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Sue Brooke updates us on the latest threat to Caerau hillfort in Cardiff. This story was originally published on her own website.
Well, here I am again. Mrs Angry from Caerau has raised her ugly head once more. Over the last nine years or so I have bored everyone close to me to distraction about that triangular shaped field in Caerau. It’s important. I used to spend hours wandering around up there trying to figure out what all the lumps and bumps were about. I researched it and learned loads about what it all meant. I kept the whole thing as quiet as possible from the public domain so that the area would remain protected due to it being preserved mostly in public record at that time. Eventually I started to share some of this locally, working with the children and young people of the local schools. This was primarily to keep the crumbling remains of St. Mary’s Church as safe as possible.
Then along came Cardiff University. To be honest they were a little behind me in this research but, eventually and not without some fear I talked with them about it. They had lots of money that they were willing to invest in this area and they were able to engage with the public in far greater ways than me. Eventually this triangular shaped field of ‘mine’ was to be given a little bit of status as an Iron Age (at least) hill fort.
If you know about this then you will know that hot on their heels came Time Team. They came, they made a mess and a telly programme then they left. All stuff designed to give this little old lady in Caerau a little bit of the wobbles. I had massive reservations about all of this. I was accused of ‘selling out’ by allowing myself to become involved in this. Overall my fears were allayed and, although the area has been mucked about with by young ladies and young men digging holes, it has actually been really beneficial to the local communities of Ely and Caerau. Cardiff University formed the CAER Heritage Project and they worked their socks off in order to engage residents in the whole of their work. What Time Team did, on your 55 inch flat screen telly, was to tell the whole of Ely and Caerau what an amazingly valuable historical monument they lived alongside. Thank you for that.
The church of St Mary, long a victim of vandalism was now being looked after. There are people involved in this who have pursued Cardiff Council and persuaded them to help keep the remains of this historic building together. They have given up their time to tidy up the area, to log the graves and to generally give this church the respect it has so sadly been missing out on.
Overall the community has benefitted. The view from the hill fort is amazing when you look out towards Cardiff. The CAER Heritage Project believe this to be an area that would have been important to Cardiff itself. Of course, my endless research means I disagree with this – not entirely but my belief is and always has been that the hill fort would have been more better placed as part of what is now the Vale of Glamorgan and valued as such.
A few years ago changes began to happen. A solar park was to be built quite close to the site. It would be fine, we were reassured. This won’t be visible from the hill fort and will not detract from the beautifully serene surrounds one bit, they said. Unfortunately the building of this solar park caused some major issues for those living on the approach road. Let’s set this in to some kind of context. As you walk toward the track that leads from Caerau all the way to Michaelston le Pit you will need to walk underneath the A4232 Ely Link Road. Sadly, way back at the end of the 1970’s this road was built by cutting around the hill fort site. It’s no longer possible to walk up-and-over as we used to as kids, but hey, way back then we didn’t really know any better, did we?
This bit of Caerau is such an excellent resource for the local people. It’s usual to see dog walkers, horse riders, the footballing kids of the future and joggers all wandering along to make use of the area. Families wander through as well as groups of children and young people off to have fun on their own. I was one of these children once, having lived all my life nearby.
This lovely tree lined, although slightly narrow road, takes you from Caerau down toward the link road. The hill fort area is surrounded by beautifully managed woods, protected as a special area and inhabited by the most amazing birds and wildlife. Even slow worms like it in there. The homes along Heritage Drive, just off Cwrt yr Ala Road were built on the site of the old Caerau Isolation Hospital.
Sadly this was built within the banks and ditches of the Caerau hill fort. But hey, we didn’t know any better then, did we?
As I just mentioned a solar park was planned. Renewable energy they said. Yes, a few solar panels in the field and most certainly not visible from the hill fort. They actually forgot to mention that the construction of this amazing solar park would mean driving lorries, very quickly, in a dust raising, dirty and frankly quite dangerous manner along Cwrt yr Ala Road. That lovely quiet tree lined but slightly narrow road in the image above. Most residents took this on the chin. It was good for the environment wasn’t it, to get away from the smoking chimneys of the coal-fired power stations.
