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Here is Sandy Gerrard’s preliminary report on the archaeology he has found as a result of a rapid survey he has carried out in a small area immediately adjacent to the newly discovered stone row over the past few days. It illustrates why he is concerned that permission was granted to build the wind farm without any earthwork survey being conducted.

The essence of his report is that:

“To all intents and purposes this looks like an important ceremonial/ritual landscape with the stone row forming its focus. This impressive landscape now has a large road cutting right through its heart and shortly will have two substantial wind turbines towering 110m above it……  No earthwork survey was ever conducted and as a result archaeological remains of many periods have been lost before they could be recorded……. A survey of the area would have surely avoided this situation.”

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In recent days much has appeared in the press about the stone row on Mynydd Y Betws.  Some of the reporting has been slightly inaccurate and this may in part be a result of a misunderstanding of the character of the archaeology and development on the mountain.  The development is vast, extending over 5km from end to end and the discussions have centred around a relatively small area on the slopes of Bancbryn along which the stone row runs.  Over the past few days I have been carrying out a rapid survey of the remains in this small area using a hand held GPS unit.  The result is a map showing in broad terms the character and disposition of archaeological remains in the vicinity of the row. I have spent only about two full days in the field and further work will inevitably enhance the results. Hopefully the map highlights why I am concerned that permission was granted to build the wind farm without any earthwork survey being conducted. 

The map also shows (in yellow) the position and extent of the scheduled archaeology.  The scheduling mapping is based on the maps submitted with the planning application and may not be entirely accurate, but hopefully gives a helpful insight into the extent of nationally important designated archaeology at the time when the planning permission was granted.  The mounds on the map are shown in two different colours. The red mounds have no associated hollow and are therefore most likely to represent cairns.  The grey mounds have an associated hollow and therefore may be prospecting pits, the result of trees being blown over or less likely, barrows. These earthworks are not of uniform size or character and may therefore owe their origins to a variety of causes.  Perhaps of significance is that they are generally associated with structures that do look like cairns.  Perhaps work in the future will provide clarification or at least some further clues.  Anyway, there are a large number of mound type earthworks and broadly they fall within three main clusters with occasional outliers.  To all intents and purposes this looks like an important ceremonial/ritual landscape with the stone row forming its focus. This impressive landscape now has a large road cutting right through its heart and shortly will have two substantial wind turbines towering 110m above it.  The proximity of these two turbines to the scheduled area clearly illustrates that archaeology is not safe from this new threat to upland archaeology. The setting of this significant landscape will be compromised for years to come and even after the turbines have been dismantled the archaeology lost in their construction will be gone for ever. It is just not possible to replace archaeology once it has been destroyed and for this reason and quite rightly so there are legal constraints in place to ensure that archaeology is recorded before it is destroyed.  This has not happened at Mynydd Y Betws.  No earthwork survey was ever conducted and as a result archaeological remains of many periods have been lost before they could be recorded. Some form of hurried last minute archaeological excavation work was carried out on the stone row before the road was built and the results are awaited with interest.  

This is very reminiscent of the “bad old days” when archaeologists were granted a short time to scrabble about as the bulldozers hovered with their engines revving nearby. A survey of the area would have surely avoided this situation.  Interestingly the Evaluation Report would seem to indicate that a trench was cut across the line of the stone row, but nothing was found. This same trench was also close to the obvious linear hollow labelled on the map as a hollow way. Given that a length of this earthwork was going to be destroyed by the new access road why was no trench actually placed across this very obvious earthwork and instead positioned on apparently level ground next to it? The same question should be asked of another trench that was placed on level ground next to the three cairn-like features within the development area?   A further linear bank and ditch earthwork of historic type to the south of those mentioned above has also been cut through by the road and is clearly visible in the section formed by the newly constructed road ditch.   An evaluation trench was excavated in this location, but there is no specific mention in the report of a ditch and bank even though these features are now clearly visible in the road cutting. Why was the trench not excavated on the site of the earthworks?

A large amount of documentation relating to the pre-construction archaeological aspects of this development can be found at http://online.carmarthenshire.gov.uk/eaccessv2/    This makes very interesting and enlightening reading and confirms that despite the richness of this landscape no attempt was ever made to look for surface remains. The reference number you need to enter is E/10446. Then click the documents tab at the top. This will reveal 6 pages of tables of linked information.

The most useful ones are:
E.S. VOL 3: FIG 18 ARCHAEOLOGY MAP FINAL
E.S. VOL 2: APPENDIX F – ARCHAEOLOGY
ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT: VOLUME 2 WRITTEN STATEMENT
Written Scheme of Investigation ~ August 2010
Archaeological Evaluation ~ March 2011
Archaeological Watching Brief

Taken together these papers provide a clear explanation of why archaeological remains in the area were not fully taken into account during the planning process and why the subsequent Scheme of Investigation failed to identify important archaeology within the development corridor. I hope you now appreciate why I feel that this important archaeological landscape has been sadly neglected.  

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