We’re now past the half-way point in Heritage Action member Sue Brooke’s story concerning Caerau Hillfort in Wales.  New readers should start at Part 1 or put Caerau in our search box to see previous installments and get up to date.

So, off to Cardiff University I go – clutching the latest draft of my very precious research. I was meeting Oliver Davies in the café of one of the many buildings on the campus in the centre of Cardiff. Olly talked in depth about a project that the University were looking at starting in the area. He knew of the hillfort area and thought it may be good to link in with the work we had been doing at the school and at the church. It was a case of you show me yours and I’ll show you mine.

This was a brilliant idea. The project was just what was needed to work with the young people in the area and to help with understanding exactly what we had tucked away here in Caerau. So, we met again to discuss this with the others involved and it was agreed to go ahead. The CAER (Caerau And Ely Rediscovering) Heritage Project was born. So, from the initial dining room table discussions this project was now becoming something properly formalised and, more importantly, funded. For more information on the project, see the project website.

caerau-logo

We met regularly at Glyn Derw High School and various activities were now taking place with properly trained archaeologists and geophysicists all becoming involved. Artists worked with the young people from three local comprehensive schools up at the site and professionals worked with adults, increasing their skills. Something called Time banking was introduced which meant that locals who volunteered at events could collect Time Credits in exchange for their time. These Time Credits could actually be used as a kind of currency – being spent at various venues or used to pay for certain trips. The communities of Ely and Caerau were all involved and it was going really well.

I received telephone calls from the local press – I answered many questions, gave my opinion as ‘local historian’ and generally talked about the church area to anyone who may have been interested. I had even been photographed up at the site when special features had been run in our local paper on the area. One of the most unflattering photos of me, ever taken, was up at the church site one grey rainy morning. This actually caused much hilarity amongst friends and work colleagues, particularly as for some reason the media deemed it fit to mention my age. How rude!

Then at one meeting at the school there were quite a few new faces present. Not that unusual really as often people came along to meetings to discuss specific things. For example members from St. Fagans Museum of Welsh Life or someone from Glamorgan Records Office would often attend to update on a specific issue. However the words Time and Team were now being mentioned. Together and in one sentence. Apparently Time Team had been in touch with Cardiff University looking for a Welsh site to excavate. Someone thought the Caerau site may be suitable.

From previous discussion it’s probably been possible to pick up on the fact that this triangular shaped field over my garden fence was of real importance to me. It may have been full of poo and biting insects but for the last seven years or so it had been my field. No-one else had shown the slightest interest in it except me and Mr B and, occasionally a very reluctant Brooke the dog. I had enough research under my belt to know that this was where the early Caerau people had lived and possibly died. I had spent the last few years researching, photographing, walking and referencing an ever changing and ever expanding document to show my findings and explain how I had come to them. The place held its own secrets that I had yet only been able to guess at. It was a physical place that would be no more if it was dug up and carted off in boxes to some backroom in a museum.

I had absolutely no expectations that there would be any Staffordshire Hoard type discoveries to be made but I thought there may be some evidence of how the people lived up there and, even perhaps why they chose to live there. If it was defensive who were they defending themselves from? Did the Romans live there? Why was the church built at the top of such a steep and inaccessible area?

If word got out about this place would it be dug up at the dead of night and carried off in wheelbarrows, appearing on eBay sometime soon? Would the whole place end up as an area of square box houses with commanding views across Cardiff? What happened if they found human remains?

Of course, being Mrs Angry from Caerau means that at such awkward moments, everyone turns and looks at you. Especially Mr B, who had mentioned this before, only to receive a resounding NO in reply to his question, I think he did actually hold his breath.

Shall we just say that, at this point, I probably mentioned I had serious misgivings.

Follow the story in the next installment, coming soon…