Everyone wants renewable sources of energy, don’t they? I’ve since learned from a friend that should you have solar panels on farmland then it’s wise that you keep animals out of the field as you can’t really sell them on later or even, it is my understanding, use the field for agricultural purposes for some years after the panels have been removed. I could be wrong on this or hey, maybe I just don’t know any better.
I was up at the hill fort only recently. It’s still so lovely up there but obviously, since the trees are now without their leaves, it is possible to see the Ely Link Road. And, surprise surprise, you can see the solar farm.
Now, and this is the bit that is really making me rather very angry, I have learned – via social media – that we are now going to have – guess what ? OK, that’s unfair, how could you know – I didn’t – a LANDFILL SITE. Yes, that’s correct. Now, this is not your black bag rubbish type tip, this is an ‘inert waste’ tip. What exactly does ‘inert waste’ mean? So, for the next 5 to 6 years up to 20 lorries, very quickly, in a dust raising, dirty and frankly quite dangerous manner will be driving along Cwrt yr Ala Road each day. That’s up to 40 journeys along this lovely quiet tree lined but slightly narrow road.
I’m really pleased to be able to say that the local Labour Councillor for the area is doing his level best to stop this happening. Indeed the Welsh Lib Dem AM for South Wales Central and spokesperson on Enterprise, Transport, Europe and Business has assured me that she will ‘look into it’ but in the meantime the Vale of Glamorgan Council has, in their recent report on this completely outrageous planning application – available online and therefore well within the public domain – given me the opportunity to give you some quotes. In fairness I suggest you check this out for yourselves but, in the meantime here are a couple of my favourites:
The site is located in open countryside and within the Cwrt yr Ala Basin Special Landscape Area as defined within the Unitary Development Plan. The site also lies within the boundaries of the derelict mineral site, the former Ely Brickworks. In addition it is noted that the Caerau Wood hill fort, which is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, is located to the north of the site within the neighbouring Cardiff Council Local authority area.
In terms of impact upon Vale residents this would be very limited as there is no residential development, within the Vale, close to the proposed site. With regard to impact upon Cardiff residents, and any significant effect on the environment by virtue of the nature, size and location of the development this is a decision for the Local Planning Authority (LPA)
So, there you are then. To me that translates as – yes, we know it’s an important area and we acknowledge this but let’s quickly move on. The second quote means that there are of course housing developments nearby but, come on, they are in Cardiff, not the Vale of Glamorgan so that doesn’t matter to us. In fact, just so you know and I may of course be pointing out the obvious here, there are many property websites used by estate agents and prospective buyers who will pick up on things like transport links, schools and, obviously, landfill sites. I’m not sure but I worry that the residents of the very beautiful vale village of Michaelston le Pit may find out that this may also affect them – just by being in quite close proximity to this tip site. In fact I spoke with an established and respected estate agent only this morning who advised me that although this may not actually bring down the price of a property nearby immediately it will certainly not improve it. The advice was to consult further with a surveyor. That’s not really what I wanted to hear and I am sure that nearby residents won’t be happy to hear the financial implications upon their hard earned mortgaged properties should they decide to sell.
I would suggest that there will be major concerns from Cardiff Council and their residents once this very well kept secret becomes public knowledge. I really hope so. The enjoyment of all to access the area from Cwrt yr Ala Road towards Michaelston le Pit will be impacted on, most certainly. The right of the Cwrt yr Ala residents to enjoy their homes will most certainly be negatively affected, I know this as I lived through the delight of the solar park development. The access to the hill fort and the 12th century church for community groups will be restricted and, perhaps the work to preserve the tower of the old church could be seriously undermined by these vehicles shaking the living daylights out of it. That would be such a shame for all those who clearly care so much about it. What about Caerau (Ely) AFC – their ethos of ‘ Working With the Ely Community, For the Ely Community ‘ could be seriously affected by safety issues. I’m sure it won’t be safe to be toddling along there trying to dodge these vehicles for the next, what was it – 5 to 6 years?
