Circles, monuments, crashes, and floods.
It's five in the morning and the day is just dawning and once more the A55 takes me to the place that an ancestor called home, a million miles from all my problems, it is where my heart lies, it is called Snowdonia.
I wasn't totally sure where to go, one thought was Tre'r Cieri, but low funds and a late night made my decision for me, it was to be an Equinox sunrise at the Druids circle above Penmaenmawr.
I decided to save time and take the car up the track as far as it would go, passing the twin pillars the track gets rutted and pitted, so much so that I decide this is the one and only time I shall take it up this far.
Coat on, camera over the shoulder and I'm off up the path, rounding a small hill the wind hits me like a mad Yeti, cripes that's cold, for a fleeting moment I think this is far too cold I'm going back, but that's not the postal way either so I quicken my pace, keep my head down and keep moving.
I pass Red Farm remnant stone circle and Maen Crwn with barely a glance, time for that on the return trip. Out of the damning cold wind I reach Brian, otherwise known as Circle 275, I say "alright Bri" and turn to check on the suns progress, bugger, it's already risen, so I run the rest of the way up to the circle of the Druids.
It's as perfect a day for a sunrise as ive yet seen, and ive been watching the sun on the solstices and equinox's for over a decade. The sun rises probably not fortuitously over the highest part of the hills Cefn Maen Amor on the near horizon, this is not perfectly east, but if the land was totally flat it would be too far north of the highest point, but because the sun has had time to move through the sky a bit, it does rise above the highest point of Cefn Maen Amor.
On the other side of the circle from the sun I am standing on a small mound, for a moment I wonder if it's man made, perhaps for people to stand upon whilst watching the equinox sunrise from, I look over to my left and note another mound, almost perfect for watching a winter solstice sunrise. There is no mound for the summer solstice. Was it perhaps not deemed as important as the other two ? Are they actually natural mounds, but the stone circle was placed there because of them. Between the two mounds an ancient track passes by. Ive always wondered why the circle is sited right on the edge of the land before it falls steeply down to Penmaenmawr. In between the big hills (Tal y Fan) and the steep down hill fall there is plenty of room to put a stone circle, granted most of it is pretty boggy , but why right the way over here on the edge. I feel I could be onto something, but it could be just a feeling. On the east side of the circle is another mound possibly in just the right place to see the sun set on the winter solstice, it should also be said that from the sun rise mounds the sun rises right across the middle of the circle. Oh for a central tall megalith..
This is easily the best stone circle in Wales.
From there I take the short walk to the conundrum that Ive called Thora, less enthusiastic folk call it Monument 280, where are the other 279. Just to the north is Kevin, a ring cairn called Circle 278. Both of them would have brought me here on there own, but there is so much more up here. I then walk up to the top of Moelfre, a small hill with big views and a much denuded cairn, but it seems less denuded than before somehow. I sit here for a while watching clouds drift over the snow topped mountains to my south, resisting the urge to run over and climb one. That'll happen soon enough.
I run down the hill, always a fun thing to do, but less fun than with Eric pulling me, urging me to go faster.
Cors y Carneddau is my next port of call, a large barrow with a scooped out interior, a very decent kerb cairn , a less decent ring cairn and a fairly knackered hard to discern stone circle, the kerb cairn and the barrow are in my opinion wonderful to behold , second only to the Druids Circle, and the views of the mountains, which are almost overpowering.
From Cefn Coch barrow I skirt around the base of becairned Moelfre following the path towards two cairns called Bryniau Bugeilydd. Passing the site of crashed WWII bomber " Bachelors baby " a B24 Liberator, they were probably looking for stone circles and never saw the hill coming.
Coflein still isn't co-operating, so I didn't know what to expect, if anything. But I was pleasantly surprised to find the remains of a substantial kerb cairn. Half the kerbing has gone but those that remain are quite large, the interior of the cairn has a slight rise in ground level .
About fifty yards up the hill back in the direction of the Druids circle, is what I presumed must be the other cairn. It is heather covered and is either situated upon a rocky knoll or the whole thing is the rocky knoll, there was nothing else in the vicinity so I clicked the camera and moved on.
