A.J. Walker

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Gwytherin Stones

My third visit in a week to see some ancient stones was to see the Gwytherin Stones. This is a line of four stones in the churchyard of St. Winefred's Church in Gwytherin. As a simple line of stones within a church environment there is not much in the way of setting for them to be able to date them and the age of them are disputed from Bronze Age through to something more modern. I won't say who knows, it's a no-one knows - at least yet. The church itself dates to 1869 but there is thought to have been a church on the site since around 600AD.

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The stones are each around 1m high and one of them (the western most one) has writing on it. They are aligned perfectly in an east-west direction. They are the closest to the church and it is nice that they have been left in place and not destroyed during its development. You do wonder if other stones may have been on the site previously and how they may have been arranged. The four stones sit above a steep slope down to a stream, a tributary to the nearby River Cledwen, and I wonder how it has moved historically - has it eaten into this embankment and taken away archaeology?

As well as the stones the churchyard has three ancient yews. Three? That's just greedy.

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Gwytherin itself is a pretty little village and one literary claim to fame is that it is the setting in 'A Morbid Taste for Bones' the first book of Ellis Peter's Cadfael series (written in 1977 and set in 1137)/ Haven't read it. Wonder if the stones are mentioned by the monks? Will have to buy the book, and maybe read it in front of a roaring fire in the Lion Inn, which is lovely looking old pub opposite the church.

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The Gop

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The Gop

Saturday, another wet autumn day and another Neolithic site in North Wales. Yep, after the previous day's visit to Capel Garmon this time I found myself near to Trelawnyd and The Gop. As I had the time I decided to give it a go and once more, despite squally showers and continuing camera issues, it was well worth the small detour.

I'd only found out about the place the previous night when reading about it both online and in Julian Cope's excellent tome, 'The Modern Antiquarian'. As I approached Trelawnyd from the west in the afternoon I looked up the hillside to see if I could see The Gop and was surprised at how distinct and obvious it was - in so much as I'd travelled this road so many times and never noticed it. Now I know it's there I will never not see it.

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View of The Gop walking up from the path from Trelawnyd

Of course this area is full of hills and sometimes any strange shapes can be interpreted as due to geology or often down to quarrying. In this case The Gop is a man made hill (Neolithic c 3-4000 years old) on top of a hill. It is the second largest Neolithic mound behind only the very famous Silbury Hill. Which makes you wonder why this place isn't more well known. I suppose being a hill on a hill it is less obvious than being a hill on a plain like Sllbury. Unlike Silbury you can walk right up to The Gop and onto it too. Which I did. I parked at the bottom of a path in the village and took the short walk via just one stile and a kissing gate. The path up to The Gop was wet, muddy, quite steep and very slippy. It was actually easier getting up the mound itself.

The mound is massive, but because of its place like a pimple on a hill you really don't feel it from distance. In some places, especially on the northern side of the mound, you can see the construction materials which comprises fragments of limestone, much of which are incredibly small in that you can hold multiple pieces in your hand. To think of the number of people and time it would have taken to construct it is a bit mind boggling.

In the late 19th century there was investigations into the mound looking for burial chambers (or dare I say treasure) which didn't find anything. That doesn't mean there's nothing there given similar early investigation of Sutton Hoo. Given the type of material (loose limestone) it must have been hellish to dig. Nearby at lower levels of the hill are caves where ancient human and animal remains have been found and could well be linked with the site. I can't see it would have been constructed as a hill fort - you'd be better protecting the existing hill top rather than building the hill on a hill - not to mention the issues with constructing on it. Surely the mound is related to the importance of the caves?

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View south east from The Gop

The views from The Gop are great. Or rather would have been on a better day. Apparently on a clear day you can see Blackpool Tower (the universal SI unit for distance viewing in the north west). I was told this by the only couple I saw whilst on my jaunt. They had come up walking their very bouncy, wet, black Labrador. He bounded up to investigate me and seemed an inordinately happy soul. Unfortunately he managed to time one bounce such that the lady owner who was leaning down to say nice things to him got hit in her chin by his head. Bit through her lip, she did. Ouch! Love can be painful.

