The Begwyns
An overall look at this large area of common land and its place in local archaeology - Article and photographs by B Bowker



Heading East across the Begwyns with the Roundabout at the top of the picture - 20.04.2014
Introduction

The Begwyns is a large upland area and encompasses a wild and rolling landscape of common land situated north of Ffynnon-Gynydd and south of Painscastle. It rises to 415 m at the Begwyns Round Barrow ( contained in the summit Roundabout ) and falls away to a low point of some 270 m to the NW. The whole area of 1292.98 acres had been owned for a long period by the Maesllwch Estate before being gifted to the National Trust by Major G. W. F. De Winton on the 7th July 1992. Since this time the National Trust have been overseeing and surveying the area on a continuing basis.
The underlying rocks are silurian shales and mudstones to the north, merging to old red sandstones in the south and the area is complicated with some latterday glacial drifts due to the ice sheets overspilling from the main Wye Glacier. There are a few natural mawn pools which can dry up during the summer months and some small recently created pools which cater for the animals grazing the common. There is one large pond, the Monks Pond, which has been enlarged in recent times to provide a reliable year long water supply for the Perthiduon farm. The vegetation is mainly rough grassland and bracken, with a fair scattering of cotton grass, gorse and some resilient hawthorn trees. There are also some heather patches in the more peaty area by the two mawn pools to the west of the Roundabout.
The Roundabout itself was built by the de Winton family in 1887 to protect the numerous trees which had been planted to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond jubilee. These gradually disappeared over time along with the wall which fell into total disrepair by the mid 20c.
The trees were replaced in 1977 by the Maesllwch estate and stock proofed by Rhosgoch Y.F.C. This was to commemorate the silver jubilee of Queen Elizabeth 11.
The surrounding wall was rebuilt as a funded Millennium project by the National Trust and the Painscastle Community and help was provided by volunteers who were learning a trade . The surrounding wall was built in just over 3 months and is standing the test of time.
Access is provided by two styles, roughly north and south, and the impressive circular seat was built in June 2000 under the direction of Mr Richard Harris of Rhosgoch.

The triangulation point close by was adopted in January 1997 by the Beagley family of Cornhill and has been maintained by them admirably since that time.

Common Rights

The farms surrounding the Begwyns possess varying common rights depending on their deeds. These are in the main pasturage, estovers and common in the soil and the farmers themselves have mutually exercised and managed these rights over a long period prior to ownership by the National Trust. At a practicing level the rights refer to the grazing of sheep, ponies and cattle, along with the cutting and gathering of bracken for winter bedding on the surrounding farms. There has also been selective quarrying of rock and the shales over a long period, some of this being used for building purposes and some to improve the various trackways where necessary. It is worth noting that both the farmers and the National Trust have been and are developing a working relationship regarding the management and preservation of the area.

Archaeology

There is abundant physical evidence that the Begwyns have been occupied by man during prehistoric times and some indications for the medieval period, although at present nothing has been discovered to suggest an occupation by the Romans. There is also post medieval evidence of agricultural and wartime activities, latterday quarrying and the creation / improvement of access tracks and footpaths.

Prehistoric Settlement

Within the Roundabout lies the Begwyns Round Cairn, probably of the Bronze Age and a burial mounds of some 11m in diameter which has been much abused over the years by grazing animals, human traffic and tree planting. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument (S.A.M.) with a protected area of 22m in diameter.

Other S.A.M.'s of note are as follows : -

The Maesgwyn Round Barrow - GR 164 436

This is a grass covered barrow of some 19.5m in diameter and 1.6m high. The protected area is 26m in diameter

The Bailey Bedw Ring Cairn - GR 165 442

This is a well constructed ring and possibly a burial cairn. It is 7m across and encircled by a stony bank up to 3m wide and 1m high. The protected area is a circle of 15m radius.

The Begwyns Standing Stone - GR 153 450 ( Possible Prehistoric standing stone )

This is a large split stone of just over a metre high and a metre wide. It is nearly 0.5m thick and has a 8m diameter protected area.

Along with 11 other lesser sites the four above are considered to be of the Bronze Age and all but one, the Maesgwyn Round Cairn, are located in the northern half of the Begwyns. The reason(s) for this are not fully understood and could be topographical, geological or to do with the climate at the time, which was decidedly more temperate.

During the surveying of these sites a number of flint artefacts were found, these being four flint scrapers and three small fragments of flake debris. The size and knapping on the scrappers would suggest an early Bronze Age date

Medieval Settlement

This site is an extensive one with several earth platforms. There are supporting stone foundations, of rectangular long huts and a number of small attached enclosures. There is also a series of larger enclosures defined by earth banks.
The protected area for the site is 400 x 600 mtrs.
There are a few other possible medieval sites as yet unconfirmed ( 2014 ) and they all occur in the northern half of the Begwyns. This may be due to climate or topography or a combination of these and other factors.

Post Medieval to Contemporary

The common rights have been in use since medieval times on the Begwyns and during this period there have been improvements to existing roads and trackways ( a particular example being the road from Ffynnon-Gynydd over to Painscastle, once a well worn ancient trackway - as witnessed by the very high roadside hedges - and now a fully metalled 'C' class road. )
Other well used grassland tracks have been modified and consolidated with the quarried shales and some ditches have been crossed by 'Clapper Bridges' as the one at GR 149443. This ditch was possibly used to drain the area of the two mawn pools above the bridge in order to improve the grazing. This .area is shown on the 1832/33 OS map as being one large lake ( similar in size to the Monks pond ) and is still quite boggy during the winter months when water egresses out of the now shallower ditch.

B. Bowker
December 3rd 2014
Amended October 23rd 2017

Sources

" Wales ",  A Physical, Historical and Regional Geography.  Edited by E. G. Bowen, M. A.  F.S.A.
National Trust archival material and reports.
Mr Paul Greenow
Mr Fred Lloyd
Mr A A Nicholls of Croesfeilliog
Mr Aubrey Price of Llwynpenderi
Other local farmers
Photographs - B. Bowker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Approaching the Roundabout from the West 02.03.2013
The triangulation point can be seen on the right


Aubrey Price of Llwynpenderi loading bracken
18.09.2010 at 16.52.pm


Sheep and ponies grazing the on the NW Begwyns
01.06.2014


The Roundabout from the Monks Pond - 01.04.2012


The Measgwyn Round Barrow mirrored by the Tumpa

on the distant Black Mountains - 04.03.2013


The Bailey Bedw Ring Cairn from the north - 04.03.2013

  
The split Begwyns Standing Stone - 28.06.2014


The road to the Begwyns showing the high hedges
due to erosion pre tarmacing - 09.02.2015


The clapper bridge at GR 149443 - 28.06.2014