over thousands of years

It wasn’t the weather that drew me here, from Australia to Britain, but nonetheless the weather has beamed at me for all but one day of rain.

Fifty years since I’ve set foot here and none of us lasts forever so this is the time, while health still exists, to tread, walk and clamber to the places which interest me. Satellite navigation has been essential although it doesn’t take me precisely to where I need to go but the kindness of strangers has helped with these adventures.

‘You can see Wales in three days.’ says a sister who should know better and, I suppose I can, if covering distance is the aim. Probably do it in less if I use a helicopter.

‘A month isn’t long enough.’ says an aunt and she’s right but it’s all I have or really want.

‘And don’t forget that April can be a cruel month.’ she added while I thought ‘How poetic an expression.’

It’s places in South America and elsewhere, now in war zones, where gigantic megalithic walls exist, fitted together with great precision and into polygonal shapes with many angles which amaze me and beg the question – who built them? More to the point – how did they get built. Simple brute strength, ropes and pulleys don’t answer these questions to my satisfaction. The areas concerned are often high in the mountains, on precipitous ledges and there’s nowhere to stand.

So it feels quite appropriate that, after flying into Manchester, my first stop in the U.K. should be the Nine Ladies stone circle which is in the midlands. The stones aren’t large – perhaps knee high – but they carry a gravitas which belies their size. Sang a quiet song to them and wished them well as I contemplate the generations who have also touched and been touched by these stones.

Swinside stone circle is a fair drive north east and really required perseverance to find the place. The ‘kindness of strangers’ who pointed me in the right direction prevailed and eventually I found myself walking along a stony track until they came into view, across a fence and within a farmer’s field. Wild and weathered they are - with a magnificent view in every direction.

From there to Hadrian’s Wall much of which has been ‘borrowed’ over the centuries in order to build what must be thousands of miles of dry stone walls which separate one field from another. Spectacular country and not hard to imagine why Hadrian decided that this was the edge of the empire and that the Picts and Scots could keep the lands to the north.

Too long a drive to do in one hit, from Hadrian’s Wall to Stonehenge, and with places to visit along the way, I made my way to elsewhere and another time.

While it felt appropriate to pay my respects to the Nine Ladies, the Swinside stone circle and to the builders of Stonehenge, that’s it for megalithic sites.

My journey here, from the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, to the calm and beautiful Poppit Sands at Cardigan Bay, West Wales had been delayed by a year or so due to financial difficulties followed by a broken foot. Both basically got healed and not everything which appears as a negative in life turns out to be so.

I had opportunity to do some research into ancient Britain and found the works of Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett while recuperating.

These historians have found no favour with the establishment but their research is meticulous and reveals a history of Britain far removed from that which is taught and accepted. When it comes to experts, Alan Wilson – paraphrasing – suggests that they have the advantage of colossal ignorance. That gave me a chuckle and perhaps my saving grace is that I’m not an expert on anything but am all too aware of my ‘colossal ignorance’ and so I keep an open mind but not so open that everything falls out when I shake my head.

Their books are hard to find without going to huge expense which is quite sad as it’s the content and not the rarity value which interests me. There are, however, many hours on youtube of them being interviewed which I found both enlightening and frustrating because I’d have to pause and rewind to establish the name of a person or place being mentioned.

Their video segments are filmed over a period of years and they start off as middle aged men, full of vim and vigour, sure of their facts and certain that it’s only a matter of time before their truth is accepted. Like many whose truth threatens the careers of the establishment experts this turned out not to be the case and towards the end of their interviews, Alan in particular appears worn down and worn out.

Into the picture comes Adrian Gilbert who has had some commercial acceptance and success and who writes a book with them called ‘The Holy Kingdom’ and which I’m able to find.

Ah – joy. Now I have a book to carry with me, reread and use as a reference while I’m still in Australia and using GoogleEarth to zoom in and add placemarks. It’s because of this ability that many places feel a bit familiar by the time I get to them.

I’ve had no particular interest in King Arthur any more than I have in Robin Hood. Like many of us, I placed them in the myth and legend category – a nice idea because both had some ethical character but somewhat shimmery just as Camelot dissolves in the bright midday sun.

