My ordance survey map showed me that I was near Wat's Dyke, an earthwork built long ago to keep the Welsh from the English kingdoms. I left my wagon and investigated, walking beside the meandering path of a stream through a wet green field. Before I had wandered far I felt myself surrounded again by that power that hangs about the corners of this land. It did not feel quite like Cornwall, but similar, rich and strange with Celtic mysteries.
Wat's Dyke was only a raised mound in the green. I saw that my ordance survey map showed a much longer dyke, Offa's Dyke, and resolved to seek it out as well. Of King Offa I had heard. He was a king of Mercia in the 700s, and appears to have been very successful, becoming a kind of supreme ruler over all kingdoms south of the Humber. Offa's Dyke is a great fortification he built against the Welsh, consisting of a wall and a ditch, and stretching from sea to sea.
My map showed that near here the Dyke was very high, taking advantage of the natural fortifications of a cliff. I returned to my wagon and soon found a narrow track that seemed to lead in the right direction. It twisted and climbed, sometimes looking more like a ditch than a road, and sometimes looking like it was about to become a dead-end. Sheep grazed freely on the road. My horses are sure-footed, but soon I was concerned for the axles, as the wagon bounced jarringly in and out of the ruts. Surely this road had not been built for more than foot traffic, and I eventually left the horses to graze and continued on foot. A path led almost straight up the side of a high grassy hill. It looked as if there was a ruin at the top, perhaps a tower that I thought might be part of the Dyke.
I am a good climber and had spent a large part of the last weeks walking, but, even so, I was winded and my legs were shaking and I had to stop several times to rest among the ever-present sheep, before I eventually reached the summit of that great height. My wagon and horses were tiny specks below me.
As I approached, breathing hard, relieved to have reached the top, I raised my head and saw two great gate-stones ahead of me. I had not found Offa's Dyke at all, but an ancient fort. I could see the ruins of ancient towers and walls. Sitting down thankfully on the ground, and checking my map more carefully, I found that I was in the remains of Castell Dinas Bran, Bran's fort, legendary hiding place of the Holy Grail.
After catching my breath, I set about exploring the fort. Just before the gate-stones there is a deep ditch, obviously an ancient part of the fort defenses. I had to cross the ditch to enter the main part of the fort. Fortunately, there were none of Bran's men waiting to send me away.
The fort is very old, and not much of it remains. All over the top of the hill, there are pieces of the ancient wall, but none of them are more than about ten feet long, and most of them are too low even to hide a traveller from the wind. Most of the remaining walls could be confused with standing stones, but at least they made it easy to see the magnificent view in all directions.
I wandered all over the fort, admiring the view in every direction, gazing into the distance at more of the mist-covered mountains of Wales. From one of the few remaining windows I could see down to the road. On the other side of the road was a rocky cliff, and at the top of it some structure which I realized must be part of Offa's Dyke. I had climbed the wrong hill.
There were a few long sections of wall, and I was able to gain refuge from the wind in a small, and surprisingly well maintained, corridor between two walls which still stand over six feet tall. It occurred to me that if anything, a Grail for instance, were indeed hidden in this fort, this corridor might be an excellent place to start looking. Unfortunately I had left my digging tools back in my wagon, and I was far too tired to make the climb again.
By the time I had reached my wagon, my horses were well-rested and being evaluated by a passing farmer. He was surprised by our presence on that road, which, he told me, no one used anymore. He gave me directions to a far better road, which ran past his farm, and hitched a ride on my wagon as far as his farmhouse. I considered asking him whether he thought the Holy Grail might be hidden in Castell Dinas Bran, but as he was a local, and quite possibly one of Bran's descendants, I doubt he would have replied. At any rate, I was having great difficulty understanding anything he said.
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