Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The Preseli hills - where the Bluestones came from

The view below shows Carn Meini, source of the Stonehenge Bluestones, in the distance, and one edge of Gors Fawr stone circle in the foreground.

My husband and I (I always hear that in the Queen's voice, as I write it!) went down to the Preseli hills on Sunday. This was partly to meet the family who have offered Itsy a wonderful forever home, and on the back of this trip out, we also had a chance to visit some of the amazing archaeology in the area.

A corner of Gors Fawr common, where there are several stone cottages and some tiny intakes of grazing.

We headed for the stone circle at Gors Fawr, near Mynachlog Ddu. The Preseli hills form a wonderful backdrop, and Carn Meini which provided the famous Stonehenge bluestones, overlooks it. Imagine a far-reaching and level boggy area, strewn with grey igneous boulders, and interspersed with gorse bushes and rushes. Well, don't imagine it, just look at the photos above and below! The stone circle itself consists of 16 stones of diminutive size, but as they are in boggy land, it is hard to say how much of them is hidden in the peat. One fallen stone was only a metre or so high, and the outlying stones perhaps twice that height. Looking at the landscape, it is more than possible that there is more archaeology which has disappeared beneath the peat - perhaps stone rows aligned on Carn Meini. It is an area very rich in archaeology - a glance at a map will show the many standing stones, burial chambers, tumuli. Of course, in an area where farming just nibbles at the fringes, more archaeology is likely to survive. In prime farmland, it has probably been swept away, built into cottages and farmhouses or formed the bases of the hedge-topped stone-and-soil banks.

Above: the two outliner stones.

Above: Gors Fawr stone circle with Carn Meini in the distance.

As for alignments, Sian Rees (in 'A Guide to Ancient and Historic Wales - Dyfed') notes, of the outliners: "Some authorities consider these outliners to contain their own axial alignment on midsummer sunrise over the nearby Foeldrych hilltop, 1.5ml (2.4km) away to the east. "

Other ritual monuments in this area include early Neolothic burial chambers at Dolwilym and Carn Besi and possibly a further one at Temple Druid, Maenclochog. In the late Neolithic a henge monument at Castell Garw and a stone circle at Meini Gwyr (Efailwen) may have been the focus for rituals.

We visited Meini Gwyr next - or rather, what remains of this Early Bronze Age embanked stone circle. In its own time it would have been an outstanding monument, but now only two stones which are used by the cattle as scratching posts, and a very degraded embankment remain. Prof. Grimes' excavations c.1938 revealed there had never been an outer ditch and the bank was composed of clay and turf scraped from the surface, rather than quarried. Originally 17 stones formed the circle and the circle was 18.3m in diameter, with a stone-lined entrance. In front of this entrance, Grimes found a pit containing charcoal and a nearby hearth contained shards of food vessel, which may have been imported as I believe Wales was aceramic in the Neolithic, for want of good local clays suitable for pot making. At nearby Letterston, but sadly destroyed in the 1960s, there had been another similar embanked stone circle which was later covered by a round barrow.

. . . only two stones remain now, used as scratching posts by the cattle . . .

I am hoping this will be legible if you click and enlarge it . . .

This is an area rich in antiquities, and we intend to go back and discover some of the standing stones soon, as well as Dolwilym and Twlc y Filiast burial chambers.


nita x said...

amazing pictures again jennie and lovely history with the stones, i learn something new every time i visit your blog :D

Goosey said...

This is a lovely area, we spent a week there about two years ago and we must go back! BW Goosey

Bovey Belle said...

It really is a magical area goosey - it has such a feel of the past for me (far more than our area around here does, lovely though it is).

nita - glad you enjoyed your "day out" with me.

thelma said...

Thats a lovely blog on Carn Meini, went there a couple of years ago, but did'nt know about the last stone circle, it really is an extraordinary place that moor.. Walked up to Foel Drygan with Moss last time, three great stone barrows in the fort...