The Modern Antiquarian. Ancient Sites, Stone Circles, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic Mysteries

Fieldnotes by thesweetcheat

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Towednack Double Armed Cross

25 June 2014

Surprised to find this on TMA. The cross is carved into a long granite slab and looks medieval to me - perhaps a grave slab. There's much of interest to look at inside the church, but all rather outside TMA's scope.

One nice bit of folklore though, to explain the shortness of the tower - each time the masons got it higher than the present level, the Devil would knock it down again. Eventually they gave up, making it unique in being the only medieval church in West Penwith without pinnacles on the tower.

From here we headed up over Amalveor Downs to visit an old friend, Zennor Quoit.

Treryn Dinas (Cliff Fort)

24 June 2014

The walk along the coast path from Carn les Boel is lovely one, rugged cliff tops dropping away to the blue-green below. At Gwennap Head basking sharks can sometimes be seen, but we don't have that privilege today.

It's an up-and-down section of path, dropping down to the tiny sandy beach at Porthgwarra (tea-shop), back up to exposed cliffs before a further drop to St Levan's Well above Porth Chapel. The well is worth a stop off, in its unusual position half way up the cliffs. From here it's a brief foray into tourist central near the famous Minack Theatre and the thronged beach at Porthcurno. From the cliffs above the Minack there is a great view of the day's final objective, the impossibly craggy headland of Treryn Dinas (pronounced "Treen").

We last came here about eight years ago, I only have a few crappy pictures and am keen to return - since then we've only seen the headland from a couple of boat trips, which reinforced just how startlingly rocky the site is. Along with its companion on the north coast, Gurnard's Head, this is the most impressive of the West Penwith cliff forts.

The defences are quite something. The outermost consist of a single, huge earthwork bank, several metres high in places. South of this is a flat area, quite overgrown now, before the central defences appear quite some way further south. These are formed of three lines of banks and ditches, much smaller in size than the outer rampart, but still providing a series of obstacles for any unwanted guests to negotiate. Beyond these, the ground slopes downwards towards a band of craggy granite outcrops. A sort-of path runs through the centre of these, taking the visitor along a ever-narrowing channel between the rocks. There is an easier route round to the west, but it would be interesting to know which was the original way in - perhaps one was the tradesman's entrance.

Once you've semi-scrambled over these, you are confronted with the narrowest point of the headland, where a ditch fronts another well-defined stone rampart, the innermost of the defences. Stone facing still lines the entrance through the centre of the bank. A circular round house (perhaps a guard house) originally existed at each end of this, but one has largely eroded away now.

Beyond this final earthwork, the tip of the headland is a wonder of jagged towers of granite. One of these is topped by the famed "Logan Rock", a rocking stone once toppled by sailors of the Royal Navy and re-erected at their expense following a public outcry. Quite right too.

I have a good scramble about in the rocks, although I don't manage to find a way up to the Logan Rock itself - I'm sure a longer visit would provide the answer to how to get up there, but it's quite exposed in places and the wind whips around the rocks, even on this sunny June day.

It's an amazing place here. Once beyond the innermost rampart, there's little that would suggest a nice place to live though. My speculative guess is that any occupation here took place further inland, within either the safety of the enormous outer earthwork or the central rows. Which leaves the question of why build a strongly defended rampart across the rocky tip of the headland. Perhaps someone important had their home here, or perhaps the headland was kept free of riff-raff for the inevitable "ritual purposes". My usually sceptical self can certainly imagine that here, as the wind gusts around the stone towers and the focal point of the Logan Rock itself, perched above it all.

Carn Les Boel (Cliff Fort)

24 June 2014.

We carry on round the coast path from Pordenack Point and its trashed barrows. The sea is that beautiful turquoise blue that you get in far west Cornwall when the weather is at its best, and it's sure at its best today.

