an artist wishing for an idyllic scenic landscape to paint, has
been provided with one in north Wales. Situated north of Abergynolwyn
at the upper end of the Desenni valley, is the serene and picturesque
ruin of Castell-y-Bere.
One however should not be fooled by today's peaceful and tranquil
scene, for that was certainly not the case back in days of which
I tell: for then Castell-y-Bere was both a bastion of the Welsh way
of life and a operational Welsh fortress.
under the folds of Cader Idris to the north and its lesser mountainous
cohorts to the east and south, the castle was protected to a certain
extent from any surprise attack because of its location.
keep, allowed the lookouts standing on its turreted top allowed a view
of both the entire valley and the passes leading into it.
However, it was also a place which provided sanctuary in times
of danger, not only for the people of the valley, but also for
those living in the nearby mountains.
It was from Bere that " Llywelyn
the Great " set out south to meet with all the free princes
of Wales near Machynlleth, his aim was to set up a governing body for
Wales, which on achieving succeeded for just a few short years.
was from Bere that Llywelyn issued his call to arms
for his campaign of 1231. The campaign followed closely upon the
heels of another, which had occurred following a dispute with
Hubert de Burgh the Justiciar of England. In 1228 on a battlefield
near Ceri in Montgomeryshire Llywelyn's lightly armed infantry
and highly mobile mountain cavalry heavily defeated De Burg's
It was during a campaign in 1231 that Llywelyn became determined
that there should be no further gains in Wales by English forces,
with that view firmly in the back of his mind he led his troops
into parts of the nation where a Welsh army hadn't been seen for
almost a 100 years.
Before 1231 had ended he had burnt the
border town of Brecon almost to the ground, crossed
the mountains into Glamorganshire were his army
towns to the ground by means of fire, physically destroyed many
more stone by stone, none suffered the
of war more than
the major town of Neath which he destroyed beyond all recognition.
his death on the 11th of April 1240 " Llywelyn the Great"
called for all the princes in Wales to meet at the Abbey of Strata
Florida, there to pay homage to his son David. However, David
was soon in conflict with England's king Henry III, when Henry
marched against him David withdrew into hiding and died childless.
Despite the fact that when Llywelyn died Wales had lost perhaps
one of the greatest princes it had ever had, life at Bere continued
as it had always done. Justice was reeked upon those who had done
wrong, and the small garrison continued to hold the castle on
behalf of the princes of Gwynedd.
When Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, the grandson of Llywelyn the Great,
gained Gwynedd by the power of the sword, Castell-y-Bere was once
again back in the limelight. Once more it became campaign headquarters
as Llywelyn swept through Wales in his campaigns of 1257 and 1258.
During the years that followed, to this small castle, situated
under the glare of the ever watchful Cader Idris mountain, came
every prince in Wales; there to pay homage to their Sovereign
leader. Sometimes the minor Princes were summoned, sometimes they
came of their own free will. How long it may have continued to
be that way I don't know, but when the snow caused the river Desenni
to flood in the early spring of 1282 and Llywelyn began an advance
to the south once again, the life of Castell y Bere was being
shortened by every passing day.
When twelve months later, following the defeat and death of Llywelyn
at Builth in December 1282, two English armies began to advance
through the mountains one from the south one from the south east,
it signaled the beginning of the end.
On April 25th 1283, when the small garrison of the castle marched
out to surrender, they found that facing them on the Desenni plain
were some 10,000 English troops camped in the snow. That my friends
for Castell-y-Bere, was the
Bye Bastion of the North
It was from Castell y Bere
in the spring of 1282
With an army of men from Wales all good and true
That the Prince of Wales did march south with his host
To advance upon his enemies along the Cardigan Coast
He left behind in that picturesque valley of Desenni
Those that were to guard the castle, they weren't many
But they diligently walked the ramparts by day and by night
Their aim: to make sure that the security inside was always tight
Under Cader Idris for ten months things remained just the same
Then from Builth Wells down in the south the disastrous news came
There had been a crushing defeat, a devastating blow, call it what
No more would Llywelyn return to Bere, there to eat and drink his
With the news except for the garrison to the mountains everyone
For two English armies were advancing from the south each one hell-bent
To capture that castle situated there on that flat Desenni river
So that from then on, there would be no resistance from there for