Last of the summer Gwin or The search for the Welsh Stonehenge on Llanfairfechan travel guide
Travel Guide for Wales and England >  Walks in Wales and England >  Last of the summer Gwin or The search for the Welsh Stonehenge
I think no one would deny wanting to find a treasure trove, we all want to be an Indiana Jones and discover the Temple of Doom ….well I am no different, and in truth I would settle for any historic artefact.

But I have never found anything other than a coin commemorating the visit of the Prince of Wales to Colwyn Bay in 1933, and I lost that!

Therefore, you can imagine my excitement when I discovered the Welsh Stone Henge, or the Temple of the Druids, as I called it.

It all started with a circular walk across the moorlands from Llanfairfechan to Bwllch y Ddeufaen and returning via the Roman Road that I had taken with my wife Eira Wyn and some friends

Well all went well and we enjoyed a great day out with fine views.

On completion of my walks I then collate my photographs and write about the walk for my work at the Walesdirectory.co.uk. Part of the work involves tracing the route on to Google maps to enable viewers to follow the walk on our interactive maps. This part of the job can be quite tedious.
I started tracing the route at the Three Rivers car park and continued up a wiggly section of the track, which meant I had to zoom in very close to get the correct line. (The landscape behind Llanfairfechan is renowned for prehistoric sites and ancient monuments. Indeed, there are more stone circles and standing stones in this landscape than you could shake a stick at. By cross checking with Ordnance Survey maps and making a few detours it can make a walk a lot more interesting for those with even the slightest interest in history and heritage.)

On zooming in, I noticed a curved shape to a field boundary. The stone wall appeared to have been built in a straight line and then for some reason followed an almost perfect semi circular line. There did not appear to be any geographical feature that would force the detour … so I zoomed in further. Hmmmm, I thought, the stones in the adjoining field, which at first sight appeared to be dotted about at random, actually formed the other half of the circle. Blimey I had found our own Stonehenge ….. I had discovered the Welsh Stone Henge.

I cross-checked with the Ordnance Survey maps and, just as I thought, there was no sign of an ancient monument in the immediate vicinity.

What to do next ..I thought? Well I would need further evidence that the wall was actually curved, not an optical illusion due to the topography and the angle of the satellite picture, and to check if the loose stones were actually aligned as a circle.

I would have to mount an expedition.

A few days later, I met up with Foggy and Compo, well in fact Brian and Bill, and we set out to find the lost temple. Planning and preparation for the expedition took all of 5 minutes as I suggested the trip while having our usual cup of tea in the “bunker” on Rhos-on-Sea promenade. (Bill and I were already wearing walking boots and as it was a wet day, we were well prepared with wet weather clothing. Brian had his boots in the boot of his car. All agreed and off we set in Brian’s car.

We parked at the Three Streams car park on the outskirts of Llanfairfechan on a damp and drizzly day. To encourage the expedition members I had to pretend that the forecast was good and that the weather would brighten up. I had also said that it was level ground, which was soon revealed for the lie it was as we climbed up a steep bank.

Brian grumbled his arthritic knees were hurting, and Bill grumbled that this foretold bad weather was on the way!

In fact Brian’s knees were so painful that Bill had to haul him up the hill, and by then the rain was pouring down! But off we set in a southerly direction skirting the dark and barren Bryn Dinas a prominent hill above Llanfairfechan and the site of an Iron Age Hillfort.

In the distance we heard a weird wailing sound. First thought was that it was a bird call from the woodlands below but on glancing upward to the top of Bryn Dinas we could see a wraith like figure bending, treelike, in the wind. This did not auger well for the expedition and Brian’s knees started to tremble.

Over the centuries much blood would have been spilt on this bleak hillside, with Inter-tribal skirmishes, battles between the Celts and the Romans, and wars between the Welsh and the English. All in all the hill has a fearsome reputation and many a stranger had disappeared while venturing onto the hill after dark.

I had heard of the legend of Daphne who had metamorphosed into a laurel tree while escaping the advances of Apollo, but surely the legend referred to a sun-soaked Mediterranean island, not a bleak outcrop on the edge of a windswept Welsh moor.

