One year has already passed…..

I am sad to say that my placement as the National Trusts Community Archaeologist in South Wales has come to an end. I have had a fantastic year and have undertaken a range of activities from leading guided walks, recording earthworks, investigating WWII defences and conducting geophysical surveys, all in some amazing locations.

 

During the final weeks of my placement I was lucky enough to borrow a resistivity kit from the National Trust in the South East and get back to my roots with some geophysical surveying.

 

First up was an undisclosed site in Monmouthshire. The site was believed to be that of an old Deserted medieval Village. Looking around the field there appears to be an extensive and complex network of earthworks including banks, ditches, platforms and hollows. This certainly supports the hypothesis that the remains of a village may exist just beneath the surface. Lying in the centre of the field is a tumbled pile of stone atop of a small hillock, closer inspection of the stones reveals badly eroded ornate markings, some people believe these to be the sad remains of a 12th Century Chapel.

 

Working with a small team of volunteers we set about conducting a geophysical survey in a small section of the field hoping to find some small evidence that might suggest elements of the deserted medieval village survive beneath the surface. A resistivity survey can be quite time consuming and laborious, especially as we were using 0.5m intervals to collect data to achieve the best possible resolution but it was worth it as the results were astonishing.

 

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In the north of the data plot the outline of a four sided oblong anomaly. It is aligned east to west and situated just slightly offset from the small hillock of tumbled stone. Is this the footprint of the 12th Century medieval church? There appears to be some other anomalies surrounding this that may also be archaeological in nature, but the possible church has shown up magnificently against the natural background geology of the site.

 

After surveying the medieval village we switched to something a bit older and had a go at surveying a prehistoric site in the Brecon Beacons. This is the site of the recently discovered Bronze Age rock art possibly dating back to the early Bronze Age. Here our aim was to find any evidence of human activity within the immediate vicinity of the rock art. Unfortunately the soil conditions here were not favourable for a resistivity survey, although the weather was nice and sunny the ground was saturated throughout the survey from recent rainfall which is likely to have masked any subtle archaeological features, but the volunteers still had a great time trying something new.

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Many, many, many Thanks to Claudine Gerrard, the National Trusts archaeologist for South Wales, for giving me the opportunity to work with the Trust in South Wales. I have loved every minute of it. Even though I do not work for the National Trust anymore I am looking forward to continuing working in South Wales as an archaeologist and will hopefully get to work with the National Trust on projects in the future which I will blog about.

 

 

 

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Rare Bronze Age Rock Art Discovered in the Brecon Beacons

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If you have seen the news this morning then you might have already heard about the exciting discovery of Bronze Age rock art found in the Brecon Beacons. Well now is your chance to get involved, we will be hosting a community archaeology project to investigate the history of this stone and see if we can learn more about its origins.

The archaeological investigation will take place next week (13 – 16 March) and I am going to need your help. Starting on Thursday 13 March rock art specialist, Dr George Nash, will be on hand to guide volunteers though the process of recording rock art. In addition to this I will be on site from Thursday to Sunday conducting a geophysical survey around the stone.

For more information about the sessions and details on how to get involved click the link below. Spaces are very limited so please book fast.

Rock art survey

Storey Arms Anti Invasion Defences

From the 13th to the 16th February 2014 we are going to be undertaking a condition monitoring and topography survey of the archaeology at the Storey Arms (located on the A470 between Brecon and Merthyr Tydfil, approx4 four miles south of Libanus). This event is open to members of the public to come along, take part and help us record the legacy that World War II has left on the site.

If you would like to take part then please email me at charles.enright@nationaltrust.org.uk or complete the form below and I will provide you of all the information you will need.

Check out the section below for the historical background of the site.

Event Poster

 

Storey Arms Anti Invasion Defences

Owned by the National Trust the Storey Arms contains a wealth of archaeology acting as a constant reminder of the threat of invasion the United Kingdom faced during the early years of World War II. The car park itself used to be the old Drovers’ road from Merthyr Tydfil to Brecon, and it is at this point which it passed the Storey Arms coach house.  The coach house was constructed in the mid 1800s and was demolished in the 1920s, all that remains of the Storey Arms are the ruinous remnants of its foundations.

The anti invasion defence network was constructed at the beginning of 1941 in reponse to the serious threat of a Nazi invasion of the United Kingdom.  Its purpose was to protect the industrial heart of England from a Welsh approach by an invading army. The topography here provided a natural defence against any invaders and this was complimented by strategically placed man made defences.

An enemy force advancing from the south would be forced to follow the natural lay of the land, meandering along the base of the narrow steep sided valley. On first approach to the Storey Arms the enemy would be faced with a long line of anti tank blocks on the north bank of the River Blaen Taf Fawr. The anti tank blocks extending east to west, blocking further access to the north. Navigating around the tank blocks would have been virtually impossible due to the steep sloping sides of the valley.

 If the enemy had been successful in breeching the anti tank blocks they would be met by a series of pillboxes located on a sharp meander of the river.

The defence network were manned around the clock by the Home Guard. Their duties were to man the pillboxes and conduct regular patrols of the reservoirs in search of paratroopers. The Home guard officers were issued with weapons but no communication devices, so should they spot an invading force they would have to travel to the nearest MOD camp at Brecon to inform the MOD and call for reinforcements.