So what can be done? I’m not too sure really. Perhaps we can suggest that the Vale of Glamorgan Council may want to consider other options for this ‘inert waste’ landfill site. Perhaps, let’s just think a minute – the residents of Dinas Powys would be happy for it to be placed just a bit further over.
That other hill fort area known as Cwm George has plenty of room. I bet not many people use this – just a couple of walkers, now and then – and the Woodland Trust won’t mind, surely? Or, perhaps, what about that stretch of beach adjacent to Sully Island? Hardly anyone goes there. The residents of Sully wouldn’t even notice. Yes, I agree that these are areas of special interest and so very important to the residents but isn’t Caerau of equal value?
There is just one little final quote that I will share with you. I visited Cosmeston Lakes Country Park today and went in to the little shop to buy a book on the history of this area. On the wall, right in front of me was this final quote from the Vale of Glamorgan Council. It read – and I quote ‘A sad chapter in Cosmeston’s history saw the quarry used for several years as a landfill site for household waste’. The little book I purchased for £4 completed this with ‘Permission to tip household rubbish on the west side of Mile End Road was granted to Penarth Urban District Council in 1964 (with some waster tipping already underway several years before that).’
So, please tell me – does this mean that the Vale of Glamorgan Council recognise that they really DO know better?
Three years after it was written the report on the work carried out at the Bancbryn stone alignment has been released. You can see it for yourself here and a response to it here. Despite promises that only 10m of the alignment would be destroyed and that it would be treated as if it was prehistoric, this does not appear to have happened. Around 35m of the stone alignment was finally destroyed and of this only 5m was excavated, the rest being lost with no record being made at all as a result of a mix up regarding its course. As if this was not bad enough the report’s conclusions are consistently contradicted by a catalogue of mistakes, exaggeration and the use of blatantly biased carefully selected information. Much has been made of the fact that the excavated stones were not associated with sockets, however in at least one photograph a large stone appears to sit within a cut and another one is on top of an unexcavated hollow.
The reasons for doubting the prehistoric interpretation are remarkable. Apparently the Bancbryn stone alignment can’t be prehistoric because the stones are of variable size, small, embedded into the subsoil and the alignment itself is sinuous in form. So there we have it after years of waiting we have finally been told that it can’t be prehistoric because …. well err…. it shares precisely the same characteristics as most of the scheduled stone alignments in the United Kingdom. This would be laughable if it was not so serious.
A guest post by Dr Sandy Gerrard
Over the past few years the sorry events at Bancbryn on Mynydd y Betws have featured frequently in the Heritage Journal. For some time now the local County Council have been asked to answer three simple questions. They have steadfastly refused to do so. If the job had been done properly they would not be difficult to answer, but sadly after months of asking the questions remain unanswered. The three questions were:
- Why was Cadw not consulted on the scheme of works used by the developers?
- Why did the scheme of works regarding the stone alignment fail to mention the site and instead refer to a Roman site in Gloucestershire?
- Why has no excavation report been produced?
Having failed to get answers from the council the Ombudsman was approached and their response might surprise you.
“The Ombudsman considers complaints of maladministration on the part of public bodies which causes hardship and injustice to members of the public. We normally take this to mean that an individual has suffered personal hardship or injustice as a result of the maladministration by the body. It does not appear to me, from the information available, that you have suffered personal hardship or injustice as a result of the matters you complain of. Therefore, the original matter you complain of is not one that the Ombudsman can consider under the restrictions imposed on him by law under the Public Services Ombudsman (Wales) Act 2005.”
So next time you uncover dodgy goings on at county hall remember unless you are going to personally suffer hardship or injustice they simply don’t want to know and they would prefer it if you walk on by. You would have thought this country would have had enough of this type of attitude by now – but apparently not.