After they had gone I decided to go down the northern side of the mound to look at where the limestone is exposed towards the base. It was wet and slippy. And yes, I slipped. I managed yet again to fall in glorious slow motion whilst twisting and moving to avoid landing on my shoulder (the one which is already dislocated), and side where my phone was and land so I didn't risk my fingers or arms too much. Basically my arse took the brunt of it and other than being wet I survived without injury or damage to technology. And no-one saw it either. Huzzah!

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The northern slope of The Gop, where you can see the building materials

When you see the material and the slope from that position (see fourth pic, below) you get an idea of the size of the place and the effort that must have gone into its construction. It was easier to climb back up the mound from the side - I'm not sure if it was practical to walk around, with the long days of rain I feared further slippage events or a twisting of an ankle. And getting down the mound on the south side is easier as there are paths (after a fashion).

Like Capel Garmon it only took me around half an hour from parking to returning. And the benefit to myself far outweighed getting home that half hour earlier. Next time I'll go when its a blue sky and I'll check out where the caves are (though they are closed off now I believe).

So, lastly, if you're ever on the road through Trelawnyd look up the hill to The Gop and see it for the first time. Then maybe even go and see it close up. On a blue sky day you may be able to see Blackpool Tower (incidentally I would suggest this is about as close as you would want to get to Blackpool).

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View south west from The Gop


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Capel Garmon

Have been around Capel Garmon, which is a few miles south of Llanrwst, a few times over the last couple of months. The very first time I went through I saw this sign to a burial chamber:

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Sign at the main road

When I got home I looked it up on Dr Google and found that it was for a very interesting burial chamber indeed. It is estimated to be around 3500 years old and the site was used for a long time - including by the Beaker people. The working day doesn't always give me half an hour to take a break (or have lunch) but I said to myself if I got the chance sometime I'd go down and take a look. As it happens, whilst there is a bit of walk from the main road, it only took me about 20 minutes to get there and back. It was a shame it was wet and grey day (and that my camera was acting up) but I took a few shots. It was well worth using 20 minutes of my day to pop down to see it.

As you walk down the road towards the site the first thing you see is a massive stone - known as a Gorsedd, or throne - which on the adjoining rise, which is associated with the chamber. The burial chamber is not well signposted (one sign is missing from one of the gates) but as you walk down the private road to the farm there is a swing (kissing) gate through to the public footpath (no real path), which at the time was pretty muddy. And fifty yards up from there is another gate (with the missing sign), go through this and then you should see the fenced off area of the chamber. This field was even wetter than the first one but it has been a very wet couple of weeks.


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Current entrance into the barrow beneath the one remaining top stone.

There was no soul around though somehow one of the sheep from the surrounding field had somehow got in for a gander himself. Not sure how he'd got in through a swing gate. The chamber is of a type known as Severn-Cotswold construction and is one of the most northern examples of it (though Trefignath on Anglesey is of the same classification).

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View out of the barrow from the first circular chamber

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Second circular chamber, which is uncoverered

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This would have been the original entrance into the barrow - with the two chambers either side at the end of the passage. The Gorsedd stone is on the rise in a straight line from this entrance to the chamber.

I'll definitely go and see it again when I get the chance. Preferably when my camera isn't acting up and on a blue sky and dry-underfoot kind of day. I'll also go and look at the Gorsedd.

It's got me fired up to keep an eye out for other ancient sites whilst I'm traveling around. And I've now found, for example, I've regularly driven past The Gop cairn hill which is the second largest Neolithic mound coming behind only Silbury Hill. I have never noticed it (or heard of it before). I also need to see how long it would take to get along to the Druids' Circle above Penmaenmawr; the Four Stones of Gwytherin; and the stones of Tal y Fan.

Unfortunately November on the run up towards Christmas and of course the shorter daylight… well all in all not ideal to try and fit these in now. Though I'll keep my eye out for any which are near a road side.
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Port Amlwch and Parys Mountain

Was delivering in Llanfairfechan and a few drops in Bangor, Caernarfon and Holyhead today. Finished at a decent time so thought I'd take a wee detour on the way home and turned to the north east of Anglesey to go to Port Amlwch. I'd seen the port on an episode of Coast and thought it looked pretty interesting. It's actually the northern most town in Wales and damn interesting historically too. The town of Amlwch was at one stage the second biggest town in Wales when the adjacent Parys Mountain was at its peak. Parys Mountain stands out like a blister on the countryside scarred by the mining of copper there in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was once the biggest copper mine in the world, which is pretty impressive for a little ole Anglesey.