The little cove at the base of Lower Bosistow Cliff is quite lovely, revealing a narrow arch cutting deep into - and through - the rock below the headland. From there it's a reasonably steep climb up onto the headland itself, where a sign warns of the dangers of coastal erosion and advises that we stick to the path. Which we do, at least until we reach the fort that occupies the rocky tip of the promontory.

For some reason when we first walked along this stretch of the path we didn't visit Carn les Boel fort. I'm not sure why, perhaps just laziness or a desire to Get Along. No pressures today though, so we can have a leisurely explore and some lunch, away from the Land's End crowds.

Although the rampart isn't as big and impressive as some of the others on this Cornish coast, it's still immediately apparent. It slopes steeply from the central neck of the promontory, ending at sheer cliffs. It's not clear if it always ended so sharply or whether erosion has taken its toll. The ditch is mostly silted up, but from the rampart there is a great view across Nanjizal to the next headland, confusingly named Carn Boel.

The entrance to the fort interior is flanked by large granite blocks, one of which has fallen. The other one is an impressive size, weighing a good few tons. Slightly down the slope is the precariously balanced boulder shown in Hamish's picture.

The interior is quite rocky, dropping to rugged cliffs at its tip. Not the most hospitable place you could decide to set up home, but then there's no evidence that anyone ever did. No hut circles or anything structural can be seen.

We sit and enjoy the view and the sunshine for a while, before deciding to head onwards. We're aiming for Treen and particularly Treryn Dinas today, so we've a little way to go. Before we leave, I take a minor detour to look for the Higher Bosistow round barrow. It occupies the highest part of the headland and has terrific views of the coast. Unfortunately the barrow itself is almost missing in action, barely more than a slight rise in the ground with a scooped centre. Great spot though. Inevitably.

Pordenack Point (Round Barrow(s))

24 June 2014.

Midsummer has come and gone, but the perfect weather shows no sign of abating. After a longish coast walk and a lengthy delay on a broken down bus on the Lizard yesterday, we decide that the best thing to do is to laugh in the face of the Gods of Fate. So we take another bus, this time to Land's End, for another coast walk.

Land's End is generally a bit grim, as well as being endlessly thronged with tourists. But it has an interesting retired lifeboat to have a look at, as well as some truly breathtaking clifftop scenery, looking across towards the Longships and their lighthouse. Similar to the top of Snowdon, if you can apply your perception filter properly, the surroundings are still well worth the visit.

We make our excuses and leave the theme park environs as soon as we can, but the path is pretty busy round here on such a lovely day.We haven't walked along this stretch of coast path for a long time, a dozen years maybe. And I'd forgotten just how lovely the granite cliffs at this extremity of the British mainland are.

I'm keen to revisit this section as I have only a very hazy recollection of the barrows my map assures me are here, and I'm also pretty sure we didn't even visit Carn les Boel cliff fort when we were last here. Tut.

The crowds thin a bit as we reach Pordenack Point, a striking granite edifice of sheer cliffs and precarious looking boulders. Although we do have to contend with one inane couple who appear to have come here simply to phone their family to tell them what a lovely quiet spot this is. Loudly. Sigh.

The barrows are a bit of a confusing site, badly eroded by being right on the coast path. The map says "tumuli" so I can be confident that there's more than one anyway! Approaching from the northeast, the first promising mound has a central depression and some hefty stones around the edges. This is pretty much definitely a barrow or cairn, albeit a bit of a wreck.

Immediately next to this mound is a large boulder, and right next to that is another mound. This one also looks pretty barrow-ish, although apart from the mound itself, sandwiched between two boulders, there's little in the way of anything structural to assist identification.

[Pastscape suggests three mounds/barrows here, but we only found these two.]

The cliffs drop away dizzyingly to the southwest, to something the map calls Lion's Den, while the coast path carries on southeast towards Trevilley Cliff. Before it drops to Zawn Trevilley we come across what would have been the finest of the barrows up here. Except that the coast path runs right through it and has gutted the site. This seems like such an idiotic and avoidable thing, but there we are.

