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Oh, did I mention the helicopter?

The final installment in Sue Brooke’s story of her experiences with Time Team at Caerau Hillfort in Wales.  New readers should start at Part 1 or see here for all previous installments and get right up to date.

Lots of emails started flying about that the Time Team programme would start its final run in January 2013. It seemed that the Caerau episode was one of the last series that would be filmed. Lots of excitement among everyone involved and who couldn’t wait to see the programme. Oddly I felt a little bit apprehensive. I wasn’t sure how the area and community would be shown or perceived, whether all the filming with the youngsters would be included, what the overall outcome would be. Anyway on the day it turned out to be difficult as the programme was scheduled to go out whilst I was working. Sod’s Law. No problem really as it was easy to record it. The thing is I just couldn’t wait to see this recording and I wouldn’t be home until about 11.30pm. Luckily there was a telly where I was to be working for the first half hour of the show. We put it on and I watched anxiously. Up pops Tony Robinson and one of the first things he did was pronounce the name Caerau wrongly. I groaned. Then the texts started arriving on my phone!

Overall the programme was really well done. OK, some of the shots, particularly the one of the sign saying ‘no guns’ could have been placed into a better context but having said that, I liked what I saw. The young people were included really well throughout the programme. The episode agreed with my work more or less, in the interpretation of the site. The fact that there were no human remains or shiny swords found would, I hoped, show that this site was interesting only in a people and place historical context rather than from a night-hawk perspective.

One of the best features, for me, were the aerial shots taken from the helicopter. OK, it has to be said that a lot of the texts I got were from people saying they had just seen my house (!) but for me it helped set the site in a brilliantly wider community context within Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. Thank the gods for the pause button on the remote control. Luckily they didn’t manage to pick out me waving madly from the garden fence but it was a real shame I couldn’t have gone up in it! I have some aerial images but due to copyright difficulties I can’t share them here. But there is a lovely aerial shot on the CAER Heritage website.

I had seen the important ‘finds’ as they had come out of the ground but was surprised that a lot of others weren’t included. Perhaps there is scope for another programme. Perhaps they simply wanted to focus on the Iron Age rather than how the site was used following that. I’ve ‘seen’ this programme about five times since it aired but I haven’t actually ‘watched’ it yet, if you know what I mean. I get so distracted with the various elements of it that I haven’t yet been able to grasp the whole story, as Time Team tells it. In case you’re wondering, I actually did appear, for about 30 seconds but it was the back of my head, luckily!

Some of the ‘finds’ just after discovery.

Some of the ‘finds’ just after discovery.

The upshot of all this has been that it has enabled the CAER Heritage Project to move on quickly and professionally. Olly has written a booklet to accompany both the project and the TT episode which was launched at The Senedd in Cardiff (the main public building for the National Assembly of Wales), with various political party members attending. The local press picked up the story again and the display of work undertaken by the local schools has been on the road, so to speak, visiting St. Fagans Museum of Welsh Life, The Senedd and the Cardiff Story Museum. More funding has been secured so much more work can be carried out. The importance of the site has been highlighted which, hopefully, will protect it further.

So from my very serious misgivings about the total madness of letting Time Team dig it up there has been lots of positives. The field itself recovered well from the trenches dug and the vehicles churning it up, and as promised by CADW they did not dig it all up. Overall those lovely lumps and bumps remain intact. So that’s another good thing! There has been increased interest locally and even from other people who lived here once and moved away. I’ve chatted to lots of interested and interesting people who all have had another story to add to my collection. I’ve run out of the launch booklets, such has been the interest. Primary schools have contacted me asking for talks and more information on linking in with the work the CAER Project is doing. One little girl’s mum rang me to say her daughter marched into school telling her teachers that I was her friend (her mum refused to allow her to say aunty!) and that I knew everything about the Celts and had even been on the telly. I’ll be visiting there shortly to talk to the kids about it all.

So, the final opinion of the Time Team professionals was that this area, with its commanding views and good strategic position was probably very important in the area that would become modern Cardiff. They actually named it Capital Hill. All really good telly stuff.

The view from the hillfort site across Cardiff.

The view from the hillfort site across Cardiff.

The thing is, and this is really important to both me and my ever changing research, I don’t agree with that. But, that’s another story.

Very many thanks to Sue for putting this story together for us! We hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as we did. There’s a lot more information about Caerau and the surrounding district on Sue’s own blog

Caerau Hillfort:

OS Reference ST13377498

CADW SAM Number GM 018

National Public Record Number 94517

 For those who may wish to visit then please note that there are various access points. However, the safest access to the hillfort site is via Church Road, Caerau, Cardiff. 

For sat nav purposes use the postcode CF5 5LQ

Vehicles may not access the lane without prior consent of the landowner. The lane access gate is kept locked. It is however possible to walk up the hill but access is very steep and may be quite risky when wet. Visitors are asked to take care when in the grounds of the church due to the age and nature of the cemetery in the churchyard of the remains of St. Marys Church. Always remember that the area is a Scheduled Ancient Monument so may not be interfered with in any way.

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