Time Travel, following the Inhabitants of Wales
Travelling full circle from my first post on Wales, we are back looking back on the human occupation of the Brecon Beacons and the marks they left on the landscape. A morning of internet research suggests that people first occupied Wales over 225,000 years ago. Those first visitors may have been transitory, displaced by the intervening ice ages. It appears, by common consent, that the Welsh countryside became permanently occupied at the end of the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago.
Carn GochCarn Goch, the 'Red Cairn', is the reminants of an iron age hill fort. The site and burial chamber indicates a site of special human interest which could in fact date back as early as the neolithic period some 4500 years BC.
How difficult it is to imagine that far back into the past.
Very little remains of those people and how they lived in this beautiful landscape. Did they, like us, appreciate its beauty, or was life an ongoing day to day struggle with little time to appreciate their surroundings, other than for what necessities of life could be derived from them?
One thing can be sure, they were here. There is evidence to prove it in and around the Brecon Beacons
Carn Goch is an impressive complex of two Iron Age forts, Y Gaer fach and Y Gaer fawr, small and large forts respectively. The name in English means the "Red Cairn" which may be a reference, it is said, to the colours of the hillsides in autumn as the bracken covered slopes turn orange with the approach of winter. The Iron Age dates from around 700BC until the arrival of the Romans in AD47. However, it is speculated this particular site may go back as far as the Neolithic period, some 4500BC.
Linear mounds of stone circle to top of the hill, remanants of a high wall to keep out invaders or wild animals. Atop the hill is a massive burial mound, made of loosely piles stones. I wonder who is interred within. We sat beside it looking out over the valley, and the Afon Tywi (River Towy) winding through the fields below. What must it have been like to have stood here 2000 years ago and watch legions of Romans marching down the valley knowing that a way of life was about to change forever.
Move forward some 1200 years and the foundations of Carreg Cennan Castle are being laid by the Princes of Dehuebarth. But they were not the first to inhabit the site. Evidence shows that this location was also occupied at various times since neolithic period.
The ruins visible today probably date slightly later to the original castle, being from the time of Edward the First "Longshanks" who reigned from 1272 to 1307. Placed on a rocky promentary and protected by steep cliffs, it makes for an impregnable fortress.
The castle remained in use until the War of the Roses (1455-1487) where it was a Lancastrian stronghold. It fell into the hands of Yorkists who took to it with hammers and pick axes leaving the ruins visible today.
It must have been a truly formidable building in its day. Too robust to completely demolish, numerous arrow slits still afford a restricted view through the outer walls.
These and other walls play host to wild daisies, perched in narrow nooks and crannies their flowers reach out on long stems towards the sunlight.
Moving forward another 500 years or so from the time of Carreg Cennan's demise, man is laying siege once again, this time to the landscape itself.
Limestone, one of the most versatile of rocks, has properties that have long been understood. Here on the western edge of the Black Mountain is Herbert's Quarry.
It too is now abandoned, only rusting metal and crumbling ruins remain. Huge turrets resembling those at Carreg Cennan prove to be lime kilns. Here quarried rocks were burned in furnaces powered by local coal to produce fertilizer, lime for whitewash, and for cement manufacture.
Only now all is silent apart from the sound of a gusty wind and flapping metal. The kilns are barred by iron gates but for one which is open. Inside the old furnace is visible, rusting as water seeps in from above. Long handled pokers rest on a metal ledge above, fused into position by the lime they were used to agitate in the flames. Residual dust mixing with water to recreate stone. They remain there, left on the last day working day, awaiting the workmen who were never to return.
There is a forlorn feeling of sadness about the place.
And there is a feeling of sadness.We have come to the end of our week in the Brecon Beacons, and what a wonderful week and place it has been.
High mountains, magical tree lined valleys, waterfalls, wildlife, wild flowers, and history both ancient and more modern.
On the last night I take Polly the labrador for her last walk up the footpath opposite, crossing the two bridges, through the grassy field, and following the farm track up the hill for a short way.
On our first night we walked up here and found a beautiful view. I was determined to come back up here armed with more than just the camera on my iPhone.
Near a farm house, there is a gate with trees on either side. Beside the track sit some old farm equipment, rusting quietly, long since obsolete.
Opposite is a relatively new looking building but it too looks as though it has been abandoned, windowless openings, unfinished.
I spend some time trying to find the right position to place the camera. My initial impression is that anywhere would result in a satisfactory composition but it isn't working. I would like to include the old machinery but exclude the building but the result is unbalanced. I take a few frames but I'm just not happy with the way things are looking. I'm almost resigned to accepting that this is one of those places that just looks better to the naked eye. The camera is packed away and Polly and I walk a little further up the lane before turning around to walk back to the cottage.
It's then I see what I'm after. As we approach the gate again there is a nice pool of light illuminating the grass by the track. The foreground is in shadow and the trees either side of the gateway are much more symmetrical. The old machinery is no longer visible, but the unfinished building is now plainly in view. The trees also cross above and cover some of the bland sky. This isn't what I had been thinking but it works and it looks good. It just goes to show that it pays to spend a little time in a location. The longer time you are there the more you see. Sometimes you need to walk away from the obvious, and look for the obscure. I could have easily packed my bag, walked back and missed the shot.
There was just something about the location that caught my eye on that first day, it just took me a little while to find it on the last. Now I just have to decide again, colour or black and white..............?
Track to Black Mountain.A farm track, beside an incomplete barn, beyond the gate the Black Mountain is visible in the distance. Track to Black Mountain.A farm track, beside an incomplete barn, beyond the gate the Black Mountain is visible in the distance.
As always, any errors are mine. My research into the historic places comes from the internet, I hope my interpretation of the facts I have chosen are correct, please let me know if they are not.
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Keywords: Brecon Beacons, Carn Goch, Carreg Cennan Castle, Herbert's Quarry, archaeology, barn, black mountain, castle, landscape, photography, quarry, wales
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