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.

 

 

 

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

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.

Archaeology, Dragons and Hillforts

Last week I got to take in the views of the most dramatic and beautiful valleys in Wales. I went on a two day field trip to the National Trust offices at Craflwyn, a foothill of Snowdonia (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/craflwyn-and-beddgelert/).

 After a very early start on Thursday morning we arrived at Craflwyn to meet with some other members of the National Trust archaeological team. After a brief catch up and team meeting we set off to explore some of the local archaeology.

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The team keeping an eye out for dragons.

First up on our sites to visit we went to check out the home of the Red Welsh Dragon. After a brisk walk up the hill side we arrived at Dinas Emrys, the site of the ancient hill fort. Dinas Emrys was first occupied in the Iron Age and then again in the 12th century, but the site is also shrouded in mythical tales of King Arthur and Merlin and is supposedly home of the legendary Welsh Red Dragon.

The site is currently part of an EDRF funded heritage program to bring to life the history of the site (you can find out more about this here http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/article-1355772161484/).

Day 2 of our field trip and another walk around the foothills of Snowdonia, this time to Hafod y Llan to view construction of the new hydro electric power scheme. The walk took us a short distance along the course of the river whilst taking in dramatic views of Mt Snowdonia, unfortunately not enough time on this trip to make it to the top though.

After a hearty lunch we set off on our long drive back to Swansea in South Wales but I will be back soon to conquer Snowdonia!!!

D Day Archaeology

I know it has been a while since I last blogged but I have been mega busy and I have sooo much stuff to tell you all, just as soon as I have the time. But in the mean time I want to tell you about something I did yesterday which seems quite timely.

Yesterday afternoon (6th of June, 2013) I was lucky enough to stumble across this little gem of a beach known as Ragwen Point.

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Ragwen Point.

Ragwen Point is under the care of the National Trust and is located off the beaten track in Pendine, Carmarthenshire. Due to its isolated location the beach is little explored which makes it the perfect idyllic spot, even on the hottest days of summer few people can be found here making it the perfect spot for a peaceful afternoon and a whole beach to yourself!

However, this isn’t just your typical beach, you won’t find arcades, chip shops or ice cream vans here. Instead are some unusual structures clearly suffering the effects of time. Although difficult to discern, you would be right to think that they must have been important at some point in history and they must have played some significant role in some form of activity.

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Remnants of wall structure.

 

 

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Concrete block structure.

 

Now rewind 69 years to June the 6th 1944 and Operation Overlord was just beginning, starting with the amphibious assault (Operation Neptune) of mainland Western Euorpe. Allied forces were storming the beaches of Normandy in a last ditched attempt to force the axis back into Berlin.  

Ragwen Point played a pivotal role in the success of this operation as it was used to train and prepare allied troops for the invasion. Probably chosen because of its isolated location it allowed the allied forces to train in secret without exposing any information of the operation itself.

Back in 2013 and what you are looking at is the remnants of the preparations for Operation Neptune. Ragwen Point is a living museum of the events that took place 69 years ago. It is hard to imagine that this peaceful beach was once ringing with the sound of live ammunition, the sea swamped with navy vessels and troops storming the beach, but the evidence still remains and Ragwen Point proudly displays its role in one of the greatest military operations in military history.

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Shell damage to concrete block structure.

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