Gaer Fawr

Symbolising the boar mount found at the
The fort from Guilsfield again.jpg

Gaer Fawr is a Mid Wales hillfort, in northern Powys, in Montgomeryshire, by a few minutes walks from the village of Guilsfield. A village which is 4 miles from the larger market town of Welshpool. The fort sits on a forested hill, shaped like  mole hill, that like many others in this area, sit on this plain, that is the plateau of Mid Wales. There are a large amount of forts in the hills of Mid Wales, and in addition including the hills of South West Shropshire, there are plenty on the plains and hills of Shropshire as well. This is among the highest ratio lands of hillforts there are. (I also have a artcle on Llangorse Crannog and also Pen Dinas Hillfort, Aberystwyth below at the bottom of this page.) 

So back to Gaer Fawr. The thing I most like about this fort, is that a Iron Age boar helmet piece was found at the site. A seat, has been placed on the fort to celebrate that find, in the form of the shape of a boar. I am proud to say I have seen this piece when I was at a museum. 

The great fort, would have had the British Camp wedding cake effect on the west, side, to a extent, and use small cliffs, and the slopes on the right east of the fort. 

It has a citadel upon the top, a relatively flat space up on top, surely useful for occupants. It surely is those western ramparts that make it the great fort. 

The term Gaer Fawr means great fort in Welsh. 

The fort is today covered in trees, but info boards indicate what it must have been like. 

So here are my spearpoints of what some facts, or arrow points

* I drove to Welshpool, and then Guisfield, sometimes it is hard to find hills like this, but as they say, even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while

* I like how they, realised they needed to honour the brilliant find, of a boar figurine, and so they greatly went the whole hog, and made a seat.

* Trying to get up those ramparts, would be very difficult, the 5 lines, you would be like a hog on ice, 

* If they got a raider on the run, by making them flee, from those ramparts. they would be like a pig from a gun, who would need to sweat like a pig, trying to get away, 

* I loved, the kind of New age, or pagan stuff atop the hill. I should have said, that on the summit, a glade of a area amid the forest, there were chimes and such things hanging off select trees, and even a hole in one, that looked like somebody had deposited gifts to the tree, or spirits. Even though I do not transcribe to those faiths, I was delighted, I was like a pig in muck, seeing what a experience.  

* If you grab a pig by the tail, all the other pigs squeal, as well. Well that proverb has a good meaning to forts, I mean what raider will attack a fort, if it is defended well, after all a good defence can keep at bay some warriors, and the rest in that pack, will likely be affected by the fighting away of some warriors by the hillfort. 

* Another nice quote is Never try to teach a pig to sing. You waste your time and you annoy the pig. The truth of this could be, find the right location for your hillfort, as it needs a good location, that occupants will like. 
* The worst pig often gets the best pear, interesting thought, that saying, I suppose it could be true, as you could see them get the best fort site. 
* Never put your best jewels before Swine, is another saying, well maybe that is what happened with the iron age figurine, that fell off somebody's helmet, maybe in a battle, or just it fell off,

* Anyway, the fort, started off as a smaller summit site, then expanded, with a annexe. 

* The glade at the top is about 1.8 hectares in size. 

* The rest of the area is about 5 hecatres in size, including the ramparts. 

* Gaer Fawr wood, or Coed y Gawr Fawr, covers the fort and slopes about the area, and covers 29 hectares, but a larger area than the fort. 

* The Gaer Fawr boar, is to me one of the most illuminating items of Iron Age life found in Wales. 

* The term Gaer Fawr Powys, can be used for at least 2 forts in the main, this one in Montgomeryshire, and the other, known as Gaer Fawr, Lower Chapel, whose nearest town is Brecon. So the other side of the county of Powys.  Though there is also a Caer Fawr in Llanelwedd, again in Powys sometimes known as Gaer Fawr. Plus a Gaer Fawr in Pembrokshire, more known as Garn Fawr, Plus a Gaer Fawr near Mandeilio, in Carmarthenshire, also known as Faer Fach, which is small fort. Plus Y Gaer Fawr, at Carn Goch, Carmarthenshire. Plus Pen Y Gaer Fawr, near Penllan in Carmarthenshire, and Gawr Fawr also known as Pen y Caerau, near Llanilar near Ceredigion. Plus Gaer Fawr Lower Camp, in Neath Port Talbot. Then lastly Gaer Fawr Camp near Llangwm in Monmouthshire. Though I have only been to the one of these Gaer Fawrs. 

* In a sense Maiden Castle of Dorset, whose name comes from the term Mai Dun, was called Great Fort, in a other Celtic language, as that is what Mai Dun means. 

* Back to this one on North Powys again, The elevation level is about 219 metres, of that 110 above the plains around. 