The modern archaeological industry is built upon the premise that sites selected for destruction should be recorded before they are destroyed. Following excavation the record is then deposited and the site is consequently “preserved by record”. At Mynydd y Betws the Bancbryn stone alignment was promised such treatment. Sadly whilst the first part was apparently completed the second was not. Carmarthenshire County Council have over the years been repeatedly asked for a copy of the excavation report and whilst most of these requests went unheeded recently a response was received.
“I have not had sight of any such report as part of my investigations, although I do not consider that it has undermined the fact that works have been carried out with due diligence within the development site, and that the condition imposed on the planning consent, and the reason for it, has been discharged in a way that is, on balance, proportionate and pragmatic”.
Basically they are saying that a report was not produced but this does not matter. What happens next time a developer says they will not fund the post-excavation. Carmarthenshire County Council have already set a dangerous precedent. For a site to be preserved by record there needs to be record otherwise the site has simply been destroyed and no amount of fine words will alter that fact.
To be clear a preliminary report was produced, but this included no photographs or drawings of the excavated areas. Instead photographs and drawings were limited to the areas beyond the excavation. How many modern excavation reports include only images of the areas beyond the area being investigated and none of the excavation itself?
By Dr Sandy Gerrard
The opportunities to be involved in the decision making process are apparently endless these days. Our opinions are sought on everything by both the private and public sectors. Sometimes we are simply asked what we think about a particular issue or perhaps how we intend to vote. The information collected is analysed and supposedly the results help to make life better for us all.
In the archaeological world sometimes a consultation is carried out to collect expert opinions on what something might be. This was the case at Bancbryn where the inept Cadw officers, perhaps hoping to shift the responsibility for deciding what “that line of stones” might be, decided to ask some “experts” what they thought. They duly sent out information on the alignment and asked the “experts” what they thought it might be. As is the Cadw way they were very selective with the information they sent, and withheld or “forgot” to send the paper which presented the prehistoric case.
Inevitably, given that the “experts” were only sent information that supported a historic context for the alignment they all responded saying they thought it must be of historic date. They helpfully all added a few comments which sadly suggested that they were rather less expert in this field than one might have hoped, as many of their remarks betrayed a total lack of knowledge of the resource being assessed.
As far as I can tell no one with any real expertise in stone alignments was consulted and certainly nobody was sent the information needed to carry out an objective, balanced and impartial assessment.
How would you feel if you turned up at hospital with a broken ankle to be seen by an eye consultant who had been given notes on another patient?
Tinkinswood burial chamber, in South Wales, was built nearly 6000 years ago. The capstone, at around 40 tons weighs almost as much as a fully-laden 18-wheeler articulated lorry! The basic design of the site classifies it as one of the Cotwold-Severn group of burial chambers.
It was first excavated in 1914 by John Ward, Keeper of Archaeology at the National Museum of Wales, when over 900 human bones were discovered – it is estimated these were the remains of between 40-50 people. The vast majority of the bones had been broken, but the mix of ages and sex suggests use of the site by the entire community over an extended period.
The Tinkinswood of today is very different to that prior to the excavation, as extensive ‘restoration’ work was carried out at that time:
- a brick-built supporting pillar was inserted into the chamber
- the courtyard supporting walls were rebuilt, using a distinctive, and not at all authentic, ‘herringbone’ pattern to the brickwork.
- the rectangular mound and external revetment wall have been trimmed and generally ‘prettied up’, allowing easier interpretation of the site by visitors.
- the entire site would have originally been covered by an earthen mound so that no stones other than the courtyard entrance would have been visible.
In 2011, a local community project undertook a further excavation to learn more about the monument and it’s setting. Their project blog makes interesting reading for those interested in more information about this fascinating site!
Following on from her extended series of posts in 2013, and a visit last year, once again Sue Brooke has revisited Caerau hillfort in Cardiff, to report upon this year’s activities there with a much more personal view.
