When I was young I thought being an adult would be rubbish. I thought it was all about paying bills, and working, and driving kids around to places you didn’t necessarily have any interest in going to yourself.
Turns out I was wrong! There is a bit of that. But mostly being an adult is about marching triumphantly around woodland areas munching Marc de Champagne truffles and looking for burial chambers. And it’s much better than being a kid.
That said, after spending all my spare minutes this past week (in-between child-looker-aftering) building a beautiful table upon which to put my laptop so I can write a bestselling fantasy novel, I found my mana to be somewhat drained.
Luck would have it that the table repaid me for the gift of life I had bestowed upon it, by showing me a new burial chamber I was hitherto unawareofthewhereaboutsof. Mainly because it’s just over the border in Carmarthenshire. But maps know no borders. At least not this particular type of OS map. So after I dropped the kids off with Ann at Nant y Cwm this morning I headed off with my trusty hound Frida in search of Gwal-y-Filiast. And this is the photoblog thereafteruponwhich.
I began my quest just north of Nant y Cwm near Llangolman, where my Google Maps sat-nav (AKA, my runephone precariously balanced on a glasses case) took me to this large river masquerading as a road. I think it’s the Cleddau Ddu. Needless to say I did not drive through it. It was moving very fast. Returning to the Llangolman road I had to reverse for that beardy guy in a van that you always have to reverse for when going to Llangolman, and he looked about as grateful as usual.
I did not take photographs for the rest of the drive because I was driving. But it was a nice drive.
Then I arrived at the entrance to the farm as described on the Modern Antiquarian webpage. It looked like this.
My car being left by the side of the road looked like this.
There were bales of hay dumped by the side of the road with fungus growing out of them. I took this to be a sign that the hay was magical and therefore a Good Omen.
There was also a petrified witch with slate on her soles on top of a tree-stump next to a pond by the domicile. Again, this was a Good Omen.
The path passed through the property to a bright red gate. In European folklore this is always a sign that you are entering a magical realm where the impossible will become possible and vice versa. (This is also the reason phone boxes and post boxes are painted red.)
The dog was not particularly pleased about the muddiness of the path. There was basically an ankle-deep stream running down it, following eighty-odd days of straight rain across much of southwest Wales.
The aforementioned Modern Antiquarian site’s most recent visitor advised that an old standing-stone/gatepost would signal the path branching off to the left. That there were two of these prior to the proper one led me into two fields, neither of which contained cromlechs.
Never mind. They were nice old gateposts. The hole in the first one provided an interesting perspective on the woods and the field beyond.
The first field also had a purpose-built mud-slide to help me descend back to the main path.
The next gatepost’s hole was not deep enough to look through. But it had a pleasing sentinel-like shape to it. So I did not complain.
We came upon a hay bale in a winter coat, which was not in the usual sort of place you would expect to find a hay bale. I asked it which way to go and it said “straight on”, then continued its valiant but ultimately doomed attempt to roll back up the hill.
The roads diverged eventually, as foretold. And I took the left one, for the other descended to the Taf, whereabouts certain death awaited, instead of the nourishing mana I sought.
The gate that I had to pass through was locked with a pretty complex (elemental) magical spell. But, fortunately, earth magic flows naturally through my veins and replenishes with sleep, so I had no shortage of reserves to draw upon in overcoming this particular obstacle.
The path was encrusted with lively quartz, and I was tempted to dig up one particularly large chunk and devour it there and then. But I knew I must respect the magical realm and leave it as I found it, lest I risk invoking the wrath of the Ancient Ones. Perhaps I would just pick up a little nugget, for luck, and replace it upon my ascent…
Strange twigs were also to be found thereabouts. I did not touch them. I did not look at them. I only took this photograph, for I knew that they were snakes in the form of wood, protecting something noble and sacred from the hands of men (and my dog too, which actually has paws, and isn’t a man).
