I spent this weekend in the Gower peninsula, taking part in a magical weekend - my first in two years (last year having been taken up with other matters). Of course, it's in the nature of the beast that I shouldn't go into details about our Dreadful Rites, but I can at least share some photos (albeit taken with a very poor phone camera) from the archaeological part of the adventure.
First, there's Paviland. The Goat's Hole cave on the Gower Peninsula is, as any fule know, the place where the oldest ceremonial burial in North Western Europe was found by William Buckland almost two centuries ago. The so-called Red Lady, who celebrated his 33,000th birthday last Tuesday, has long since been spirited away to England, but one of our party, who happens to share this anatomical male's age, height and weight, lay down in his place. The cave was atmospheric, but what made it more exciting was the sense of achievement in reaching it at all. The cave is located half-way up a cliff known as Yellowtop, for obvious reasons:
Reaching it involved a descent into "Hell's mouth" (once the tide had withdrawn sufficiently) -
then scrambling round a headland, and clambering up wet rocks. No doubt these activities are everyday affairs for some here, but not for me. Anyway, this is what we found:
Back in the day, the cliff overlooked not the sea, but a steppe, thick with mammoths, bear, lions and the like. You got a terrific view of it all from up there, I dare say, and the spring flowers were both vibrant and aromatic. I like to imagine that the Red Lady's job was to direct hunters to the mammoth herds, rather as people used to do from the Cornish cliffs for the pilchard-hunting fishing boats. (You may object that no one could miss a mammoth, but if they rolled around in the gorse and got themselves covered in yellow pollen, they could easily be mistaken for bees, à la Winnie-the-Pooh.)
Then yesterday we visited my new favourite dolmen, Arthur's Stone, overlooking the estuary of the River Loughor on the Cefn Bryn. It's a mere 5,500 years old, but its enormous capstone, weighing in at around 25 tons, is a truly magical thing, seeming to float above the spring over which the monument was built: a magnificent combination of stone, water and air (and no doubt fire too, should you wish to strike a match on it).
As you can see from this angle, even the stones at the back that were presumably placed there to prevent the capstone from toppling over, have proved unnecessary. Rather, it hovers above, like a mammoth pretending to be a bee, in fact (thus proving my earlier theory true).
- Briton First