The first time we encountered one of these was while stravaiging west of Tal y Fan on the moors between there and the Penmaen hills. We'd seen a couple of old steadings and sheepfolods, but this structure mystified us. I wondered if it might be a shepherd's shelter, but a glance inside showed that there wasn't space, nor was there a chimney. It wasn't until we returned home and I consulted "An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments in Caernarfonshire" (RCAHMW) that the fog of mystery lifted.
Apparently, these are peat huts...for the storage of peat. Accustomed to peat being stored outside in heaps to dry, this came as something of a surprise to me. But the guide says that they are called "Hafodtai Mawn" - and that they are not very common.
Peat seems to have been more commonly kept in a heap that was thatched, resting on a peat stool ("Ystol Mawn") which is a platform of large stones intended to keep the peat off the ground. The guide says that these are very common and can be mistaken for burial mounds. Below are two shots from inside, showing the cramped nature of the accomodation.
The grid reference for this one is SH 73347537. The day we explored, we were accompanied by some lovely Carneddau wild ponies, who seemed fairly relaxed about us being on their...er, turf.
A few days later, we found another peat house. We were looking for a powder hut near the slate quarry at Tal y Fan and encountered something that looked as if it might be a powder magazine, but the more we examined it, the more it looked like a peat house. (Unfortunately, we didn't find the magazine)
The remains aren't as well preserved as the one further north, although these are in company with a couple of old beudeau and an impressive, if vandalised standing stone, Maen Penddu. The grid reference is SH73917346.
It's amazing to think that these moors, which look completely uninhabited, have actually known human habitation for a very long time. These peat house remains are just one facet of a timescale going back four thousand years to the neolithic.
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