While I’m aware that history is written by the victors, I’d tended to think that it just meant that the history concerned is slanted to favour the victor and show them in a good light. I hadn’t realised that the victors could just leave out the previously accepted history and who would know or raise their voice in protest after a few decades had passed.

Within my own lifetime I’ve seen how easy it is to manipulate public opinion and to utterly change, within a generation, what is considered acceptable, what is accepted as true and how sly, cunning, deceit and manipulation are often now seen as clever behaviour.

The significance of Nevern?

Nevern is now a quiet small village in west Wales but wasn’t always so. It used to be named Nanhyfer which is derived from Nant Hyfer which is an alternative name for the stream flowing through the village, now called the Afon Nyfer. Nant means stream and Afon means river. In an 1848 dictionary ‘nyfer’ means ‘pure or holy’ so the thought is that Afon Nyfer means ‘the holy or heavenly river.’ Running into it is another small stream called the Afon Bannon or ‘River of the Empress’. This passes by the village of Constantinople which is a couple of miles from Nevern.

Within striking distance of Nevern are the villages of Gethsemane, Jericho, Bethlehem and Dinas Cross (City of the Cross.) Why these villages are named ‘as they are’ relates to the journeys taken by Helen, the mother of the Emperor Constantine – he who adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire and she who travelled extensively through the middle east collecting holy relics and, apparently, the Cross itself.

 Whether that’s true is, of course, debatable as is the idea that Joseph of Arimathea arrived here within a few years of Christ’s crucifixion. When I offered that idea to the priest at St Illtyd’s church, he almost rolled his eyes and remarked ‘How would he have made himself understood?’ That made sense to me until I reflected later that Britain had been visited by Phoenicians and other traders for a long time before Christ so language may not have been such an issue as the priest suggested.

The present church at Nevern is approached through a gate and the path through the graveyard is flanked by ancient Yew trees – a symbol of eternity which predates Christianity. As an aside, a bough was cut off one of these trees, perhaps one hundred and fifty years ago, in order to wipe out the memory of someone who had hanged himself from that branch. The wound on the tree still bleeds a red sap as I witnessed the other day. That wounded stump of the branch isn’t high up the tree which begs the question – how could someone hang themselves so low to the ground? These Yew trees grow in the most fantastic and twisted shapes so the event isn’t impossible.

Welsh is a language which is almost unpronounceable to non-Welsh speakers and so place names don’t reveal their meaning to those, such as I, who are illiterate in that language but they do have specific meanings and even individual fields are named and, often so, to record an event, a battle or, in the case of Helen, to record her passing by.

On the way to Nevern, I passed a signpost to Gethsemane. It isn’t recognised by my sat/nav which proves the point – if I ‘believed’ the sat/nav was infallible, I’d miss a great deal. It does recognise Bethlehem but not Constantinople nor Jericho. Google Earth, now that the useful one has been replaced – not that I asked for it – by the newer professional version, doesn’t work at all unless I’m connected to the internet.

Anyway – within the graveyard of the church in Nevern stand two ancient stone pillars. The grandest stands perhaps ten foot high and is topped by a Celtic cross. It is the Stone of King Hywell Dda 948 A.D. while next to the church door stands the more ancient and smaller stone of Vortimer, son of Vortigern. 

Vortimer fought and drove out the Saxons – 456 A.D. … I’m assuming that this was a relatively local war and not across the whole of Britain. Either way, it stands to reason that the Stones of such people weren’t placed just anywhere and that Nevern had a greater significance than first appears. There are Dolmens placed in the general area which relate to the Cygnus star constellation and centre at Nevern and , thus, this area had significance which predates Christianity much as does Stonehenge and similar structures.

It doesn’t much matter whether Helen actually carried the ‘true’ cross and other relics to Britain. It does matter that she and others believed this to be true and brings me to the wider significance of Nevern.

Not far from the church and conveniently signposted is a path which leads to the Pilgrim’s Cross. It is set in and on a cliff wall. The wall looks partly manmade but not to a casual glance. Alan Wilson and Baram Blackett believe that a cave lies behind this wall and that this is the resting place of the Cross.

What I have come to understand is that history is not only written by the victors but that the victors leave out what doesn’t fit their narrative or suit their purpose.

If that be true then how would one know.