Tinkinswood - a very special place
Tinkinswood Burial Chamber in South Wales has been a very special place for me since my childhood when my mum and dad first took me to see it. Years later I was to return there many times on my own and with friends, always fascinated and drawn there by its magic and mystery as well as the beauty and the calm serenity of the countryside around it.
Tinkinswood Burial Chamber - a magical site in South Wales
Tinkinswood Burial Chamber has a massive capstone and is really worth seeing but many people know nothing about this ancient site just outside Cardiff.
Tinkinswood - a very special place
The Modern Antiquarian by Julian Cope
All about stone circles and prehistoric sites in Britain
|The Modern Antiquarian: A Pre-Millennial Odyssey Through Megalithic Britain|
The Modern Antiquarian includes a complete guide to over 300 prehistoric sites, in a relentlessly thorough gazetteer which divides Britain into seven color-coded sections.
A village in the Vale of Glamorgan
And it is very quiet there because although it is only a few miles from the bustling capital city of Cardiff the majority of people know nothing about the place.
To get there isn't that easy either because it is in some fields down a country lane and about a mile from the village of St Nicholas, which doesn't have that many buses going to it. It is well worth making the effort to find Tinkinswood though because it is simply unique.
Tinkinswood is said to be a megalithic burial chamber that was built around 4,000 BC in the Neolithic period and being no archaeologist myself I will accept that information.
It is also known as Castell Carreg (Stone Castle), Llech-y-Filiast (Slab of the Greyhound Bitch) and Maes-y-Filiast (Field of the Greyhound Bitch) and has many legends about it in Welsh folklore.
One of these says that if you spend the night there alone on the nights before May Day, St John's Day (23 June), or Midwinter Day you would either die, go mad, or become a poet. I did and I am still here, I was already pretty mad according to some people and already a poet so make of that whatever you will!
Tinkinswood Burial Chamber is technically a dolmen, which is a capstone on top and other stones below to support it. The massive capstone at Tinkinswood weighs about 36 metric tonnes (40 long tons) and measures 7.4 meters (24 feet) x 4.2 m (14 ft) and is the largest in the UK, and also in Europe. Apparently it was constructed some 1,000 years before they built Stonehenge. Perhaps it was part of a practice run for that but it is certainly a fantastic feat of ancient engineering! How did they shift that huge capstone we are left wondering today?
Tinkinswood was long ago covered in earth and grass as a huge mound but the soil over the passage of time has been removed to leave it standing exposed. It was excavated in 1914, and inside the chamber 920 human bones were discovered, which were nearly all broken. This meant that about fifty people of all ages and sexes were buried there, presumably from the settlement of villagers who lived nearby.
It is thought that Tinkinswood was used as a communal burial site and that the dead bodies were first left exposed to the elements before their bones were moved inside the chamber. There is a quite large circular pit in the ground behind it, which people today make fires in when they camp there and it is possible the bodies were first put in this pit.
King Arthur Pendragon
A knighting ceremony
Tinkinswood is very popular with local pagans and there are usually candles and flowers and other offerings left inside the chamber. Speaking of pagans, along with my good friend Pixi the busker and fellow singer-songwriter, I was knighted at Tinkinswood by King Arthur Pendragon as a Quest Knight of his druid order the Loyal Arthurian Warband.
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Pixi and Dave Sanger busking
Julian Cope's Modern Antiquarian
The ceremony was filmed for Sky TV for a documentary on reincarnation. Pixi and I emerged from inside the chamber through the gap in the stones in the front to meet the King waiting with his sword Excalibur to knight us. The idea was that as we left behind the womb of the chamber it would symbolise us being born again as members of Arthur's order.
There is an actual wood next to Tinkinswood Burial Chamber and it is a wonderful place for wildlife with many butterflies, rabbits and birds living there. At night owls circle overhead and a friend and I once heard them and the most amazing dawn chorus later on. We could also hear the traffic from afar starting to roar by on the busy road into Cardiff. After the natural sounds of the night and dawn it was a reminder that we were still close to the modern world and its noise and mechanised way of life. But Tinkinswood provides the perfect esape from all that!
Rock star turned author Julian Cope is a man who is also fascinated by the magic of the ancient sites too and he investigated Tinkinswood for his best-seller The Modern Antiquarian.
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.