Six of us set off from the Village Hall at 10am and parked in Llancarfan behind the pub. The walk began with a short steep climb up to Pancross Farm where our legs got very wet skirting a wheat field, then a short road section taking us into Llanbethery. If our legs and feet were not already wet, they certainly were by the end of the next section which necessitated pushing through a field of tall wet grass then three more fields of waist high wheat before reaching Llancadle. A short steep descent found us chasing a herd of frisky looking young bullocks which had created an extremely muddy little path through some trees. We then crossed the river Kenson which flows into the Thaw and up the other side to the wide-open fields where the Vale of Glamorgan Show has taken place in recent times and had a coffee break by a stile.
The sun was now pushing through and, much refreshed, we went through the entrance to Fonmon Castle and down into a slippery dell crossing the Ffwl-y-Mwn brook and along a quiet lane close to the Highwayman pub.
‘’Fonmon Castle (Welsh: Castell Ffwl-y-mwn) is a fortified medieval castle near the village of Fonmon in the Vale of Glamorgan and a Grade I listed building. With its origins rooted in the 12th century it is today seen as a great architectural rarity, as it is one of few buildings that was drastically remodeled in the 18th century, but not Gothicized. The castle is believed to have remained under the ownership of just two families throughout its history; from Norman times the St Johns and from 1656 the descendants of Colonel Philip Jones’’
The trail now took us alongside and through more fields of wheat under the flight path to Cardiff airport, across a field of young maize and then a really awkward field of oil seed rape. Couldn’t go through it, had to go around it!! This was the trickiest part of the walk as the field was also edged with very tall stinging nettles, but we did surprise a handsome looking fox. An easy section then took us into Penmark and we settled down to lunch, leaning against the castle walls, and of course a gentle drizzle now began.
‘’Overlooking the 30m deep ravine of the River Waycock north of the church are the remains of a 13th century wall 1m thick around a court 65m long by 47m wide with a more thinly walled 16th century outer court to the west. The moat has been filled in but there are extensive footings on the east side of the court and on the west side are overgrown ruins of a tower 7m in diameter with a rectangular latrine turret to the south and various other structures. Gilbert de Umfraville had a timber castle on this site in the 12th century. In the time of Edward II Oliver de St John obtained the castle when he married Elizabeth Umfraville, the young heiress’’
A short discussion took place as to what kind of tree was growing in the castle grounds. Someone said a chestnut, someone a fig and someone a walnut.
The customary photo took place before we set off down the steep muddy bank crossing the Waycock river which joins the Kenson. An enormous bull with his harem and children were in the field as we climbed the steep bank on the other side but fortunately paid no heed to us. John gave us a short lecture on exactly what each of the overhead pylon cables were used for, where they came from and where they went. At Pen Onn, Graham pointed out the birthplace of Iolo Morganwg who he likened to a Boris Johnson of his day. ‘’Iolo’s real name was Edward Williams and he was raised in the village of Flemingstone’’.
There was now a short road section until we reached a junction leading to Moulton. The group were offered the choice of a further steep climb up to the hill fort or to return to the cars. Graham decided, as he had already been up to the fort on a previous occasion, to wait for us in the pub whilst the rest of us took an extremely boggy, muddy route up to the fort. It is remarkable how extensive the fort is and its ditch and ramparts still very evident. Another handsome fox was disturbed by our presence.
‘’The monument comprises the remains of a hillfort, which probably dates to the Iron Age period (c. 800 BC – AD 74, the Roman conquest of Wales). Hillforts are usually located on hilltops and surrounded by a single or multiple earthwork of massive proportions. Hillforts must have formed symbols of power within the landscape, while their function may have had as much to do with ostentation and display as defence.
Llanvithyn is situated on a promontory facing east. There are steep slopes all round except on the west where there is slightly rising ground. The hillfort consists of a double row of banks and ditches across the west end of the promontory. The outer bank is 1.7m high and 23m wide, with an outer ditch 4m wide and 0.8m deep on the outside. There is then a 6m wide ditch followed by another bank 1.5m high and 14m wide, with an external (east side) height of 1.2m. The outer bank is cut off at its south end by a farm track, but then continues, very low, down a steep slope to a small stream. The inner bank does not continue down the slope on the south side. On the north side the outer and inner banks continue a short distance down the slope, curving round to the east and then petering out.’’
We arrived back at the cars at 3.30pm after first popping briefly into Llancarfan church to see the famous medieval wall paintings. Total distance was eight and a half miles.