The port was pretty. Looks very tidal. Didn't seem that full of boats but then again it's very narrow over much of its length. I don't know nothing about boats so I can say nothing about them - though I'm pretty sure some were fishing boats. On the port side there was a museum on the 'Copper Kingdom' which is the kinda place I'd like to have visited as an enthusiastic geology loving kid. But it wasn't for today.

There were two nice looking pubs by the car park for the port both of which had nice Liverpool connotations with the Adelphi Vaults opposite to the Liverpool Arms. Apparently the former does real ale but the latter does not. The Adelphi also had a nice paint job.

Anyway here are a few photos.

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Parys Mountain

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Amlwch Port

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Amlwch Port


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Amlwch Port

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Amlwch Port

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Amlwch Port

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Amlwch Port

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Liverpool Arms, Amlwch Port

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Adelphi Vaults, Amlwch Port

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Liverpool Arms and Adelphi Vaults, Amlwch Port



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St. Mary's Church and Canovium, Conwy

In north Wales again today and was delivering around the Conwy valley between Conwy and Dolgarrog and Glad Conwy. Saw a sign for an 'Historic Church' when around the same route a week or two ago and today decided to go and have a gander - sounds familiar? Again it was very worth while. The church turned out to be the Parish Church for the Rowen district: St.Mary's Church.

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St.Mary's Church (with a few swallows in the air there)

It's in an isolated spot on the banks of the Conwy and is a thirteenth century church thought to have been built by Cistercian monks from Maenan Abbey. And whilst there are no other buildings currently within about half a kilometre of the church there used to be a lot going on here as the church was constructed on the north eastern corner of a Roman Fort constructed around 75AD. The settlement was known as Canovium a timber built fort which housed around 500 foot soldiers which were there to look after the river crossing at Tal-y-cafn. The site is thought to have been in use at least for the bulk of time from then until the fourth century.

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View south along the top of the embankment used by the Roman Fort
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The markings in the arable and sheep grazed fields have been very strong this year with the dry summer and there have been some great aerial photographs showing the layout of some of the Roman buildings such as the bath house. The most obvious evidence of the fort though is the rectangular platform of the fort which the church sits on the north east corner of.


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The sky was alive with swallows and I saw hawfinches in and around the churchyard - but unfortunately I could not get any photos of them. They are elusive indeed.

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The church itself is a familiar shape and appearance in this area of Wales. It has a double bell cote though apparently there is no evidence that there has ever been more than the one bell which is currently there. There is an interesting medieval stone crucifix above the entrance to the church. The tidy church unlike the one at Celynnin is still in use - as I say it is the Parish Church. There is a lovely stained glass window on the the left as you come in. But with only small windows it was pretty dark in there.

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Medieval cross

The churchyard is pretty and the setting with the River Conwy below the embankments of the old fort and the hills forming the valley make the spot very attractive. There are two ancient Yews in the churchyard. Unfortunately one has crashed some of its substantial branches on to some of the grave stones which were marked off with tape. The gravestones are well worth a wander around and it's amazing to see the longevity of some of the locals from the 1800s - forget the Mediterranean Diet, what were they eating in the Conwy Valley back then? And whilst you're looking at the inscriptions it's worth keeping an eye out for those hawfinches.

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St. Celynnin Church, Conwy Valley

Back in June I saw a church on the top of a hill miles from anywhere which looked interesting but didn't go and see. As I said at the time I wish I had once I looked up a bit about it. It's a 12th Century church which is impressive in itself, but its location makes it doubly intriguing. Well today I was up there again and the weather was good so I took the opportunity to walk over to see it.

Glad I did. It's a pretty building and the location makes it look beautiful. Didn't have time to look over all the graveyard much but I saw gravestones dating back to 1717 (Stella would be impressed).

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There's a holy well in the corner of the enclosure, which may be why the church is there in the first place. Apparently there used to other buildings around the vicinity including roundhouses and even Roman buildings. And an adjacent pub (probably not Roman).

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I'll put up some more background to the church - and maybe St. Celynnin, when I get the chance. But in the meantime just look at the pretty pictures.