And to be brutally truthful, she was safe as houses as neither of our gang could be described as Greek Gods!

We took note of the warning but cracked on …….undeterred in our quest for the Welsh Stonehenge. I held back to take some photographs while Bill and Brian ventured on. On restarting, I noticed an eerie silence and it felt as if somebody was watching me. An old goat was watching me. Further along the trail again I could feel eyes burning into the back of my head and on turning I saw what at first glance appeared to be two red necks staring from behind a hawthorn bush. But no, it was Bill and Brian recuperating.

I was the only banjo player in the district!

On and on we trudged through the sodden pathways eventually reaching the open ground of the upper moor lands. Things were getting difficult, we had to abandon Brian to the elements - we parked him up against a tree - as Bill and I pushed on in search of the Grail.

By now the mist was rolling down the surrounding hills and we pushed on as fast as our legs would carry us. We had no option other than to leave Brian out of site and out of mind.

On and on we trudged but things look different in the wind and rain, not at all like on the computer screen and we were unable to recognise any landmarks.

Soon the Roman Road came into view and we realised we must have ventured too far, and with our concern for Brian mounting we were forced to abandon the expedition and downhill we sped. Brian was sheltering below a tree, next to an opening in a stone wall. It seemed to ring a bell …could this tree be the marker I was searching for?

It looked promising and I left Bill to attend to Brian while I ventured toward the valley of the Black River.

I clambered over stone walls and blundered on through boulder covered fields ..they all looked the same .. but as I neared the edge of the fridd just before a steep drop toward the river I noticed a curve in the wall. This was the semi circle that was visible from the Google Map.

I clambered over another stone wall and stumbled into the next field – sure enough what appeared at first glance to be a number of boulders randomly scattered about the field were in fact the other half of an almost perfect circle. Eureka I had found the lost Temple. The Welsh Stonehenge.

Or so I thought….

The mist was closing in and I hurriedly took my pictures. In the centre of the circle were the base stones of what appeared to be a ceremonial altar, probably for human sacrifice ..or so I told B and B, who had by now made an appearance. Bill was suitably impressed by this, especially when I said the victims would more than likely have been naked virgins.

Well I had to embellish the tale to encourage membership of the expedition!

I meanwhile paced out the site and took my measurements, the diameter of the circle varied from approximately 40 yards east to west and 30 yards north to south …all those years as a builder measuring the area of properties had its uses. A traditional dance to celebrate the discovery and off we set, back down the hill to the car park. Now it was simply a matter of telling the world of archaeology of my discovery. However, what if I am wrong, I thought, I would look a bit foolish. How can I double check if it has not already been discovered? It was definitely not showing on certain Ordnance Survey Maps but ….aha .. I’ve cracked it…I will check on the official Welsh Heritage website www.coflein.gov.uk. They list all the Welsh historic monuments and indeed have them mapped at http://jura.rcahms.gov.uk/COFLEIN/Map .

Simples. Or so I thought.

Well, after a day and a half trying to get the map to work I eventually found the site was listed as : Ffridd Forfudd Settlement : MEDIEVAL;PREHISTORIC A sub-circular enclosure featured on RCAHMW AP Interpretation, which measures approximately 40m long from east to west, and 30m wide. It uses part of the current field boundary as its north-east side. The enclosure wall is built of medium to large rounded boulders, orthostatically placed within the earthen bank and measures up to 1m wide by 0.3m high. There is a cultivation platform, which forms a lynchet against the east enclosure wall. Within the enclosure is a rectangular earthen platform measuring 19m long from north to south, 11m wide and 0.6m high on its west side. On top, there are the foundations of two buildings. The southern building is 5m sq., while the northern building is 8m long east to west and 5m wide. The walls of both buildings now only stand one course high at 0.3m.

Map Reference : SH77SW Grid Reference : SH70287329

Copyright HMGov. In other words my Welsh Stone Henge has been documented for many years ..if only the Government would do a deal with Google and use their mapping system then I would not have wasted so much time ……but neither would we have had such fun searching for the Temple of the Druids!





Review Last of the summer Gwin or The search for the Welsh Stonehenge.

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