What we are left with is still worth coming to though, a largely intact kerb of large slabs (it reminds me of the kerbed cairn south of Nine Maidens of Boskednan rather). There is also at least one sizable stone that appears to have formed part of a central cist or chamber, now eroded away. The setting is fabulous too, far-reaching views and dramatic rugged scenery, windswept and punctuated by gull cries. Yep, pretty good place to be laid to rest.

From here we head on round Nanjizel Bay on our way to visit the strangely neglected Carn les Boel.

Peninnis Head (Natural Rock Feature)

Peninnis Head High Stone

Writing in Meyn Mamvro 84 (Summer 2014), Vivien and Robert Seaney mention a lost standing stone on Peninnis Head referred to by William Borlase in 1756: "The High Stone, fronting ye Rock bason Karn at Peninis 30 ft high".

30ft high? Yep, that's what he said. His depiction of the stone is of a tapering stone with a series of curved indentations down one side. The Seaneys have found a recumbent stone on Peninnis Head, 90 metres east of the lighthouse that certainly looks similar to the shape of Borlase's stone.

So as we're on St Mary's (20 June 2014), it seems too good to miss. After a revisit of the Salakee Down cairns and the possible lost stone circle there, we walk round Old Town Bay and back up to the wonderful Peninnis Head.

The stone is exactly where the Seaneys place it, easy to find as it's somewhat apart from the main outcrops on the headland. It's blooming massive.

However, to me it seems very doubtful that the stone ever stood. It looks like it's always been recumbent and the curved indentations are the edges of a number of rock basins on its upper surface. Is this the High Stone? Was Borlase being fanciful when he showed it upright? Or was there another stone, 30ft high, now vanished?

Whatever the truth, go and see for yourself, the fantastic sculpted granite makes Peninnis Head a wonderful place regardless of whether this is the lost High Stone.

Maen Llwyd (Twyn Du) (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Since my last visit, almost four years ago, the stone has been penned behind a new barbed wire fence. But nothing really detracts here. The stone itself is tall and shapely, interesting with its hollow shoulder. The setting, in the amphitheatre of the ridges, is sublime. It’s taken a little over four hours to get here from Glangrwyney, including earlier stops on the way. I settle with my back to stone and let the peace and beauty of the place sink in.

Nant yr Ychen (Round Cairn)

The distance between the Disgwylfa cairn and the various “piles of stones” marked on the map seems too long, despite the easy walking involved. One of the piles looks like a candidate for an older cairn, although Coflein doesn’t agree. By contrast, I pass what turns out to be the Nant yr Ychen cairn with barely a glance. There is no sign of an obvious mound and the pile marks the junction of footpaths. There are yet more terrific views though, except to the north where my day’s highpoint, Pen Twyn Mawr, blocks off everything beyond.

Disgwylfa (Cairn(s))

I head up to the top of Blaen-yr-Henbant, ignoring the more obvious scar of the Beacons Way to get the best of the views. The breeze up here is very stiff, but worth enduring to reveal the nearby hillfort of Twyn y Gaer Camp and the unmistakeable summit of The Sugarloaf/Pen y Fal. The best view is behind me, where Crug Hywel and the domed summit of becairned Pen Cerrig-calch form the backdrop to the valley now far below. The route drops briefly before rising again, steeper now as it reaches the final pull to the summit of Crug Mawr, at 550m OD the fingertip of the Gadair ridge, the third and highest of the five ridges forming the “hand” of the Black Mountains.

It is very blowy at the summit trig, so I press straight on – the principle objective of today’s walk is now directly ahead. Dropping from the top, the path turns darker and wetter, grassy slopes replaced with peat and a surrounding cover of heather, mercifully low at this time of the year. A trio of ponies block the path, but they are young and skittish, scampering away as I prepare to divert around them.