* You can see a hill, Breidden Hill from the fort, which also has some hillforts atop it. Breidden, like Caer Caradoc, and British Camp has legends to do with it being the site of Caratacus and his battles with Rome. They have lots of things, even in 2021 has  a late 20th Century monument to a Gypsy "king" on one of them it seems. An indication of the history of how people honour hill tops. Though there is also the very large Rodney's Pillar, a landmark seen from miles around. Also that area of hills had from 1789 things called festivals, with songs, poetry and more atop after a founding of it by the Breidden Society. The thing is I wonder if that was inspired by local traditions or was a new thing as Shropshire at Caer Caradoc and Titterstone has the major ancient wake's. Well I assume more ancient. 

* I also have a bonus article on Llangorse Crannog at the bottom of this page. 

* So Gaer Fawr hillfort is a fascinating place to visit or read about. . 

Look down on those falling away western
Summit inerior offering.jpg

More pictures of this fort in on Barnes and Noble, for sale, Part 50 Of the Land of Hillforts. Numerous pictures of various North and Mid Wales forts, and locations the third part of five, that is of numerous pictures of Welsh mostly North Wales locations,

I better say most of the photos are mine, and need my permission to be used
elsewhere, also though there are some public domain pics I found online that
I have noted are so, in most cases I hope all cases, Over 165 pictures
Including these stated, A Map, (There are more maps in part 48, which also
appear in 46), Over 35 Pictures of Pen y Gaer Fort area in Conwy County, 24 of the area round Penmaenmawr's demolished Braich y Dinas, Prestatyn Roman Baths, and Dyserth Waterfall, Rhuddlan Castle, Twt and River, Rhyl and Kinmel Bay Beach, Snowdonia, Then over 100 of Gaer Fawr area, near Guilfield, and Welshpool, Montgomeryshire, Powys, Mid Wales. Including some of Breidden Hill
From a distance from there, also near Welshpool.

This is useful as part of reading my story, but also could be used as stand alone for anybody wanting a look at these sites.

I do not claim to be professional photographer, I am way below that level in my pictures, but these may be of use to somebody wanting to explore this amazing and wonderful but lost and mysterious world that is the land of  Hillforts.

Also a other fine site in Mid Wales, in Powys is is Llangorse Crannog, almost in South Wales. It is by Brecon, in Brecknockshire one of the 3 parts of that largest Welsh county by area. It is 33 miles north of Newport in South East Wales, and 68 miles south of the Gaer Fawr hillfort this page is about. I shall put it on this page though as Gaer Fawr is my Mid Wales representative. It is the only crannog in Wales and England, though Glastonbury and such in England do have lake villages so there are equivalents. 

I read in my September 2005, edition of British Archaeology, that a excavation was carried out around then as this man made island was being threatened by motor boat waves, and bigger falls and rises in water levels, resulting in erosion. So excavations and protective works were carried out. Here is what I got from the article. It is called Llyn Syfaddan in Welsh the lake. As surprisingly Llangorse Lake is only the English name, unusual as Llan is such a Welsh term.  The lake is 7 metres deep it seems, in 2004 when the excavations were carried out, and is the largest in South Wales, of a natural type. 

With the crannog 40 metres from the shore of a 150 hectares lake. 

The man made isle was created by piles of brush wood piled up on the llyn bed. With beams of hardwood and oak piles helping keep that down. Plus sandstone boulders added to that. It is supposed on top of this there were man made floorings, but nothing of that survives even under the trees and dirt that lay in this man made island today Which is called Ynys Bwlc apparently as well. 

On the crannog were found textiles, an bronze strap hinge, enamel and glass, a brooch and animal bones. 

The site was built in the late 9th Century from trees chopped down in 889 to 891 AD. or thereabouts. 

It is strongly felt the site was led by King Awst of Brycheiniog, and it is likely the site, destroyed by the Mercian army in the 10th Century. There is a destruction zone on the site tying in with that theory. The said Welsh king, of one of the many kingdoms of Wales of the time, had some Irish heritage according to some traditions which may explain this structure turning up here. 

Diggers and all sorts were used to improve the protection of the crannog. 

Pen Dinas 

Pen Dinas is a hillfort also known as Dinas Maelor, which is by or in Aberystwyth, or just to the south of it, in the town's suburb style community of Penparcau. It is actually something that could be called 3 hillforts. There is the original one, a second one, built aside it some decades according to archaeologists, and the unified form of the forts . Anyhow, the fort, sits on a hill, that as a long mound, with a from afar flat, but up close, quite rolling summit of trough and rises. It is sits in the county of Ceredigion, and up to the 1970s, on 1970s county reorganisation methods was in Dyfed. 

I call it Pen Dinas, Penparcau, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion. 

You could say it is right to the south of the town, with some parts of Penparcau to it's eastern slopes. 

