Out drawing megaliths last week and the last Neolithic stone of the day is another in an urban setting, ‘Carreg Hir’ (Long Stone) also called the ‘Penrhiwtyn’ stone in the playground of Cwrt Sart comprehensive school in Briton Ferry, Neath. It’s a magnificent menhir, over 9 feet tall but it has a controversial history with one story that it has always been there, another that it was originally on a mound overlooking the River Neath. The Welsh word Penrhiwtyn can be broken down …. Pen means the top of, Rhiw means hill, I don’t know what Tyn means. But does ‘top of the hill’ indicate that the stone has been moved? The site is uphill anyway, but not at the top of the hill.
There’s also a legend that a tunnel runs beneath the stone to Neath Abbey about a mile away. It’s also aligned with the Abbey. And then there’s the legend that there is a charm, as yet undiscovered, that will compel the stone to speak and reveal its history, but once spoken, it will fall silent for eternity.
The staff at the school were lovely and welcomed us, readily giving permission to visit the stone. I used carbon, white conte crayon and Daler Rowney soft pastels in ochre and sepia, overlaid onto Fabriano paper prepared with my own walnut ink. The stone is completely surrounded by built environment and I didn’t want to focus on the buildings and do a representational drawing of them, so I matched their colours with my pastels and represented them with horizontal and diagonal lines behind the stone. Despite the concrete and brick, the stone itself has plenty of lichen growing on it, a welcome glimpse of living nature in amongst all the buildings.
I’m travelling around South West Wales with archaeologist Dewi Bowen who is researching his new book on Neolithic / Bronze Age monuments. His previous book on the stones of Ancient Siluria (South East Wales) can be found here. Accompanying us is film maker Melvyn Williams who is recording a documentary about our experiences. Some of Melvyn’s short films can be seen here. I’m currently working on a series of expressive drawings of ancestral sites and if you want to see some of my other artworks, please click here.