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

Miscellaneous Posts by GLADMAN

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Higher Hartor Tor (Round Cairn)

I stumbled/blundered upon this well sited, reasonably substantial cairn when more-or-less dead on my feet following sensory overload - and, OK, physical overload - at Langcombe Brook. I therefore only lingered for a short while, which, in retrospect does the monument a disservice. It is worth more, featuring significant upland vibe...

Located upon the south-western slopes of Higher Hartor Tor, Pastscape has this to relate about the monument:

"...It comprises a 9.5m diameter and up to 0.6m high ragged 3.0m wide ring of stones and small boulders. In the disturbed central area which is about 0.5m deep one slightly off-centre upright slab is visible : it is 0.2m high and 0.6m long and it could represent part of a robbed cist."

Twyn Garreg-Wen (Cairn(s))

Two attempts to locate this cairn in Feb 2016 - one in appalling weather with mist at road level, the other with the additional assistance of the Mam C - proved inconclusive. Coflein has this to say:

'A round cairn is located on a south-east facing slope at 470m above OD. The slightly oval, flat-topped stony mound measures 8m (N-S) by 7.1m with a height of about 0.3m.... From the rim, on the east and north, there protrude a number of upright and leaning slabs, probably the remains of a kerb. In particular, on the east side there are two inward leaning slabs with exposed lengths of 0.7m and widths of 0.5m and 0.6m.' [David Leighton, RCAHMW, Feb 1985]

We did, however, locate two interesting features... images of which are posted. Hopeful that other members may be able to succeed so we can return and enjoy the vibe here once again.

Foel Darw, Y Mynydd Du (Round Cairn)

From a purely archaeological perspective it is unlikely, in my opinion, that the low, circular feature crowning the deceptively spacious summit of Foel Darw will raise the pulse of any save the die hard prehistorian. However, if exquisite views... and a sense of occupying a special place in the landscape for an hour or two feature in your bag, a visit to Foel Darw's something for you, too. Schedule a visit as a prelude to the great Nant Tarw complex - or even the twin cairns upon Garn Las across the valley - and I reckon you've got yourself a classic day. Dirty white vest optional.

According to RCAHMW (Dave Leighton 20/2/01: 'On the summit of Foel Derw a low turf-covered stony ground swelling probably marks the remains of a cairn. It measures 11m in diameter and no more than 0.2m high'.

Achaoh A'Chuirn (Chambered Cairn)

Since this chambered cairn stands within private property prospective visitors might wish to plan ahead to avoid potential disappointment. Yeah, do it properly rather than replicate my farcical - albeit ultimately successful - attempt.

If so contact e-mail address is:

Harvieston (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Located near to the fine chambered cairn Carn Richard this settlement, well positioned overlooking the River Helmsdale, consists of seven round houses, two of which are particularly well preserved... and an enclosure to boot.

The site was "found during field investigation in 1961 on a south facing hill-slope where RCAHM in 1909 had reported a field system. A further hut at NC 83773170 was discovered in 1968"

[RCAHM 1911; OS (WDJ, 1961; AA, 1968]

Meldon Burn (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Anywhere else but here - set above the Meldon Burn between the towering hill forts of Black and White Meldon - this would be a headline monument worth a substantial trip in its own right. As a bonus site... well... the abundance of the archaeological and aesthetic riches available in the immediate locality takes the breath away as comprehensively as the brutal slogs to the aforementioned summits. Ideal as a less demanding - in a physical sense, at least - alternative visit, or as a post-exertion evening chill-out, proving the idiom that things aren't always black or white..... (sorry).

Anyway, according to the RCAHMS 1967 (visited 1959) the settlement consists of:

"Two stone-walled enclosures, one of which has been built inside the other are situated on a broad natural terrace near the foot of the W slopes of White Meldon Hill. The earlier.. (is)... 220' by 180' ... surrounded by a heavy wall, 12' in thickness... The later..... 165' by 120' within a wall consisting of a rubble core faced with heavy angular blocks....the collapsed debris indicate a thickness of 10'."

