The big three
After a quite frankly horrible nights sleep in the car, jeez cars are uncomfortable for sleeping in, cheep though. Eric got through it ok but I must have had about four hours, not enough for the day ahead. Breakfast was obtained from a garage in Tredfraeth/Newport, then it was back over the hills to our first destination.
This one had been bumping around the top of my list for ages, years, but seeing as it's so far away, at least a three to four hour drive and North Wales is so much closer, but i'm here now and i'm not going to waste the opportunity. I parked in the entrance to the Electricity sub station just to the west of the circle, reckoning that no-one would be coming this early in the morning, and they didn't. Then we rode the bikes down to the left hand gate , Eric's went under the gate mine over it then a one minute ride up to the medley of animal pens, curious young cows ran alongside the fence, Eric was more interested in them than the stones so I was able to have a quiet moment or ten with the stone circle.
For it must be a stone circle, the map says only cairn but what do maps know, bah, who makes cairns with stones this big. Each stone is of a singular shape meticulously chosen for it's odd shape, the corrugated stones are particularly interesting. One of the two tallest stones seems to have been cut in two the line of the cut so perfect it must have been a Sith lord up to mischief with his light saber. If a stone circle it be then it would have been the best stone circle in the whole of the Preselis, Gors Fawr could be walked through without noticing it by someone unused to such things, and Bedd Arthur isn't even a circle. If you know where to look Budloy standing stone can just be seen across the slight valley.
I really liked this place, it didn't disappoint at all, even the cows or the farming utensils did nothing to blunt my experience here, just imagine what it would be like if it was in pristine condition, mind blowing.
That was the first of the big three, but compared to the other two on my days list it was at the bottom, but only because I really really liked the other two. Anyway just down the road is a tall and shapely stone at Budloy farm
Seeing as it was so close to the Dyffryn stone circle ( I refuse to call it a cairn) we rode our bikes down the road, turning left immediately after going over the bridge over happy waters. Open and close gate, ride down track and umph, a farm, hmmm what to do, worse still the farm yard was full of sheep and lambs with the farmer and his wife. i didn't hold out much hope, the farmers wife saw us but didn't seem to mind. We opened and closed the next gate and we were in the farm yard, I went over to the farming couple and asked if it was okay if we went over to their stone, (they like that) she said it was alright as long as we left our bikes there. Okely Dokely said I and off down the track we went, passing some ruined Reliant Robins and an old boat, which is right next to the gate that leads into the stones field.
We entered the field, scaring off two geese and walked over to the well proportioned stone. Tall and pointy it be, if i had a standing stone it would be just like this one. If you know where to look you can just make out the Dyffryn stones. To the immediate north of the menhir is Budloy mountain but at only 287 meters it's hardly a tiring climb. En route back to the bikes which had moved when we got back, we noticed what an idyllic farm scene this was the sheep had gone but ducks were now quacking about the many streams that pass through there yard. If I had a farm I'd like it be this one.
From Budloy we made our way through Maenclochog which has more than it's fair share of standing stones strewn around it's outskirts, passing east out of the village we passed Temple Druid standing stone.
We just had to stop and say a quick hi to this tall yet squat pointy standing stone. Passing east out of Maenclochog which i'm probably erroneously guessing means loads of stones, as you cant leave the village without passing one, we passed this one. It was a good one, next to wooded streams and small waterfalls, god I wish I didn't live where I do.
From there it was only a couple of miles to the next place, it wasn't on today's list but seeing as I was passing very close by I thought I'd have a look at Yr Allor standing pair of stones, but they were safely tucked up behind some houses with no obvious way to get to them, but this is The Preseli mountains and they always come up trumps in the menhir department.
I was looking for a way to get to the Yr Allor stones when I came across this site, I parked up outside it's field and inspected the map. Hmmm there are so many stones around here that your just falling over them, I get out and walk over, look at the information board and ohhhh it's Meini Gwyr, it wasn't high on the list due to it's ruination but it was there nonetheless .
There is still a slight circular bump to be seen, just, and the stones are still quite big, well one of them is, and they still have that inward lean that Merrick mentions in his notes. I can't quite make out Yr Allor from here, and that is where the attraction to the place comes in, not not making things out, but, in it's heyday this would have been a phenomenal place, so many closely fitting sites all seemingly linked together, like a mini Carnac, but it's all over now the crowd are on the pitch it is well and truly over.
