Moel y Gaer Hillfort, in Bodfari, in North East Wales, and Llanbedr's Moel Y Gaer.
and Llantysilio's Moel Y Gaer,
Moel Y Gaer hillfort, (this page details my writings on Moel Y Gaer, Bodfari, for the top third, and Moel y Gaer, Llanbedr, for the middle, and Moel Y Gaer, Llantysilio, for the lower third of the article itself).
The Bodfari example is a Iron Age hillfort that is among many that sit on the Clwydian hills. It has some confusing elements for it's name. First of all there is another Moel Y Gaer hillfort not far from here, (I have a page on it), to the east, near Holywell, roughly 10 miles or so away at Rhosesmor. Then there is another Moel Y Gaer as I say below, roughly a similar distance south. in fact, then also there is a hillfort called Bodfari on the Lleyn peninsula. If you refer to hillforts by the place where they are located at not their usual name, this can confuse people, but it is easy to sort that out.
So Bodfari is a village that sits below the fort to the south, with fields and the Afon Chwiler or River Wheeler, following through it. That river flows west to the Clwyd, which eventually unites with the Elwy. Also, barely a few minutes walk from the village is a other small village Aberwheeler, or Aberchwiler. It makes me think of Mortimer Wheeler the famous mid 20th Century archaeologist, but it was nothing to do with him, even though he and this area have hillfort connections. That place is overlooked to it's south by Moel Y Parc and it's tall TV Mast, and just south of there is the largest hillfort in Wales, one of the largest in Britain, Penycloddiau. Back to Bodfari, the area is by the way also 4 miles north east of Denbigh. It seems there is another hillfort called Moel Y Gaer not far away on the Clwydian Hills, south even of Penycloddiau, by Llanbedr, that I mention later.
So Bofdari's Moel Y Gaer hillfort itself sits above a 2 lane road, even a pass you may say, between the Clwydian hills, and I wonder if it thus controlled such a route in the past.
The site encloses about 2 hectares of area. So I have been there myself, and saw the archaeological digging occurring. The trenches revealed dry stone wall style ramparts under the banks, that were grown over by grass. This was on the steep western slope, that would be a threat to any attacker. From here you see the Clwydian Valley, and a fine sight it is too.
The fort itself is 200 metres above sea level, so low for a Clwydian fort, and not as large as some of the nearby forts like Penycloddiau or Moel Hiraddug, but still a site of some interest.
To get to the fort, I found it difficult finding somewhere to park in the village. I walked up a small portion of the Offa's Dyke path, though Offa's Dyke itself does not pass here, and up some nice views and up into some woods, and onto the fort. there are other sources as well. You can spy the Denbigh countryside around it.
On the dig I was on, here, there were few finds, as the soil erodes so many materials. The fact there are walls of dry stone though indicate a fortified hilltop village of some sort, to some, and a refuge in times of trouble to others. In addition I was lucky enough to witness the find of a spindle whorl, which may have been from the time of the fort, you would think so. If so you could imagine Iron Age dwellers making clothes, by hanging sheep wool off these weights, or using them to straighten them so as to be knitted. So a protected safe environment up here. With residents perhaps living partly off the meat of cattle and sheep. On the way up from the village you see a pub there, and chickens on the path, so maybe a fort like this could be a stop over for travellers, certainly the livestock would be something that existed. Now of course the hill top, whose name in English means fort or castle on the bald hill is a site for sheep, for farmers, rather than a site for people's refuge, or a fortified hilltop village. So thus is is still producing plenty of lamb and wool, just like what the Iron Age people of the hillfort's era would have used. If as is likely if people worked and lived here, there were roundhouses as well. The assumption is it is Iron Age, so there would have been those ancient Celtic traditions and lifestyles at this fort, or used by it's builders.
All pictures on this page are mine and need my permission to be used. There is one, with Bodfari's fort below the other hills, 1 of it's walls, and one of it from Aberwheeler. I must add there is a wood on the cusp of the hill which obscures views from below towards the top, which is why you can not see the villages from many places atop the hill. As a guide, the picture at the top of this page, well the fort is on the wooded hill on the left. For the next highest Moel Y Gaer, Bodfari picture, you can barely see the hill, the picture is taken from the west, and the hill, is in front of larger hills, That white building indicates about where the hill is valiantly placed. You can figure out where it is as that hill to the right on the top picture, is behind it on the second highest pictures. I should add the hill to the right on the second highest picture, goes up to Moel Y Parc, and the hill to the left, is a continuation of the Clwydian Hills going northwards to the sea. P.S in relation to these pictures there is one on this page not of Moel Y Gaer Bodfari, but of the Llanbedr one. So that can be ignored in terms of this description but can be looked at in terms of this page for that site, Also there is another of th Llantysilio site, and this can be ignored vis a visa Moel Y Gaer Bodfari pics, it is obvious which ones I mean if you read the whole page. Also right at the bottom I have drawn a picture of Moel Y Gaer, Bodfari, from Moel Y Parc, red heather in the foreground.