Ben Uarie (Cairn(s))

Standing sentinel over Glen Loth, where the road begins its descent to the megalithic cornucopia of the Strath of Kildonan, Ben Uarie, at 2,044ft (623m) is way, way down the list of Scotland's highest peaks. In fact it's not even the tallest in the area, that accolade bestowed upon neighbouring Beinn Dhorain. It is, however, a striking mountain, dominating the upper reaches of the glen by sheer force of profile.

Although not currently featuring upon Canmore's database, Ben Uarie is crowned by the remains of a significant cairn, significant in terms of size of embedded footprint - if not height - and featuring an OS triangulation pillar within a modern, circular shelter. In addition there are - to my mind - clear remnants of a former kerb still in situ strongly suggesting an ancient origin. It would appear the aforementioned Ordnance Survey people agree, the cairn featured in antiquarian typeface upon the latest 1:25k map (but not the 1:50k).

It would also seem that Ben Uarie is woven into the tapestry of local folklore, Sinclair (Stat, Acct of Scotland, XV. 191) relating how the imposingly statuesque Clach Mhic Mhios - otherwise known as Clach Macmeas - 'was hurled to the bottom of the glen from the top of Ben Uarie by a giant youth when one month old'. The fact that the nearer - and, as mentioned, higher Beinn Dhorain was not name-checked as source of the monolith is surely significant, reflecting an association with the mountain stretching way back into the mists of time.

Langstone Moor (Cairn(s))

The denuded remains of several cairns can still be visited some 300-odd yards to the approx south-east of the Langstone Moor stone circle, standing above the River Walkham.

With Great Mis Tor dominating the southern aspect the location is pretty special, even if the archaeology won't compete with the nearby great ring. Perhaps it was not always thus, however, a 'stone circle or kerb' being cited - presumably at SX 55757812 - in 1898 [T Devon Ass 30 1898 112].

Note that the map also depicts settlements to the east and below to the approx south-west.

Corndon Tor (Ancient Village / Settlement / Misc. Earthwork)

Prospective visitors with a passion for ancient domestic dwellings should note that - as far as I'm aware - there are two prehistoric settlements in the immediate vicinity of Corndon Tor, with associated reaves/field systems. Hey, perhaps there are more?

1) A settlement at SX68217466 near Sherwell
2) A grouping of hut circles centred at SX68857525 to the NE

There is also a possible prehistoric enclosure/pound at SX69077479. Oh and a number of sites clustered around nearby Yar Tor, too.

The twin summits of Corndon Tor itself are instead (very) notable for possessing massive Bronze Age cairns.... two to the north and one to the south. There is also an enigmatic 'tor cairn' near the latter. Please refer to corndon tor...

Longstone Hill (Cairn(s))

Located below and (roughly) to the north-west of Yes Tor, Longstone Hill possesses a couple of Bronze Age cairns of its own....

Now I believe I visited the monument at SX56909053, cited by Pastscape thus:

"A very disturbed cairn 630m SSE of the flagpole on Longstone Hill. The mound measures 8.7m N to S by 8.3m and stands a maximum of 1.0m high on its W side. The W half of the interior is occupied by two amorphous hollows, which appear to be unrecorded antiquarian excavations. Spoil from these features has been deposited on the S flank of the cairn. There is no evidence to suggest the presence of a kerb or cist. Scheduled"

More or less dead on my feet by this point I consequently bypassed what appeared to be other examples, including one such at cSX567911. The location boasts excellent views, in my opinion well worth an extended visit if the high plateau of Yes Tor/High Willhays does not appeal. Particularly so if your sojourn includes a wander around the stark rock formations of Black Tor....

High Willhays (Cairn(s))

It would appear there was a lot more going on upon the summit plateau of High Willhays during prehistoric times than is readily apparent to today's casual visitor.... assuming any visit to south-western England's highest point can be termed 'casual', that is.

