This archetypically diminutive - not to mention obscure - Mid Walian 'ritual' complex has been on my radar for a few years now... however since my radar is often a bit wonky I guess that's not so bad. Can't even send a text message on my mobile phone, so no real surprise there. Anyway, following the procurement of a new tyre in Tregaron to replace that shredded in last evening's blow-out (incidentally D J Tyres did the job with minimal fuss, should you ever find yourself in similar need) I drive south on the B4343 to the small village of Llanddewi-Brefi. Here a minor road, signposted 'Youth Hostel', or something like that, heads approx east along the beautifully rugged Cwm Brefi. I experience the sensation of deja-vu until the subconscious recalls this is also the way to the enigmatic Bryn y Gorlan complex. Fork left after approx 5 miles if that's more your bag.... however I veer right to eventually park, overlooking the Afon Pysgotwr-Fawr, at the road's terminus.
I set off toward the farm of Bryn-glas perched upon the hillside to approx south-west, the forestry-clad Pen-y-raglan-wynt (hopefully) rising above. The farmer happens to be emerging in his land rover, so I decide it'd be rude not to stop and have a chat with said gentleman and the lady occupying the pre-fab home opposite. Seems he remembers when the forestry people first came to the area years ago.... and confirms there is indeed a stone circle within yonder trees. Both lament the damage being wrought upon the landscape by groups of tragi-comic 4x4 'armchair mountaineers' who, by all accounts, frequently get mired in the mud like prize muppets. But I digress. Enough talk of motor-related muppetry for one day. Following the green track to the south past Bryn-glas, shepherded by the resident (friendly) dog as forewarned - think of him as an 'organic alarm' - I undertake the brief ascent to emerge upon the open moor beyond. The track is easily followed to the near bank of the Afon Pysgotwr-Fach.... where my navigational difficulties begin in earnest.
It looks easy enough on the map. However transposing OS data to the real world can be tricky, particularly when trees are part of the equation. Yeah, if only people wouldn't keep chopping them down and planting new ones in different places! In retrospect I would (very tentatively) suggest that, after fording the river at the obvious spot (as I did) one should trend a little to the left and ascend one of the breaks in the forest line from there. Or simply ignore the breaks and take a compass bearing, although that would probably prove very hard going due to close-set branches. As it was... I took the direct line and, perhaps inevitably, struggled to locate the evocative ruins of Pen-y-raglan-wynt. From the shattered remnants of this smallholding, complete with natural water supply, I stomp south along the track and, arcing 'round to the east, take the first right heading south-west. This track ends in a T-junction; a little beforehand, strike off to the left.... and see if you can spot any ancient monuments!
The round barrow is by far the most obvious component of this truly magical (I can't think of any other suitable adjective off the top of my head) complex... simply because the others are very much conspicuous by their absence. Oh, they are here all right. Just takes a bit of effort, you know? Although by no means large, the barrow is still pretty substantial and, long grass notwithstanding, apparently well defined. So where's the stone circle, then? The map reckons immediately to the east... however I initially only manage to locate three, possibly four orthostats overwhelmed by probably the most verdant of pastures I've ever seen. Seriously, I reckon cows let loose here would be able to leave Usain Bolt standing in no time. It'd be a bizarre race. But I'd pay to see it.
Perseverance sees me uncovering many more stones - I hesitate to call them 'orthostats' or 'standing stones' - more or less tracing the entire circumference of the ring. Some are so tiny they barely break the surface, a number only located with the hand. Any attempt to arrive at a definitive number would surely be splitting hairs. Clearly there was no attempt made here whatsoever to overawe the visitor, to impress with the force of brute construction.... this was simply a space demarcated for some important purpose. What that represented we will never know. However I'm with Tuesday .... "what could you do here but meet and dance?" What, indeed?
It begins to rain.... then absolutely bucket down. But no matter. The vibe here is simply exquisite, as if the very earth has soaked up so much energy from untold generations of profound human interaction it can't keep it all within. A deep and utter sense of peace permeates the forestry clearing as completely as the precipitation falling from the sky. As mentioned earlier the outlook has changed within living memory, although I'm ignorant as to whether this hilltop would have accorded distant views back in the day when people (presumably) came to dance. Or whether it would have been similarly wooded?
There are apparently several other monuments completing the complex. I say 'apparently' since only a marker post gives any conclusive indication of the presence of a further cairn to the north-east. However I stumble across a small standing stone outside the 'circle and - last but certainly not least - a very fine little three stone row. Well large stones would have been very much out of character, wouldn't they? Very much contrary to the minimalist ambience. Yeah, less is very, very much more at Cefn Gwernffrwd.
The site is hidden deep within a plantation on a ridge on what would have been open moorland. The stones are half buried. One was probably much higher but is shattered by frost. There is additional stone set within the circle.
How did something so delicate survive so long? It is almost impossible to photograph the small stones in the long grass. Some are so loose you could pluck them like teeth with one hand. Morgan and Ruggles examined this whole complex for astronomical significance in the seventies and Burl briefly became very excited about it but really, you would have to be a gnome to be able to use these stones for astronomical observation (I'm not discounting that possibility by the way - there are so many fly agarics around here and it feels so strange that this truly must be a fairy circle) - what could you do here but meet and dance?
20 stones of average height 0.4m in a diameter of 24.5m
The cairn is buried and mainly hidden under the long grass and almost impossible to photograph although you can feel it under foot. Two crescent of stones remain. On one lies the quartz boulder thought to have possibly been a standing menhir