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Ten years ago today, at the suggestion of our much-missed friend Rebecca van der Putt, a diverse group of ordinary people interested in prehistoric sites met at an extraordinary place for a picnic.

Site of original ritual gathering. 28 July 2003

Site of original ritual gathering, 26 July 2003

From that first meeting grew Heritage Action which subsequently morphed into The Heritage Journal which aims to promote awareness and therefore the welfare of ancient sites. It has perhaps filled a gap as it seems to have struck a chord with many people, both professional and amateur. 140 archaeologists have contributed articles to it and it is currently followed by more than 4,500 people on Twitter (including Nelson Mandela!).

We can’t claim the Journal always says things that everyone agrees with – that would be impossible bearing in mind how many individuals contribute content to it but we can claim two things – first, that everyone that puts it together or writes anything in it has their heart in the right place when it comes to ancient sites and second that anyone with an interest in prehistory who reads it regularly is likely to find at least something to pique their interest. At least, that’s the aim. The guiding principle is to try to make it like a magazine, updated nearly every day and with articles that are as diverse as possible. If you don’t like Stonehenge you could scroll down or use the search box to read about the last black bear on Salisbury Plainthe Hillfort Glow experiment,   the stony raindrops of Ketley Crag,   the policeman who spotted three aliens in Avebury  or indeed that the Uffington Horse may be a dog!

Now that we’ve reached this milestone (which coincides with this year’s Day of Archaeology – do please join in there too, if you can!) the question arises – where does the Journal go from here, and for how long? It’s a matter for conjecture for it depends entirely on the efforts of contributors and the wishes of readers.  A number of veterans from the original picnic are still involved and we’ve also been joined by a number of excellent new contributors but we’re always on the look out for still more. Please consider helping (an article, many articles or a simple news tip-offs and a photograph – whatever you like) as it’s a worthy cause that is only truly valid if it’s a communal entity with multiple public voices. In addition, any suggestions for future innovations or improvements will be gratefully received (brief ones in the Comments or longer ones at theheritagejournal@gmail.com).

Better still, we’ll shortly be holding a pow-wow and lunch (details to be announced) to discuss how the Journal should progress from now on. You’re more than welcome to come.

Sue Brooke updates us on the situation at Caerau since Time Team departed. For the full story of Sue’s involvement in the events leading up to the program, see the previous parts in the series here.

After all the excitement of the famous faces arriving, the helicopters flying about, telly cameras everywhere and, let’s not forget the sterling work of those two lady CADW Inspectors, the more cynical of you (yes, me too) may have thought that was it – job done.  Three days of digging, a lot of mess and an hour long TV show.

Well, as I mentioned previously the television programme was shown, and was really well done. I was anxious at the time of how the area would be portrayed but it was fine.  You may recall it showed the most amazing aerial shots and gave a snapshot into life from possibly the Bronze age onwards, confirming my very amateur belief that this area had been occupied more or less right through to today.

However, it also promoted the work that the young people had been doing, and this was so important to me. I wanted these kids to get the credit they deserved.  Local schools, supported by the Ely/Cardiff Communities First Project, came together and worked hard up at the site during the filming. They behaved faultlessly and really made us proud of them. I received a copy of the newest Time Team Dig Book as a very welcome birthday gift. Inside there was a brilliant article covering the dig up at the Caerau hillfort. But, importantly, I was delighted to see that the young people featured heavily in the report.

The television programme stirred the imagination of those in the local areas of Caerau and Ely in Cardiff. But more importantly it promoted the work of the CAER Heritage Project, which has gone from strength to strength, receiving ‘proper’ funding to enable them to carry out the work they had hoped to do here.

If you check out their website  it states:

Archaeologists from Cardiff University have teamed up with Ely and Caerau Communities First, local residents and the local schools to start the Caerau And Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project, based in West Cardiff.   The aim of the project is to explore the history and archaeology of the Cardiff suburbs of Caerau and Ely from prehistory through to the modern day, helping to connect communities with their heritage and develop educational opportunities.

 So, whilst the dust of the Time Team crews has long settled, this project is still out there, discovering, digging and generally including everyone in understanding the history of their own area.

