Saturday, 13 April 2013

Mountain Memory

The hills of mid-Wales are not spectacular, but do have a quiet grandeur that is typical of British uplands.  Any aspiration to being "mountainous" was ground out of them in successive ice ages, leaving a hard core of deeply-furrowed, round-shouldered hills. They're mainly Silurian and Ordovician sedimentary rocks with volcanic "intrusions" and the consequent metamorphic rocks -- slate, most famously -- are extensively quarried.  We know at least one "hill" which is like a Potemkin village facade, utterly hollowed out on the far side.

They have also been mined for metals such as lead and gold since the Bronze Age, and the remains of Roman and later mines can still be found littering the landscape.  Often, it seems, with a stolen car abandoned at the bottom.  Well, it's an ironic sort of recycling, I suppose.

Cwmystwyth, April 2005

Although bleak now, there has been inhabitation for thousands of years, mainly in periods of milder climate.  The recent snow was of precisely the right sort -- relatively dry, not too heavy, and easily wind-blown -- to reveal surface features, and aerial archaeologists had a field day (or possibly field month). From the sky, these hills are scribbled with prehistory, a veritable palimpsest, to use a favourite word of this blog.

My picture above seems to show two landscapes for the price of one: the illusion of a range of snow-covered jagged peaks -- perhaps a memory of what it may have looked like a couple of Ice Ages ago -- and a worn upland grooved with mysterious ditches and trackways.

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