After that introduction to a lost megalithic playground/paradise, it was time to gain some height, these are mountains after all. Turning left at Glandy Cross onto the A478 we immediately pass a hill fort a cairn circle and a burial chamber, then turn left at Crymych and there rising before us is the second of the big three Moel or Foel Drygarn, a wonderful rocky hill with a fort and three big cairns in it. A beaut of a site.
Beware ! I will be talking enthusiastically about this place, what we are sometimes privy to is more than just a visit to some stones by someone, sometimes it's a window onto a love affair, for it sometimes feels more like i'm documenting a love story between myself and these ancient wild high places, if I sometimes sound like a giddy child it's because I feel like one, it's just the best feeling in the world.
We parked in the obvious place south east of the small mountain, and rediculously I let Eric talk me into taking the bikes up with us, it wasn't that hard going, it's not too steep. On the way up he would look back down the path and tell me how cool it will be to ride back down, pointing out dips and jumps he would go over, we're not mad, we had no intention to ride down from the top that would be suicide, however his second mountain lesson would be coming soon.
As we neared the top I could see what looked to be the first line of defences for the hill fort, crawling north around the side of the hill and curling west to keep those pesky invaders out.
We pass it by and reach the level ground at the top, lean our bikes against the rocks at the south east, and turn to look at the three ginormous cairns, if a mountain is lucky, no if i'm lucky a mountain will have a cairn on it, if i'm verrry verrry lucky it will have two decent cairns on it, but to get three cairns of such distinction you have to come to the magical playground of the stonehenge builders, the Preseli mountains.
I read with disappointment that Carl wasn't impressed with the hill fort, saying little to be seen, ?? the defences can be followed all around the north of the hill and even the entrance is deep and obvious on the south side where there are no defences because of the precipitous rocks , Iv'e seen worse, much worse and whats worse is iv'e driven miles to see them, here though it is an absolute delight, a cherry on the top, for the main gatteau is the three huge cairns perched on top, keeping watch over the whole of the eastern mountain range.
The cairns have been recently restored by army preparation students, whoever they are? but they have done a grand job. We could tell by the colouration of the stones where had been restored. But they either left a bit out or someones been at it already as there is a a small scoop in the western end of the western cairn, it's a comfy place to sit out of the wind and watch the clouds scudding over distant Carnmenyn. Carnmenyn, from here it hides from view the Carnmenyn burial chamber and the stone river, had I been alone I would go over there and introduce myself to the genius loci there. But not this time, they will have to wait till our next rendezvous. From up on top, on top of the trig point, we can see it all , west past Carnmenyn to Foal Feddau and Craig y cwm, Preseli's highest point. North is the coast, I can see Dinas head, and closer to somewhere before me is Beddyraffanc, east is Frenni Fawr and cairns and south is Carn Ferched and further off is the megalithic complex at Glandy cross.
But the best thing is just sitting up on the central cairn watching the clouds shadows moving across the ground below, the occupants of these cairns must have been important indeed.
But the worse thing is on our way back down, on the bikes, Eric went from lower than me, but no sooner had we got fifty yards he went tumbling head first over the handle bars, and I was unable to do a thing but watch it all happen, thankfully he wasn't hurt too much, mostly his pride, and with it comes a valueable mountain lesson, even if your thinking I can do that, it always pays to be conservative, no not them...ptui.
That was the second of the big three. After picking ourselves up and brushing ourselves down, we rode the bikes slowly back to the car. Only two more places then we'll go another castle on the way home I told him, this seemed to make him feel better.
After reading a post on the Waun Lwyd webpage about e-mailing the new occupants of the property I thought I'd go see these two stones which have until now escaped photography, after a bit of wrong houseing we got to the right place.
Time for some food, care of Glandy Cross service station, then it's the short drive to Llanglydwen and one of the best placed dolmens in Wales one of my favorite places Gwal y Filiast, and the last of the big three.
I can't believe I didn't add any field notes from my last visit six years ago, even though that was more than half a lifetime ago for Eric he still said "oh I remember this one" and that was before we even got to it.
Heading south out of Llanglydwen, take your first right turn, then turn right into the track that leads to Penbontbren cottage, they let me park there last time but this time I leave it further up the track in the corner to one side, then walk down to the house and pass it by on it's right hand side, through a red gate. Then take your left hand fork passing a standing stone/old gate post and in one minute the most beautiful of Preseli's chromlechs is revealed.
