Sunday, 29 April 2012

All washed out!

Venture out? Today? Not likely!

The weather here is dreadful so it is a day of reading, crafting and generally vegging out.

There is a blog post on the latest way to  waste  pass the time on the sister blog A Crafty Witch in the West

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Pixie led in the Mendips

Today's objective was Maesbury Castle near Croscombe. The forecast was a bit mixed so we didn't plan to go too far. Maesbury Castle is about the highest point of the Mendip Hills and the views are meant to be spectacular. It is an iron age hillfort and a scheduled ancient monument.

Leaving the car in Croscombe we walked up the gorge through Ham Wood, stopping to pick some wild garlic on the way and to admire the new spring growth.

The sides of the gorge were ablaze with bluebells ( the English type), red and white campion, deadnettles, celandines and of course violets. The recent wet weather has sent all the plant life into a growing frenzy and you could almost hear them.

At one point we passed very close to the old Somerset & Dorset railway line which ran over this viaduct.

The climb up Ham Wood is long - over a mile but the gradient isn't too steep so it is a pleasant walk. The early sun had given way to clouds and now rain so on with the wet weather gear.

At the top of the hill the path meanders across fields and it was somewhere up here that it all went very wrong.....

Our path took us past these chaps who were as interested in us as we were in them and were happy to pose for the camera. Love their fringes - I wonder if the owner trims them?

By now it was raining quite heavily and none of the features on the map seemed to match the actual location we were at.  Time to get the sat nav from the bottom of the day pack and check if we were where we thought we were.

 We weren't!

OK no problem. That is what a sat nav is for after all. We set out  confident that the castle wasn't far away.  10 minutes walk later and doubts start to grow - yes that is the same viaduct only now we are on top of it rather than under it!

Perhaps if we'd turned our coats inside out we'd have reached the castle! As it was with water dripping from our noses we decided to call it a day and head back down the hill for a late lunch in the village. The castle will have to wait for another day. A small consolation was the weather was so bad that there wouldn't have been much of a view from the top anyway...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Cydweli and Llangstaffen - castles, wells and dolmens!

Kidwelly - famous for its castle, its Welsh Boudica, Gwenllian  and of course:

 Hen fenyw fach Cydweli Yn gwerthu losin du, Yn rhifo deg am ddimai Ond unarddeg i mi. O dyna'r newydd gorau ddaeth i mi, i mi Yn rhifo deg am ddimai Ond unarddeg i mi

(The dear old lady of Kidwelly. A seller of sweets is she, Counts out ten for a halfpenny. But always eleven for me. That was very good news for me, for me. Counts out ten for a halfpenny. But always eleven for me.)

 The castle is very well preserved - fortunate really as the sky was an ominous grey and it looked like we'd be in need of shelter. Being the local centre of justice the castle has a prison - and even a high security wing! This consisted of a hole in the floor into which the unfortunate prisoner was despatched. Shaped like a bottle there was no way out other than attempting to scale the smooth stone walls and even then the top would have been barred. Not a pleasant fate.

Being so well preserved there are an abundance of towers to climb and rooms to explore as well as an aerial walkway with views down over the town.

However one castle was not ebough and it was on to Llansteffan for lunch and a second castle.

This one is much smaller than Cydweli and not in such good condition but strangely I like it far better. Perhaps the views over the beach made the difference? 

Having seen the castle we walked around the back in search of the holy well of St Anthony. Hidden behind a wooden doorway in the wall it is a calm and peaceful place. Named for the hermit  Antwn it is said to have been a place of healing since 6CE.

Time to head back  but it seemed a shame to head straight back to the main road. The other places visited today were easy to find so we wanted a challenge! Spotting a burial tomb nearby we set off to find it.

Twlc y Filiast is quite well hidden. Although it is visible from the path, the path itself is not signposted as one and we did a complete circuit  of the nearby village before working out just where t must be, parking the car and setting off.

Definitely worth it though. A capstone and a couple of uprights, the setting is just perfect in a patch of woodland next to a stream

Monday, 9 April 2012

A Circuit around Castle Combe

Sneaking a small extra post in this week.

A bright and sunny day but we didn't want to go far especially after the long trip the weekend before and another planned trip to Wales next week. The local paper came to the rescue with a walk around Castle Combe which claims to be the prettiest village in England. Not sure I agree but then I don't work for the tourist board!

 Castle Combe is also famous for its motor racing circuit - mercifully they don't race on Sundays so the peace wasn't shattered by the sound of engines. We were far from the only walkers though and it was really quite busy.

