Bedd Taliesin with Sarn Elen in the background
There is a village not far from where I live called Tre Taliesin. Many people will say that it is so named because it is the birthplace of the legendary poet. In fact the name was changed c. 1820 from Comins y Tafarn Bach ('Common of the Little Tavern') because the chapel elders didn't want the village associated with a defunct drinking establishment. The new name was taken from a burial mound on the line of an old Roman road on the ridge above the village. The mound is known as Bedd Taliesin (Taliesin's Grave). It is claimed that a large skull was recovered from the mound before 1800, but the mound is dated to the Bronze Age by archaeologists, in which case it cannot be the grave of a supposed 6th century poet. A discussion of past explorations of the mound can be found HERE.
The Roman road on which it stands is known as Sarn Elen and it runs across West Wales between the Roman towns of Maridunum (Carmarthen) and Segontium (Caernarfon). The origins of the legendary name Sarn Elen are disputed but it has been linked to the story 'The Dream of Macsen Wledig' usually included in the collection of medieval Welsh tales known as The Mabinogion. But this Elen is more likely to be the daughter of Eudaf, a British chieftain who held Segontium in the 4th century. If links between the road and any particular Elen or Helen are disputed, the existence of the road is not. In some places it is no longer visible, in others it is now part of the public highway. The stretch of the road besides which Bedd Taliesin stands follows high ground between the Roman forts of Trawscoed in the Ystwyth valley and Pennal in the Dyfi valley.
I walked up to it recently following a path along the River Clettwr which it crosses on a ridge along the western edge of the Cambrian Mountains. The steep, wooded sides of the valley enclose a green, mossy place where the river rushes down through rocks to the sea. At the top of the valley several streams cascade down from higher ground to swirl together under an old bridge crossed by a single-lane gated road.This is Sarn Elen, tarmaced here but continuing further north as a green track before disappearing into a forestry plantation.
I followed the road down from the bridge to where it passes the mound. Like most things associated with Taliesin, myth, legend and history are a tangle that cannot easily be undone.When did the mound get it's current name? Certainly Edward Lhuyd knew it in the 17th century. Before that we can't be sure.
From the mound I left Sarn Elen and crossed fields full of sheep with lambs and dropped down into a forestry plantation to follow a track which eventually led back to my starting point. From this track there are dramatic views over Borth Bog (Cors Fochno) and the Dyfi Estuary. These are places with their own stories with which the legendary Taliesin is entangled.
The wind had rain in it. I took it as a blessing.
Borth Bog from the forestry track