Looking down over the river but not in site of it, is the greyhounds lair, what is it with greyhounds lairs in Wales? there is at least three that i've been to, is it the ancient name for it or a modern thing?
I walk around and around it, taking pictures from strange angles that I didn't explore last time, but last time the whole family and the dog were here, this time it's just Eric and me, and he's got a new football, so i'm free to go this way and that. Some chalked/burnt stick graffiti is on the inside, including a spiral in black, it's all old stuff that's wearing away, it'll be gone by autumn.
On the edge of the Preseli mountains but not in site of it, this is a must see dolmen, so many pictures of Coaten Arthur and Carreg Samson, this place is well under used, and little visited. A secret little gem, if i'd come a few weeks later there would have been bluebells too, so much beauty and wonder in one place would have made me quiver. Then again at work a bonus is coming my way soon, so I may come back in a few weeks, and I will be a lucky boy.
Ps.... the walk back was timed to more or less fifteen minutes, so there's no excuses for not coming.
On the way home we stopped off at Newcastle Emlyn castle, not much left of it but we had a good walk by the river and found a duck shoeing us away from her brood, sweeet.
Alas I didnt get to go everywhere I had my eye on, no time for the hill fort and standing stone at Bosherston, and no time for Carn menyn and the stone river, oh well it won't be too long I hope.
I e-mailed the new occupants living in the nearby house asking if my son and I could come and have a look at the stones but received no reply, so we went any way. It took two tries to get the right driveway down to the house (blurred house name on streetview says lots) but we got there eventually. I parked in the farm yard and knocked on the door, farmers wife came to the door so I asked if my son and I could have a look at the stones, using the exact words used in my e-mail, but it didn't seem to register, no matter, she didn't have a problem gave me some directions to the stones and off we went, would have been nice for the asked for e-mail to have made an impact though.
The stones are first seen over the wall, oooh said I they're big ones, then we get to the gate and enter the stones field. Immediately you can see that some work is being carried out here, new fence posts and new barbed wire, not into that, not at all. But also some gorse has been removed and piled up, I am into that though, but not too much mind.
These are a fine pair of stones, the smaller western stone is more rounded and blunter, female ? and the eastern stone is taller, sharp edged and pointy, male ? whether it is a gender issue that determines the stones shape I'm not overly convinced but there is a meaning to it i'm sure.
Standing south of the stones, they frame Carn Meini, 365 meters of up thrusting weather beaten rock, and next to it the Carn Menyn chambered tomb and coming from that the stone river a most singular natural feature. There's really a lot going on around here, I so wish it was the same in my almost local Snowdonia.
I'll have to put in for a transfer down here.
Trefdraeth to Wdig or Newport to Goodwick
Looking for somewhere to get something to eat we enter Trefdraeth/Newport from the east on the A487 and pass a sign saying Burial chamber, for a second or two i'm thrown a bit and wonder which one it is, then I recall that the last time I was here it was at half past two in the morning, it's Carreg Coetan Arthur. After a healthy and nutritious sausage butty we head off for the dolmen.
A couple dressed exclusively for the outdoors are inspecting the cromlech so we park round the corner slip into our wellies and give them a minute, as expected a minute were all they were willing to give to this curious pile of stones. As we entered the cromlech's private space I could see that some trees have come down, clean cut tree stumps exposing Newport sands, which on my previous three visits was totally invisible due to utter darkness or flora, it was nice to have some placement perspective for it, something I'd thought impossible for it as it's in a housing estate. I reminded myself that even though the dolmen has four uprights under it only two are actually supporting the hefty, shapely and attractively coloured capstone. Eric and me chattered together under the capstone and I pointed out that our new dog (not that new) Arthur is named after this and a few other ancient sites, he looked at me and stated that i've got stones on the brain, something I'm inclined to agree with.
Eric was itching to get the bikes out of the car so we exited Newport from the west and headed for Cerrig y Gof, a rather unsung megalithic wonder of Wales.
We parked west of the chambers in a small rough lay by, then rode our bikes back down the hill to the site.(weeee!!!)
And what a brilliant site it is, last time I came here the bracken was high and in full obscuring mode, but it was much better this time, no bracken growth at all, it was midday and all the dew and slugs had gone, and I had my inquisitive and questioning son with me. Couldn't be better.
