.
"Adam Gwilt, curator of the Bronze and Iron Age Collection at the National Museum of Wales, said the discovery shed new light on ancient burials... continues...
The route from Picws Du to the next cairn, on Fan Foel, is easy enough but includes a fairly steep up-and-down, via Bwlch Blaen-Twrch (“pass of the river summit”). Once negotiated, there is a fine high-level retrospective view of Picws Du summit before we head over to the magnificent cairn placed right at the apex of the escarpment, the point where Carmarthenshire meets Powys/Brecknockshire.
Was this always a territorial marker? If it was, it’s a high place for the people of power to agree upon their frontier. And perhaps such a person was laid to rest here, interred within a sizeable kerb of red sandstone blocks. If he or she were the monarch of all they surveyed, they certainly ruled over a far-reaching territory, for the views are extensive indeed, stretching eastwards to the twin summits of Pen-y-Fan and Corn Du then further away to the Black Mountains, with many other cairned summits in between. And yet the archaeological record reveals perhaps something rather more intriguing and human than a story of powerful warriors. A child was buried here, possibly garlanded with meadowsweet flowers. If only these stones and mountains would share the memory of that little sliver of history, what a tale they might tell.
This cairn is ignored by many walkers, hurrying between the “tops” of Piws Du and Twr y Fan Foel/Fan Brycheiniog. But sadly enough come here to cause damage to the structure, which is what prompted the excavation and exposure of the magnificent kerb and half-buried cist. Probably the best of cairns on the main escarpment of Y Mynydd Du, this place will richly reward any TMAer making the trip.
Leaving the ramblers behind at Twr y Fan Foel (5.6.2010), I headed the short distance north to this cairn. Fan Foel is not a recognised "summit" and as such is often bypassed by walkers on their way on to Picws Du. Which is great, because it makes for a quiet and peaceful spot, with amazing views wherever you care to look, especially if you drop down a little off the top to the north-west, where you will be rewarded with a nice view of the folklore-heavy Llyn y Fan Fach.
The cairn itself has been excavated in recent times, meaning there's no modern walkers' cairn (thankfully) and you get a great cross-section view. The cairn has a full kerb, and there are the remains of a cist in the centre. Although the mound itself has gone, this is actually a very evocative place, as the kerb makes for a sort-of-stone-circle feel. Definitely a recommended visit, one of the more interesting summit cairns in this part of Wales in my opinion.
But time and buses wait for no man, so after a quick return to Twr y Fan Foel, it's down the steep "stair" to Llyn y Fan Fawr and then eastwards to Waun Leuci. Top stuff.
I first came to this magnificent mountain escarpment way back in 1993, looking, believe it or not, for The Llyn Fawr (the lake above The Rhondda, that is). Incredibly naive, perhaps, but I got away with it.... and my sense of awe has not diminished with time. Nor has my respect for the inclement Welsh weather!
The latest ascent is made in the company of The Mam Cymru, my sister. Not too canny with map or compass, it has to be said, but a dab hand with anything to do with the soil. And besides, everyone knows women can't read maps and men can't walk and look around at the same time. It's Nature, see.
Fan Foel is, to be honest, a northern spur of Ban (or Fan - sorry I never could figure these language mutations) Brycheiniog, at 2,631ft, the summit peak of Y Mynydd Du, The Black Mountain. From a megalithically-minded and - arguably - general perspective, the best approach is from the Trecastle road to the east. This necessitates crossing the infant Afon Tawe before even beginning the ascent, not the easiest task, even in summer, but then proceeds to follow a lively, cascading stream, the Nant-y-Llyn, right back to it's source. This is no ordinary 'source' either, but the legendary Llyn-y-Fan-Fawr, companion lake to the even more legendary Llyn-y-Fan-Fach.... The path follows the twisting, turning, right-hand bank, past several pretty impressive waterfalls, not to mention a genuine Bronze Age cairn...
...the Maen Mawr and Y Cerrig Duon also visible on the right-hand skyline.... a good place to chill out on the descent. For now, simply follow that stream (!), the landscape becoming more and more brutal until, after several 'false crests', lakeside is attained at 2,000ft, the elegant escarpment of the mountain towering above to your left. Perhaps my favourite upland lake, it's tempting to call it a day here at this exquisite spot. But.... the call is unspoken, never unheard. There's round barrows in them thar hills.
A 'rocky staircase' at the southern end of the lake provides a steep, but safe passage to Bwlch y Giedd and the crest of the ridge above. Turn right here and the OS trig point and 'circular shelter' of Ban Brycheiniog is soon reached. Unfortunately there is no prehistoric cairn upon this summit, 'courtesy', no doubt, of the aforementioned shelter and the muppets who built it. I mean, who would want to cower in a shelter when the view down to Llyn-y-Fan-Fawr is simply magnificent? Ha! Moving on along the escarpment edge, any feeling of indignation is soon alleviated upon reaching the vertigo-inducing buttress of Twr-y-Fan Foel, for this is crowned by an apparently undisturbed Bronze Age round barrow [see misc post]. The siting is amazing, it really is.
The second cairn lies upon the summit of 2,575ft Fan Foel itself. Subject to an excavation in 2004, the finds were somewhat interesting, to say the least. Please see the miscellaneous post and Rhiannon's link for details, but suffice to say it appears Bronze Age people certainly knew how to 'say it with flowers'. To stand here is deeply moving and makes a mockery of the 'R*mans brought us civilisation' dogma I was taught in school. Honestly, does anyone actually still believe that rubbish? My informed guess would be 'yes'. Looking west, Picws Du, adorned by it's own Bronze Age cairn, towers above the waters of the magnificent Llyn-y-Fan-Fach. Strong walkers can visit the peak from here, but I'm afraid those days are past for Gladman..... [Incidentally several 'circles are to be found to the north of Fan Foel, not forgetting the wonderful pair beyond the Usk Reservoir].
Perhaps the most significant aspect of a visit to this wonderful spot, however, is the 'big picture' it conveys of South Walian Bronze Age burial practice. To clarify, glance to the east, across Llyn-y-Fan-Fawr to Waun Leuci, Fan Gyhirych, Fan Nedd, Fan Frynych, The Brecon Beacons, The Black Mountains - a linear procession of burial cairns literally as far as the eye can see; then to the west, the two great cairns upon Garreg Las beyond the aforementioned Picws Du, with examples upon Garreg Lwyd, Carn Pen-y-Clogau...etc.. fading to the horizon. Clearly there was something very serious and widespread going on here... Hell yeah!
Coflein has the following information listed for the Fan Foel summit round barrow at SN8214722341]:
'A burial barrow is set on the summit of Fan Foel, a dramatic spur on the northern escarpment of Mynydd Du. Prior to excavation and consolidation in 2004, this monument was a roughly circular turf covered mound, 16.2m in diameter and up to 1.2m high on the east, with a rough modern cairn or shelter on the north-east side. Excavation demonstrated that this was an earthen mound up to 0.3m high ringed by an oval kerb of possibly laid stones, measuring 13m north-west to south-east by 11m. A cist or stone slab chest was found beneath the modern cairn; it measured 2.0m by 1.1m and was 0.65m deep. It contained a cremation deposit accompanied by a flint knife and a pottery vessel of the 'Food Vessel' type. A secondary cremation deposit with a Collared Urn pottery vessel was found on the north-west side of the mound. Finds of flint flakes and a string of clay beads may relate to this site.'