It’s not far from Crug Mawr to the Disgwylfa cairn, though I miss the turn off the main path slightly, as the cairn disappears from view briefly, blocked by the intervening ground. As I cut across the heather, the stone pile atop the cairn appears first. Some of the boulders in the pile have been painted red or blue, inexplicably. But the mound beneath is much bigger, prominent despite the covering vegetation. The centre has been scooped out and presumably provides the majority of the material for the stone pile. There is no sign of a cist or central structure. The views are brilliant, taking in the splendid summit of Pen-y-Gadair Fawr along the ridge, while the beehive’d cairn of Garn Wen can be seen on the next ridge to the east. The top of the Sugarloaf peaks out behind Crug Mawr, although the hazy sunlight makes visibility limited in that direction.

Coed Ynys Faen (Standing Stones)

Following the Grwyne Fawr valley north, the next village is Llanbedr, but before that there is the small matter of a pair of standing stones in a little wood, once again a little to the west of the river. The Coflein record suggests that the smaller, southern stone of the pair may have been destroyed or lost during tree felling some decades ago. I passed here once before, in very deep snow on my way back down from a visit to the wonderful Crug Hywel fort. On that occasion everything was hidden beneath a mantle of snow, with black tree stumps punctuating the pristine surface – not really ideal conditions to look for little stones and I went by without stopping.

Today presents a much better chance. The undergrowth that will carpet the woodland floor come the late spring and summer is only just beginning to make its presence felt, so despite some bramble-tangling to negotiate, it’s reasonably easy to get through the trees. Taking the OS map at face value, I head into the wood and straight uphill in the direction of where I hope the smaller “lost” stone would be. The sun has started to get through the cloud now, filtering through the light foliage in a way that never fails to lift the heart.

And, halfway up the slope, there it is! Not lost, not destroyed, but exactly where the map shows it to be. To find this stone, lost but found, will be enough to make my day worthwhile even if all else fails. It’s a very small stone, rather less than a metre tall and embedded into a bank with what looks like a old trackway running down to it from the southwest. A slab of old red sandstone, almost completely covered in moss and easy to miss as a tree stump. It is particularly angular for a prehistoric stone and it would be easy enough to believe that it might have a later date. Having said that, the abundance of other standing stones along the valleys of the Grwyne Fawr and Fechan give credence to it being part of the same family, aspected to the watercourse.

I head north below the tree cover, angling slightly downhill and closer to the road as I pick my way under the low branches. Not far on, I see a regular shape below me, nearer to the road than I expected. Closer inspection reveals that it is indeed a large, recumbent slab. Carl records that the northern stone has fallen and it looks to me as though this is a fairly recent occurrence. The scar left as it tore away from the sloping setting is still visible, and small stones and earth lie on top of the stone’s base, presumably left from its fall. It’s a shame, as this would be a fine stone if put back up again. Like its southern partner it’s a slab, much wider than thick. Its top is pyramidal, very similar to the shape of other stones in the Brecon Beacons National Park, the nearest example being at Standard Street, only a mile or so distant from this site.

The northern stone is visible from the road, through a gap in the trees.

Llangenny (Standing Stone / Menhir)

Llangenny/Llangenau standing stone is smaller than I was expecting, a rather grey sandstone with a small, irregular and presumably natural hole near its top. It is set on a small rise, below a much steeper slope, a little to the west of the Grwyne Fechan – another of South Wales’ many waterside stones then. Chickens abound, belonging to the house next to the stone, which has been kept obligingly unfenced although a lot of new fencing has appeared since Elderford’s earlier picture. Despite this, I don’t feel overly at ease here. Perhaps it’s the oppressive cloud cover, perhaps it’s all the signs proliferating in the village, but I don’t feel like lingering. Perhaps just as well, because I have more stones to visit and a big hill to climb.

Avebury (Stone Circle)

By the time I reach the eastern entrance of the henge I’m tired and the sky has turned much darker. As always though, meeting the huge stones of the circle boosts my flagging energy in a way that Red Bull will never be able to replicate.

