This is my love letter to Wales. I am fascinated with it's rich history and rugged landscape. Within 50 miles I can travel over 5000 years. The Bronze and Iron Ages, the Middle Ages, and the not so distant Industrial Revolution all huddle beside each other amongst the verdant Southeast Valleys. This is where I ride and this is why I write.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Carreg Tegernacus

Today I have begun to pull posts from my archive. This report was initially created during the early days of my blog and my time in Wales. I hope you enjoy.

Heading up toward the high ridge top...

The original plan to meet the Green Ladies for a group ride was canceled; so I rolled on. And sometimes without warning the most amazing cycling experiences just unfold... this day became one of those wonderful and epic rides.

Ride Report Card
  Ride Name: Carreg Tegernacus
  Ride Date: December 05, 2013
  Distance: 42.9 mi
  Duration: 7:15:00
  Moving Time: 7:15:00
  Elevation: + 2,998 / - 2,978 ft
  Avg. Speed: 5.9 mph
  Weather: Clouds
  Temperature: 7°c / 45°f

I cycled up the valley past Parc Cwm Darren and through the sleepy little village of Fochriw. At the edge of town, I turned right and climbed further up a small hill toward the top of the ridge - planning to head over to the village of Pontlottyn on the far side. It was as I started down toward the village that a rough road on my right actually caught my eye... because even though it was heading south, it went higher up the ridge!

Hello adventure! Time to do some explorin'! So I set off riding up another steep hill, climbing even higher up the ridge between Fochriw and Pontlottyn.

I climbed the broken little road and the wind intensified as I became increasingly exposed. I was giggling like a little girl as I literally sailed up the the steep hill with hardly any effort. (This section of my ride is indicated with the blue line in the map below.) At this point I was completely without any protection from the wind and rain. I leaned my bike over in the grass and wandered haphazardly around the wide-open hillside in awe. This is what blows my mind about Wales. This is what I love.

Looking back toward Fochriw...

Up on top...

Heading off across the ridge...

The wind was enormous. I could hardly stand to take any photos... in fact, the wind gusts blew the camera right out of my hands and I had to chase the darn thing as it tumbled across the grassy field! It was crazy. It was ridiculous. It was marvelous. It was laugh out-loud spectacular... screaming head-long into the wind... arms stretched-out-wide fun!

You cannot make this stuff up. You cannot plan this kind of wonder. Only through exploring and discovery can you get this type of excitement.

Look at that road ahead! See how the land drops off to either side...

Top of the world...

And then... then... over the top!

What is this place?...

And then the sky started to brighten...

And the wind began to soften...

And the sun appeared...

I could see it immediately that this was a special place. I could feel it. I rode over a short drop and then there were trees... the wind died down, though I could hear it in the leaves... there were birds... and the sun. I had ridden from a barren, wind-swept plateau onto a lush green hillside.

So this is it......

I cannot begin to describe my excitement and awe with this discovery. Just by chance, on a whim, without any idea... Carreg Tegernacus. Read more...

2000 years ago the Romans walked this place. Did they built something here... or was it just a road? A fort? What? Tegernacus died here and they placed a monument to him... but why? Who was he? Was this the place of a long forgotten battle?

Tergernacus, son of Martius

All that I can tell you, is what anyone who visits this place will agree... it is special. The landscape feels very unique... the sky and light somehow look different. I spent the better part of two hours wandering around. There is something powerful here.

And there is no disputing the history... the stones themselves show that many others have also found this place unique. It oozes spirituality.

Heading down the southern end toward Bargoed...

on a Roman road.


© Paul Waites

© Brian White

Capel Brithdir
A few miles north of Gwaelod y Brithdir Cemetary on Brithdir Mountain lies a very old Cemetery called Capel Brithdir.

The cemetery hasn't been taken care of in nearly 70 years and only a few headstones are now readable. Sadly too, the only copy of the burial records were destroyed when the chapel was burnt down during the 1950's [sic].

Local legend is that the fire was caused by devil worshipers." Read more...

Who were these people? And the ones before them? What were their lives like? What made them happy? What stories did they tell their children? Do their children remember?

During demolition of the chapel in the 1960's, a cross incised slab of 10th-11th century (probable date) was found built into the walls. The original cross is now in St Gwladys's Church, Bargoed. The demolished remains of the church were heaped into the lower part of its walls to form a platform upon which the replica monument now stands.

The spirituality of Wales makes it fascinating. It is embedded in the character of the land. It is a part of the people. It is a place carved by the many passions of history. The hills and valleys are full of mystery and depth. It is a land of untold stories and forgotten history.

And then I was away, rolling quickly down a steep hill, quickly and suddenly, back to civilisation... Bargoed seemed like a thriving metropolis. It was shocking and looking back, it was as if I had been to another world... in another time. And writing about it now, thinking back... looking at my photos... I was in another world.

Area Description: 
To understand the landscape of Southeast Wales, envision the valleys like the back of your hand; your fingers being the ridges running north, while the spaces between your fingers are the valleys. At the tip of your fingers a high ridge connects everything together; The Heads of the Valleys and beyond... the beginning of a vast range of mountains - the Brecon Beacons.

Most all of the ridges running north (your fingers) are long, barren, grass covered moors used mainly for grazing sheep and cattle. Occasionally you'll find a church tower or monument. Mostly it is wide open moors falling off to the valleys on both sides. Flowing down the narrow valleys between these high ridges (the spaces between your fingers...) are the rivers for which the valleys are named (the Rhondda, the Rhymney, the Sirhowy, The Ebbw, to name a few...) and nestled along the rivers are the small towns and villages of Southeast Wales, where we live.

Thanks as always for visiting...

Cheers! - cm

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