From sacred mountain to sacred water and a place of the Knights Templar?
This unique village lies 600 feet above Prestatyn. It nestles close to the top of the hillside, a mere two miles from the sea. From the Neolithic period this place has been occupied. From the village a great view can be had in many directions, the Irish Sea, the Great Orme, Snowdonia and closer by Gop Hill. On top of the Gop Hill there is a great man-made mound, the second largest in Britain, probably built between the end of the Mesolithic and the beginning of the Neolithic age. The mound has been excavated but nothing has been found within, but directly below it on the south side can be found a cave. This cave too has been excavated more than once and within it a group of skeletons were found in the foetal position.
Outside its entrance a beautiful hand axe was excavated. It was made of Penmaenmawr stone and it was thought that this was a votive offering to the dead buried within the cave. An amateur historian and archaeologist, Thomas Allen Glenn had excavated a large area on the ridges overlooking Prestatyn at Gwaenysgor. He found a large Neolithic village with walkways, living quarters etc and the materials that they were using for polishing, to a high degree, rough cut out stones in the shape of an axe from the Garreg Llwyd factory at Penmaenmawr. So we have here a link of early industry.
The finished axes, it is presumed, were traded all over Britain as they have been found far afield. This cave below the great Gop mound, perhaps, can be looked at like this: their dead were put back in the birth channel, in the foetal position, to be reborn through spirit through the great mound. I know some people think of it this way.
It may be that these people were valuable to the populous at that period and after burial the mound may have been raised as a monument to them. The truth is we will never know but curiously there was another mound in the village of Gwaenysgor itself, close by the church. I often think, was this a mirror of the Gop or just a burial. Apparently it was dug into, possibly people looking for treasure, as treasure had been found nearer to Llanasa, a pot full of silver. However this mound at Gwaenysgor held nothing, in a similar fashion to the Gop. Perhaps it was for festivals.
It was calculated that in the Neolithic period, by the size of the villages that ran from Gwaenysgor along the mountainside over to Dyserth to the castle site, a population of around 1,800 people would have lived along the ridge here at the end of the sea. Along this ridge, water had been trapped in ponds from the last Ice Age, therefore along with the springs and wells and, if the climate was better, which they say it was in those times, it would have afforded a good living area, as fishing, shellfish, land animals and birds would have been available in their environment.
The Bronze Age people re-used the cave at the Gop as their burial place too and skeletons from that period were also excavated. Many tombs (small mounds) are situated from Gwaenysgor, leading down the golden Grove to Llanasa on both sides of the valley and Axton on the south.
One of these Bronze Age tombs had a secret. On the entrance to the tomb was a large round stone with a large hole through the centre and from that hole incised lines could be seen that made it look like the sun with it’s rays. This was propped up by two smaller stones. It may have been to point the sun’s rays into the tomb as it was south facing. Perhaps these people thought that by planting their dead, who had incidentally been cremated and placed in a ceramic vase at the centre of the tomb, which like trees when planted, the sun aids their growth through the earth and so to life. Again we will never know.
It has been noticed that the Bronze age people usually buried their dead by water. Did a river once run down the golden Grove towards Llanasa Ffynon Wen to the north of the Gop Hill? Its spring flows underground and I was told that a dye was put in it to see where it went. It eventually emerges in the pools at the back of Gyrn Castle. These old water courses were cut out when the ice was lying on top of the Trelawnyd Plateau. One of the major places where it found its way through, apart from Golden Grove was Nant Fuach. Nant Fuach is situated along the road that leads past Mia Hall towards Meliden and just before you start to go up an incline towards the end of the road, it is on the left. This valley was caused by a huge cave that took the water from the glacier down towards the sea. Eventually, the roof of the cave collapsed.
It has been likened to the Cheddar Gorge only on a smaller scale. Prehistoric people buried their dead here too, as there was a rock shelter. The quartz that was mined as spar may have been a clue to them choosing this site. If you rub two pieces of quartz together you will notice a faint glow. This is not caused by friction, it is because you agitate a positive and a negative that is trapped within the quartz. This is truly magical and probably the reason why they gave two pieces of quartz to certain wells as votive offerings and also why it is found scattered at the Druids’ Circle at Penmaenmawr and is also associated with burials.Interestingly, there was another small standing stone that sat on a mound that was surrounded by a wall at Axton and at the top of the standing stone was another small hole. Were these two tombs linked?
Historian, the late Donald Bell of Gronant, told me he had a photograph of this stone where a goat had been tethered to it. Going back to the holed stone at Llanasa, the local people seemed to have been terrified by this stone. It was said that a type of goblin lived beneath it and, sure enough, one day a man passing by heard thunder and lightening and was grabbed and taken underground. He appeared later at his dwelling place in a frightful state.These superstitions were once rife in the area; such as tales of ghosts and places to be avoided at all costs. On the other side were sacred places, such as Gop Hill, for like the mountains in India and Tibet this surely, also, is a sacred mountain.
Ghosts are reputed to have been seen; a Roman General and Queen Boudica and the final battle for The Gop which overlooks the Flintshire Plateau. This is a relatively flat plain that starts from the rise above Dyserth to Ysceifiog and beyond and this was said to have been the great battle ground where the Romans, coming from Anglesey where they had been trying to deal with the Druids, who of course probably escaped to Ireland, but on hearing of Boudica’s revolt headed towards England. Boudica trying to relieve the Druids (their religious leader) was also on the move and it was thought by at least three historians that it was here they met. The Romans came up from Rhuddlan plain, up through the small gap through Dyserth and may have made the Gop the centre of their forces.
It is said, in tradition that Queen Boudica was not only born in Flintshire but was buried there too. Many places in the Trelawnyd area have suggested to antiquarians that a great battle had taken place here. Some twenty field names suggest action. At the end Boudica is said to have taken poison along with her daughters at Penrallt. On the road from Berthengam to Whitford.A mound in the fork of the road, which intersects at Penrallt andleads down Sarn Hwlcin is said to be their resting place. Others have said her gravestone was found at Caerwys and it now rests in Whitford Church.
However another story has another stone. This one was taken to Mostyn Hall for safekeeping. Recently I was asked by a television company to write a few short lines that were to be broadcast live from The Gop. This was because Mel Gibson’s film company had bought the film rights to a book called Boadicea and were looking in earnest on where to film it. How fitting it would be to be filmed here. Although many other places in England have been pointed out as the place of the final battle, I believe we have as much evidence as they do for it to have happened here. Something kept the memory of a great battle alive here, although it has been pointed out that this area was decimated because a group of Roman cavalry men had been massacred here by, presumably, the local tribe.
With thanks to historian, Paul Parry, for this contribution.