I don’t take the full tour today. Today’s efforts have been focused on getting here through the landscape, the journey being the reward for once. Instead I have a mooch to the Cove (still my favourite setting in the whole complex) and the southern quadrants. I finally take up residence on the sloping bank above the ditch of the southwestern quadrant, not quite at the bottom but on a level with the stones. Arriving at such a busy place after the quiet of the Downs would usually irk me, but today I enjoy watching the different interactions people have with the stones. Some stand in awe, some touch, some just have their picture taken. From where I sit, the voices are muted and the words don’t carry, except one who is expounding something about the electrical properties of the stones.

Ah, Avebury in the summertime. Long may it be a focal point, the builders would surely approve.

The Polisher

Much wandering later, just as I’m on the verge of reluctantly giving up, I spot a pointy stone, which looks familiar. And so it proves to be, the unmistakable grooves of the Polisher lying just beyond. I’ll be honest, I’m feeling a bit pleased with myself at this point, but even without the extra euphoric boost, this would be a winner all day long every day.

I won’t try to describe the stone, the pictures do that better. Instead I’m going to lie down with my head resting on its smooth surface and enjoy the peace for a few minutes.

Fyfield Down (Natural Rock Feature)

The next part of the walk is a bit less straightforward. I’m hoping that I can find the Polisher, but I don’t actually know where it is. I know photos on TMA show a gallops fence nearby, but that’s about all I’ve got. Most significantly, I don’t know which side of the Herepath it’s on. The only thing to do is to wander.

Wandering in the drifts of Fyfield Down is a good thing though. After entering the Down at its southeastern corner, I’m immediately confronted by the scale of the drift itself. I’ve never really seen anything quite like it. I have a quick look at the Fyfield 1 and 2 barrows, but really even these are overshadowed by the natural landscape here. From here I follow the ribbon of the Mother’s Jam, coming across The Monster Stone as I wander. Yep, it really is a monster. Other treats here include the experimental earthwork, slowly decaying as intended. Overton Down (south) may be just about the least impressive round barrow I’ve seen in Wiltshire, a barely-there mound under nettles – get the sheep in, someone.

Devil's Den (Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech)

South of the Clatford Down gallops I finally part with the White Horse Trail, taking a bridleway southwest towards the second site of the day. As the path follows the contour of the hillside, Devil’s Den comes into view. This is one of those sites that you’ll already have seen, even if you’ve never been to it. Something of a celebrity, even in a county that boasts some of the biggest A-listers of them all. It’s great to see it first from afar, how it sits in its valley, tucked away below the windy downs.

Devil’s Den is something of a triumph in another way, as although the OS map shows it standing off the right of way, the little triangle of land is subject to permissive access, which means you can go and spend as long as you like there without worrying about any confrontation. This is a relief, because it’s a site I want to savour. No rushing here. The chamber sits on top of a little mound, all that remains of a much larger structure. The field is turning to meadow, and will be a haven for chalkland flowers and insect life. Beneath the low spread of grasses, the surface is completely littered with chalk and bits of flint, presumably turned up by years of ploughing but now left discarded in the sun.

I love this site. The whole structure looks poised, as if about the march away across the Wiltshire landscape. The sky has turned somewhat cloudy now, but rather than diminishing the visit it adds an extra drama to the backdrop. I could stay here a long time, and so I do.

Time passes, not a soul approaches. Just how a site visit should be.

Barbury Castle (Hillfort)

Walking from Uffcott gives a slow and steady approach to Barbury Castle, today’s first objective and the proper start of the walk. A week or so earlier, G/F and I had a wander round Old Oswestry, which frankly blew me away in its scale and ambition. As a result, I’m not expecting quite so much from Barbury, but you should never, ever, underestimate what you might find at a prehistoric site. You’d think I would have learned that by now.

As the rampart looms above me and the climb steepens, it’s already becoming apparent that this is going to be a good ‘un. The first thing properly encountered is a fine disc barrow set below the western entrance to the site, constructed on the slope and facing westwards over the edge of the down. The disc is actually easier to see from the approach than close-up. A smaller round barrow lies to the northeast, closer to the bottom of the hillfort rampart. On another day, in another place, these two would be enough to linger over. Here though, the pull of the earthwork is too much and I make my way up onto the bank.

