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The early settlement of Kite Country

Whilst it is strongly believed that Old Stone Age groups hunted throughout the extensive forests that once covered all but the highest land in Kite Country between 10000 and 5000 BC, the first positive evidence of active settlement dates from the Neolithic (New Stone Age), when the first farmers started to shape the landscape and left behind them a number of intricately constructed stone tombs. A number of these can still be seen in Kite Country and all are clearly marked on the essential large-scale Ordnance Survey maps, which you should carry with you at all times in order to enjoy the sights and fine walking trails throughout this area. You will also need a map to interpret the grid references shown. The remains of a long burial cairn can be found at SO 211192, adjacent to the main A40 road just West of Crickhowell (see Map 6). There are many more throughout the Usk and Wye valleys for you to explore.

The more advanced tools of the later Bronze Age settlers left their mark on numerous standing stones, stone circles and graves all over Kite Country. The most famous standing stone called Maen Llia can be found at SN 925192, near a minor road linking the isolated village of Ystradfellte with Sennybridge to the North (see Map 10). This is the wild, spectacular hill country of Fforest Fawr, where numerous historic sites can be explored, especially to the East of Ystradfellte. However, you should try to do this in good weather and also take extra care, as this is where large limestone outcrops can be found instead of the usual Old Red Sandstone. The limestone conceals extensive cave systems and areas of shake holes waiting to swallow up the reckless walker. The remains of Bronze Age activity have also been found on the summits of Corn Du and Pen y Fan, the highest mountains in the Brecon Beacons National Park. The view from these is well worth the effort involved to reach them.

The spread of new Iron Age technology and evolving social ideas reached Kite Country from Europe from about 600 BC onwards and resulted in the construction of many impressive hill forts designed to provide protection to permanent settlements. More than 20 of these can be found in this area and one of the largest of all the Welsh Iron Age forts is Gaer Fawr on Garn Goch common at SN 692243, South-West of Llandovery at the very Western edge of Kite Country (see Map 3). This is well-signposted from the little village of Bethlehem and is extremely impressive at some 30 acres in size. The Welsh language is thought to have been introduced by the Iron Age peoples, who brought their Celtic language into Britain. Whilst these impressive hill forts remain, surprisingly little is known about the people themselves. This has given the notion of Celtic heritage an aura of mystery that is used today as an artistic concept and as a symbol of Welsh independence.

A great deal of research has been conducted into these relatively advanced Iron Age/Celtic communities and one of the most dramatic reconstructions of an early settlement is to be found, admittedly not within Kite Country, but near Cardigan in Pembrokeshire. This is known as Castell Henllys Iron Age Settlement and is open daily from March to October. It is a beautiful and most interesting place, well worth the two hours' drive from Brecon. In fact, once you are there you may as well spend the night at the superb Trewern Arms Inn in Nevern, where you can obtain excellent fly fishing on the most attractive little river Nevern. Alternatively, you can explore the superb Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Anyway, back to Kite Country and the Romans...

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Maen Llia standing stone
Maen Llia standing stone
Garn Goch Iron Age fort
Garn Goch hill fort
Castell Henllys Iron Age settlement
Castell Henllys settlement