Friday, 7 December 2012

Carreg Coetan Arthur (neolithic dolmen)

A few weeks ago my brother and myself travelled into the wilds of Pembrokeshire to the south west tip of Wales. Just one of the many sites we visited over a weekend was Carreg Coetan Arthur. This is a neolithic dolmen (burial chamber) near Newport which dates from around 3000 BC. This dolmen is just a few miles north of the Preseli Hills which was the original source of the Stonehenge bluestones.
The site is actually located on a small private housing estate, within a few feet of someone's bungalow which definitely impacts on your first impression of the place. How and why the local authorities allowed housing to be built so near to this scheduled ancient monument is slightly puzzling. For one lucky householder it almost appears that they have massive, unique ornamental garden feature in their garden. It's better than a garden gnome I suppose.
The remains consist of a four metre long capstone lying horizontally across four smaller vertical stones. The capstone actually only balances on two of the uprights, something I only noticed when I was crouched underneath and which prompted me to move out the way pretty quickly, even though it has probably been like this for many hundreds, even thousands, of years.
The grave would have been originally covered with earth; smaller stones would have been used to a create a facing for the entrance of the tomb, several large stones still lie scattered nearby.
The idea for the model came about after reading this post by Mad Guru where he used large wood
chippings to create models of rocky outcrops. Thinking I could use a similar technique I kept on the lookout for appropriate material. I must have had some funny looks from people visiting the German market in Birmingham who may have wondered what I was doing, apparently staring into the empty flowers beds in the city centre when I was actually looking for suitable pieces of chipping.

However after I was unable to find any pieces that I could use for the model I decided to use blue foam instead. As the foam is very easy to cut and carve I realised I could make a more accurate model of the Carreg Coetan dolmen.

The foam uprights were stuck on to an old CD with wood glue. covering the central hole in the CD with a piece of plastic card at the same time. Once happy with the positions the CD was coated with wood glue and then covered with small stones and sharp sand. After being left to dry overnight I then fixed the capstone in place. To help secure it I cut small straight sections from a paperclip, dipped into wood glue and stuck these into the upright stones, pushing the capstone on top and once again left it to dry overnight.
The foam appeared a bit too smooth so in order to add texture I applied a thin layer of watered down ready mixed plaster, using a old stiff brush to give it a rougher, more stone like effect.
Once the plaster and glue was dry I drybrushed the stone, building up the layers of grey paint until finally finishing off with a white paint.

After applying several layers of matt varnish, and once again leaving to dry (making this model seemed to involve an awful lot of waiting), the model was finished off with grass and a couple of randomly placed tufts.