In addition to the 'tor cairn' at SX58028944, an arc of conspicuous orthostats due east of the summit tor at SX58038922 caught the eye of this traveller. The summit crags themselves are crowned by an an almost impossibly tidy walker's cairn, a stone pile balanced upon the naked rock in a such a seemingly precarious fashion that a gust of wind might well send it crashing to the coarse grass below. So why the existance of several relatively substantial upright stones clearly standing vertical - well, more or less - as a result of human agency? My immediate theory was the arc may once have formed a section of kerb retaining a cairn of which the summit remnants are all that remain.

Funnily enough at least one earlier, not to mention more experienced traveller, came to a not too dissimilar conclusion. To quote Pastscape:

"A semi-circle of leaning orthostats adjacent to the E side of one of the outcrops forming High Willhays. The stones remain a maximum of 0.75m high and describe an arc some 9m in length. Small boulders and slabs are interspersed with the orthostats suggestive of a ring cairn, in this case attached to the tor. The outer ring... is visible as a slight scarp a maximum of 0.2m high curving around the NE quadrant of the inner ring. It may represent a second element to the cairn or, more likely, be the result of stone removal in the more recent past. The outcrop to which this cairn is attached is crowned by a recent walkers' cairn which presumably contains material derived from this feature. [Probert SAJ 15/9/2003, EH Field Investigation]"

Cadair Fawr (South) (Cairn(s))

These two upland cairns stand, as you'll probably guess from the title, immediately below and more or less to the south of Cadair Fawr.

According to Coflein the northern of the pair [at SN97721199] "measures 7.5m in diameter and 0.3m high, and consists of loose rubble consolidated around the perimeter". So, not exactly overwhelming in scale, then. But substantial enough. For me, however, the monument is given a massive injection of vibe by having been located between two small shake holes, the apparent - oh, come on! - association of Bronze Age monuments with such natural landscape phenomena quite a local speciality, so it would seem.

The second cairn lies at SN97791191 and "measures 7.1m (E-W) by 6.1m and 0.3m high. It is composed of loose unsorted stones and small boulders." [both quotes DKL/DJP 3.86].

These cairns would suffice as the focal points of specific visits in most areas, I guess. However such are the treasures in the locale that.... well, there you are.

Cefn Sychbant (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

Cefn Sychbant East

Unfortunately fast approaching darkness ensured I did not have time to do this site justice.... consequently I left it - together with a neighbour further east at SN98921108 - for another day.

Set to the approx north-east of the much larger monument at SN98551095, the exact form appears uncertain. According to Coflein the monument is:

"...a grass-grown stony ring bank 0.3m high, 1.2m wide...diameter of about 10.5 to 11.5m. There is slight evidence for an inner kerb of larger stones. In the 1950s 'a wrecked central cist' revealed a sandstone disk 4cm in diameter and 1cm thick, now in the National Museum" [David Leighton, RCAHMW, Jan 1983].

As for the cairn located at SN98921108:

"...defined by two stony arcuate banks on the east and west separated by a distance of 10m and suggesting an overall diameter of 15.4m. The banks are 2m-3m wide and 0.25m high.... On the cairn’s outside west edge is a embedded a thick sandstone slab, perhaps the remains of a kerb. It is not clear if this is a remnant cairn... or a ritual monument of the ‘hengiform’ or ring cairn type...." [David Leighton, RCAHMW, 19 Oct 2010].

Graig Ddu (Y Gamriw North-East Ridge) (Cairn(s))

Travellers walking the length of Graig Ddu, Y Gamriw's north-eastern ridge, will have the pleasure of visiting a trio of relatively substantial upland cairns in a linear procession. In fact I wouldn't have minded walking all the way back to Llanwrthwl... if I could have cadged a lift back to the car. As it was I had to settle for visits to cairns I and II - back in September 2012 - before dropping steeply southward down to the road. Although on second thoughts 'settle' is hardly appropriate in the circumstances, not with the robust Y Elenydd weather patterns seeing fit to illuminate the otherwise uncompromisingly hostile sky with wondrous lightshows of indescribable intensity. Not to mention subject me to a good dowsing or three. Needless to say images and/or comment regarding cairn III would be most welcome.

