It is now two years since the stone alignment on Bancbryn at Mynydd y Betws was identified. Those wishing to visit the area will find that a once peaceful hill now often resonates with the sound of huge industrial turbines. The whole setting is very different and the area is littered with signposts and bollards denoting the new roads which have recently been carved through a rich archaeological landscape containing three scheduled ancient monuments.
As regular readers of the Heritage Journal will be aware, for the past two years I have struggled to make sense of the original decision which permitted this seemingly important area to be desecrated. After all it was not even within an area highlight by the Welsh Government as particularly suitable for this type of development and both the archaeological agencies Cadw and Dyfed Archaeological Trust (DAT) had opposed it. This area was known to contain important archaeology and yet permission was eventually granted subject to certain conditions being fulfilled. It was the proper fulfilment of these conditions that has however been my primary concern and formed the focus of my critiques.
Following the discovery of the stone alignment I asked that it be assessed for scheduling and enquired why it was overlooked in the first place. What followed I believe has exposed serious failings in the way that heritage protection services operate in Wales. To date only a small proportion of the issues that have emerged have been aired in the Heritage Journal and during the coming months I hope to be able to illustrate why I believe the present system is wholly unfit for purpose and failed to safeguard the archaeological interests at Bancbryn. Before examining the detail of where things went wrong it is worth remembering what all the fuss is about. After all it’s the archaeology that has suffered most.
The archaeology at Bancbryn is both important and complicated. The importance has clearly been acknowledged by the designation of three separate scheduled monuments, whilst the complexity is something that is increasingly been appreciated. A comprehensive examination of the area is still awaited and sadly those areas that have been destroyed without adequate record will necessarily remain enigmatic. A short report highlighting the different elements found at Bancbryn has been produced and can be viewed here [external link]. The report consists of a series of maps which will hopefully illustrate the nature of the surviving remains and so provide an insight into the character of the archaeology. Hopefully this will help explain, in part, why I feel the archaeological interests of this rather special place should have been looked after rather better by those responsible for its welfare.