I’ve come to the end of my ‘Sea Interlude’ posts that I wrote during lockdown, but maybe I’ll return to that theme at a later date! For now, it’s back to archaeology and one of the burial chambers I looked at in North Wales last year.
This is an unusual Neolithic tomb in the grounds of Plas Newydd, a National Trust property on the shore of the Menai Straights.
At first glance this site looks like 2 cromlechs, a large one and a little one sitting beside it, each with its own capstone. They could have been 2 separate tombs within one covering mound or possibly the small one was an ante-chamber or passage into the larger one. It’s very hard to tell from the configuration of the existing stones and it’s more than likely that some significant disturbance and removal of stone took place during the landscaping of the grounds in the 18th century.
The larger tomb has a large capstone sloping from SW to NE which is supported by 4 orthostats at the higher end and 2 at the lower end. The side stones are missing.
I have a small mixed media painting of this cromlech hanging on my wall at home and was looking forward to seeing it for real. I knew more or less what to expect but there was an added surprise when I got up close to it and ran my hands over the smooth blue-tinted stone and realised that the tomb builders had used blueschist, a very rare Precambrian rock with a lovely blue sheen.
Some of the best examples of blueschist in the world are found on Anglesey, particularly in a small area around Menai Bridge and Plas Newydd. The outcrops here are of such importance that they have Geological SSSI status.
The nearby famous passage grave of Bryn Celli Ddu is also built from blueschist and that made me wonder if any of the other burial chambers and standing stones in this part of Anglesey are also made from it. I guess that means I’ll have to go and have a closer look at some of them!
How to see Plas Newydd burial chamber –
Unfortunately, you can’t get access to it by paying to go round the Plas Newydd grounds as it isn’t in an area where the public are allowed. You can see it in the distance from the picnic area in the National Trust carpark but it isn’t a very good view. Permission has to be sought from NT staff in advance but this was no problem and when I arrived I was directed where to go by helpful staff at the visitor centre.
The burial chamber can just be seen in the field in front of the stable block. I passed a lovely wildflower garden on the way.
I’d liked to have had a good look round Plas Newydd and explored the extensive grounds but as the weather wasn’t very good we decided to save it for a sunny day, when we could go back and take a picnic. We never did manage to go back as it turned out to be the wettest time we’d ever had in Wales and after 3 wet weeks we had accumulated quite a list of places to go back to when the weather was better!