As you may re-call, I had serious misgivings about putting the Caerau Hillfort on the map, as it were. It was a hidden secret here and not many people understood fully the value of the site. In fact, most people had no idea it was here at all. I felt it was a huge risk to expose it in this way, particularly on the telly. It would appear that, in this case, I was wrong.

The site has benefitted so many children, young people and adults who have become involved in interpreting, understanding and, of course, in protecting the area.  CAER Heritage Project workshops have been held in order for participants to learn about life in the Iron Age. Professionals have been involved to develop and run accredited training courses, including learning through hands-on digging. A Live Local Learn Local Adult Learners Course is planned with the aim of sharing skills in processing and analysing historical finds. Importantly there are many volunteering opportunities, which will benefit all those involved. These of course are linked in to the Time Credit scheme where participants earn time credits. Check out the twitter page @timeplace_ely for more information on the particular scheme which runs in the Ely and Caerau area. It’s quite an innovative project which is so beneficial to local people.

In fact, in the exciting development of the Pathways to the Past Heritage Trail some very hard, physical work has been put in, in collaboration with the local authority and various local initiatives, to enhance the physical environment. Trees have been cut back to expose long hidden paths, weeds have been pulled out, rubbish cleared and even the local bat population get a look in, with an organised bat count planned. This heritage trail will link the Caerau Hillfort site to the new Iron Age village at St. Fagans National History Museum.

To keep up with developments check out, and perhaps join, the project Facebook page where photos are uploaded regularly to show and promote the work being done.

In doing this little progress report I contacted Dr. Oliver Davis and asked if he would give us a little insight into himself, rather than just his work. He really does keep in touch with the community. He popped around here only the other day for a chat and a coffee, so I took the opportunity to ask him the questions from our Inside the Mind series.  His answers will be appearing here soon.

The aim of the project was to explore the history and archaeology of the area, connect communities with their heritage and to develop educational activities. Well, it’s my view that, so far, they’ve gone a long way in achieving this.

I hope that, once the whole thing is evaluated, that there will be a lot for us to learn in using community based working like this to protect our heritage. This could then, potentially, be applied to other groups and perhaps motivate them to do something similar!

From Mrs. Angry in Caerau – a very (rare) ‘well done’ to all involved and, to Olly, my sincere thanks for taking part in this. I shall get you a cider.

Word has reached us of an exciting new project, led by Kris Lockyear Ph.D.  Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Archaeology UCL. The aim of the project is to conduct an archaeological magnetometry survey on a wide range of sites throughout Hertfordshire, including Verulamium Park in St Albans, site of the Roman city of Verulamium, sacked by Boudica in 60 CE.

An impressive list of local societies and heritage groups are currently involved in the project, including:

  • Welwyn Archaeological Society
  • North Herts Archaeological Society
  • East Herts Archaeological Society
  • St. Albans and Hertfordshire Architectural and Archaeological Society
  • Berkhamstead and District Archaeological Society
  • West Essex Archaeological Group
  • Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service
  • St. Albans Museum Service
  • St. Albans District Council
  • Hertfordshire Historical Environment Department
  • Wheathampstead Historical Society
  • Welwyn Hatfield Young Archaeologists Club
  • St. Albans Young Archaeologists Club

From what we understand, involvement in the project requires membership of a group, but there may be some ‘slack’ to accommodate members of the public who wish to learn about magnetometry. A calendar of planned surveys will be updated on the project website  as dates are confirmed. The website will also include updates of progress and other news.

Some surveying will kick off this week, and a course on Remote Sensing for Community Archaeology is being held at Verulamium Museum from 8th to 12th July. Tutors from the UK, the USA and the Netherlands will be giving the 40 participants lectures in Verulamium Museum in the mornings and practicals in the afternoons in the Park including magnetometry, resistance survey, GPR and magnetic susceptibility.

A worthwhile project that deserves support!

Also in Hertfordshire, the Norton Community Archaeology Group (NCAG) will again be digging at Norton Henge  from July 17 to August 24. We visited their open day last year, and found it to be a fascinating site. For more information about NCAG or to join the dig visit their web site or contact ncagmembers@live.co.uk

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