Where we find a wealth of prehistoric remains in the landscape- and an awful lot of fallout from forestry felling.
We knew from our previous visits here that there were a good few remains of cairns and settlements to be found. Coming back, with the objective of looking closely at them, it surprised us how many there were- and how little care is taken over these remains, which date from possibly 2,000 years ago.
We started by parking up in an area that has been used by Conwy Forestry as a storage area for their giant tree strippers and log movers- these days, nothing is done by hand. Rubbish was everywhere, plastic bottles, scrap metal, discarded piles of young trees in white bags...even a broken-backed caravan- the hallmarks of chaotic and disorganised conifer extraction. I suppose I am guilty of thinking back to the (thankfully) short time in prehistory when I worked for the F.C. in South Scotland, when we took trees out using a horse and cleared up after ourselves lest the D.O. would come by and bollock us all. Changed days, it would seem.
Anyhow, we started up a footpath, marked on the map as such but we proceeded uneasily, because notices told us access was forbidden. We were aiming for Bedd-y-Brennin cairn and cist, marked on the map up in the woods above Cwm Llwyd. The footpath had had an upgrade, anyway. It seemed as if it had been used recently for a car rally. Luckily, it was dry and we managed to make a pleasant, if steep climb out of it. I wasn't expecting much of the "grave of the king" as Bedd Brenin translates. Apparently it was excavated in 1851, when human remains were found in the cist (an ancient coffin or burial chamber made from stone, pronounced "Kist") Shortly after that, a farmer built a sheep fold on top of the cairn. They were different times, eh? Here's the unedifying scene at the cairn.
I think, considering everything, the cairn still looks impressive. Hopefully the scars of modern extraction will fade as nature heals them and the place will return to peacefulness and the songs of woodland birds.
Next on our agends were some erratics which were supposed to be in the woods here. We followed the road back down and found them quite easily, since the trees had been taken away from three sides. Conwy forestry had arranged more litter, guest starring a diesel drum underneath the stones to add the finishing touch. Here they are...
Bryn Seward Stone Row
We headed back to the road and on to the next feature, Bryn Seward Stone Row. Thankfully, this was still here and relatively unscathed, although some giant tyres had been placed nearby. I managed to elide them out of the photos.
The stone row measures 61m long, including at least five medium and large-sized stones standing up to 2.14m high. It's situated on a north facing slope with sea and landscape views and reveals. It is considered likely to be of Bronze Age date, and have been built into a probable Post-Medieval field wall. The row is situated alongside the ancient trackway known as the Ffordd Ddu.
However, in the 1970s the Ordnance Survey suggested that there are actually four stones, and although this view has been endorsed by many, it appears that there is no definite conclusion regarding the number of stones constituting the group - as they are incorporated into the field wall, several of the larger stones at the base of the wall could be part of the original group. [Thanks to Nina Steele, Gwynedd Archaeological Trust]
At the lower end of the row was a large cairn on an eminence above a small valley.
It's obvious that this cairn has been robbed in antiquity, probably again in the 1850s. The cist has been taken, but enough of the structure remains for it still to be impressive.
A wonderful trove
We carried on over the fence and into the land to the north of the road, where we found a wonderful trove of remains...cairns, hut circles, field boundaries and settlement remains.
As we moved further down the hill, the area below came into view. The blue pool, or Golwern Quarry- now sealed up because of irresponsible activity by tourists. At least it means that there will be a super nature reserve there. It's very difficult to access except by the blocked tunnel. Here's a link to our explore of the place some years ago.
Some huge rocks loomed at us as we crested a small ridge and we had a pleasant lunch sitting in their shadow...
Climate Change Refugees
We looked down to Fairbourne and reflected that this will be the first settlement in North Wales to be lost due to climate change. It is only a few feet above sea level. I wonder where the villagers will be re-housed. The council have been trying to build a big flood defence wall, but it's a massive task, judging by the number of loaded stone trucks going past my study here in our old slate mill below the Ffestiniog quarries. Now, they have given up. It's also cost over £6 million, a good proportion of that from Europe. Although this is because of climate change, the council prefers to call it "decomissioning" the village. I feel very sorry for the folks losing their homes, as no compensation will be available for them. Ironically, some of the villagers refuse to accept climate change, being firmly in the Trump camp- one resident said it was "a load of la-la". I can understand it must be difficult to part with somewhere you have invested money and time into. Better to dig your head, literally, in the sand.
Guardian article about Fairbourne
Back to the Past...
On the southern side of the road were a considerable number of remains: cairns, enclosures and clearance cairns. Coflein thinks they are all sheep folds, although I can't quite get behind that interpretation. Yes, some look like clearance ...
Another standing stone.
We had a little time left, so we trundled across to Llyn Cregennan, to find another standing stone- and a bonus mine- there's always time for one of those!
Not too much to say about Carreg-y-Big, except that it is impressive and stands out for quite a way. A little way further north east, we found a mine- a manganese trial of some age, and probably associated with the ones at nearby Hafotty Fach.
Here's a gallery of images showing the forestry vandals handiwork...nothing too terrible, just a bit oblivious of them...as if they really didn't give a f...
As your reward for reading this far, here's a nice photo of a farmhouse on the road back to Dolgellau :-) Pity about that power line.
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