I wish i'd read Carl's fieldnotes on this place as I now need to go back and find the big stone he describes a hundred paces away on the other side of the field. But I have read Moss's comment on the Needle rock lookalike stone and tried to recreate Robin Heath's photo without actually seeing it.
The two are remarkably similar and it can only be intentional, but when the capstone is in place and the I suppose there would have been a backstone to the chamber also in place and then a covering mound, the stone would be hidden. But I don't think that would matter, the builders would know it was there and the magic would carry on working. Any alignment between the two and the midsummer sun would have to be remembered and passed on verbally as it would be lost from view, and easily forgotten.
The ride back up the hill was a bit arduous but it didn't take long, next along the road was Parc Cerrig Hirion, a hidden stone that one previous aborted visit had proved is difficult to get to. This visit was no better, I was too far to the east and compounding that I hadn't read anyone's field notes so hadn't even heard of Mercury garage. blast and double blast, oh well perhaps the third time will prove the charm. On down the road is Ty Meini or more charmingly named the Lady stone, it's much more easily found as it's only six feet from the roadside.
I parked to one side in the farm entrance, there's plenty of room it's a wide entrance. Eric elected to stay in the car as my visit wouldn't take long because there are railings hampering a close inspection, I felt sorry for this stone it's a good one but the roadside fumes aren't nice, nor are the railings, if I were to win the lottery I would ask the farmer if I could make a more visitor friendly enclosure for it. other peoples excuses for not getting closer also get on my nerves slightly, if your not going to try and get close why bother at all ? More antiquarian friendly are the burial chambers on Pen Caer the large headland north west of Wdig/Goodwick, our next destination.
This was the only one out of the four I hadn't been to, Garn Wen trio....yes, Pen Rhiw wedge tomb....yes, even Carn Gilfach proved not difficult to find, but it took this my third visit to the area to find time enough for Garnwnda and it's shy outlying menhir.
It was well worth the wait. Finding this last one wasn't hard, once the proper place was found to leave the car, I left it next to the phone box more or less directly south of the chamber and the rocks it hides amongst. Once more upon the bikes it's fifty yards back down the road, turn north/right up the footpath that looks like it's going through someones back yard. The path is muddy, but it would be after all it chucked it down most of the way here, standing on tip toes looking over the wall to your right you can see the standing stone of Parc Hen. At the end of the muddy path a gate is reached, once on the other side the footpath diverges into a starburst of desire lines, the one that is in line with the footpath just traversed is the one you want, after a hundred yards look up to the rocks, a tall pointy rock on the highest part has the burial chamber under it. That said I didn't go that way I went straight to the top and just scrambled around until I came across the chamber. When ever I find something for the first time it is impossible not to emit some sort of jubilatory sound, this one was a cross between Yaaay, and woohoo, a Yaaywhoo.
The four chambers strung along the headland from Carn Gilfach to Garn Wen are within two hundred yards at most of the same latitude, hard to do if your trying, extremely difficult to do by accident. But the thing that struck me about another similarity between this one and Carn Gilach is that they are both very very close to the rock outcrop and both have a standing stone less than two hundred yards away. I love the mystery, that tantalising hint of something close to an explanation to what was going through the minds of these ancient ancestors, there has to be answer, and here it is close to the surface, luckily I didnt visit Garn Fawr hillfort or it's littler siblings so a return visit is assured.
Was the capstone moved to it's current position ? or was it always there and they just jacked up one side and then propped it up on a single stone, either way the single stone looks wholly inadequate for the job, all that weight pressing down on just one small stone, carefully we entered the chamber. Cosy, if you like creepy crawlies, I don't mind most of them, except the slimey ones, in the summer when it's been dry for ages I could imagine staying here all night, yeah all night long. Come to Pen Caer headland and see these four chambers, but clear your mind first
and put in some effort.
From the southern end of Garnwnda rocky outcrop the standing stone of Parc Hen can be seen, as with the burial chamber it demands some effort in getting to it.
From the path to the burial chamber you can see the stone in the corner of the field , but the field is covered in brambles, and I mean covered, but there is a gate behind it so I hoped to come at it from that direction, we went back to the car parked at the phone box, then rode the bikes down the road north east. The first gate we came to a stone was in the field but it isn't the one we wanted, whether or not it's ancient I do not know it isn't on the map so must be a rubbing stone I guess set up by farmer.