From there it's a second visit to Cerrig Gwynion, a cairn with a cist. Coflein state that the cairn is four meters high, it isn't, its barely one meter high
My second visit, but as i'm approaching from a different direction it's as hard to find as the first time.
then quickly back to the Druids, then a longer look at Brian, circle 275.
It's now time to go and get out of this biting wind, but just before I do there's just one more new site to see.
A mere fifty yards from Brian is this massively overlooked barrow/cairn, somewhat unfortunately named Fridd Wanc, with so many megalithic wonders here about it's almost understandable. About a meter tall and maybe five across this heather and grass covered mound melts seamlessly into it's surroundings, look for the telegraph pole uncaringly stuck right on top of it, blighters.
Back at the car I'm glad to be out of the cold, which I'm glad to say didn't affect me too much. I leave the vicinity and head away.
I planned on looking for and hopefully finding Porth Llwyd portal dolmen. I knew from George Nash that it may not be findable as it is now descheduled by the Office of works and described as " Presumed destroyed by flood "
But I still hoped to at least locate the capstone, and one or two uprights could still be in place, but alas it was not to be, two hours of digging, scratching, going round in circles and wading through brambles all on what I supposed to be private property. I could find no trace of it, the Dolgarrog flood disaster (of which i include a photo of from the information board, not the actual flood, just a description of it) has taken it all away.
Only more hours spent searching round in circles can prove its destruction.
Any information about it's location would be greatly appreciated, it is not at the grid ref supplied by me here. (Taken from Nash)
Boat of a million years
Very early o'clock Saturday the 22nd of September, sees me up and at 'em and once more en route to North Wales, the epicenter of me. It's the Autumnal equinox again, I've only failed once in twelve years of getting out and being somewhere good on a solstice or equinox, not in any real pagan way you understand, I really only use it as an excuse to definitely go out, come what may, my works annual leave is always March, June, and September, cant get Christmas off, that ones a sicky this year.
By passing Chester I take the coast road, dual carriageway all the way to Conway, it's my route 66, this drive got an even more spiritual bent to it this morning, behind me high and bright was the planet Venus, stars were everywhere, several shooting stars go by (space junk !)and as the road got higher mist started to come and go, the car seemed to be flying amongst the clouds, my boat of a million years.
As you come off the dual carriageway you enter the Conway river valley, the hills and mountains to the west are as jam packed with megalithic and natural wonders as anywhere you care to think of ( with maybe a few exceptions). Cross the river turn left onto the B5106, turn right after a black and white pub called Y Bedol. The mad twister of a hair-pinned road should be taken slowly and carefully. Stop and park at cattle grid.
It was most definitely getting light now, I donned my waterproof lower half, it was not going to rain but dew is a soaker and there's that river to cross as well, then I was off down the hill towards one of my most favorite of places Hafodygors wen. A northern four poster with a ring cairn around it. I've already removed one small Gorse bush, and almost all of another, it was time to finish the job and catch the place in its best light, sun rise.
The brown patch where I removed the first bush has now almost completely grassed over, but the fingers of the bigger bush have started to regrow, bloody Gorse. I unpack my secret weapon, a flick saw, like a flick knife but a saw, ten minutes in and the sun comes up.
I know from copious map staring and Google earthing that the hill known as Waen Bryn-Gwenith http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/12542/waen_bryngwenith_stone_ii.html is directly east of Hafodygors wen, the big stone right on it's summit is very visible from almost everywhere round here, and if that wasn't enough, fifty yards down hill from it is a probable collapsed dolmen http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/site/12543/waen_bryngwenith_stone_i.html , A good place for the sun to rise on such an auspicious morning, and the perfect place to see it from.