Oh, the technical bit. Coflein's data are thus:

Graig Ddu I - (SN95326171): "A mountain ridge-top cairn, 12.5m by 13.4m and 0.9m high, the centrally much disturbed." [RCAHMW AP965026/66; J.Wiles 16.09.03]

Graig Ddu II - (SN95666204): "...14.9m by 13.1m and 1.0m high, having a contiguous platform, 5.0m wide and 0.3m high, on the NE." [RCAHMW AP965026/67; J.Wiles 17.09.03]

Graig Ddu III - (SN95986255): "Cairn on E edge of mountain ridge, 8.5m in diameter and 0.5m high, of which it is thought only the base remains. A modern sheepshelter occupies the NW area" [J.Wiles 23.04.02]

Y Gamriw (North) (Cairn(s))

Located a little distance below, and to the north of, Y Gamriw's summit cairn, this pair crown a NE-SE aligned ridge, complementing the sentinel monument nicely. In my opinion. There are fine views toward the stone circle (and whatever else may be there!) located in the vicinity of Crugian Bach, not to mention further afield across Y Elenydd.

According to Coflein the north-eastern (Coflein II) is
"A much disturbed cairn, 14.9m by 16.7m and 1.8m high."

The south-western (Coflein III) is "A tumbled and ill-defined cairn, 15.2m in diameter and 1.5-2.4m high, a large central crater is occupied by rough stone shelters."

[RCAHMW AP965026/65 - J.Wiles 17.09.03]

Carn Gron (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

There is a trio of cairns located upon the summit plateau of 1,774ft Carn Gron, a shapely large hill / mini-mountain a little under 4 miles to the approx north-west of Tregaron. According to Coflein:-

Summit Cairn - SN73976106:
"A round cairn, 16.5m in diameter & 1.2m high, set upon the highest point of Garn Gron, having a shelter constructed on the E side, with the NE segment having been cleared to ground level; possible cist elements are exposed at the centre"

Cairn II - SN74006108:
"A modern cairn, 5.0m in diameter & 1.8m high, is set upon the turf-covered base of an apparent earlier cairn, 9.0m in diameter"

Western Cairn - SN73786114:
"A subcircular cairn, 15m N-S by 14m & 1.2m high, set on the W summit of Garn Gron, apparently touched on its NE side by Gwys-yr-Ychen-bannog linear boundary feature; a central disturbance displays possible cist elements".

[J.Wiles 23.07.04]

Banc Cynnydd, Elenydd (Cairn(s))

The Coflein entry by J.J. Hall [8 Sept 09] notes the following:

"A low cairn, up to 0.5m high and measuring 6m north to south by 5m. Most of the cairn body is in fact very low, less than 0.2m high, but stone has been piled up to create a marker cairn... on the northern side of the monument. There is no evidence of any intrusive activity."

Yeah, I'd concur with that. Incidentally Coflein cites the cairn to be located at SN8922773383, slightly off from what I made it. Happy to be subsequently corrected.

Garn Boduan (Hillfort)

Coflein has this to say about this overwhelmingly massive Lleyn hill fort:

"Garn Boduan is a titanic hill-top enclosure, about 512m from north to south by 384m, defined by two successive and somewhat divergent stone-walled rampart circuits. Within are about 170 circular stone walled structures, generally in the region of 5.2-7.3m in diameter. Upon the highest, eastern edge, of the site is a small stone-ramparted enclosure, about 70m from north to south by 30m. Both the greater and smaller enclosures have two gates, one of each being anciently blocked. A single sherd of pottery indicates second century AD occupation." [RCAHMW, August 2011].