We entered the field and rode over to it, then past it and left the bikes by a knackered old wall, then over that field to the gate, the one I could see from the path to the burial chamber, the stone is about twenty yards from the gate.
Tis a really good stone this one, as Merrick informs it is mainly triangular, changing shape as you walk round it and about seven feet tall.
A long haired kind of moss clings to it's upper parts, making it look proper ancient. A small stone gathering is apparent under it's northern face, presumably chock stones but they're not chocking, is that even a word.
Visited on Monday 9th April and by that I mean right up close and I touched it with my hands.
My first visit was hampered by deep impenetrable fog, thankfully I'd left Garnwnda and the Lady gate stone out so this was the return visit eighteen months in the making.
I parked in the same place as before, and walked through the same farm , barked at by the same dogs probably and walked up the same path, the sign pointing out the cromlech is still there but the abundant plant growth and slugs were absent, glee !
The giant capstone was easier to define from the ground without the high grasses, and the strange triangles on the upper surface of the capstone still look freaky, are they man made or natural, I don't know but they are stained reddish as though from iron or something. Once more I climb the rocks just a few feet from the chamber and look down upon the mighty stone, held only just aloft by its small orthostats. Then I let my gaze wander around, I can't see the Lady gate standing stone from here the crest of the hill hides it from view, just like Garnwnda does with Parc Hen standing stone, the rocks of Garn Folch hides Garnwnda and it's chamber from me too, a complicated game of hide and seek are afoot, but i'm not sure of it's rules or it's meaning, if there is one. But the forts around and on Garn Fawr are highly visible, but they're not playing the same game.
I bid the chamber adieu and set off for the elusive Lady stone, but i'll be back soon enough.
The path from Garn gifach burial chamber starts off easy to follow but when it crosses over a low old wall the gorse rather chokes the path impeding progress and the brambles arch over trying it's hardest to trip over the unwary walker, I got this far before, but turned back when the path just stops at a large boulder with fencing running off in two diections, knowing all this we stride forward using brute strength, what little I have, and steely determination which I have by the bucket load, Eric found it hard going so he sat on the big boulder and watched me descend onto the gorse ridden plateau, from the big boulder only one stone can be seen in more or less the right place, not knowing whether or not this was it I just gave it a go, and hey presto Lady gate standing stone revealed her self to me.
Though standing stone is a real misnomer, it's not totally prostrate, it still clings on to verticallity by it's finger tips. This almost fallen menhir gave me great joy, the usual triumphant sound was absent, just a quiet immense feeling of satisfaction, accompanied by goose bumps, I'd had the words Lady gate floating around my mind for ages, we would be together one day I knew for certain, very strange I know but this was one stone that would not escape my attentions.
I waited patiently for the other-wordly lady to make an appearance, but to no avail, I even poked around under the stone, in imitation of treasure seeking, but she must of known that her riches were not in peril from me, probably too much information but I could really do with an other-wordly lady right about now.
Eric reminds me of my other respsonsabilities with a shout, I wonder if that was his first call out to me, I bid her a fond farewell and take my leave.
After chips on the sea front we head down to Llawhaden castle, i'm not only megalithically inclined but also have a passion for castles, then a couple of beers from a small pub in Tufton, with echoes of An American Werewolf in London, then sleeping in the car at Pontfaen in a sheltered and lovely valley on the edge of the Preselli mountains.
Trio on the way
Rise and shine it's 4am, luckily Eric had set his alarm clock as well, it was just as well too because restless leg syndrome kept me awake till at least 1am. After serial and bacon butties we were on our way, it's a long way to Goodwick so I decided to break up the long drive with a few hill forts north of Lampeter, there are plenty to choose from, but seeing as I'd added sites but not yet been there they would be the ones.
But on the way we had a minor disaster, I took a wrong turn and ended up near Dolgellau, that kind of thing can happen after only three hours sleep, I was well tired . I was well annoyed but the boy wonder took my hand and told me not to worry, we turned round and went back via Aberystwyth, it meant the plan would have to be changed, no time for Darren camp, it's straight to Sunnyhill wood camp. But then on our way down the A485 I recognised where we were , right next to Castell Flemish, thank god for Google streetview
I parked in the small layby off the A485 about fifty yards east from the hill fort, sadly it was persisting it down so we waterproofed ourselves and mozied on back up the road. Also after my directional cock up earlier I wasn't in the mood for niceties so I didn't ask for permission to get in, instead we gracefully leaped the barbed wire fence, well as graceful as wellied feet can any way, it's only a short stroll from the fence, in fact the forts most extreme northern defences seem to be cut into by the road side embankment....shocking.
