Finding other ways of being at Gors Fawr stone circle

Gors Fawr stone circle in West Wales with the Preseli hills behind

I originally wrote this piece with Stone Club in mind. But, as it hasn’t appeared over there, I thought I would post it here.

Now, on the face of it, my visit to a stone circle doesn’t have anything to do with utopia. But actually, it did give me a new perspective on ways of being and engaging with the environment. And the possibility of a different relationship to the environment, whether that’s real or imagined, in the past, present or future, is a utopian possibility.

At Gors Fawr I caught a glimpse of a more embodied, spatially aware and landscape-savvy way of being a human in this world, as you will discover in my field notes.

Gors Fawr field notes

We visited Gors Fawr in West Wales on a sunnier-than-forecast Saturday in early May 2023. We packed no macs but did take along some shortbread fingers.*

We drove down lanes flanked with wild garlic and past a barn crushed by a substantial fallen tree, still lying across (and through) its roof, to park at the foot of the Preseli hills.

Proceeding on foot, the tarmac road gave way to track and then footpath across the boggy land at the base of the hills. The gorse was in flower, its coconut scent like suntan lotion. I wish I’d been familiar with gorse scent first so suncream smelled like gorse instead.

As we walked towards the stone circle it felt hard to know why it had been built here. Why put a monument in a bog? And why make the stones so small you can’t even see it as you approach? Our friend told us people used to cross this land on foot by walking the ridge of the Preselis instead of traversing the marsh. But that was hard going in its own way of course and it became an early Christian pilgrimage route.

Soon we saw an upstanding stone and headed towards it. Behind it was the circle. The stones are barely knee height, perhaps they have sunk into the bog a little over the thousands of years? But as we got there, I understood it was in the perfect position. The circle echoed the shape of the hill range behind it and would be visible from all along the ridge. It was like centre stage in a giant amphitheatre.

A group standing in Gors Fawr stone circle

Seeing things differently

We chomped our shortbread and I thought about how the people who built Gors Fawr saw the land differently to us with our tarmac brains. I had thought of this location as somewhere remote and out of the way, but the circle showed it to be a commanding position, a kind of lynchpin of the landscape. I felt I was benefiting from the full-scale sense of place the builders of this monument must have had, and we might still have deep down.

Thanks, Gors Fawr!

*The rules of Stone Club are:

  1. Tell everyone about Stone Club (doing that right now)
  2. Stone Club is for everyone
  3. Pack a mac and pack a snack
  4. Rules are for breaking

P.S. I’ve previously managed to put a utopian spin on going to my veg plot too, you can read about that here.

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