Some of the larger snakes had entwined themselves around the trees. I took a picture and something caught my eye…
I tried taking the photograph again, from another angle. Then I switched on the “dryad-detection” app on my runephone and – sure enough! – one of the trees was an ent, and the serpents were merely entwined around his torso in an old commensalist dance.
I knew I was arriving in the vicinity of the burial chamber because the trees were displaying increasingly magical characteristics. Look at the lovely mossy clothing here, for instance:
But when I looked up I realised this was not one tree, but two trees bonded together in natural union. They have been betrothed so long that even their roots now grow together.
As is customary, I approached the cromlech with caution and said the magical words to ensure it knew I came in peace and would respect its ways. Then I sat within and meditated, enriching my body and replenishing my depleted mana stocks in the elements of fire, water and wind. (Like I mentioned before, my earth stocks replenish naturally so I didn’t take any of that.)
Somebody had prepared a bundle of sticks in the centre of the cromlech. Presumably to trick any unenlightened intruders into the sacred space.
Of course, even my dog knows that if you light a fire in a cromlech you may never return to the realm of reality, and you must wander the realm of faerie until your teeth are grey and your eyes have fallen out.
A scattering of mussels upon the leafy ground – shining and blue among the brown beech nuts that littered the woodland floor – alerted me to a threat that my dog had already sensed: there was a water daemon in a nearby realm; and I might have intruded upon its aura. I had to act fast.
I sang a paean to the trees in loud growls, spreading my arms open wide and rolling my eyes as quickly as I could (anti-clockwise, because it was still not noon).
They advised me to put my dog on top of the cromlech, for safety. So I did so without question.
Next, one of the older trees spoke to me. It spoke in a lost language of the dark times when these daemons had run riot over the faery realm. Some of them, it said, had even passed through into the outer world – our world – and taken up prominent positions in local council seats in southwest Wales.
I asked for names. But all it gave me were these letters, which appeared then as scars upon its skin: TJC.
I told the tree I would do my best to find and apprehend the daemonic immigrant next time I was collecting my allocation of orange bin bags for recycling in Haverfordwest. So it agreed to swallow the water daemon who was so close to breaking through to our realm and venting deadly retribution upon me for the violation of its aural integrity.
The tree suggested, in a weary voice, that I lay a large trunk across the path to the south, which would act as a barrier against future transgressions of this kind – so long as it remained unmoved. My dog was only too happy to help!
Weary after my ordeal, I snacked on some of the fungus thereupon the log.
But the fungus was disgusting and probably poisonous. So I purged myself (from all known orifices) and thereafterupon snacked only with Aldi Marc de Champagne truffles – which are known to help secure newly replenished mana stocks with their natural abundance of saturated fats.
I bade a hearty farewell to the assembled trees, laughing and joking about the predicament which had so recently been so grave. They told me if I was so careless in future I would probably not even live to see my eleventytwelfth birthday. And I guffawed, because that’s not even a real number. The dog and I travelled swiftly back up the path toward the exit from faeryland. Not least because I cast a spell of swiftness on us both. I do love magic! But I could give up any time. I’m not addicted.
Upon exiting the realm I took note of the understated green sign thereupon. The countryside code – all that remains, for many, of the ancient magical ways of our ancestors. But try leaving this gate open for a week and see what happens. I dare you.
I was back by the side of the road, dusting off the dog and re-inserting it into my Romanian sports utility vehicle, when I felt an incongruous lump in my coat pocket where my keys ought to have been. I took it out and, well, would you believe it…
I forgot to return the quartz.
Of course, we are usually told nowadays not to take elements of the natural environment from an area of outstanding beauty because of some ephemeral notion that “if everybody did it there would be nothing left.” As though a succession of such pilferings might have a cumulatively erosive effect upon the environment such that matter itself would cease to exist and we would all be reduced to a conceptual realm. But people such as I – adults with a certain level of learning on these subjects – know that isn’t quite the problem.
I drove home in my bare feet, with the windows open, singing the Demetae Burial Chamber Song as loudly as I could.
I think I got away with it.
All in all, a good cromlech with a pleasant aspect and a unique setting, albeit a bit muddy.