Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Cyfaredd 18: Research on Ynys Môn—Day Two, Part Two

Haia Pawb

The last time I visited Ynys Môn, I caught up with Eflyn Owen-Jones, whose father, William Owen Roberts, head groundsman of RAF Valley, was the discoverer in 1943 of the amazing Llyn Cerrig Bach treasures that are now on display in the St Fagans National History Museum (part of the National Museum of Wales). I had discovered her blog when researching locations for that trip and emailed her. She kindly agreed to take me to Llyn Cerrig Bach and also Barclodiad Y Gawres ('the apronful of the giantess'), a Neolithic cruciform passage grave on the south-western side of the island. We spent a delightful day visiting both sites and discussing the pre-history of Ynys Môn over a light lunch.

Information board
Entrance to Barclodiad Y Gawres (and Eflyn's dog)
One of the inscribed stones inside the tomb
Eflyn and me inside the tomb
Information board
Llyn Cerrig Bach--the first pool
Llyn Cerrig Bach--the second pool, in which the treasures were likely found
Crescentic Shaped Plaque
Gang Chain (Slave Chain)
Prior to this trip to Ynys Môn, I contacted Eflyn and agreed to meet for afternoon tea at the Holyhead Maritime Museum bistro. I thought the meeting was just to catch up about what we’d both been up to since my last trip, but Eflyn had decided to take me sightseeing again. She is enormously proud of the history of Ynys Môn and of her father’s contribution to it and happy to share the island’s sites with visitors. So, for the rest of the afternoon Eflyn guided me to four interesting sites, three well-known, one not:

Holyhead Mountain Hut Group
Also known as Cytiau’r Gwyddelod (‘The Irishmen's Huts’), the Holyhead Mountain Hut Group is located along a southwest to northeast level terrace of land towards the southwestern end of the mountain. Parking is close by and once you climb over a stile, you’re only yards away from the first restored stone base of the 20 buildings (from an estimated 50 originally found in the 1860s) on the site. Some of these are dwellings and some are storage areas or workshops. There seem to be two types of building techniques. With the first, the majority of the buildings, turf filled the double stone walls and they have grass floors. At the other end of the site, there is a building that has solid stone walls and a stone floor (see pictures). As for the age of the site, estimates range from the Neolithic to the Dark Ages, with the likelihood that the site has been in operation for the whole period, though maybe only with s few huts in use at any one time. This is born out by finds from the site, which include flint arrowheads, part of a stone axe and pottery remains as well as a small hoard of Roman coins.

Aerial view of the Holyhead Mountain hut group
View of Snowdonia from Holyhead Mountain
One of the dwellings, showing the entrance, the earthen/grass floor and the turf-filled stone walls.
Possibly a storage structure, given that it is built into the ground
Possibly another type of storage structure or a workshop
Another dwelling
An all-stone dwelling
South Stack Lighthouse
While not a pre-historic site that might have been useful for my novel, the iconic South Stack lighthouse was worth a visit. It is built on Ynys Lawd, a small rocky island just off the edge of Holy Island, which itself is an island just barely separate from the main part of Anglesey. To reach the lighthouse, you need to descend a switchback stairway running down the cliff face, over 400 steps down. At the bottom, a bridge carries the visitor over a chasm to the island. We didn’t have time for such a visit, so wondered along the roadway nearby and watched the goings on around us. The sun bringing out t-shirts and sandals. Seabirds circling and dipping in the cool Atlantic breeze. Wildflowers on the mountain slopes. Intrepid tourists climbing down to the lighthouse. A chat about who Elin of Elin's Tower fame (built as a summer house in the early- to mid-1800s by the local Stanley family) might have been.
South Stack lighthouse. The steep staircase to it is just visible to the right of the picture.
View from the clifftop out to sea
Elin's Tower (Twr Elin). Now the information centre for the RSPB
(Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Wildflowers on the cliff slope above South Stack lighthouse
Roundhouse Remnants
Eflyn then took me to a little-known site of barely recognisable roundhouse remains, which is near the site of a busy road intersection and across the road from the lovely bay of Porthdafarch. Most people would not know the significance of the land they are driving past. Maybe this is true of most 'natives' of the area, in that they are too busy with their nine-to-five jobs and the demands of 21st century living to explore their heritage. A pity, really, because if you are unaware of where you (meaning family and ancestors) come from, you aren’t grounded in your land and your history and may miss out on the strength and inspiration such grounding can give you.

People drive past without knowing...
...someone lived here once 
Penrhos Feilw Standing Stones
Finally, we visited a pair of standing stones situated on a small plateau behind the farmhouse of Plas Meilw, about 2km southwest of Holyhead and not far from the roundhouse remnants. The stones, which are about 3m tall, but only 20cm thick, were probably erected in the Bronze Age and are aligned southwest-northeast along their long axes. The interesting aspect of their sighting is that when you view the stones from the south to south-east, they frame Holyhead Mountain (see photo). Eflyn tells me that the stones are thought to form part of a pre-historic network with the Holyhead Mountain Hut Group and Barclodiad Y Gawrs.

The Penrhos Standing tones framing Holyhead Mountain.
Note the gorse on the surrounding hill slope.
The Penrhos Standing Stones and Eflyn
The Penrhos Standing Stones and me
After this stop, Eflyn and I parted ways. I am grateful to her for taking time out of her busy schedule spreading the message about her father’s finds at Llyn Cerrig Bach to help an Australian with Welsh ancestry discover more of his heritage and explore possible settings for his creative work.

As always, I hope you’re enjoying these posts and I welcome any comments.

Cofion cynnes



Nadine Cresswell-Myatt said...

As always green with serious envy. What adventures you had. Also loved the glorious large photos in this post.

Eflyn Owen-Jones said...

Diolch Earl for your appreciative comments!
It was a pleasure accompanying you on both your consecutive yearly visits to Ynys Môn. I look forward to meeting up again this summer, especially if Jo has retired by then and able to travel with you.
Ta ta tan toc - bye bye for now,
Keep in touch
Cariad atoch eich dau - Eflyn.

Eflyn said...

P.S. The Roundhouse Remnants we visited last, are sited across the road to the lovely little bay of Porthdafarch, as you point out, not far from the Penrhosfeilw standing stones.
Also, reading your Blog and knowing you are a perfectionist, giantess is spelt Gawres.

Earl Livings said...

HI Nadine, Thanks for your appreciative comments. As for the photos, I took your advice about making them as big as possible, so thanks for that, too.

Earl Livings said...

Annwyl Eflyn, Diolch for your comments and for spotting that mistake in my blog, which I have corrected. I've also added a little of those details you mentioned. As for another visit, I am thinking of coming over later this year, though Jo may not be able to accompany me. I'll let you know when I have more information. Hwyl am a tro, Earl