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by Sandy Gerrard

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During 2012 Cadw considered the Bancbryn stone alignment for scheduling.  In October, some 9 months into the process, they were approached by the “South Wales Guardian” for an update. The people of South Wales were informed that: “No evidence was discovered to support the firm dating of the feature, but investigations concluded the most likely interpretation is that this is a relatively modern grazing boundary or route marker.”

Recently it has to come to light that at the time this statement was released the assessment process had not even started. Amazingly it would appear that Cadw published their conclusion before they had even started the assessment. Might this be the reason they appear to be unwilling to accept the prehistoric interpretation?

Sadly, as well as being somewhat premature the Cadw statement completely ignores the investigations reported in the Heritage Journal here which demonstrated that the interpretations favoured by Cadw were utterly untenable.  Is Cadw in the habit of ignoring the evidence that does not suit them or is this a one off?

Either way an explanation would be appreciated.

From The South Wales Guardian:

“BACK in October 2012 we reported what was initially thought to be a neolithic stone row on Betws Mountain was probably just a relatively modern grazing boundary or route waymarker.
At least that was the conclusion of experts from Cadw after inspecting the find.
But now the goal-posts – sorry, waymarkers – appear to have been moved because a senior Cadw inspector has conceded their initial identification may have been somewhat hasty. This begs the question: if those stones aren’t grazing boundaries or waymarkers, what the heck are they”
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Readers of the Journal are welcome to submit their own ideas on this mystery.
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puzzle

See more here

http://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2014/03/10/a-stone-alignment-at-bancbryn-mynydd-y-betws-carmarthenshire-part-one/

A STONE ALIGNMENT AT BANCBRYN, MYNYDD Y BETWS, CARMARTHENSHIRE (PART FIVE)

by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Abstract
In January 2012 a previously unrecorded alignment of stones was identified on the southern slope of Bancbryn, Carmarthenshire. Subsequent research has indicated that this stone alignment shares common characteristics with examples in South West England and sits firmly within an area previously identified as containing a significant number of prehistoric cairns. A scheduling assessment conducted by Cadw has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation. This article seeks to re-examine the evidence and utilise it to present a persuasive interpretation supporting a prehistoric explanation for this alignment.

Case for a prehistoric stone alignment at Bancbryn (continued)

30. “At Merrivale, Dartmoor, the stone alignments appear to separate a group of ceremonial monuments from a concentration of hut circles and settlement sites.”

Discussion: The stone alignment at Bancbryn is not known to separate ritual and settlement areas, but the idea that alignments can perform the function of separating different zones is one that has a very real significance at Bancbryn. Looking along the upper part of the stone alignment on Bancbryn, Hartland Point (Devon) forms a very obvious distant but precise focus on clear days.

bancbryn27

This relationship is clearly of interest and almost certainly of significance. Walking downhill (southwards) along the upper length of the alignment an observer always has Hartland Point just visible over the shoulder of the intervening hill. The position and orientation of the alignment precisely allows this juxtaposition to be maintained until at the point where it is finally lost, the axis of the alignment shifts more significantly westward. This type of visual relationship is one recognised as significant in prehistoric studies. From the point where Hartland Point disappears the alignment instead becomes focussed on the sharp sided valley west of Banc John which has a very similar profile to Tor Clawdd which framed the left side of Hartland Point. The alignment without any doubt therefore takes full cognisance of Hartland Point, but is this deliberate or a coincidence? The fact that the upper shifts in orientation of the alignment all result in maintaining the same view to Hartland Point and the alignment shifts significantly at the point where Hartland Point disappears below the horizon supports the idea that there is a strong element of deliberation. This suggestion is further strengthened by the observation that the stone alignment effectively also denotes the edge of a small area on Bancbryn that benefits from views to the sea and Devon. This small area also contains a large number of cairns. This compelling evidence which indicates a direct and powerful visual link between the stone alignment, adjacent cairn cemetery and the distant Devon coast is one that can only be challenged by dismissing the idea that stone alignments could separate areas and more importantly that in the siting of monuments visual relationships played no part in prehistoric society. It is therefore perhaps fitting to finish with Cadw’s own observation regarding the distribution of the cairns that “It would be reasonable to assume from the relative positioning of these sites that they had visual relationships in antiquity” (Cadw, R., 2006).

Map showing the extent of the small area from which views of Devon are possible (white). The south eastern edge of this area is precisely denoted by the stone alignment. Views from within the Bancbryn cemetery include much of Bideford Bay whilst along the alignment itself the view is restricted to Hartland Point only. Devon is not visible from the Lletty’r crydd cemetery.

Map showing the extent of the small area from which views of Devon are possible (white). The south eastern edge of this area is precisely denoted by the stone alignment. Views from within the Bancbryn cemetery include much of Bideford Bay whilst along the alignment itself the view is restricted to Hartland Point only. Devon is not visible from the Lletty’r-crydd cemetery.

View from the stone alignment looking along its axis towards Hartland Point. The shifts in the alignment ensure that this remarkable visual relationship between Tor Clawdd and Hartland Point is maintained as you walk along the upper part of the alignment.

View from the stone alignment looking along its axis towards Hartland Point. The shifts in the alignment ensure that this remarkable visual relationship between Tor Clawdd and Hartland Point is maintained as you walk along the upper part of the alignment.

View from cairn B adjacent to the alignment. Despite being only 10m away from the position the photograph above was taken three times as much of Devon is now visible. The stone alignment denotes the edge of a small area where Devon is rapidly revealed as you walk through it. The fact that there are also so many cairns within this area would signify that it was of considerable interest to the prehistoric inhabitants.

View from cairn B adjacent to the alignment. Despite being only 10m away from the position the photograph above was taken three times as much of Devon is now visible. The stone alignment denotes the edge of a small area where Devon is rapidly revealed as you walk through it. The fact that there are also so many cairns within this area would signify that it was of considerable interest to the prehistoric inhabitants.

View from cairn C. Although only 140m from Cairn B much of North Devon is now visible. Views such as this are confined to the small area which is accurately denoted along its south eastern side by the stone alignment.

View from cairn C. Although only 140m from Cairn B much of North Devon is now visible. Views such as this are confined to the small area which is accurately denoted along its south eastern side by the stone alignment.

Conclusion

Much has been made of the lack of evidence to support a prehistoric explanation for the stone alignment at Bancbryn. Assessing the site against the scheduling assessment documentation indicates that such claims are hard to defend. There is an abundance of evidence and it all points one way. By contrast if the currently scheduled Welsh alignments were subjected to the same detailed scrutiny many would perhaps be found wanting. The stone alignment at Bancbryn survives within a very pertinent prehistoric context not evident at other Welsh alignments and clearly conforms to all of the characteristics of this type of monument. The similarities with the longer Dartmoor alignments are powerful as is the direct and compelling visual link with Devon. All of this together with a simple but sound statistical explanation for the apparent absence of long stone alignments within the Welsh archaeological record creates a persuasive evidence based interpretation supporting a prehistoric explanation for this alignment.

Acknowledgements

I have had considerable help from a number of people whilst preparing this article. I would like to thank Nigel Swift for commenting constructively on all aspects and Sophie Smith for digging out hard to find information as well as being a harsh critic of my more outlandish ideas. Helen Woodley has also provided a stream of incredibly useful ideas and was the first to spot the Hartland Point link. George Currie has helped hone the illustrations and provided incredibly helpful feedback. Finally Helen Gerrard has skilfully edited the result and been an inspiration through the discovery process.

Sources

Butler, J., 1997, “Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities Volume 5 – The Second Millennium B.C.”

Cadw, 2006 “Erection of 16 Wind Turbine Generators – Mynydd y Betws” (Letter to Carmarthenshire County Council)

Monument Class Description for Stone Alignments published by English Heritage and available at http://www.eng-h.gov.uk/mpp/mcd/index.htm

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We hope you agree that this series of articles is both interesting and thought provoking. Cadw has indicated that it would welcome the opportunity for a wider debate regarding the attribution and future management of this feature. We will be happy to pass on any feedback you may have.

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A STONE ALIGNMENT AT BANCBRYN, MYNYDD Y BETWS, CARMARTHENSHIRE (PART TWO)

by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Abstract
In January 2012 a previously unrecorded alignment of stones was identified on the southern slope of Bancbryn, Carmarthenshire. Subsequent research has indicated that this stone alignment shares common characteristics with examples in South West England and sits firmly within an area previously identified as containing a significant number of prehistoric cairns. A scheduling assessment conducted by Cadw has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation. This article seeks to re-examine the evidence and utilise it to present a persuasive interpretation supporting a prehistoric explanation for this alignment.

Case for a prehistoric stone alignment at Bancbryn

There is a considerable body of evidence to support a prehistoric explanation for the stone alignment. If as a starting point one believes in the possibility that the prehistoric peoples on either side of the Bristol Channel shared cultural links and beliefs then there is no reason to doubt that archaeological remains belonging to that period will share similar characteristics. Much has been made of the fact that the alignment is longer than other Welsh examples and therefore unlikely to be prehistoric, because Welsh examples are shorter. The irony of this position is hard not to notice. If the alignment had been largely destroyed it would have perhaps been more readily accepted.  Fortunately, despite recent incursions the alignment survives very well and this should aid analysis of it. The case for a prehistoric origin for the alignment at Bancbryn is a solid one based on several separate strands of evidence that are cumulatively compelling. Indeed given the scrutiny lavished on this alignment, one wonders how many of the currently scheduled examples could offer such robust and convincing evidence to support their identification.

Any interpretative assessment needs as a starting point to define and agree the characteristics of the type of heritage being scrutinised. The most detailed and readily available resource for this purpose is the Monument Class Description for Stone Alignments published by English Heritage and available at http://www.eng-h.gov.uk/mpp/mcd/index.htm . This document was specifically written to permit the objective assessment of stone alignments for scheduling purposes and therefore would seem the most appropriate tool to inform this discussion. Quotes from the Monument Class Description appear below in italics.

1. “A stone alignment comprises a single line, or two or more roughly parallel lines, of upright stones set at intervals along a common axis or series of axes. The number and size of stones in known alignments varies greatly, but the minimum number of stones required to form an alignment is three. The word alignment here refers to the juxtapositioning of the stones forming the monument itself rather than to any supposed or observed orientation on other monuments and/or topographical features.”

Discussion: This definition is not entirely accurate as some accepted rows consist entirely of recumbent stones, whilst many include significant numbers of horizontal slabs and edge-set stones. The Bancbryn alignment includes a single line of at least 175 stones of which a small number are upright, 52.4% are edge-set and the remainder are recumbent. These stones are set or lie at intervals along a series of axes and in common with the small stones forming Dartmoor alignments the edge-set stones are aligned along the prevailing axis.

The stone alignment at SN 68835 10223

The stone alignment at SN 68835 10223

2. “Stone alignments are rarely absolutely straight; many are slightly curved or comprise conjoined segments of different orientation. In general, however, each stone alignment has a single and distinct axis, albeit a rather broad one in some cases.”

 Discussion: The Bancbryn alignment in common with all long stone alignments is not absolutely straight and comprises conjoined segments of different orientation. Preliminary analysis of the plan has identified 15 segments each with a slightly different alignment. The alignment as a whole is broadly orientated at 214° and varies between 198° and 230° with most of this variation being found at the upper end.

One of the more obvious shifts in orientation

One of the more obvious shifts in orientation

The same orientation shift after return of vegetation

The same orientation shift after return of vegetation

3. “Stone alignments vary in length from about 40m, up to over 3000m, one of the longest being the example on Stall Down, Dartmoor, Devon. The most common length is about 150-200m.”

Discussion: The alignment at Bancbryn is just over 700m long and therefore within the accepted range for this type of monument. The length is certainly longer than currently accepted Welsh alignments but given that the longer examples are very rare it would not be surprising for only a very small number to survive within Wales.  On Dartmoor where at least 77 stone alignments have been recognised only four are longer than 700m. This represents a mere 5.2% of the total. By contrast the number of accepted alignments in Wales is at least 15. Acceptance of the Bancbryn alignment would mean that 6.25% of the known resource would be of the long variety – interestingly a very similar percentage to the situation on Dartmoor. Wales has far fewer stone alignments than Dartmoor and it is therefore hardly surprising that this very rare form of the monument has up until now proved elusive.  It is, however, surely not valid to state that the alignment does not conform to the expected form when in fact viewed as part of the whole resource it does so perfectly.

The Butterdon Hill stone alignment on Dartmoor measures 1973m long

The Butterdon Hill stone alignment on Dartmoor measures 1973m long

4. “The size of the stones used in the construction of stone alignments varies greatly, both between monuments and within the length of individual structures”

Discussion:  Most of the stones within the alignment are relatively small (between 0.30m and 0.50m) although some are more substantial.  The average stone height and size is similar to many South Western English and some Welsh stone alignments.  The variety of stone size within the Bancbryn alignment is a recognised feature of prehistoric examples.

Different sized stones are a recognised feature of stone alignments

 The stone alignment at SN 68835 10223. Different sized stones are a recognised feature of stone alignments

5. “Stones which project less than 1m above ground level are most common, although a few alignments, mostly short ones, contain only very large stones over 2m high.”

Discussion:  Many of the Welsh alignments fall into the recognised group of short alignments with large stones. It is clear however that the different types are not mutually exclusive. In SW England short alignments of large stones and long alignments consisting mainly of small stones exist. There is no evidence to suggest that where examples of one type are found the other will not be. Stone alignments with very small stones are known within the Welsh archaeological resource and therefore the small size of the stones at Bancbryn represents no obstacle to a prehistoric explanation.

6.  “Where slabs of stone were used they were usually set with their long axis on the orientation of the alignment”.

Discussion: The edge set stones at Bancbryn in common with other alignments are predominantly set with their long axis along the orientation of the alignment.

7. “There is little evidence that the stones in any stone alignments were deliberately placed in graduated order of size”.

Discussion: The stones have not yet been individually measured, but visual inspection would suggest that the stones have not been placed in graduated order of size.

8. “In many cases the stone at each end of an alignment, terminal stones, are larger than those used elsewhere in the monument.”

Discussion: The largest stone within the alignment denotes the south western end. This stone is now recumbent and measures 0.62m by 0.52m by 0.25m. This feature provides particularly strong evidence to support a prehistoric identification.

The recumbent terminal stone

The recumbent terminal stone

9. “In other cases the end of an alignment may just fade out with a series of small stones then nothing.”

Discussion: This means that terminal features do not always survive but at Bancbryn characteristic terminal features have been identified. The presence of these features enhances the prehistoric interpretation.

10. “When assessing and measuring alignments it is important to check the ends very carefully to determine whether the visible terminals are likely to be the real ends of the monument or whether the line may continue under a blanket of peat or as a series of small stones”

Discussion: The areas of the alignment towards the ends have both seen more disturbance than the central length which survives very well. The north eastern end had been disturbed by historic trackways and more recently by wind farm infrastructure whilst the south eastern end has also seen vehicular damage. Despite this the terminals are well defined.

Part of stone alignment has recently been destroyed by wind farm infrastructure

Part of stone alignment has recently been destroyed by wind farm infrastructure

Continued in Part Three

For the next 5 days we are dedicating the Journal to a single subject – the stone alignment at Bancbryn which lies within the Mynydd y Betws wind farm. You may already feel that you are familiar with the site, but we believe that anyone with an interest in prehistory will find this series of articles interesting and thought provoking in equal measure. During the coming week the case for a prehistoric interpretation will be presented in full and we hope you will feel able to get involved in the debate and look forward to hearing your views.

A STONE ALIGNMENT AT BANCBRYN, MYNYDD Y BETWS, CARMARTHENSHIRE (PART ONE)

by Dr Sandy Gerrard

Abstract
In January 2012 a previously unrecorded alignment of stones was identified on the southern slope of Bancbryn, Carmarthenshire. Subsequent research has indicated that this stone alignment shares common characteristics with examples in South West England and sits firmly within an area previously identified as containing a significant number of prehistoric cairns. A scheduling assessment conducted by Cadw has concluded that there is insufficient evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation. This article seeks to re-examine the evidence and utilise it to present a persuasive interpretation supporting a prehistoric explanation for this alignment.

Introduction
Bancbryn is a pronounced bolster shaped hill forming part of an area of upland known as Mynydd y Betws. The hill stands 1.7km west of Cwmgors , 2.5km south of Garnant and reaches an altitude of 324m at NGR SN 68672 10278. There are extensive views northwards towards the mountains of the Brecon Beacons from the summit although the outlook south and westwards is restricted by a number of substantial hills including Bryn Mawr, Tor Clawdd and Mynydd y Gwair. The local vegetation includes a mosaic of heather and molinia which are grazed and periodically burnt. The most recent fire to have occurred before the discovery of the feature was in 2011. During a walk in early 2012 a line of stones was identified on the southern slope of the hill in the area between two known and scheduled cairn cemeteries (CM333 and CM335). A further nearby platform cairn is scheduled as a separate monument (CM334). Visually the line of stones looked like a prehistoric stone alignment comparable in character to those known from the South West of England. A request for the alignment to be assessed for protection as a scheduled ancient monument was submitted to Cadw in January 2012. In August 2013 Cadw produced a report that concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support a prehistoric identification although no alternative explanations were offered. This article will seek to move the debate forward by assessing the monument using third party detailed criteria employed successfully elsewhere for this purpose.

The north western slope of Bancbryn. View from the west. (Source: DSCF1350)

The north western slope of Bancbryn. View from the west.

The  southern slope of Bancbryn. View from the south. (Source DSCF 1300)

The southern slope of Bancbryn. View from the south.

The south eastern slope of Bancbryn. View from east. (Source: DSCF 1066)

The south eastern slope of Bancbryn. View from east.

The northern slope of Bancbryn. View from north.

The northern slope of Bancbryn. View from north.

Map showing the location of Bancbryn and its regional context

Map showing the location of Bancbryn and its regional context

Simplified plan showing the position and orientation of the stone alignment relative to the adjacent cairns (red circles). The stone alignment leads from SN 68935 10329 to SN 68522 09736.

Simplified plan showing the position and orientation of the stone alignment relative to the adjacent cairns (red circles). The stone alignment leads from SN 68935 10329 to SN 68522 09736.

The stone alignment at Bancbryn
A single line of stones measuring over 700m long descends the southern slope of Bancbryn. The alignment can be traced from a small stony mound measuring 6m in diameter and standing up to 0.8m high at NGR SN 68935 10329 to a large recumbent stone at SN 68522 09736. A total of 172 stones were identified during a recent survey although more are likely to survive beneath the turf and three were recovered during excavations. The stones themselves are generally small although a significant number stand over 0.2m high. 52.4% of the stones are edge-set and have clearly been placed along the length of the common alignment. The remainder are mainly recumbent with the largest portion of these surviving within a 30m length centred on SN 68731 10018. The alignment is not completely straight, includes at least 15 conjoined segments, is situated between two cairn cemeteries and passes very close to a scheduled cairn at SN 68802 10180. A small number of the stones are not earth-fast but sit within clearly defined sockets. Many of the stones, in common with those visible in the adjacent cairns, are rounded in shape but a significant proportion have straight edges. The spacing between the visible stones varies over the whole length of the alignment but there are discrete areas where consistent spacing is observable. The stone is local limestone and there are no indications that it has been cut or worked in any way. Excavations carried out on a short length of the alignment revealed three stones “embedded” into the subsoil but no photographs are currently available. No artefacts or radio-carbon dating material were recovered. The upper half of the alignment is precisely aligned onto Hartland Point in Devon and denotes one edge of a small zone of inter-visibility between the cairn cemetery on Bancbryn and Barnstaple Bay.

Detail of stone alignment at SN 68687 09970

Detail of stone alignment at SN 68687 09970

Stone alignment at SN 68736 10026. View from NE.

Stone alignment at SN 68736 10026. View from NE.

Stone alignment at SN 68736 10026. View from SW.

Stone alignment at SN 68736 10026. View from SW.

View from the northern side of the row at SN 68708 09990

View from the northern side of the row at SN 68708 09990

Survey
A 1:500 survey was carried out in December and January 2013. The survey was conducted using a prismatic compass and Disto D5 measuring device and a plan created in the field using an underlay protractor beneath drafting film. As well as the alignment, the area of coal mining earthworks adjacent to the cairn at the top was surveyed in order to inform interpretation of the stony mound at the top of the alignment.

Plan of the coal mining earthworks and cairn at the top of the alignment. The plan shows that holloways B and C, which are both earlier than the coal mining earthworks, respect the cairn. This relationship indicates that the cairn is the earliest feature in that area and not associated with the extraction of coal.

Plan of the coal mining earthworks and cairn at the top of the alignment. The plan shows that holloways B and C, which are both earlier than the coal mining earthworks, respect the cairn. This relationship indicates that the cairn is the earliest feature in that area and not associated with the extraction of coal.

Plan of cairn at head of alignment

Plan of cairn at head of alignment

Cairn (SN  68935 10329) at upper end of the stone alignment. View from south east.

Cairn (SN 68935 10329) at upper end of the stone alignment. View from south east.

Plan of Bancbryn stone alignment and adjacent cairns (grey circles)

Plan of Bancbryn stone alignment and adjacent cairns (grey circles)

Continued in Part Two

by Dr  Sandy Gerrard

According to the Dyfed Archaeological Trust (DAT) the coal mining remains and holloways at Bancbryn are “post-medieval/modern features and therefore did not require evaluating.” So in a large part of Wales it would appear to be acceptable to sanction the unrecorded destruction of archaeological remains dating from the past 500 years or so. This attitude is curious given that a quick glance through their records available on Archwilio reveals that most relate to sites that are of post-medieval/modern date.

So, why is the hard pressed tax payer being asked to fund the collection and curation of information regarding sites that the Trust considers not to be important and worth evaluating when threatened? The position that no evaluation was required because it was post-medieval/modern is completely untenable. Perhaps the organisation should be re-named the Dyfed Prehistoric, Roman and Medieval Archaeological Trust as clearly they have no interest in post-medieval archaeology. Given the Trust’s unwillingness to engage with post-medieval archaeology perhaps the responsibility for its curation should be transferred to an organisation that actually cares.

What is certain is that an opportunity to enhance our knowledge and understanding was squandered. Survey of the surviving earthworks indicates considerable chronological depth and an interesting story that the DAT did not consider worth investigating. The first point to emerge is that the coal mining may have been carried out in two separate phases. Dumps from some pits lie within earlier pits and properly conducted excavations could have provided some much needed answers. This would seem vital given the importance to the economic and social history coal played in this part of Wales, or is the Trust suggesting the significance and historic development of coal mining should be ignored? Could it be that the earliest mining here was medieval rather than the late 18th or early 19th century date suggested by the Royal Commission? The opportunity to find out for certain was not taken and this would seem a dereliction.

portraitPlan showing a variety of earthworks of different periods and the new wind farm road (pink) and verge (green). The earthworks destroyed during the development were not recorded prior to their destruction because DAT considered them to be less than five hundred years old and therefore not worth bothering with.

What is certain, from survey evidence alone, is that holloway A is earlier than the coal mining as it has been truncated. This holloway is therefore of some antiquity and the failure of the evaluation process to identity this detail is lamentable. A second holloway (B) also predates the coal mining whilst others (C) are either contemporary or later in date.

Sitting on the southern edge of the coal mining earthworks are two cairns. The western cairn appears to have structural elements within its fabric whilst the eastern one is clearly respected by a pair of holloways that skirt around it. The relationship with Holloway B is of particular significance as it implies that this cairn is earlier than the adjacent coal extraction pits. The line of stones leading south westward from this cairn can be traced for about 700m. The summary dismissal of the coal mining remains as unimportant meant of course that nobody looked to see if there were any earlier earthworks surviving in the vicinity. So much was missed as a result.

Surely it is foolhardy to dismiss something as post-medieval/modern without first checking to see what is there?

This, for example?

A prehistoric row with a twenty first century gap?

A prehistoric row with twenty first century gaps?

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by Sandy Gerrard

For nearly two years I have been writing about the wind farm development at Mynydd y Betws. Some shortcomings in the actions of the various agencies who are supposed to ensure that archaeological interests were safeguarded have been highlighted. The newly updated Google Map for the area illustrates the effect on the scheduled archaeology within the area better than words alone.

Google Map image of Mynydd y Betws showing the impact of the new wind farm on this rich archaeological landscape. The scheduled archaeology is highlighted in red and the position of the probable stone row shown in green.

Google Map image of Mynydd y Betws showing the impact of the new wind farm on this rich archaeological landscape. The scheduled archaeology is highlighted in red and the position of the probable stone row is shown in green.

There are eight scheduled monuments scattered over the mountain and the landscape in which they sit has been altered significantly. The aerial perspective provides a clear insight into the impact of the development and demonstrates the true scale of this venture. The landscape has been carved up and whilst scheduling has safeguarded the physical remains within the scheduled areas their context has been injured and many associated deposits destroyed. In addition to the scheduled archaeology there is a wide array of archaeological remains which have no protection. Some of these have been obliterated and others damaged. This wind farm has been built within a rich archaeological landscape whose integrity has inevitably been compromised.

In recent months there has been much discussion in the press regarding the impact of wind farm developments on the setting of monuments. Most recently Simon Thurley (Chief Executive, English Heritage) stated that the biggest challenge is “to find ways to stop the erection of wind farms and other eyesores from obscuring historic buildings and monuments”. This comment emphasises the difficulties in establishing ground rules for setting. The developers heritage consultants at Mynydd y Betws believed that the setting of a cairn would not be significantly affected beyond 10 – 15 metres, whilst Cadw believe that the setting of an historic garden will be affected by turbines over 2km away and at Thackson’s Well the planners agreed that proposed turbines 11km from the Grade I listed house would have an unacceptable impact on the setting.

Clearly it is going to be difficult to find a single answer. Perhaps the setting is not related to the distance but rather to the type of site affected. A Grade I building might perhaps require a bigger buffer zone than say a cairn or stone circle. These are discussions that we probably should already have resolved since Mynydd y Betws clearly demonstrates what will happen if we do not grasp this nettle firmly.

Finally, a question: does the Bancbryn cairn cemetery within the Mynydd y Betws wind farm have the dubious honour of being the closest scheduled monument to a turbine? The monument is 72m from the 110m high turbine and is certainly within the “impact zone” should the worst happen. Do you know of any other scheduled monuments that are closer?

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by Sandy Gerrard

m7

Well indeed what did actually happen at Mynydd y Betws? Information released under the Freedom of Information Act together with published accounts suggest that it might have gone something like this:

1. Produce a Method Statement that fails to mention or even refer to the site under consideration.

2. Take a digger, mechanically strip the deposits and clean up the residue.

3. Publish a brief report. Do  not  include any photographs or drawings.

4. Ignore all known information about the area and instead conclude that it is probably a unique form of waymarker. Unique because it does not look like any known waymarker and could never have functioned as such because it would have soon been hidden by growing vegetation!

4. Forget, overlook, ignore or fail to look for all the appropriate regional and national parallels. Instead state that the  alignment …“is sinuous in form which is not typical for prehistoric ceremonial/ritual stone alignments

5. Do  not  address the fact that many Dartmoor rows are also sinuous in form and most are far from straight.

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See Part 1 here and Part 2 here

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by Sandy Gerrard

The Method Statement presumably agreed by the local planning authority as a condition of the wind farm development at Mynydd y Betws makes sobering reading. The first thing of note is that there is no mention anywhere within its 19 pages of the stone alignment. Instead each page of the statement refers to 82 Gretton Road, Winchcombe. This may in part explain the content of the report and its failure to mention the heritage asset that had precipitated activation of the planning condition.

m6

Amongst my “favourites” are the details of staffing and the timetable for the work which state: “The field team for will consist normally consist of up to 15 staff (1 Site Manager/Senior Project Officer; 3 Project Supervisors and 11 Archaeologists” and“It is envisaged that Stages 1 and 2 of the project will require approximately six weeks fieldwork. Analysis of the results and subsequent reporting will take up to a further three to four weeks.”

Given that the examination of the whole of the stone alignment was actually completed by a couple of people in a couple of days this anomaly is perhaps something that should concern those that signed up to this agreement. Bearing in mind that the written agreement asked for by the Planning Inspector states that 450 person days of fieldwork will be carried out and instead only a maximum of 7 days were actually taken this would seem to be a discrepancy too far.

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See Part 1 here

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The moorland of Walkhampton Common, Dartmoor contains many important archaeological sites including at least eight stone rows, many cairns, cists and hut circles dating to the Bronze Age. It is traversed by unsightly power lines…..
 

Power lines on Walkhampton Common (the small stones in the foreground are part of the Sharpitor West stone row)

Power lines on Walkhampton Common. (The small stones in the foreground are part of the Sharpitor West stone row)

…However, there’s good news – four kilometres of them are to be buried underground. Western Power Distribution has obtained consent for the work from the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Open Spaces Society is enthusiastic about it because, in their words,

“undergrounding the cables will restore the natural beauty of the area, and enable people to enjoy it, on foot and horseback, without this manmade intrusion. We commend Western Power for this initiative, and look forward to seeing this breathtaking landscape free at last of ugly poles and cables.”

It depends on perspective though. If Dartmoor was just “open space” no-one could argue with what they say but of course it is more, it also contains just as much hidden space containing masses of buried archaeology, very little of which has been explored – and the bad news is that the excavations will involve destroying some of it. You could argue that it’s good news that some of it will at least be learned about but this will be no limited sampling exercise it will be the creation of a major scar, not where archaeologists would judge is best but where finance dictates is most efficient. (A road runs across the Common and burying the cables alongside it would be less disruptive but it is some distance away so presumably that has been judged as not a viable option).

Then again, a properly conducted programme of archaeological work is one thing, a less comprehensive exercise is another. Just how good (or bad) the curate’s egg turns out to be is yet to be revealed.

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