Since 2007 I have been researching the local area around Caerau. You may recall that I discovered what was to be later confirmed as at least an Iron Age hillfort, right over my garden fence. Much to the amusement of family and friends I waxed lyrical about this field full of lumps and bumps, cow poo and bitey insects. Although not exactly ‘preserved in public record’ as they say, this was well hidden and completely forgotten about so I was desperately trying to keep it secret and therefore protected. Of course Time Team later came and showed it in all its wall mounted, 48 inch, HD screen beauty, then went away again.
CAER Heritage Project and Cardiff University have however been periodically running community digs and generally involving the local community in the work they have been carrying out over the last three years or so and local interest has been increased. Their website shows the work that has gone on, not only in the field but in local centres and schools. Now and then local press picks up the story and it even pops up on local news. The really lovely thing about this work is that it involves everyone who is interested. Groups of primary school children through to older people have all taken a real interest in the site and become involved at various levels.
Me? Well, I moved away from the area recently. It was really sad to leave my garden fence behind and I do miss the trees as well as the mystery of what they would tell me if they could speak. But, I’m not that far away so I am still involved in keeping a close eye on what is going on. I go to the community events up at the site and still spend time wandering around with my camera. I still research the local history there and am still turning up really interesting information about the people who lived in the area and how it links to other sites nearby as well as a little bit further away.
On the 4th of July the project held a Big Picnic. The original idea of this was to replicate the old Christian tradition of the Whitsun Treat which used to be held in the field at Pentecost. This is still fondly remembered by locals. I’m not sure if this is a Welsh thing but it involved local children being transported to various sites, clutching a spoon with their name taped to the handle and a bag of something that their mum or Nan (very important people are Welsh Nan’s!) had made that they would share. It was about coming together and having fun.
As well as the Big Picnic there would be a parade today with stalls, face painting, information on finds and tours of the ongoing excavations. Now, my grandson is really ‘into’ history. He has recently visited Castell Henllys in Pembrokeshire and has, I am very proud to say, developed a really impressive (for an 11 year old) knowledge of Welsh early history. He asks questions, reads real books and takes it all in. He came with us with promises that I’d show him all the ditches and ramparts that had set my own imagination off and started this whole thing going for me in the first place. So, off we went.
A new brown heritage site arrow has appeared – pointing the way to the hill from the main road that runs through Caerau. Just in case you miss it there is another a little further on. This secret triangular shaped field of ‘mine’ is most certainly not such a secret any more.
There were quite a few cars parked at the entrance to the site and we were met by two lovely students who welcomed us on our way up. That walk up is getting steeper, I’m sure. I was a little surprised at the cars that were allowed up the lane, meaning I had to ensure we were safely out of the way – I tutted at one point, I admit – but at least it gave me a minute to stand and get my breath back. The view as you round the final bend never fails to impress me and I’ve been up there many, many times.
The entrance to the field was set up with the promised stalls and it was all very busy with a real sense of community. CAER’s Olly Davies (beautifully face painted by Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust artists) and Dave Wyatt were in the middle of it all so it was nice to catch up. We were able to see some of the more recent finds. What is particularly nice is that it’s possible to actually hold these in your hand, rather than peer at them through the glass of a museum case, although that’s probably where they will find a home eventually. At least I hope so, rather than end up in a box on a shelf somewhere. The extremely knowledgeable and really friendly young women in charge there are able to tell you not just what you are holding but also where they were found, what the significance is and how they have made them look presentable. It was also good in that, for me, the star find from last year (the Neolithic flint arrow head) was also brought back home for the day.
A handout was provided to enable understanding of the objectives for this year, entitled ‘Digging Caerau’ – not exactly my most favourite phrase. Nonetheless, five areas of the field are being examined this year – four of which have been previously examined and re-opened for further investigation. One new area is being examined to ‘explore what appears on the geophysics to be a boundary probably dating to the Roman period.’ Guided tours were being given to small groups but we wandered off on our own to see what was going on. Well, it is my field, after all!
My biggest concern prior to the Time Team investigations was that my hillfort would be dug up. Mr Cadw Inspector reassured me that this would not happen. I’ve seen the finds that have come out of the ground, so to speak, and found them fascinating. From my grandsons perspective he was thrilled to wander around and to see postholes within the trench, confirming that this was an area that people had actually lived in. As you may know, for local historians like me the people are as important as the place. But, the site itself, for me, is losing its special character. It is changing, losing its ‘feel’ underfoot and the magic of the lumps and bumps is fading along with the brown scarring of the excavated trench areas.
Since Welsh Nan’s are very important I had wandered off with the lad to show him how to interpret the various aspects of the site that had really grabbed my attention way back in 2007. But now, whilst the ramparts are still clearly visible one inner rampart now has a ditch cut through it. Please don’t misunderstand; it’s a really painstakingly created section from which the archaeologists are intending to gain dating evidence and environmental samples. But to me it’s a whacking great chunk out of the rampart that really won’t be the same once it’s refilled.
This is really evident in the beautiful ditch that once swept across part of the site. You couldn’t fail to see it and it was really easy to photograph. It looked like something special to me. Trouble is it looked like something special to Time Team and the other diggers too, so now it’s gone. I’ve since looked back over some of my early writing and the phrase ‘it’s quite possible to see ditches and ramparts untouched’ really jumps out. I wanted my grandson to experience that sense of standing in or on something special. Something that made a person curious and excited about what may have been there, who may have built it, why and when. To me that sense of excitement has gone now as not all of those lumps and bumps are there any more – I feel that is really quite sad.
I completely understand that archaeology is a science. Indeed, my own first degree is a Bachelor of Science (with honours, obviously!) but my science is more social, of ordinary people and of ordinary places. So whilst the archaeologists are looking down into mucky holes getting dirt under their fingernails I can be found looking through dusty old books, looking up and out and, quite often across. Both, whilst different perspectives, should complement each other in being able to tell the story of a place and understand the people who lived within it. But, and this is a big but, I don’t think digging things up, taking them away and, as a result of this changing the really special characteristics of the site will benefit anyone in the end. Perhaps I just have an emotional attachment to this hillfort but to me it all feels really selfish.
All in all my grandson enjoyed his day. He was able to get an idea of the hillfort from the Lidar images and the visual representations on show, ask questions about how a roof was put on the roundhouses, look into trenches and to see the burial mounds clearly visible on the mountain opposite. He took photos and met with ‘real’ archaeologists. He was (reasonably) impressed with his Nan’s knowledge and perhaps gained a different perspective of the site from that. I just have this nagging feeling that he would have enjoyed it quite a bit more if he could have felt what I did when I first went into that field. It was only eight years ago.
As we left Olly came to chat and asked what I was doing now – I explained I had moved house recently but that I had a found a new site of interest that I felt linked in to the Caerau site. His eyes lit up and he asked where, I told him to b*gger off, there is no way he is digging this one up…
Many thanks to Sue for this report of her day out to revisit an old favourite. Have you recently revisited a favourite site? Or are you planning to do so during this year’s Festival of Archaeology? If so, why not submit a short article and share your visit with others on the Heritage Journal?
A guest post by Dr Sandy Gerrard.
Our understanding of the past relies on carefully collecting information and piecing together the fragments to provide an insight into what happened in the distant or not too distant past. The process of converting the data from whatever source into explanations is called interpretation. We all do this countless times every day. We see something and in order to understand what it is we interpret it and react accordingly. Our reactions are likely to be based on experience and so it is with archaeological interpretation. The better one understands a subject the better are the chances of coming to a fully justified explanation which consequently has more chance of being right or at least being close to the mark.
Sometimes there is very little data to go on, whilst on other occasions there may be loads and often it can be contradictory. Interpreting archaeological data can therefore be very difficult and challenging and at the end of the process one may simply not be able to provide any answers and instead the reward maybe further questions. This I find an appealing aspect of archaeology and relish the opportunity to examine and re-examine ideas, theories and hypothesis.
