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.
Cwrt yr Ala Road on a typical afternoon.
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?