by Sandy Gerrard

The shambles at Mynydd y Betws could have been completely avoided if Cadw and the Dyfed Archaeological Trust had asked for the vegetation to be cut from the areas that were going to be annihilated by the wind farm development. Both organisations were happy to see areas of high archaeological potential destroyed without any attempt being made to look for visible archaeological remains. When I first contacted Cadw I was informed that:

“the features you have identified have been noted following burning on the mountain, and they are new discoveries which were not visible during the preliminary archaeological investigations due to vegetation cover.”

This comment makes it very clear that the archaeology was not found because it was hidden and therefore not looked for. But why did Cadw and Trust not ask for the vegetation to be removed? After all they had insisted that the soil be removed in places to see if there was anything below. My response to their position was:

“I was also surprised to learn that it is now apparently acceptable practice to ignore areas covered with dense vegetation during an assessment on areas adjacent to scheduled archaeology that are to be destroyed.”  

The answer to this observation was:

“Regarding vegetation clearance, it is not currently standard practice for large areas of vegetation to be cleared in advance of development, particularly in areas of ecological sensitivity”.

Remember the areas in question were about to bulldozed to oblivion which is hardly ecologically friendly. Eventually Cadw conceded:

“It may have been possible to clear within the development footprint without causing ecological concerns and it is possible that this would have revealed archaeological remains. This is something which will be borne in mind for future developments.”

So Cadw have accepted that it might in future be helpful to clear vegetation from areas with high archaeological potential that are about to be destroyed. Clearly this is too late for some of the archaeological remains on Mynydd y Betws and why did they previously feel that it was entirely appropriate to allow the destruction of areas within a few metres of scheduled archaeology to be permitted without first checking properly to see if there was anything there?

By comparison, in Scotland, (where things are probably also far from perfect), care is taken to search areas that are about to be destroyed. For example, south west of Aberfeldy along the line of a proposed new road being constructed to provide access for pylons the vegetation has been cleared along a wide corridor, allowing previously unknown sites to be identified and offered protection.

Bing aerial view showing the large-scale clearance of vegetation along the proposed road corridor. This work has allowed the identification and protection of important archaeology. Seems a sensible approach so why did this not happen at Mynydd y Betws?

Bing aerial view showing the large-scale clearance of vegetation along the proposed road corridor. This work has allowed the identification and protection of important archaeology. Seems a sensible approach so why did this not happen at Mynydd y Betws?

Why is it that in Scotland the archaeological authorities consider it important to have a proper look for archaeological sites within the path of development whilst in Wales they were happy to ignore any archaeological remains that happen to be hidden by vegetation? It seems a very dangerous policy to allow the destruction of sensitive archaeological areas without first checking to see if there is anything there. This is certainly what happened at Mynydd y Betws.

A previously unknown prehistoric round house revealed as a result of vegetation clearance prior to the building of the new road. The clearance of vegetation prior to construction made it possible to safeguard this important site. In Wales this archaeology would have been destroyed.

A previously unknown prehistoric round house revealed as a result of vegetation clearance prior to the building of the new road. The clearance of vegetation prior to construction made it possible to safeguard this important site. In Wales this archaeology would have been destroyed.

 

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