* So now I talk of Moel Y Gaer, Llanbedr, or Moel Y Gaer Llanbedr Dyffryn Clwyd, though if I named it I would have called it Moel Y Gaer, Moel Famau, as it is so close to that beauty peak. Indeed I got there, by parking in the car park below Moel Fenlli (It is as close, to it's hill before it becomes a steep slope as can be) which is where many walk from to reach Moel Famau. Though for me half way between it and those other visitor's destination, I adventurously cut off across the footpaths, or maybe they are sheep paths, of gorse and heather to the Moel Y Gaer fort. So Moel Y Gaer hillfort or Moel y Gaer Camp on the Clwydian Hills, overlooking Llanbedr y Dyffryn Clwyd, but no more so than Moel Famau does in my view is what this paragraph is about. This Iron Age site, is a oval or acorn shape of 2.63 hectares in area. with a annex of 0.26 hectares to make it in total 2.89 hectares. It is only 320 metres above sea level. It was used in the Iron Age, possibly in the early and mid period of it. It is 8.7 miles to the south from Moel Y Gaer, Bodfari. Moel Famay is 2 miles from Moel Fenlli, but this is half way between them but a km or so off the path to the west. Overlooking the Clwydian Valley from a spur. It is very much visible from both those higher hills. It has a entrance area, but the ramparts are quite low compared to some sites, like Moel Arthur. It has 2 lines of ramparts, which are highly visible from above. Today it is more a place for sheep to graze, I was going to say it is like a private all you can eat buffet for them now, but I will not say that as it sounds silly. My phoito of it from between Moel Famau and itself is below, it is the photo that is not the Bodfari site, and is from a moor looking down on this site. You can see how on all sides the area below the hill is steep slope, except for to the east up to Moel Famau where there is a heathery almost ridge of land, where there happens to be a entrance way once you reach where the fort is. Almost like a causeway style. When I crossed the moors away from this ridge, I had to cross over a small moor stream of V shape variety, but no water as it was spring time. So that is the end in terms of this article. There is more below though.
* Side note. There is also a place in South Wales, Loughor Castle, Cassllwchwr in Welsh. also on a River or Afon Llwchwr, that held a fordable crossing there. It was both a Roman and Norman site. It was called thew (Sorry miss spelling there I meant the) , I mean the castle of Aberllwchwr in the Brut a manuscript from back then. It is not far from Swansea.
Lastly there is another Moel Y Gaer fort or hill fort in Wales. Again it is in North Wales. It is on Llantysilio Mountain, northwest of the town of Llangollen, right in Denbighshire’s south. It is about 0.95 hectares in area, so quite small for a hillfort. It is 503 metres above sea level, so one of the highest in Wales, indeed I only know of Craig Rhiwarth, and Foel Fenlli that are higher in Wales. They are not that far from each other, indeed from all 3 you can see Moel Famau. (Craig Rhiwarth is to the south, just over a dozen miles away as the bird flies, from this Moel Y Gaer, but much more via road, right on the northern border of Powys, and Foel Fenlli is a similar distance away to the north. It is just south of Moel Famau.
For this Moel Y Gaer, some have stated there could be 2 to 11 roundhouse platforms within the site. It has a single rampart and ditch protecting it. It sits 15 miles south of Moel Famau and it's Moel Y Gaer. It is in between Moel Gamelin and Moel Morfydd which are not hillforts, but are just normal but high hills. I hope I have said, Moel means bald hill.