The siting is not as enigmatic as that enjoyed by Tre'r Ceiri across the way, despite proving a magnificent viewpoint for the whole of Lleyn; nevertheless the defences - and in situ hut circles - stand comparison with ease.

Craig y Dinas Cairnfield (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery)

I must confess the existence of this extensive grouping of cairns to the west of the hillfort Craig y Dinas came as a complete surprise to me, nothing being shown on either the 1:25K or 1:50K OS map. It would appear there are also numerous hut circles /settlement features in the vicinity, too.

The relevant Coflein record is apparently based upon an oblique aerial image, the size of the main cairn here (at co-ordinates I've given for the site) clearly suggestive of a prehistoric origin, as opposed to later clearance. Hopefully the ground level detail I've been able to capture collectively makes a strong supporting case for the existence of some ritual monuments set within clearance piles of undetermined age.

According to Coflein the main round cairn is:

"Stone cairn, c.9m diameter, visible on oblique cover. Probable prehist. ritual monument. Part of larger cairnfield."

As regards the cairnfield:

"Extensive cairnfield c.169mx173m (mapped) which can be traced for some 530m N/S. Likely Prehist. origins mixed with U med clearance. Open pasture gently slopes to SW."

Note also the placement of a very large cairn near of the summit of Moelfre to the approx north-east.....

Graig Gethin (Cairn(s))

Unlike the larger cairn occupying the summit of this rocky ridge (SN879867) CPAT [PRN4960] reckons this cairn probably represents additional field clearance upon an original monument:

"Poss cairn some 7m dia built around natural outcrop may be natural feature (CPAT site visit, 1978). Area now afforested site unlocated - prob destroyed (OS, 1981)....Site is now occupied by a modern clearance cairn. Probably an ancient site reused (Gibson, A M , 1998 , Prehistoric Funerary & Ritual Sites: Upper Severn Valley)."

I was actually looking for the nearby Pen-y-cerrig cairn shown on the map a little to approx north-east. However I failed to positively identify that one - make of that what you will - but stumbled upon this instead as compensation. That'll do. Some great views, too, particularly toward Pumlumon.
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Hi, I'm GLADMAN... aka Citizen Cairn'd. Or if you prefer, Robert. Now aside from (apparently) having an illustrious historical forebear in W E Gladstone, I've a passion for attempting to understand the more prosaic lives of the prehistoric inhabitants of these British Isles, seeking out the tangible remains they left behind in order to ask the questions... 'why here?... and why such commitment? I've a particular liking for those upland piles of stone with the appropriately monumental views. Visiting them, I think, helps engender a certain 'connection' - however nebulous - with this land of ours, a reference point for those of us struggling to make sense of this so called 'computer world' Kraftwerk warned us was a'coming in 1981.... danke, mein herren.

Suffice to say, then, that mine is not an exercise in dryly cataloguing sites for the benefit of future generations - as much as I might try (honest) I haven't yet been able to embrace altruism to that extent - but rather an attempt to try and reconcile why I am so incredibly moved by these constructions of stone and/or earth representing a time when everything was, by all accounts, literally a matter of life and death. Yeah, just as an empty house appears to retain echoes of past humanity... an illusion, perhaps, but symptomatic of the consciousness that apparently sets us apart as a species... so does the stone circle, the chambered cairn, the long barrow and the mountain top funerary cairn. We may only be able to hypothesise as to the nature of human interaction undertaken. But clearly it mattered. A lot.