I make my way clockwise around the outer ditch. Up close, the earthworks really are very impressive indeed, the ditch still deep despite 2,000 years of silting. There are terrific open views from here. Liddington Castle, the next substantial hillfort to the northeast, can be seen on the horizon. Over to the east the views stretch across the Marlborough Downs, while to the south the fort commands views of anyone coming down the Ridgeway. Once inside the splendour of banks and ditches, there is little else to be seen. The real joy of the visit is undoubtedly in the perimeter and the views from it. A week after Old Oswestry, Barbury Castle is certainly holding its own. A gem of a fort, all in all.

Llanymynech Hill (Ancient Mine / Quarry)

No sooner have we left the wooded cover of Blodwel Rock than we’re across the Welsh border and into Llanymynech hillfort. Sadly our emergence from the trees takes us slap into the middle of a golf course. Immediately we’re scowled at by plus-foured types and the visit becomes an exercise in avoiding plummeting golf balls rather than looking for the remains of the fort’s earthworks. The whole interior has been moon-scaped by older quarrying superimposed by bunkers and hazards. Bah.

When we get a moment to look anywhere but heavenward, it turns out that there’s a decent view of the whaleback of The Wrekin, a very fine hillfort that dominates the north Shropshire plain.

Our route ducks back into the trees and alongside Offa’s Dyke, a.k.a. the northwest rampart of the fort. As at Blowel Rock, the tree-cover makes it difficult to really get a sense of the site. We follow the edge of the escarpment and the earthwork round to the southern tip of the hill. Here the gentle terrain gives way to the towering cliffs of Asterley Rocks, much quarried and mined over the centuries. There is a very fine view south featuring a number of neighbouring hillforts on The Breiddins, Beacon Ring on Long Mountain, and the lowland sites of Bryn Mawr and Gaer Fawr but overall the feeling from the visit to Llanymyech Hill is one of frustration, both from the general destruction caused by industry and from the irritating placement of a golf course across the interior.

Blodwel Rock (Hillfort)

After crossing first one then another disused railway line at Porth-y-Waen, we have a view of the today’s first prehistoric site, the wooded Blodwel Rock fort. It looks like a fairly stiff climb up from the valley floor, and so it proves to be.

The fort occupies the top of the ridge, the steep scarp face of which we climb from the northwest. Offa’s Dyke has been an absent friend for the last couple of miles, but we reacquaint ourselves here. The fort is just in England, but the frontier has curved back eastwards again and we are poised on the edge of Wales here.

In truth it’s not the most impressive of forts, the woodland cover is quite dense and the tangled vegetation underfoot anywhere off the main paths makes it difficult to really get a sense of what’s what. This is compounded by the fact that Offa’s Dyke runs along the lip of the scarp, although Pastscape (see Misc. post) suggests that the Mercian earthwork stopped short of the fort and simply made use of what was already here and at neighbouring Llanymynech Hill.

Easter Head (Cairn(s))

Visited 16 October 2013.

We take the Thurso-John o'Groats bus as far as Brough (pronounced to rhyme with "loch"), then it's a simple road walk of three miles to Easter Head, the most northerly part of Dunnet Head. I had completely underestimated the distance from the map (doh), so it becomes a bit of a rush to get up here. The quiet road climbs steadily, winding its way past a selection of heather-imprisoned lochs, bright mirrors in a dark and impenetrable setting.

The highest point of the headland, where the cairn is, is visible the whole way, but doesn't seem to get any closer for quite a long while. Eventually we round the corner and the lighthouse suddenly comes into sight. A car-parking area is available, which attracts several blink-and-they're-gone other visitors during the time we're here.