My update on that on 27 6 2021, is that I visited this site yesterday. So we went along the A5, and then drove off that main road, to along some more rural lanes, and 2 lane routes to the hill foot village of Rhewl at between 130 and 200 metres above sea level, the one near Llantysilio and Llangollen, not the one near Ruthin and Denbigh. Then stopped opposite Hebron Chapel. It looks like a Welsh village from a 18th Century story I say in a way, amid the countryside at the foot of mountain, but with all modern stuff, styles of houses and roads and mod cons etc. Then after a small dog came a long and saw us, we saw the guide map on a info board. I had taken a map on my phone (Better to take paper maps as well), and we just marched up the road, I think there are paths all over the place here, but we just kept going up from the road onto a trackway I saw on the internet maps, (instead of the great idea of the circular longer routes up into the hills, we just marched up the track) and found ourselves between 2 large Moel hills about 400 metres or so up, or higher. That is Moel hills, not mole hills. I remembered from the map the Moel Y Gaer hill is a short step to it's west, though none looked like hillforts from below. Walking up the dozens of metres from the path, at this 503 metres high hill, I was happy to see a ditch and bank, and that we were on this fort. I had worried it was another of the moels. You could see the Clwydian Valley, and Moel Famau, and Snowdonia. Plus to the south the Dee and Llangollen.
Anyway, we had a look around, the obvious ditch and banks, and firstly I was sad to see on the west side there was black and less heather, then realised there had been a heath fire of late. I remember I did see in the paper online when looking up the hills. A terrible thing as really the nature and wildlife here matter in ways even more than the hillfort, as we can record them, though I really want us to keep them, as well, but the nature is even more essential and is of course real lifeforms. Though I was happy to see I could see the stones, and ramparts as there was no heather, so imagined this is more like what it was like, closer to its usage time. Or after a devastating attack from raiders. Though again, just think how nature has grown well over these sites, like jungles over the more substantial Mayan sites. So after this exciting opportunity we looked at my maps, and saw the less named hillock to the west 497 metres high, would also need a climb down and up, but then the Moel, to it's west Moel Morfydd, was 550 metres high, and looked like what would need to be a 200 metre drop down to the bottom then up again on a KM long walk. (On looking at the map again later) I Only had a picture of where the fort was in terms of a map on my phone, maybe we would not have to drop that much, maybe there was a ridge away from the drop, I think ,maybe. Though we did see the higher hill Moel Y Gamelin was just back down where we just went up from and then up there. So we went down to the 400 metre high path and then up to it's 577 metres. It is the highest of the trio From it's top we could see Llangollen Pavilion, and maybe the horseshoe pass. You can also see part of the Berwyn quarry which is so noticeable at some points on the horse shoe pass road to Llangollen from the north east.
As I say, the Moels are very obvious, on the road from Corwen to Llangollen, and one of them I am sure is the bell curve shaped hill I just about see even from north of Rhuddlan. Plus also from Foel Fenlli.When I say bell shaped curve, I really mean, the top half of a bell shaped curve, that you get on a graph, it has the same sight.
More on those Moels, Moel Y Gamelin, or Moel y Gamlan, means bare hill of the ferocious battle. It is the highest and to the east, though is not the site of fort, it did have lots of sheep, and also sadly some glass on it. Moel y Gaer used to be called in local areas as Moel Ddu, or Black hill in English, which after the fire half of it was, and the one on the west Moel Morfydd, or marshy bare hill. Just like there is a Morfa Clwyd up by Rhuddlan as in the coastal marshes. Amazingly you can see the coastline from here, or maybe the sea on the horizon if you know what you are looking at. I am sure I could see Dyserth and it's hillfort super far away. Well maybe, but I am almost sure you can see the sea on the horizon.
I better say, I even fooled myself from the top of these hills, with a accidental optical illusion. I mean you can see Moel Famau quite well, from the top, and you look north. Now I think of all the North Wales valleys, as north south, so I was tricking myself into thinking we were west of Moel Famau. Which would make sense as you look left, and see the Vale of Clwyd going to the left, if you sight Moel Famau straight on. What is actually occurring is, we are way south of of Moel Famau. What is also the case is that the hills form a northwest line, not a north south line. What is also occurring is that the furthest west of these 3 moels, is not directly west east, it is slightly to the south west of the others. Which is why I was fooled by myself into thinking I was looking east at Moel Famau. I am sure I can see the shape of Dyserth hillfort popping right at the edge of the land afore the sea. Amazing as it is about a marathon away, so this really is a beautiful vantage point.
There is a picture of it directly below here. I also noted that there was a stone pattern laid out in a cross on the east of the fort;. I wonder if this is like what occurred at Caer Caradoc the Welsh one. I have accidently damaged the picture in terms of to the left of the fort, deleting myself from the pic, but you can see it there below and in inset. The picture is taken from Moel y Garmon the highest of the 3 moels, looking north. So there are 2 Moel Y Gaer pics on this page that are not Moel Y Gaer Baodfari, it is obvious which ones, the rest are Moel Y Gaer, Bodfari.