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Just off the mountain road between Pantaspah and Calcoed is the mysterious Naid-y-March - The Horse’s Leap. The much stunted remains of two stones, set some 29ft apart from one another stand separated by a now safely capped mine shaft.

 

It is said that in the early 16th century, Thomas ap Harri, a prosperous local landowner, was wagered to leap his farm horse over the then open mine shaft. This he did, leaping some 22ft, in fact. The event was remembered by the placing of two standing stones at the spot of leap and landing.

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Once much larger, the antiquity of these standing stones has been often called into question. Probably unfairly.

The suggestion is that the two stones were, in fact, Bronze Age megaliths, removed from elsewhere on the mountain to their current spot. As stories go, it is a good one. The original tale says nothing of the stones, and so the possibility of their being brought to Naid-y-March could very well be right. Thomas Pennant, writing in the 18th century describes them in their current position, but rather dismisses any notion of their providence to anything other than the burial, ‘of some hero’.

 

‘On the mountain to the east of the common way to Calcoed, are two stones, about three feet high, and about twenty-two feet distant from each other. They are called Naid-y-March, or the horse’s leap, from a vulgar notion of the derivation of the name. They are of very ancient British origin, and probably the place of the internment of some hero whose body was deposited between stone and stone. The distance might be intended to give an idea of his mighty size.’

Thomas Pennant, The History of the Parishes of Whitewell and Holywell, p. 253

 

It is curious that Pennant would so quickly dismiss the Thomas ap Harri legend, given the name and especially since he was a Flintshire native. It is possible of course, that the story was profoundly local, to the near area, and that Pennant was not privy to the tale. It is also clear that the stones do not mark out a grave.

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Once whitewashed, it perhaps easy to understand how these stones may have seemed modern - not unlike traffic bollards.

Canon Ellis Davies viewed them many times in their current position, and it is clear from his writings, that the stones have weathered significantly in the last 70 years, reports suggesting that they were in fact somewhat taller as recently as the 1950s. Curiously, he makes no reference to their having been sited elsewhere in the past.

 

Excavations in 1983 by the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust dismissed the prehistoric antiquity of the stones, based entirely on their current position. The fact that they stood on either side of a far more recent mine shaft, and that one of the stones had been set in concrete was for them evidence that they were no older than the mine they flanked. However, they fully acknowledged that this assessment was based on their having not in fact been moved from somewhere else.

 

The legend has a ring of truth. And the fact that the original tale makes no mention of the stones as being present is telling. For me, the stones are as likely prehistoric as not, and were moved from nearby to mark the landowners leap. Such cavalier use of our ancient past is of course no odd thing. It is of continual interest to me that we reinvent such things for contemporary importance. As for where the stones were originally sited - who knows? The entire area is thick with tumulus and cairn - one example is just a stone's throw to the west . A little further distant to the west is a likely henge and cursus and there is thought to be another to the near east beneath the 4 hole of Holywell Golf Course. We do not lack for possible origins.

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For many years the site was overgrown and the stones hidden beneath gorse. They were, it seems, largely forgotten by all but those local to the area. Those from afar that had heard the tale and searched for the stones were often disappointed. However, the site was uncovered, made safe, rallied off and returned to the wider community in 2008, and now serves to remind us of the power and presence of the past.

 

 

 

Further Reading

 

 

K. Brassil, Excavations at Naid-Y-March Brynford, Flintshire Historical Society Journal Vol. 33, (1992)

 

E. Davies, The Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Flintshire, Cardiff, (1949)

 

T. Pennant, The History of the Parishes of Whitewell and Holywell, London, (1796)

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