I wondered, then doubted whether any Dutch speaking Belgians had ever lived here, surely they would have been native Welsh iron age folk like anywhere in the country.
We kicked a few lambs out of the way, they're only food after all, no, not really, I'm as soft as any vacant minded veggie. In fact it was the lambs that nearly made us turn back rather than any irate farmer, but we remained unchecked for the entire visit, it was early, raining and misty.
We started our circuit of the forts defences, noting at least two entrances east and southwest. As we passed by the southwestern gate I wondered if on a clear day we could see Sunnyhill camp the other side of Tregaron about three miles distant.
Eric leads the way round the perimeter, he knows we don't leave till we've seen the entire round, and he knows this is just the first of many sites to be got to in the two days we've given ourselves out in the comparative wilds of south Wales, in fact this one of three hill forts is just on the way to where we're going.
Just on the way, sadly, a longer visit with a football, kite or other child friendly activity would be better I know.
Time for some grub in Tregaron, a nice little town with friendly people, we picked our way carefully through the maze of lanes in the light rain heading for the most interesting of the trio of forts on my new and revised itinerary, the nicely named Sunnyhill Wood Camp
We parked in a passing place, naughty I know but I crammed the car into one end still leaving space for passing, then walked back down to a house whose name we couldn't make out from the road. Next to the house is a gate which we quietly crossed and made our way through another sheep and lamb infested field, why do we have so many sheep ? I don't eat mutton or wear woolen clothes and only eat lamb rarely, who is eating all these sheep?
We made our way up to the fort, it's quite steep but it only takes ten minutes to get to the top. This is one great hill fort, the map shows it as a spiral earthwork. The banks hiding the central summit are well over fifteen feet high, they don't really leave much room for habitation inside, maybe a hundred, no more. There was a digger in between the two high ramparts and it had scraped back the top layer of earth, exposing much stone and some bones (probably sheep), I'm no law student but that seems illegal to me, digging inside a scheduled ancient monument. Eric wondered if Time Team had been here and we'd come during they're tea break, he then set about trying to hot wire the digger, so I left him to it as I'd seen the battery not hooked up and the whole machine looked pretty knackered, but at least he wasn't asking if we can go now.
We then walked a little to the north west and up hill a bit to get a view down over the fort, it was an epic view, the fort really is very impressive, and the hills gain in height to the south west where Bryn Y Gorlan stone circle is. then as we walked back down to the fort a Red Kite flew by, it's fantastic they've made such a come back, and they're so willing to fly right over you're head instead of scarpering like a cowardly Buzzard.
It now transpires that Eric's coat isn't nearly as waterproof as we'd hoped, so we stop off in Lampeter to get a kagoul or brolly then it's on to another Pen y gaer the other side of Llanybydder. It's further away from the other two which are quite close to each other.
The last of this mornings trio of hill forts on the way to somewhere else, and the only one that is actually on top of a hill.
We decided to stick to the footpath as much as possible, coming from the south west at a house/farm called Glan Tren, but alas we couldn't find hide nor hair of it, perhaps my powers were waining but me thinks it's been removed or hidden, not on.
So we went round the other side and parked by a playground, jumped an overly barbed wired fence and slipped and slided up the slippery slope in our well used wellies. This was another field full of sheep and lambs, I guess it's that time of year again, when a young mans fancy is easily diverted up a hill, is that right?
The best part of the fort is on the northern side, tall banks and silted up ditches, with sheep and lambs either running away bleeting or strangely following you round.
Other parts of the fort are fenced off, this is private property, and they really don't want you up here. I know it's lambing time but really I'm no threat I promise. Trees block the view down over Llanybydder, but south east is open and pretty.
Difficult to visit even for the most hardened traveller.
Then it's off we go, except for one more tomorrow that's it for hill forts, it's burial chambers and standing stones from now on.
Cheshire's western Peak Part I
This obsession of mine, and it is a fully fledged obsession, costs money, money I don't really have, but as with all addictions you can come up with any excuse to indulge in your passion, today was no exception. I just can't stand sitting round the house looking for something to do, so I asked Eric if he fancied a day out and he physically leaped at the chance. So to keep costs down we didn't even leave our home county of Cheshire.
