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By Sue Brooke.
Sue is our newest member and has joined us as Diary Editor and Feature Writer.
[NB All images are the author’s own]

Introduction

I was brought up in the Caerau area. I went to school here and brought my children up here. As a kid I used the Caerau Hillfort area many times as a short-cut to what I now view as beautiful walks towards Michaelston-le-Pit. I had no idea what this area contained until many years later when I moved to a new house built in to what I now know are the Iron Age fortifications of Caerau Hillfort. I’ve spent quite a few years finding out about this hillfort and, on the way, have collected quite a lot of bits and bobs of research. I started to write this down and it has grown and changed many times as my knowledge increased. Many people have helped me with this – I haven’t done it on my own.

The area has been the target of vandalism, particularly to the old church which stands in one of two, possibly medieval, ring works. One day I was there with my son moaning on about the damage that kids had done – I knew it was kids as they had kindly left their names written in marker pen on the remaining archway. My son pointed out that the kids just didn’t know the value of the site. How could they as no-one had told them. That was fair comment. This has been written just as a brief look at what happened in order to do just that and what was to lead eventually to the site starring in its very own Time Team episode. So this is how it all started…

Over the garden fence

During 2007 I had an operation on my foot. Elevate it above heart height, and come back in three weeks was the medical advice. So I did just that. Well, to be honest I had no option as it hurt so much. Sitting here nearly drove me to distraction until I began to wonder about the woods, over the garden fence. It’s hard to describe the garden really. Nice but unremarkable patio area, a wall about four feet high holding back a rough grassed area then a stone wall effect that holds back the trees. Not really its best selling point as Mr B fretted about the woods sliding down over the retaining wall. However, buy it we did.

The view over the garden fence

The view over the garden fence

So here I was, wondering what was on the other side. I recalled the area from my teen-aged years – having been brought up in the surrounding area. I remembered there was a church up there and that it was possible to walk right across to the ‘White Village’. In fact it was a standing joke that I shouldn’t even be seen here. During my late teens I was found with a group of lads on the road through the White Village when, to my horror, the local police arrived (in a Mini!).  They gave chase, we ran, I jumped this low wall only to end up waist deep in water. Mr Policeman placed me, soaking wet, into the back of the Mini and escorted us back to the lane. I was left, soaking wet, with the warning that ‘we will be around to see your mother – don’t let us find you here again.’  This was one of the moments in your life where you have to make a decision. Do you go home and confess or, do you make the decision to keep quiet until they come. I took the latter option but lived with the fear for many years. They didn’t come. Taught me a lesson though, and I’ve never forgotten it.

So, here I am. Leg elevated and laptop at the ready. I recalled the scary building that was here when the nice local plod deposited me back in the lane. It was a hospital. OK, let’s start with that and go backwards. Bear in mind that I had absolutely no interest in history at all. I was simply bored but now on a mission. I found very little information on-line. I’d seen many Time Team programmes so had picked up some tips from the late, and to my mind great, Robin Bush, their resident historian. I had a fair idea of how he went about it, old papers, books, maps, records etc., so I followed his lead.

I googled to my heart’s content and started random internet searches, using the name of the church as the focus. It was really quite amazing what was available online. But, still, my focus was the Caerau Isolation Hospital, of which there was very little available at that point. It doesn’t help that there is another Caerau nearby but in a completely different area. So, I wrote a letter. I actually put pen to paper and sent it off to the local paper. Then I waited. I actually got responses. In fact, some people were kind enough to drop me a line personally. I began to get enough information to enable me to start my backward search through time.

The words ‘Roman Fort’ kept cropping up. This is found in lots of old papers and maps and is even reflected in street names locally. Then I found an old planning application for the construction of the houses in which I now live. There were some objections from the local Councillor in relation to protecting the trees which were actually ancient woodlands. This gave me something a little bit more up-to-date. The woods here are registered as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Well, there you go. Why was that then? Well, it appears that it was because they can be found within the ramparts of a possible Roman encampment.  Well, that was it, time to squeeze this foot into some boots and get up there and have a look. So I did.

Mr. B has been very patient over the years, as has Brooke the dog who has accompanied us on many trips in and around the local area. It’s often easier to look like a dog-walker than some eccentric person who thinks she has found a Roman Camp. Nonetheless we walked the horrendously steep, wet and muddy access up to the site. We walked through the gate toward the Norman church. And there was a ring work.

Caerau2

The ring work entrance with the remains of St. Mary’s Church in the background – taken from within the ring work

As a kid I had never ever noticed this before on my trips through to the ‘White Village’ (actually Michaelston le Pit).  I’ve seen enough Time Team episodes to understand this may be perhaps a little bit special, particularly as there are actually two ring works here, with the old church being built within one. Then we walked through a gate towards a large field behind the church itself. And there it was.

to be continued…

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