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More Photos

Haven't taken many photos lately, I need to get back to doing it regularly. Put a couple of Daily Delivery Photos up on Twitter today and up on Flickr. It was a nice day after all.

My Flickr account has many more photos of course. Click on a photo to visit Flickr.

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View towards Llanfairfechan from Sychant Pass.

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Blue sky day on Llanfairfechan front
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Nice Autumn Day in Llandudno

It was a lovely day today in the north west of England and north Wales. I was over in Llandudno on a route today and managed to spend ten minutes on the beach after delivering the last parcel. It was lovely to sit and watch the waves on the pebble beach and great for my #DailyDeliveryPhoto which I do on Twitter.

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I love autumn on a clear day with the low watery sun, the cool crisp days, and the colourful trees and fields. But today I was on the coast and got to enjoy watching the waves and listening to the water rush over the pebbles and hear the pebbles running back down over the beach. Was a lovely ten minutes; unfortunately after the clocks change next week it'll probably be dark by the time I finish the route... so maybe I'll have to take ten minutes in the middle of the route to guarantee a nice view and a few mins of relaxation (and nice photos).

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#DailyDeliveryPhoto


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Five Minutes

It's been hard working the last few weeks at work. Some of these routes they are giving out are really taking the Michael especially with delayed start times. Ho hum.

Still, it's nice to get out and see the country and when the weather and light is nice it's even better.

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Today I took a whole 5 minutes to walk from a delivery which happened to be up by the obelisk above Llandudno Junction at Bryn Pyrdew. The obelisk is on a limestone grassland classed as a SSSI. I don't know me limestone flowers but there were some nice small flowers about even though it's mid October.

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It was a tiny wee five minutes break, but it was lovely and I must do it more often.

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Daily Delivery Photo week

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It's been a long hard week at work but managed to keep #DailyDeliveryPhoto largely updated with some nice shots - when I remember to take my camera with me.

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Next week I really want an easier day or five, but whatever plenty more pics. The days are drawing in which lessens the sunlight time but the low sun should give me a few nice pics of the ever changing colour of the trees and the hills of north Wales and beyond. I'll keep on a snapping!
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Daily Updates: Every Day

Been doing better with my Daily Delivery Photo and my Class Song of the Day twittering than I could hope.

Actually
51 songs in to the #ClassSongOfTheDay Will I do the full year without missing an update? Oh I suppose not, but so far so good. Aiming to go the full year without any repetition of artist which means I am having to keep a spreadsheet. I tell ya, that is serious business. Been a good mix of singers, bands and genres. But I should push the envelope a little at some point. I've got the spreadsheet sorted until mid-July and there's plenty of classics coming up!

Today's song is from
Shakira when she was brunette, strummed a guitar and sang in her own language. Some things never change hey!?

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Here's the 51 artists so far in the order they have appeared. It looks like a great festival line-up:

Natalie Merchant - Mark Knopfler - Pixies - Arctic Monkeys - Belly - REM - Diesel Park West - Blue Aeroplanes - Jayhawks - Teenage Fanclub - Robert Cray - BB King - Felice Brothers - Radiohead - Del Amitri - Cranberries - Black - Queen - Frank Turner - Neil Young - Ryan Adams - Bryan Adams & Tina Turner - John Hiatt - Creedence Clearwater Revival - Stevie Ray Vaughan - Stornoway - British Sea Power - Eurythmics - Cast - Boo Radley’s - Tears for Fears - Echo & the Bunnymen - Wah! - The La’s - Beatles - Cracker - Deer Tick - Gun’s n Roses - Black Crowes - Heart - Sigur Ros - Decemberists - Jeff Buckley - Magic Numbers - Adele - Ben Kweller - Blues Brothers - Jimi Hendrix - John Lee Hooker - Broken Family Band - Santana - Shakira


Every so often I update this as a Playlist on Youtube so I can find them in one handy place:

YouTube: ClassSongOfTheDay

In the meantime keep an eye out every morning at
8am (UK) @zevonesque
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DailyDeliveryPhoto

Great to get the #DailyDeliveryPhoto up and running again this last week. And had some loverly weather for it in north Wales this week too!

Keep an eye on my Twitter feed
@zevonesque or look up the hash tag!

#DailyDeliveryPhoto

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