Pen y Gaer
The plan today is to revisit a walk we last covered in 2004, but G takes a wrong turn and we end up climbing steeply into the Carneddau on a single track road that eventually becomes a farm track to nowhere. No matter, we can park here, and there is a footpath leading to a small hill to the south.
The scenery is stunning - lush green fields dissected by dry stone walls, and patches of ancient woodland leading up to the harsher landscapes of the mountains proper, dappled in ever-changing patterns of sunlight.
We walk across the fields and climb another stile, surprised to come across an information board. The hill we’re climbing is in fact Pen y Gaer - an Iron Age fort dating back about 2300 years and thought to have been occupied between 300 and 100BC by a Celtic tribe called the Ordovices.
There is something mystical about feeling you are treading in the footsteps of ancient warriors, crossing the stone defences that so successfully held back their enemies - that is until the Romans came. There is still evidence of their circular dwellings on the fort’s terraces, and we sit there a while to eat our lunch. It is incredibly peaceful; the only sounds come from skylark songs and distant bleats of sheep - oh and the cuckoo we hear here for the first time this year. What a beautiful place this must have been in summer months - but how exposed and harsh in winter.
At the hill’s summit - main blip, though obviously the stone cairn is not original! - it’s clear to see the strategic significance of Pen y Gaer’s position. Below us the land falls away towards the river, impossible to climb, the height providing 360 degree views across the Conwy valley and the Carneddau (in extras). And across these mountains lies the Roman road still used today by walkers. Maybe it was from here these conquerors spotted the isolated fort, attacking and destroying it, replacing it with a large fort of their own at Canovium - now Caerhun - in the valley below. The unremitting tragic cycle of one civilisation destroying another.
We retrace our steps and look for the remains of ancient field systems and dwellings, but in the current vegetation, fail to make any definitive identification. But it’s still beautiful, with elderflower and hawthorn in blossom, small heath butterflies fluttering by, and even a weasel making a brief appearance - our first ever sighting, and sadly far to fleeting to capture!
All in all, a truly wonderful serendipitous experience! Sometimes the wrong turn is actually the right!
Many thanks for the lovely comments on my Carneddau pony yesterday. I think the general consensus is the foal wins in terms of popularity! I may have to blip another one as a main before too long!