Fundamental to the proper interpretative process is to embrace all the available evidence and to assess it comprehensively. Often much evidence still remains to be found and some may be hidden out of sight, but it is of paramount importance to ensure that at least the information that is readily available is used and used objectively.
A while back I was asked by Cadw if I would like to meet with them to discuss the situation at Mynydd y Betws. I responded positively saying:
“an on-site meeting would be most appropriate as some of the issues can only be properly considered there and we could then re-convene somewhere indoors to deal with the paperwork issues that are best dealt with out of the elements.”
Pretty clear I would have thought. Cadw have offered a meeting and I have accepted. Sadly in the perverse universe inhabited by Cadw, senior management were inexplicably informed that I had been:
“offered a face-to-face meeting, which Dr Gerrard has refused”.
Several interpretations of this situation are possible and most of them should concern anyone interested in the management of our past.
Is this a pile of stones or a Bronze Age burial cairn? Clearly sometimes the evidence is far from obvious and mistakes are understandably made. But surely we should expect the guardians of our heritage to understand the difference between Yes and No?
A guest post by Dr Sandy Gerrard.
When studying the past one normally tries to collect and examine all the known evidence before reaching a conclusion. Sometimes there is not much to go on and any conclusions are therefore inevitably provisional. On other occasions there is loads of evidence though this does not necessary make it any easier to work out what is going on. In Wales some archaeologists have come up with a solution to this age old problem.
Sites with little or no evidence can be lumped into whatever category takes their fancy on the day. The solution for sites with loads of evidence is even more ingenious. You disregard all the evidence that does not suit your conclusion and hey presto the required result. Magic!
An example of this ground breaking approach to archaeological interpretation is provided by the Archwilio entry for the Bancbryn stone alignment which somehow manages to ignore the archaeological excavations carried out by Cotswold Archaeology, a survey conducted by Cadw and the analysis presented in the Heritage Journal over the past few years. Instead it relies solely on carefully selected sections of a report prepared by Cadw and skilfully manages to present an interpretation that the same Cadw report dismisses as unsubstantiated.
This would be amusing if our heritage was not in these people’s hands.
Over the years the Heritage Journal has highlighted various issues regarding the protection of archaeology in Wales. It now seems that the Welsh Assembly Government agree with most of our concerns and have acknowledged problems with the existing system.
A Heritage Bill designed to tackle these problems is to be introduced in late Spring 2015 and amongst the proposed changes is the idea of making the designation process “more open and transparent by introducing formal consultation with owners and establishing mechanisms to review decisions”. Currently the process sometimes gives outsiders the impression that it is very secretive, inconsistent and often ill-informed. The move to a more transparent system should be welcomed by everyone with an interest in protecting Welsh heritage. Clearly as well as ensuring the creation of a designation system that works it is crucial that it is funded adequately. Providing that the Welsh Assembly can deliver on their promises to change the system and ensure that sufficient resources are made available Welsh heritage may have a better future.
Every year large numbers of scheduled ancient monuments are damaged. Cadw’s own figures (which are probably very conservative) indicate that between 2006 and 2012 there were 119 cases of unlawful damage to scheduled ancient monuments in Wales. Furthermore Cadw acknowledge that there has been only one successful prosecution under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 in the last 25 years. There is clearly a very large problem here and it is therefore somewhat disappointing that Cadw initially overlooked it. It is tempting to think that the recent case of damage to a length of Offa’s Dyke jolted them into making a late change to the proposed Heritage Bill. Hopefully their proposed remedy will work and ensure that the really important archaeological sites in Wales are finally offered some degree of protection.
A scheduled farmstead at Mynydd y Betws severely damaged in 2012 did not even appear on Cadw’s list of damaged sites. The site remains on the schedule but no remedial works have been carried out to protect the battered vestiges. Let’s hope the new proposed heritage protection system serves us better than the current one.