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Sandy Gerrard writes:
18 vital questions regarding the construction of a windfarm on the Mynydd Y Betws archaeological landscape are yet to be answered. The first eight were outlined in a previous article. First however, here is a brief background. No apologies are made for repeating this introduction – the importance of the landscape that is the subject of these two indignant articles ought to be as widely appreciated as possible.
On the slopes of Bancbryn (forming part of Mynydd Y Betws) there is an incredibly rich multi-period archaeological landscape the importance of which has in part been recognised by Cadw’s designation regime. To all intents and purposes this looks like an important ceremonial/ritual landscape with a stone row forming its focus. The hillside is further enhanced by the survival of a range of historic features highlighting the importance of the area in more recent years. 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 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 and it is therefore surely appropriate that an explanation of this lamentable situation is forthcoming.
As mentioned in the previous article, three main agencies are involved in this matter and some of the questions are more pertinent to Carmarthenshire County Council than others. However, as the authority responsible for firstly approving the scheme of works and more importantly for discharging the planning condition it is clearly justifiable for the public on whose part they are acting to ask why so much of the archaeology has been ignored in the process. Nowhere does it say that most of the archaeology should be disregarded or ignored, but sadly this is clearly what has happened. The 18 questions are designed to find out why.
Question 9. Why after the discovery of the stone row and a request for a full survey to be conducted was this not carried out?
Further archaeological remains are known to have been damaged and others may have been destroyed. It seems inconsistent that on the one hand the Trust appear to be saying that the archaeology was invisible because it was covered in dense vegetation but now that this vegetation had been removed and it had been demonstrated that there was unrecorded archaeology in the area that they did not ask for this important work to be conducted. Cadw were also asked to explore this option and did not respond.
Detailed observations at the site entrance indicate that Cotswold Archaeology (90% of the time comprising a single member of staff) spent a maximum of 10 full days and five part days on the mountain between 17th January and 10th February. Most of their time was spent carrying out very limited watching brief work leaving no time for survey.
Question 10. Why is the explanation for Evaluation Trench 43 not consistent with the evidence?
The report states that the trench was “rapidly evacuated” on the discovery of two pieces of asbestos, yet the section drawing (below) is complete. How was this section drawn if the trench was rapidly evacuated? It must have been drawn before the asbestos was found suggesting that a decision had already been taken not to proceed any further.
Question 11. Why is the excavation strategy employed by Evaluation Trench 43 so curious?
By placing the trench along the line of pits rather than across it in the standard way for linear features the true character of the earthworks could not hope to have been established. This approach would be like trying to evaluate the complex defences of a hillfort by only digging a trench along the ditch and ignoring the rampart. Why was this unorthodox technique used?
Question 12. The mining pits extend into the area of Turbine 16 (see image below). Given that work was abandoned in Evaluation Trench 43 and this part of the heritage asset was also going to be destroyed why was no mitigation work carried out? (The image highlights some of the archaeological remains that were ignored during the evaluation).
Question 13. Why has machinery damaged a small part of the central line of mining pits?
The image below shows the fence dug into the edge of the mining pits. In the foreground the earthworks have been damaged despite their position beyond the permitted development area. If damage is being condoned beyond the fenced areas why was the archaeology within these areas not the subject of pre-development mitigation?
Question 14. Why was no mitigation work carried out on the part of the central line of mining pits affected by the new road?
The photograph below shows a large heap of spoil having been dumped on top of historic mining earthworks that weren’t investigated prior to their destruction.
Question 15. Why was no mitigation work carried out on the part of the northern line of mining pits affected by the new road?
Question 16. Why has a fence post been inserted into the edge of a mound not recorded by the evaluation report at SN 6894910712 ?
The mound can be seen in the photograph below. It has the appearance of a previously undisturbed burial cairn. It now has a fence post inserted into its edge. In addition, note the digger track marks cutting into its surface. Assuming it is indeed a burial mound this is obviously not how the people of Carmarthenshire would wish to see the dead of any era treated and is certainly not appropriate practice.
Question 17. Why have the developers been permitted to dig a new drain (see below) to carry water from the new road across the stone row? This drain was cut after the row had been identified. It is clearly visible in the foreground. It is carrying water from the newly constructed road across the stone row (the position of which is being denoted by the ranging rod). The row will be damaged by this act. How could it possibly happen if the work is being closely monitored?
Question 18. Why have the developers’ vehicles been allowed to damage substantial areas beyond the permitted development area?
Here vehicle ruts associated with the development are shown damaging an historic bank and associated ditch….
…. and here further severe vehicle damage is evident in an area beyond the permitted development. (Any archaeology in the area will presumably have
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