Sunday was a total wash out but come Monday the rain had cleared even if the clouds hadn’t. Neither of us particularly felt like driving anywhere so instead we struck out on foot in the direction of Cefn Drum. We’d barely got going when a Spotted Flycatcher flitted across our path in the forested section of Cwm Dulais. Unfortunately my camera was still in my rucksack so no photos, but what another great patch first especially coming so close on the back of the two Grey Partridge a couple of weeks ago. While we are on the subject we managed to accidentally flush both partridges from their usual location during our ascent, but now that the Bracken has grown up they were impossible to find once they’d landed. At least Emma got to see them this time though. The Skylarks and Meadow Pipits were again out in force along with a very decent showing of Stonechats, but a special mention should go to the two Jays who were mobbing a Buzzard above Gopa Hill. Definitely a sight I’ve not witnessed before. Passing the summit of Cefn Drum we were greeted by a Red Kite hunting and a solitary Mistle Thrush, both great excuses to pause and take in the view.
As you can see the lighting was pretty dire which was a real shame as with a blue sky the vista would have been stunning. I’ll have to go back on a brighter day. From Cefn Drum the second ‘peak’ of Twyn Tyle was soon under our belt and we found ourselves on virgin territory. For those not in the know my local patch consists mostly of open access land which means no fences, no gates and the permission to wonder pretty much wherever you please. To the north of Cefn Drum sits another great swathe of this land known as Graig Fawr, a quick study of which on the OS map reveals a series of intriguing historical sites. Many of these are old cairns created from field clearances and for navigation, along with humps and bumps in the ground that hint at a time when this exposed landscape used to be inhabited and farmed. The most impressive earthworks are reserved for the highest point in this locality where an almost circular raised ring can just about be discerned. It is recorded on the local council website as a prehistoric domestic and defensive site, but in reality we know very little about its exact age and usage. In more recent times it has been used to site a trig point which still stands today.
Following the route of St Illtyd’s walk we soon came across some vertical slabs of rock which looked particularly out of place. It turns out they are the remains of two neolithic burial chambers which would once have been covered in a mound of earth. Remarkably they were only formally discovered in the 1990’s and are now another scheduled ancient monument.
Near the bottom of Graig Fawr we made our final discovery of the day in the shape of a small area of specimen trees. Being in a landscape of predominantly open moorland they stood out like a sore thumb and were a definite indication that they had once been protected from the veracious appetites of grazing sheep. As we got nearer the remains of a stone enclosing wall could be seen and my thoughts immediately went to this being an old chapel of some sort. Exploring the insides however revealed nothing more than a stone step and a door lintel, not exactly indicative of a solidly constructed place of worship.
Through the power of Google I have been able to determine that this is in fact the site of a bungalow built in the 1920’s by a TB sufferer known locally as Byngalo Jinks. His doctors recommendation was to get plenty of fresh air and he certainly chose an ideal location for that.
Back at home my interest was suitably piqued and I started to look into just how many historical monuments/sites I have on my local patch. The results were pretty astonishing as the map below hopefully shows, and that doesn’t even include more recent developments such as the TB sufferer’s house above or the extensive coal mining remnants.
Spreading my search just a couple of miles further afield revealed even more, including a couple of sizeable forts that look like they will be well worth a visit if we ever get some decent weather again. I find it fascinating and frustrating in equal measure that we know so little about the specifics of each site. If only I had a time machine…….