This was very much a spring walk - a chance to admire the bluebells and anemones that have come out over the last week and to take a first picking of the aromatic wild garlic which was just coming into flower in sheltered spots.

 Braving the hordes we made it safely into the village for a pub lunch and a chance to take a few pictures of the village before the tourist season really hits and it becomes choked with traffic
Shame about the tarmac and the double yellow lines everywhere. Pretty as the place undoubtedly is, I'd hate to live there.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

In the footsteps of the builders of Stonehenge Pt 3 Pentre Ifan

So stop or not? Tired and hungry and rather reaching the stage when we'd seen enough stones for the day the decision swung back and forth until we concluded that if we didn't we'd only regret it so we did!

It was rather further than the signs indicted but we got there at last. Plenty of parking and the site  is not visible form the road but clearly signed by the ever helpful Cadw.

This is a very popular site but as it was now late afternoon the last of the visitors were leaving and we soon had the place to  ourselves - other than a pair of young lambs who had found a way through the fence,

Dating from around 3500 BCE this is another dolmen type burial tomb although no trace of burial has been found.  It has an unusual N-S orientation and the location is just beautiful. A wonderful place to be interred.

There  are plenty of local legends associated with the site- the Twylwth Teg are apparently to be found here although despite it being an auspicious time of day and close to the equinox we  didn't meet any...

W.Y. Evans Wentz, 1911 had this to say in his book written in 1911 The Fairy Faith in Celtic countries
"The region, the little valley on whose side stands the Pentre Ifan cromlech, the finest in Britain, is believed to have been a favourite place with the ancient Drulds. And in the oak groves (Ty Canol Wood) that still exist there, tradition says there was once a flourishing school for neophytes, and that the cromlech instead of being a place for internments or sacrifices was in those days completely enclosed, forming like other cromlechs a darkened chamber in which novices when initiated were placed for a certain number of days....the interior (of Pentre Ifan) being called the womb or court of Ceridwen".

Sunday, 1 April 2012

In the footsteps of the builders of Stonehenge Pt 2

A little later than planned. Work demands rather took over last week .....

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny so we started with a quick run up  Foel Cwmcerwyn, the highest point in the Presilli Hills ( and indeed in Pembrokeshire). OK quick run was a bit of an exaggeration but we were down in time to return to the Tafarn Sinc for a drink at lunchtime. Starting again from Rosebush this is a long but not too steep climb up. There were some fabulous views over the countryside but it was too hazy to photograph well.

Time then for part 2 of the plan - standing stones and stone circles. The area is dotted with them and we packed in as many as we could given that we had to head back home in the late afternoon.

First on the agenda was Maenclochog. The stone was in the centre of a freshly sown field so we couldn't get too close. Amazing how good a picture you can get though whilst balancing on a bank above a ditch and peering through a barbed wire fence!

Next, just a mile or two away was the stone at Temple Druid. Easy enough to see when you know where to look but hard to see from the car. We had to get out and wander about a bit to find it

This one was more of a challenge. Again some clambering up banks was required and we couldn't get any closer. It isn't actually visible from the road so quite a bit of bank clambering had to be done until we finally spotted it....
This pair were out on the moorland and required a bit of a hike to reach. They are distantly visible from the road but we wanted to get closer. Unfortunately this also meant  negotiating some unforeseen hazardous such as streams, bogs and gorse! Worth it though.

Next stop was a stone circle   - Gors Fawr. 16 bluestones ( like Stonehenge) in an oval ring. This was probably the best time to visit it before the gorse grows up for the summer.

Close by are two outrigger stones  which would seem to be part of the whole complex.

Next on the list was marked as  "a burial chamber".

 Carn Besi is close to the main road but that is as far as easy accessibility goes. Another clamber up a steep bank with plenty of brambles to avoid. More barbed wire at the top  so we settled for another creative distance shot.  Some lovely views of the Presilli Hills behind it though so definitely worth a stop.

We were getting rather tired now and thought we'd head into Newport for something to eat  - unfortunately the season hasn't started yet so we were spectacularly unsuccessful.

However we did come across Carreg Coetan Arthur so it wasn't a complete waste of time. This is a Cadw site and the remains of a chambered tomb ( dolmen style) probably dating from 3000BCE.

Now we really had had enough and decided to head for Camarthen for some food before heading back along the M4.  Despite all these good intentions though we passed the sign for Pentre Ifan - should we stop? It was late and we were tired and hungry and had already decided that we would be returning to the area for a longer stay so we thought we'd give it a miss. Then changed our minds!
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