Ancient Habitation of the Dyfi Valley

The area shows evidence of human habitation back to the Bronze Age, including three minor stone circles, a scattering of monoliths (often named Maen Llwyd in Welsh, or Grey Stone), and large numbers of tumuli and round barrows. Cairns of undetermined date are scattered far and wide (Carn, pl. Carnedd), along with large numbers of hill forts (sometimes prefixed Caer), a Roman fortlet or two, some remains of motte and bailey castles (frequently called Domen), medieval churches and granges, Holy Wells (Ffynnon), hut circles, settlements, and ancient field systems. Ordnance Survey maps show only the most prominent of these, and far more have now been identified than are immediately obvious to the untrained observer - and that includes me. Much as I like the idea, I have never been convinced of the theory of ley lines joining places of ancient significance and, now that I can see just how many ancient structures exist in such a small area, I find it it even harder to accept. Surely it is almost impossible NOT to link many of these with straight lines?

It is generally accepted that a gradual Iron Age Celtic incursion over the period 800-400 BC led to most of the country being held by a branch known as the Goedels, with a swathe of Mid Wales being occupied by the Brythons. There were five tribes in residence when the Romans invaded Britain, and they named them: the Deceangli in the North, the Cornovii in the Marches to the East, the Demetae in the South West, the Silures in the South East and, spread across the wild country of Mid-Wales including the entire Dyfi Valley, the Ordovices. The Ordovices are generally assumed to be Brythonic in origin, unlike those tribes of Goidelic extraction to the North and South. At first the Ordovices, under the leadership of Caradawg (Caracticus), inflicted heavy losses on the Romans but, eventually, in the late 70s AD they were defeated by Agricola.

The Romans left their mark on the area, in the form of fortlets at Pennal and Erglodd, and at Gallt-y-Gog, Machynlleth. The term Wylfa given to a hill outside Machynlleth might refer to a Roman lookout that was situated there. Sarn Helen, a Roman road that stretched from Caernarfon to Llandovery, is in evidence to the North of the area and also to the South, but very inconveniently its route has been lost as it traverses the Dyfi Valley.

Inspection of the map (partially derived from information compiled by RCAHMW and/or Crown copyright) shows the very common occurrence of hillforts and, although these were certainly not built by the Romans, there is some confusion as to when they were built. Are they pre-historic, contemporary with the Roman occupation, or post-Roman? Some scholars believe that they were lived in by the Ordovices.