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Hunting for a megalithic needle in a haystack at Llanbedrog

Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd

The activity of hunting for megaliths can sometimes be akin to hunting for the proverbial needle in the haystack. A recent experience in North Wales brought that analogy to life once again.

When visiting ancient sites, usually my primary source of information is the Ordnance Survey map. Invaluable and worthy of high praise. Much of the time. Occasionally not. Sometimes the accuracy isn’t so great - like when the words ‘Burial Chamber’ appear prominent - but the exact feature which they refer to is not. Perhaps it’s this dot? Or that one? Maybe another?

Reckon into the equation high bracken and brambles of summer’s end plus the strong possibility the tomb may be ruined - or - near completely perished. This makes for an immense challenge!

Having fought our way around a packed supermarket in Pwllheli mid-Sunday morning some much needed space was sought. An amble around the headland at Llanbedrog was the aim, which just coincided with the presence of ‘Burial Chamber’ on the map.

Using the National Trust’s car park for the bay next to Plas Glwyn y Weddw, we attempted first a visit to the historic church. Locked and no details as to where or whom to call to pick up the key. A little disappointed we set up the lane, soon becoming buoyed by thinning houses and less and less people.

The final house looked in need of a bit of TLC with the undergrowth beginning to swamp its higher end. We admired it and thought it must be a special place to live. The adjoining wood was moody, atmospheric. A contender for an estate for fairies or dryads, certainly. The trees thinned in turn opening into the expanse of Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd.

If the map was being read properly, the prehistoric chamber’s remains ought to be nearby. The heather was resplendent. Huge swathes of purple. But the fern. Oh dear. Gorse too. Five minutes looking yielded no results. Heading up to the trig point and bench I asked a family I’d seen approaching from another direction if they’d noticed any megaliths? They said they’d been visiting for years and never noticed a thing - and it’s the kind of thing they would visit.

Prepared to give up the search we sat and had some lunch. The linear toposcope showing the ranges of mountains to the east was great. Unsurprisingly not all of them were visible. A further study of the map gave me a revised idea. After that we’d give up, I said. Having worked out an approximate eight digit grid reference I turned on my handheld GPS and carefully monitored my eastings and northings accordingly. SH 3272 3105 was the target. A further fifteen minutes and the search once again looked unfruitful.

Give up I’d said. An idea came to mind. Courtesy of a new phone and actually having a mobile signal, I thought to check the Welsh historic monuments database, Coflein. I searched “Mynydd Tir y Cwmwd Chambered Tomb Coflein”. Bingo!

Number one match on google. The official eight digit grid reference of SH 3251 3110. Again edging along to decrease the eastings number on the GPS and slightly increase the northings, the decision was made to follow the numbers, gently treading down bracken to be at the desired reference. Several minutes later with scratched and stung legs (despite best technique being deployed) a stone appeared in front, somewhat covered over. Treading back the undergrowth away with walking boots and sweeping off dirt with a hand broom made of fern, the stone was there!

Thought to be the capstone of a chamber felled in 1850, the remaining stone lies embedded in the earth at one end, over three metres long. I thought there may be some cupmarks on the stone - another feature of the neolithic. Other chambers at Criccieth, Borth y Gest and Clynnog

Fawr have them. Job done we got on with our walk around the headland, amazed to dodge some of the heavy showers other parts were getting.

If there’s a moral to this, it’s not to give up on something you want to do. When you feel like giving up, rethink and see what resources come to mind. Then use them!

For more information and pictures of this visit see the page on The Megalithic Portal.

Copyright Tim Prevett of History and Mystery Tours.