As previously promised a return trip in the spring for some better views, and man they were better, in fact I could have poked one eye out and still it would have been better than the icy fog last time almost two months ago. Seeing as it's considerably less than a million miles away it was always going to be sooner rather than later.
We parked in the same place, where the map indicates 316 meters, we jumped the fence at the same place, but trod a more direct route to the barrow, which was pleasantly in the same place.
Nothing more to add to the barrows discription, only that the views have changed since last time, back in February the fog curtailed the view to about fifty yards, today it was at least fifty miles.
To the north past the Bow stones (two early Christian sculptured stones) to Lyme Park, north east down to the Murder stone, west is the long barrow topped Spond's hill, east and south is the best view with the evocatively named Windgather rocks on Taxal edge, Cats tor (519m), Shining tor (559m Cheshire's highest point), and way off in the distance Shutlingsloe.
I'll be back soon ish to check out the barrows on Sponds hill, and survey the area from that different perspective.
We ran back down to the car hand in hand as per usual, jumped back over the fence and got back in the car, gladly, it might be sunny but that strong wind is cold and we came dressed for last weeks weather. Brrrr
Just a five minute drive from beside Reed hill with it's still impressive round barrow is this pretty little stone, murder stone or not it's a nice one.
The stone was just off the map so I was going on a vague memory from too many years ago, luckily Iv'e got the stone finding knack, I parked by the newly renovated farm house, just off the small lane and five minutes later we were at the pretty little stone.
The shape of the stone whilst not unique (superficially Maen Llia like) is undoubtedly intentional, they didn't just pick the nearest likely large stone, this one was special, how so I can not say. But what they couldn't have known (or perhaps they did) was how the colours would come out after being exposed to the elements for four thousand years or so, oranges, yellows, reddish browns, it was really quite beautiful.
The positioning was paramount too, very visible from a long way to the south and east and west but not north as there is a big hill behind it. It also has a tentative connection with the barrow on Reed hill, presumably of the same (ish) date, as the stone seems to sit in the lea of the great hill, maybe even saluting the hill and barrow.
On the way back to the car we saw two older gents out for a walk, one of them was of African descent, it's always nice to see a diverse mix of people out in the countryside, I hope they had a look at the stone.
We retraced our car tyres back past Reed hill turned right back on to the B5470, but only for two minutes or so untill the left turn came up.
On the B5470 three miles south of Whaley Bridge turn east off the main road. Park by the footpath sign. Walk up the track towards Charles Head farm then strike off to the right up hill following the wall. The Bowl barrow will come into view soon enough.
Mascots short and sweet field notes just aren't good enough, and because he hasn't included any Os ref there's no link to streetmap. That said at least he added it. (OS ref. added - TMA Ed.)
The barrow has been delved into, a pity as the barrow is only a couple of feet high, the wall running over it adds to the insult. But it's in a good place, views to the west are long and clear, Kerridge hill a hogs back of a hill dominates the fore ground. To the North the bulk of Reed hill with its large and impressive barrow, and beyond that the Murder stone sits on it's hillock below a higher hill. To the east is Taxal edge with Windgather rocks, which a previous visit to has taught me that they are more impressive close up.
Thirty meters south of the barrow is a two foot tall stone, with a sheep ground moat round it, is it a coincidental erratic or an outlying stone connected to the barrow.
PS, even in the afternoon sunshine the wind is strong and cold and not for the first time I wish I'd brought my coat.
After the obligatory run down hill, I perused the map and the clock and decided a small drive south would do us good, down to Allgreave and the Bullstones, or there abouts.
Cheshire's Western Peak Part II
We leave the hills east of Macclesfield and head south through the hills down tiny little lanes, passing Lamaload reservoir and the unlikely named village of Bottom 'o the oven. Then tantalisingly close to Shutlinglsloe, and through Wildboarclough, alongside Clough brook and on to the A54 Congleton to Buxton road. Then it's across the crossroads down the lane to Allmeadows gueast house. The footpath runs through the property and out the other side.
We came down from the north past Lamaload reservoir and down the lovely Clough brook valley, passing the intriguingly named village of Bottom o' the oven.
Parking for the stone is at a one car place next to Allmeadows guest house, there is a footpath running through it. The footpath takes one down to where the River Dane joins up with the Clough Brook, a really pleasant place indeed, a Blue Tit let us get remarkably close before flying away.