Anyhow it's vital statistics are, that the hill itself is 120 metres high, it looks higher as it is by the coast, so sits above the beach, here. The hillfort itself, has a noticeable landmark atop, a 18 metre monument to the Duke of Wellington, it being built in the 1850s from donations. The site makes this hill easily identifiable from down the Aberystwyth coast just like the castle, and the National Library. The hillfort itself encloses 3.5 hectares, and the monument sits up there on the edge of the larger of the 2 enclosures. The 2 enclosures are a long one to the south and a smaller round one to the north. 

So we went there on a drive that took 2 hours, and went through the rolling hills, that you get by Aberystwyth away from the plains of Mid Wales and valleys, and mountains of parts of North Wales. So we went through the university town of Aberystwyth, of 20,000 people. Its a town that sits by the beach, and sits in the middle of the curve of Cardigan Bay. After dropping our passengers off, we drove to the south of the town, and crossed the river, to park at the beach by the hill. The hill itself, sits by the estuary, of 2 rivers, one, the Rheidol, that flows through modern Aberystwyth and out directly north west of the hill, and the other the River Ystwyth or Afon Ystwyth that flows, around from way east like the other, as well, to south then along the west in between the beach, and to the estuary of the other river. So I dont know if you could call them almost moats, not really, but maybe this let it look over any trade coming onto the beach or up the river. With fish and the vegetables and animals of the land helping it's resources. 

So even though we were right below the fort, or hill, we walked over a bridge into Penparcau or Aberystwyth's harbour area, over another bridge, had some Italian baked food, and then back across the bridge that had a Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg protest in the early 1960s, there is a plaque there to commemorate it, then back to the car. Then from the car we walked over that estuary bridge, then along the cycle path, in between the river Ystwytyh and the hill,  up a narrow path, then a road, that is on google maps and google streetview in the 2020s, and then saw the gate to the path right on the hill. We walked up it past a few benches cut up a short cut path and hit the top.  From the side half way up we could see herds of Frisian cattle below eating the green green grass way below of this area, on the coastal plain, just before some more coastal hills, of green, and the many rolling hills of green inland that flow south and east of the town and fort. Then at the top saw the monument and saw that one fort of the 2 enclosures is a little larger, with entrances and ramparts, with the 2 creating one, major fort, but the north 1 being a smaller rounder field of a fort, occupied by some more lovely Frisian cattle. I would not find them lovely if I was in the same field as them, chasing me, but across from a fence they seemed friendly. 

So of course from the top you see all of Aberystwyth, as I say a nice university town nestled in green landscape by the coast. We also saw the football team's stadium, when back below,  and enjoyed the ambiance of the town. 

Interesting that it is called Pen Dinas, as Pen Y Dinas on Llandudno's Great Orme, also sits to the edge of the town overlooking it (though in its case its sits as a minor part on the much larger and higher, Great Orme), though forts may be of similar height, they both overlook the sprawl of the towns below, with a similar view. encompassing much of the townscape. If anything this fort may be a bit higher. 

Anyhow that was a nice, visit a sunny day to see a lovely fort, but there was thunder and hail on the way back a rarity in my experience on these travels to this part of the woods. You of course could in a blur see the mountains of the Lleyn, but not as clearly and up close as when at Tywyn a dozen or so miles north, gets to see them, and the way the coast turns visibly all the way to Fishguard 57 miles away, something pointed out at a plaque on the seafront of Tywyn just a little north of here, I think that is one of the greatest views in Wales, that you can see so much of the Cardigan Bay coast from Tywyn and Aberystwyth. It is like you are encapsulating half of Wales in your view. Or at least the span north to south. 

As can be read elsewhere, like, the fort has had a number of excavations, and research on it. Over a dozen roundhouse remnants have been found on it, plus a glass bead, pottery shards, a Roman coin, spindle whorls, a loom weight, fragments of metal and more. Which if you have been to many forts can really conjure up a vision of the life here at the time. A self sustaining lifestyle of rural types living their rural lives overlooked from those on the fort. Surely as said by others, sustained by the fish of the bay. 

The speculation is that the fort began around 300BC, and declined after Roman conquest in 43 BC. It seems the small round area at the north was the earliest phase, and that it was abandoned, with the south fort, used from a 200 BC or after maybe a while after, firstly a number of decades after the abandonment of the original fort, with in later times the 2 forts amalgamated in terms of use. 

This site has a great 3d image of it.

So a lovely fort to visit, glad I have seen it on my lists. 

Apparently some call the gap in between the north and south forts, the Isthmus, and some say only the summit has the right to be called Pen Dinas. My pictures are, and only to be used with my permission, Pen Dinas from the beach to it's west, and Afon Ystwyth, with monument, then the ramparts of the South for from the side of the north, then the north from the south, and the countryside to the south. Some even call it Pen Y Dinas, which confuses things. So that is Pen Dinas for you.