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Merthyr Marathon MM9 – Meet the Ancestors

A cache by Write and Mane Send Message to Owner Message this owner
Hidden : 9/27/2005
2 out of 5
3 out of 5

Size: Size: regular (regular)

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Geocache Description:

This is the ninth of the Merthyr Marathon series. Exceptionally, in this case, you will not need information gained in completing earlier caches in the series in order to do this one. This could be treated as a quick “cache-and-go”, but it is hoped that you will follow a trail of antiquities of about 1½ mile, on open moorland, with about 300’ of ascent. The route may be boggy in parts in wet conditions.

It has been nearly two years since we set up MM8, but the lure of Merthyr could be resisted no longer! Actually, the theme, environment and style of this cache are quite different from earlier ones in the series. The earlier multicaches were mainly in a semi urban environment and dominated by the last 300 years of Merthyr’s history: we are now going back to earlier times in a bleak rural location. Although there are a number of sites to visit, the use of virtual or micro caches was not very practical here, so we hope that you will choose to walk the extra mile – quite literally, because you could treat this as a quickie, involving a relatively level half mile walk.

Parking is available at N 51 43.163 W 003 17.823 and it is suggested that you then follow this route, much of which is trackless, but relatively easy, walking.

N 51 43.328 W 003 17.965 – the Roihi Stone. Shown on the map as an inscribed stone, you would be forgiven for thinking that this was a misprint of inclined! But there was an inscription on its eastern face which had been partly defaced before 1862 and then totally mutilated by some miners in 1875. Fortunately, 17th century observers had recorded the inscription, although there was some argument as to its language and meaning. One suggestion is that it was the Latin name for Dubricius, the saint who crowned King Arthur in 512AD in Caerleon. This opens up a series of links to Arthurian legend, including the elopement of Brychan’s daughter Gwadlus with a local king, Gwynllyw, who was supported by Arthur and his knights in a bloody battle with Brychan in the area. St Cadoc was the offspring of the eloping couple. Some researchers consider this to be an early Christian memorial, marking a burial, following the Roman custom of roadside tombs.

N 51 43.369 W 003 18.053 – Roman Road. With difficulty, the road which linked the Roman forts at Gelligaer and Penydarren is traceable from just west of the car park, curving eastwards under the summit of Pen Garnbugail, for about half a mile. At this point, the profile is perhaps most convincing – a broad upwardly curved linear feature, between two ditches.

N 51 43.408 W 003 18.227 – Carn y Bugail. This looks remarkably like a trig point! This surveying artefact was erected on the site of the badly vandalised Bronze Age tomb, which is up to 4000 years old. Records from the 18th century indicate the existence of three burial chambers lined with large stone slabs and containing urns and burnt bones. While important people were buried here, with funerary gifts of food and implements, there was evidence that commoners were cremated and buried in the embankments that originally covered the tombs.

N 51 43.428 W 003 18.250 – single round cairn. It is possible to see here part, at least, of the stone-lined box, or cist.

N 51 43.233 W 003 18.486 – the cache (definitely 21st century!).

N 51 43.209 W 003 18.817 – House platform. There are several platforms in the area, but this is one of the better examples. It is the site of a house built about 1500 years ago. Typically, they are sited on a hillside, one end cut into the hill and the spoil used to build up the other end, creating a floor area that slopes slightly. The houses had stone walls and a thatched or turf roof supported on timber posts and the walls. They would have housed both people and animals, with humans at the higher end, benefiting from the heat generated by the animals in winter, but not suffering the inconvenience of their effluent, which would be draining in the opposite direction. Walking from Carn y Bugail to here, you will have noticed (won’t you!) several more cairns: the western slopes are a veritable graveyard.

N 51 43.160 W 003 18.860 – a linear feature. This looks like the remains of a substantial stone wall and can be traced for about 150 metres. But why is there no more? Is it part of an abandoned project to create an enclosure around the cluster of houses? At this particular location, there is another linear feature running at right angles to the main one – a crack in the ground. These are surprisingly common above steep hillsides around the Valleys, an area littered with prehistoric landslips. Coal mining subsidence can trigger the release of tension in the ground re-opening old cracks like this.

Generally, this area is quiet – but there may be exceptions! On the day the cache was placed, there were many cars, vans and trucks in and around the car park, with police strategically sited to ensure that traffic kept moving through and no one walked up Pen Garnbugail from the south. The reason: filming of a period drama, involving the deployment of a number of redcoats on the moorland. Unfortunately, a period of history out of keeping with the theme of the cache!

You can now head more or less directly back to the car park. We hope you have enjoyed the little tour of antiquities. If you fancy more of the same on Gelligaer and Merthyr Common, this cache could be linked with CC44 which is not far away.

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