I make no claims for my contributions except to state that I've done my best to relate what I've seen. Yeah, enjoying the moment always takes precedent. After all, life is not a rehearsal, a spectator sport. The majority of my earlier images are (variable quality) scans of archive prints taken back in the days when photography was, well, 'photography', the others idiosyncratic digital attempts to capture the impossible.... 'mood', a sense of vibe ... with minimal refuge sought in that false post production manipulation that has, in my opinion, so blighted the medium. I'd like to think some of them convey something of what I've felt. Likewise my opinions are those of an enthusiastic 'self taught' amateur. Hence if you like what you see, why thank you! But you owe it to yourself - and your children (if so blessed - or not, as the case may be!) - to go see for yourself, make up your own mind, relate what you think, share what you experienced... yeah, do your own thing, so helping to keep the facists, communists, authoritarians, misogynists and the dark shadow of organised religion from the door. As the great, flawed Ian Dury once said, 'Be inspired, be inspiring, be magnificent!' ... and thus the circle turns in on itself to go round again, as upon the great kerb stones at Bru na Boinne....

However... let's not get carried away. Steady now. In a society where computer generated fantasy is all too prevalent, where many people seem - to me - unable to even venture outside without plugging into the 'matrix' machine, please be aware that reaching some of the more remote upland sites in the British Isles can be potentially dangerous - even life threatening - for the unprepared... or arrogant. Treat the landscape and weather with the respect they deserve; take map, compass, waterproofs (etc) and hopefully you won't go too far wrong. Help turn that limited wannabe squaddie route marching mentality on its head by taking as long as you can, let being part of this planet soak in. Hey, if it all seems a bit daunting at first why not pop a question in the Forum? That's why Mr Cope puts up the readies to run TMA.... Thank you Julian.

So cheers... to Mr Cope for being his inspirational, confrontational (who said that?) self, showing that field archaeology can be FUN! - hey, who'd have thought it? my sister (the wondrous Mam Cymru) for using her female 'micro' vision to help me see the detail throughout an ongoing re-exploration of the South Walian uplands, albeit upon dodgy ankles, knees etc... to my own mam for insisting 'young men should have adventures' (that was a while back, now!).... and my Dad for unwittingly inspiring a profound love of high places. Oh, and to Aubrey Burl for those pioneering guides BC.... 'Before Cope'.

For what it's worth some of my other inspirational people are:

Charles Darwin (for his humanity... amongst, er, 'other things'... although let's not forget Wallace for forcing the great man's hand);

And then, in no particular order:

George Orwell (peerless essayist with the ability to change his mind); Michael Collins (things are not often black and white...); Winston Churchill (for all his faults); Martin L. Gore (favourite songwriter... from just up the road!); Big Steve Chamberlain (sorely missed); Mr Beethoven; Giorgio Moroder & his analogue sequencers; Richard Dawkins (much maligned - and asks for it - yet helping to carry the torch of reason during an age of devolutionary religious resurgence); The Pogues (for my North Walian soundtrack); Sophie Scholl (words fail me); W A Mozart (ditto); Manic Street Preachers (the true spirit of South Wales, not the bleedin' misogamist male voice choirs); Alan Pearlman.. for the sublime ARP Odyssey; Nigel Kennedy; Pat Jennings; Will Shakespeare; Kraftwerk; Harry Hill (there's only one way to find out!); Claudia Brucken (proving Germans DO have passion); the (Allied) generation of WW2 for making this possible; Marc Almond; Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy; John Foxx; Christopher Hitchens; Mulder and Scully; John Le Mesurier ('do you think that's wise, sir?'... the coolest man) .... and anyone who has ever asked 'Why?' - the true legacy of punk. Thank you Mr Lydon.

Oh, last but not least, Gaelic beauty Karen Matheson... the Scottish trips wouldn't have been the same without that voice. 'The call is unspoken, never unheard'.

George Orwell - '...during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act'....

Martin L. Gore - 'Like a pawn on the eternal board; Who's never quite sure what he's moved toward; I walk blindly on....'

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

W E Gladstone - 'Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic'.

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

Christopher Hitchens - 'Take the risk of thinking for yourself, much more happiness, truth, beauty, and wisdom will come to you that way.'

Sarah Cracknell - 'I walk the side streets home; even when I'm on my own...'

Winston Churchill - 'KBO'.

My TMA Content: