A short distance south of the scheduled cairn cemetery at Bancbryn are a pair of unscheduled cairns. These cairns survive rather better than most of the nearby scheduled ones and in September 2012 Cadw were asked why they had not been scheduled. Their response may surprise you:
“The prehistoric sites ….. were visited as part of the 2002-2003 East Carmarthenshire prehistoric funerary and ritual sites project. At this time, the condition of the sites were given as category ‘C’, on the following scale:
A = intact
B = substantially intact
C = damaged
D = substantial destruction
E = destroyed
M = moved
R = restored
U = unknown
This resulted in the sites not being recommended for scheduling – Scheduling recommendations for this project revolved around sites recorded as ‘A’ or ‘B’, or sites of a very rare nature. For barrows or cairns, which are very common throughout Wales, the likelihood of a damaged site being scheduled is greatly reduced.”
So, only intact or substantially intact barrows or cairns were being recommended for scheduling. There are not many of those around and certainly few in the Welsh Schedule of Ancient Monuments. After over 3,000 years most cairns have been seen some damage and indeed most of the sites of this type have suffered damage of one sort or another including the nearby Bancbryn scheduled cairns which bizarrely given the criteria being employed did make it onto the schedule.
Another site that appears to have been scheduled on the back of this project is Maes Y Grug round barrow at Nantgaredig which was scheduled in 2004. Remember only intact or substantially intact round barrows were being recommended for scheduling so one would assume that this must be a very fine well preserved example of the genre.
Sadly not. A detailed description of the monument together with a sketch drawing made in 1985 indicates that the southern half of the barrow had been destroyed by a railway cutting, the middle of the mound had been mutilated and the remainder was ploughed out. Whilst not mentioned in the 1985 report subsequent events indicate that a sewage main also cuts through the middle of what little remains of the barrow. Using Cadw’s own categories one would have thought this particular earthwork would scrape in for a “D” and yet it sailed into the safety of the schedule. Or at least that was the intention, but sadly according to the Dyfed Archaeological Trust, Cadw managed to plot the site in the wrong place. By contrast the cairns south of Bancbryn which survive rather better and form part of a rich prehistoric landscape were dismissed as damaged, commonplace and not worth protecting. Bizarre and inept scheduling decisions like barrows would appear to be “very common throughout Wales”.