The cairn itself has sadly disappeared under a circular seating/toposcope thing, but this place is well worth the effort of the visit on a clear day for the views of the Orkney Islands across the Pentland Firth, almost close enough to touch. As the helpful, albeit cairn-destroying, panels inform us, we can see Hoy, Scapa Flow (which brings schoolboy memories of the sinking of the Royal Oak by Gunter Prien's U-47), as well as the cliff fort of Holburn Head, Ben Loyal, Cape Wrath to the west and Duncansby Head to the east, amongst other things.

We have about three quarters of an hour before the repeat journey back to catch the bus, during which time the wind whips up a frenzy, even on this mild and sunny afternoon. The headland is dotted with abandoned concrete buildings of a military-looking type, casting an air of post-apocalyptic decay onto the scene. I'm sure the weather was all lovely and tropical in the Bronze Age when the cairn was built, but this feels as close to the ends of the Earth as anywhere right now. Perhaps they felt that too, some days. Until we make it across to the Orkneys one day, this is as far north as we get.

For all the howling wind, I find it a wrench to leave here.

Carreg y Big (Selattyn) (Standing Stone / Menhir)

The Path rejoins the Dyke south of Orsedd Wen. The next section of the earthwork is once again particularly fine. Just after it passes through a little wood, a footpath heads off eastwards and will take us to the second Bronze Age treat of the day, which can be seen from the Dyke.

Standing 2m tall, Carreg-y-Big is probably Shropshire’s tallest standing stone, just topping the large pillar at Mitchell’s Fold to the south. The name looks like it should mean “The Big Stone”*. Damn accurate with their names, these Welsh folk (I know, it’s not in Wales). I was mainly aware of this one from Postie’s lovely snow-bound pictures from a year and a bit earlier, but it looks equally impressive in watery Spring sunlight.

I’m particularly taken with the quartz vein running through the stone, being a sucker for a bit of quartz. There is also evidence of packing at the stone’s base. The positioning is slightly obscured from the east due to a hedge, but otherwise the stone would be prominent and just the kind of thing that could be used as a way marker, perhaps pointing the way to nearby Selattyn Hill ring cairn. Cynynion, a further, very similar, stone lies a mile and a half SSW.

Selattyn Hill (Cairn(s))

Now comes the biggest hill of the day, one I’m looking forward to greatly as it boasts the first prehistoric site we’ve been to since leaving Castell Dinas Bran. It only requires a short diversion off the Path to reach it, through an area of recently felled forestry. Standing at a reasonable 372m, the summit of Selattyn Hill is high enough to command excellent views into Shropshire, as well as of the Berwyns to our west and (I think) the Breiddins to the south. Seeing the former gives me much pleasure, as we sure didn’t see much when we were on them!

The monument here is a ring cairn, sadly much trashed by the plonking of a stupid Victorian tower (now itself ruined) in its centre. However, traces of the stonework that comprised the ring can still be seen protruding through a heather covering. The construction is a wide bank of large blocks of stone, and would have been pretty impressive without the tower. It is best seen on the northern arc, the southern being very overgrown. It’s a great spot though, now that the surrounding forestry has been felled to open up the views, and should be even better once the resulting debris has started to break down. There is another cairn (Orsedd Wen) on the next hill to the west, but we can’t make this out today. It is also noticeable how few footpaths there are on the Welsh side of the border here.

Whatever the post-Roman politics of the Welsh border, Selattyn represents a natural frontier, as the last hill above 1,000 ft before the drop down to the Cheshire/North Shropshire plain to the east. Certainly a worthy place for the twelve urns containing burnt human bone, found here when the tower was built.

At length we head off south, alongside an ancient field boundary composed of huge boulders and an equally large field clearance heap. I find a small sliver of flint on the path, apparently worked (but broken) and certainly not native to this part of Shropshire.
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"The fleeting hour of life of those who love the hills is quickly spent, but the hills are eternal. Always there will be the lonely ridge, the dancing beck, the silent forest; always there will be the exhilaration of the summits. These are for the seeking, and those who seek and find while there is still time will be blessed both in mind and body." Alfred Wainwright

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