As the path goes down the stone will appear large and obvious on the right, but unnervingly on the wrong side of the fence, we approached as far as the fence, Eric lay down for a while, whilst I went for a bit of a trespass on the other side of the fence.
The stone was apparently partially buried then dug up and re-erected by landowners at Burnt house farm. In shape it reminds me of Gardoms edge standing stone. The stone is on a gentle slope coming up from the river and has a different aspect as you walk round the stone, it's best side is seen whilst looking past it up to Shutlingsloe hill, the stone has a dimple with creases leading into it. It's a very nice looking stone.
Then it's time for a minus fog revisit to the Bullstones and Longgutter mystery circle. Turning around go back to the A54 turn left then first right.
Coming from Congleton to Buxton on the A54, turn left after Cluloe cross, well worth a visit in it's own right, as it stands on a natural knoll that has often been taken as a large barrow. A small area on the right side of the lane is good for one or two cars, from the fence/gate the Bullstones can be seen.
I'm walking about a hundred yards down to the stone amid the newest born lambs I've yet seen, keeping my distance the lambs and ewes don't seem to my mind my intrusion into their field.
It's sooo good to finally be here in good weather, it's been fog and icey fog the last two times, so the warm sun, expansive views and glut of ancient sites seen today have satiated my need to "get out", didnt much care for the cold wind though.
The profile of the central stone is almost exactly the same as that great big hill Shutlingsloe, not the highest point in Cheshire but certainly the most recognisable and with the most "I want to climb that" . Even though it is the most prominent landmark on all the horizon, we mustn't forget all the other sites seen from here, Luds church, The Bawd stone over by the Roaches and Hen cloud, The Allgreave stone and the Bosley Minn stones to name but a few.
When you do come to see the Bullstones please don't think they are all that's here, if you are able and willing, climb over the fence and have a look at the possible outlier then a bit further on there is the weird Longgutter circle and the strange semi circle of stones, I once thought the Bullstones was a lonely monument far from anything else but now it's getting possitively crowded up there.
Then it's home time, my daughter is having tea at nanas and needs picking up, but we are both unwilling to return home when there is such good weather, I stop by the entrance to Bosley minn lane where a couple of standing stones lurk. But just then synchronicity lends a hand and she texts me that she doesnt need me or the car after all but instead of the standing stones we head into Congleton for some tea then head of for the Bridstones.
It's been eleven months since our last visit, and seeing as we were unwilling to return home just yet, we nipped into Congleton for Tea and came up here for the sunset, damn good idea it was too.
Once again we had the place to ourselves for nearly two hours, even on a beautiful day like today, no dogs barking either.
In the field next door are two or three time team type trenches, I don't know if they're archaeological in nature or weather the farmer dude is going about his farming duties, which this day include perfectly square tidy trenches. Either way half the trench includes what looks like a low rubble wall running north/south, I wish i'd taken a photo now but was remiss at the time.
We sent monkey boys up a conifer in the stones compound to try and look down on the stones, not in a dismissive way you understand but just trying to see something new in a place that we've seen a dozen times. In the end something new did occur to me, but it wasn't found up a tree you wont be surprised to find. Nearly thirty miles away on the Cheshire plain is the Mid Cheshire ridge, part of this sandstone play ground contains Beeston Crag with it's famous castle, but less known is the neolithic enclosure, Bronze age settlement and Iron age hill fort. Well, the Bridestones chamber seems to be directly aligned on the distant crag. Trees and Rhododendrons are blocking any definitive proof but both are neolithic in date, both inter visible and (not related) I live between the two, for the first time ever Crewe isn't such a bad place to live after all.
On another tack the rhododendrons are too close to the chamber, we used to be able to walk right round the chamber but are now confined to the southern side, it's not on, this place is too cool to be swamped in vegatation.
After visiting over a thousand ancient places and driving between fifteen to twenty thousand miles every year I can only conclude that I'm obsessed with these places, and finding this website seven years ago only compounded that obsession, at least I'm not alone anymore.
My favourite places are:
Ring of Brodgar
Balnauran of Clava
Nine stones close
Bryn Celli Ddu
The Druids circle (penmaenmawr)
Gwal y Filiast
La Roche au Fees
Talati De Dalt
and these are only the ones that immediatly spring to mind, so many stones and not enough lifetimes.