 

 

 

 

 

Searching for Mass Graves in the Ukraine

Last year I spent two weeks in the Ukraine looking for mass graves using geophysics. Nost of these were from the Holocaust and other victims of genocide, but we also surveyed other sites that are culturally important to the Jewish community such as chapels and traditional cemeteries.

Over 1200 sites have already been researched and are expected of containing mass graves, but this number is likely to increase as research continues.

We are currently planning a much larger scale project to survey as many of the sites as possible.

You can read about the pilot project in the attached file.

Searching for Mass Graves in the Ukraine

Walk the Worm

On Saturday morning I led a guided walk of Worm’s head in Rhosilli, Gower (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/rhossili-and-south-gower-coast/)

 

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The group assembled on a grey Saturday morning outside the National Trust shop in Rhossili Village for the start of our walk. During the course of the day we walked about 4 miles in which we covered 700,000 years of history from the Palaeolithic period to the 21st century.

 We talked about the landscape and how it has changed as a result of the Ice Ages and how our early ancestors would have adapted and survived here.

 En route to the worm we walked past Prehistoric caves, Iron Age Hill Forts, Deserted Medieval Villages, Shipwrecks and relics of World War II.

 The worm is a tidal island and the causeway can only be crossed at low tide. The walk across the causeway can be quite demanding but everybody made it across without getting wet feet.

 

ImageWorms Head: The causeway is completely covered at high tide and island can only be accessed at low tide.

 

The island itself has apparently been inhabited since 800BC, with the remains of an Iron Age Fort and a Medieval Farm still visible.

 We stopped for lunch at the tip of the island before making our way back. However, on our way back across the Causeway the heavens opened and we were caught in a torrential rain shower with no shelter. Luckily this didn’t last too long and the clouds began to break up exposing the blue sky beneath. Within about ten minutes you could have easily mistaken the day of an early Summers day and not the middle of October.

 It is quite common to see seals bathing on the rocks of the island and just when it looked like we weren’t going to see any we stumbled across this chap  on the final leg of the causeway.

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At the end of the tour, because it was such a nice day I couldn’t help myself and had to go for a walk on Rhossili beach and get a closer look at some of the shipwrecks.

 

ImageRhossili Beach, you could easily be forgiven for thinking this was a summers day and not the middle of October.

 

 

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Remains of the Helvetia, wrecked on the beach of Rhossili in 1887. Worms head in the background.

Community (Military) Archaeology at Cwm Gwdi

For the past few weeks I have been planning my very own community project. I had picked my site (Cwm Gwdi military training camp), gathered information, collected the maps, wrote the project design, conducted the risk assessments, set up the teams and planned the tasks for each day.

 Finally last week everything fell into place and I went off into the field with my teams to begin surveying the site.

 Our task was simple…. Record the 20th century military earthworks and come to some conclusions on what they may have been used for, all whilst having a good time.

 Military archaeology is one of my favourite aspects of archaeology so Cwm Gwdi was of particular interest to me. The site contains a range of dug-outs and earthworks associated to military training activities.

 The site has been in use since the late Victorian era and allegedly used to prepare soldiers for the Boer War. Military activity continued on the site up until the 1980’s.

 The teams quickly set about identifying remnants of the military occupation of the site, locating key features such as dug-outs, slit trenches and ballistic banks. We came up with some interesting theories as to how the features might have been used.

 Once we were ready out came the measuring tapes so that we could make some plan drawing of the features, which I will be including in my report for the surveys.   

 The weather held off and we had a very successful week of surveying, with everybody (including myself) learning a new skill.

 The military camp covers a huge area and includes more archaeological features than we had time to record. There will hopefully be a return to Cwm Gwdi at some point in the not to distant future to carry on with the fantastic work already done by my volunteers.

 If you are interested in hearing me or would like to register interest for any future events then get in contact: charles.enright@nationaltrust.org.uk.

 

Here are some photos of the volunteers surveying at Cwm Gwdi last week……

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End of the Worm

End of the Worm

The Worm, Gower

Community Archaeology at the Cwm Gwdi Military Training Camp

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Here is the second free archaeological event that is being hosted by the National Trust this autumn.

This time we are going to be investigating the Cwm Gwdi military training camp at Brecon.

This training camp has been used since the late Victorian era until the 1980’s. The Victorian officers used to camp up here in tents but in later times building structures were put in place, the platforms of which still remain hidden among the trees.

Throughout the training area a complex system of banks and ditches still remain waiting to be mapped out.

Archaeological Field Survey Event

Here is the first of two free event this autumn with the National Trust. We are looking for volunteers to join us in an earthwork survey of a deserted medieval village on the Clytha Estate, South Wales.

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Prehistoric Survival Skills 101: Flint Knapping

 

 

Last week I tried my hand at some prehistoric survival skills and had a go at some flint knapping.

 

To be honest I never had much of an appreciation for prehistoric stone tools and always preferred my archaeology to be a bit more contemporary. But I had a really good day and never realised before just how much skill and precision was needed to make these tools.

 

After a brief introduction to flint knapping I actually got the opportunity to have a go at making my own scraper… You can check out my final product below, a museum worthy artefact I think!!

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                     Before                                                    After

 

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