Monday, 25 April 2011

Tombs with a View

Slightly further afield this week - to the Vale of Glamorgan which is just to the west of Cardiff. One of my favourite places that I don't get to visit anywhere nearly enough.

Firstly to St Lythan's  or to give it its Welsh name, Gwal-y-Filiast, a  burial site near the village of St Nicholas. Can't miss this one- Cadw have helpfully signed it from the road and as soon as you enter the field there it is!

The remains of a chambered burial site, the capstone is massive, some 14ft long and 10ft wide.

Local folklore has it  that the field is cursed and that no crops will grow.  Nice crop of grass and nettles though. The capstone is massive, some 14ft long and 10ft wide.

Couldn't leave without a visit to nearby Tinkinswood  chamber which is a couple of miles away and also in the care of Cadw. This is a fabulous setting ( despite the almost overhead power lines). So quiet and peaceful with views across the Welsh countryside.

This is another chambered long cairn. It is much bigger than the previous site and was excavated   in 1914 as a brick pillar "supporting" the roof proudly proclaims. The inside is marred by the detritus of the sort of  visitor  who thinks it appropriate to light a tea light and leave the remains behind. 

The remains of some 50 burials were found and removed from here. 

Sunday, 17 April 2011

A Red Kite in the Morning

Another lovely day and I'm homesick so it is back to Wales - this time to Pen y Fal  or to give it its English name - the Sugar Loaf.

The name comes from the distinctive shape and it is very easy to recognise. It is officially a mountain at  1955ft so no doubt there then!

The lower slopes are wooded and there have been discoveries of Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronzetools on a nearby site.

Now the lower slopes are colonised by acres of  wimberry plants ( bilberry). All in full bloom so  I think a return trip may well be on order to take advantage of the fruit. My grandmother used to make the most wonderful wimberry pies and it's been years since I had one.

It is a long but fairly gentle pull up. An excuse to stop and get the breath back was provided by the air show put on by three red kites. Such masters of flying they are, they make it look effortless. Periodically they would stoop down to the ground but we were unable to see if the plunge had been successful in catching some unfortunate small animal or bird.

We stopped for some lunch by the mouth of  a spring and enjoyed the sound of the running water and the company of a glorious black beetle. Quite magical and very welcome by then.Funny though how the only wasp on the entire mountain managed to find us....

The view from the top is breathtaking and made the effort of climbing well worthwhile. It was surprisingly busy up there- we were far from the only ones with the same idea today.

At one end of the sunnit is a outcrop of roacks - one local legend is that they represent  Cadair Arthur (Arthur's chair).  Rather oddly someone had seen fit to wedge a wooden cross into the rocks which seemed very out of place.

Coming down was a lot quicker than going up - even if we did take the scenic route up a couple more ridges and enjoyed several spectacular more views. The last mile or so was through some oak woodland before circling back to the car for a well earned rest.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A walk in the Woods

Today it was  Old Wardor Castle - a 14th Century ruin on the edge of Wiltshire and Dorset now in the care of English Heritage. Very pretty, very well manicured and pretty busy with the Sunday picnic crowd.

We had a quick look around and then headed off into the woods where we had them pretty much to ourselves.

Spring is definitely well underway with a noticeable change from a few weeks ago.

The blackthorn is starting to go over, the hawthorn starting to come out and the path sides are thick with spring flowers. I counted lesser celandines, windflowers. deadnettles, violets,  and shepherd's purse as well as the common dandelions. daisies and buttercups. Plenty of primroses too.

It is a lttle early for bluebells but part of the woodland was carpeted with leaves with just a few flowers starting to appear. The Ramsons were also forming a deep carpet in another part of the wood but the leaves are starting to mature and looked a little tough so they were left in peace to scent the air with garlic.

Leaving Wardour Castle we drove back past Cley Hill  and on impulse stopped to climb it. A chalk outcrop, it has the remains of an iron age fort ( left) and some bronze age barrows on the top.

Although it looks a steep climb, rising as it does from the clay lowlands it isn't as bad as it looks and the view from the top makes the effort worthwhile.

The Bronze age "bowl" barrow.

In summer the hill is covered with chalk loving flowers and is an SSSI. Today though it was much too early for the orchids but the cowslips made a good show. It will be several weeks before we get them blooming at home.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

If April showers...

... bring forth May flowers what do April hailstorms encourage?

Gorgeous sunny start to the day so off we go with water/wind proof jackets. Really didn't seem worth taking the waterproof trousers - yes I know!

It is Mothering Sunday here in the UK so daughter invites herself for tea. This means another fairly local walk and avoidance of all pubs which will be packed. It's been years since we visited Stoney Littleton and that was a brief run up and back so time to do a proper walk.

The spring flowers are fully out now - lots of celandines, wood anemones, primroses and violets to name but a few. Lots of ramsons too so picked a bag for supper.We even saw the first English bluebells coming out . The proper English ones too. No sign of the Spanish invader. Although  we kept a good look out for hares, we were unlucky. The sighting of a stoat though more than made up for the lack of them.

Some 6 miles later and a rainstorm or two (!)  the Barrow comes into view. This is an English Heritage site but they do seem to leave it alone other than fencing it off. Access is via a style.

According to the badly defaced information board the site is believed to be built 3500BCE and either a tomb or a shrine or maybe both.

If you visit take a torch - you need it.

The entrance leads into a corridor with burial/side rooms off. The main problem with the site is that the tunnel is only about 4ft high. I'm 5'10 and I find the access incredibly awkward. At no point can I stand upright and you block the light from the entrance as you enter - hence that torch!

This is one of the side chambers. I don't have many interior shots, one reason being taking photos when bent almost double isn't that easy!

Right by the entrance is this Ammonite and there are other sea life fossils in the stones.

More information on the site is here

The weather was now looking distinctly ominious and on the dash back to the car  2 miles away the clouds burst and the hail descended.....
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