The sun shone full and bright as it came up over the hill, if it was a more flatter place it would have been a big orange ball, but from here the sun has more chance to accrue it's brilliance. And it was brilliant. The sun seemed to be coming up over the dolmen rather than the big stone, cant be a coincidence surely, two other hill tops near here have big stones on there summits dissuading me of a solar alignment. Behind me the sun light slowly moved down off the mountains and creeped down the hill side to my little stone circle, and bathed us in light. I tried to capture the moment on camera but it never sees the same as me. I renewed my attack on the Gorse remnants till it was all but gone, a small hard knot of root was clutching strongly to some cairn material so I cut it back some but ended up having to leave it as I don't want to damage the stones in any way, hopefully, I killed it, horrendous, I know and I feel badly for it, but each thing has it's place, and seeing as only two people have ever been here, Ive decided that I am the one who decides what goes where. This time next year it will all be grassed over and all will be well for this strange little beauty, if only it was a bit easier to get to, it might get more visitors.
But, that's not all folks. First I head over to the other very nearby cairn, it is just a bump now, but I decide to take a closer look any way. Nothing much to see at all really, but interestingly the big stack of rocks is half way between cairn 1 and 2. I return to the four poster and make ready to walk about. I remember Coflein saying something about a hut circle round here somewhere, I follow the river, with a vague memory that its near to it. I didn't find it first time I came here, but I did this time. A large ring of small stones, on a slightly higher than the ground platform, two small wind shelters/sheep pens ??? have been formed from the stones. Not a particularly inspiring ancient monument, but it's position is in a gorgeous setting, rushing river below, more recent ruined building across the river and every where trees, ferns and mosses, with mountains never far from view.
The megalithic portal brought to my attention that a standing stone is up the valley some more towards the mountains, never needing much of a reason to get nearer the mountains I set off, tired but in good spirits.
Following the Afon Dulyn to the dam, then a footpath takes us to the Afon Garreg-wen, It's only a small river but crossing it was found difficult as I'd come to the waterfall bit, moving about in dense wet undergrowth wasn't easy, my leg disappeared down some dark hole, banging my knee cap on my other leg, I pulled out my soaked leg half expecting a Lovecraftian monster to be clinging to it, but it was just dirt and wet. Ok.
Watching out for a big cluster of sheepfolds I knew I was in the right place. and there it is, vaguely helping a fence to stand up.
The stone is 1.75 meters tall, that's up to my chin. It is only by a fence and the farm dude has tied a wooden fence post to it with new shiny wire, I try half heartedly to undo it but to no avail. The stone clearly predates this fence, even the river is named after it, the fence runs for 1.5 miles from Pant y Mynach hill top to far across the valley to the footpath at Clogwyn-yr-Eryr. There are two stones right next to it, this one and another fifty yards higher up, but its smaller than this one. Brilliant views over to the Carneddau and Pant y Griafolen, and every where else the eye settles on.
One more place on the way to the car, I follow the fence line all the way across the valley crossing the Afon Dulyn in the process, I saw three other people on the way. High up on the other hillside I come to the track and start walking carwards, that is east. First I refind the single standing stone that is situated by a dip in the hill top perhaps pointing towards Pen Llithrig y Wrach, then from there the other stones can be seen, one good tall stone has holes in two sides one all the way through, the fallen stone is perhaps smaller, with another hole in it. The last stone is the smallest and the most northern. It has no holes in it. These three could be a stone row, but the other stone up hill is out of line. It's all very confusing, they were at one time part of a fence line, but the ancients breath has been down my neck all morning, its just as strong here as it was at sunrise. What a beautiful place, I must find a reason to come back, thought of one already, because I can.
One more place to go. Back to the boat of a million years. On the way taking note of the big stone on Waen Bryn-Gwenith, and I spot the tree guard of Cae Du on my right on the shoulder of Moel Eilio.
I drive the car back to Tal y Bont and then immediately back up into the mountains skirting by and below Pen y Gaer, hill fort extraordinaire. There is a small car park west of the fort, i've been up the fort before, so instead I now crawl up the nearby mountain? of Penygadiar. There is no cairn or stone here, just a view to end all views, some places have a good views but compared to this they're just looking over the wall at old ladies drawers. Expansive isn't the word, try all encompassing, it's closer, I wont name all the places seen from up here, but its well over twenty, the nearest is the hill fort, which is why I came up here, on zoom we can see it all. But now, that really is all folks, a leisurely float home and two hours later I'm crashed out on the sofa not watching tele .
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.
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.