Monumental Mounds and
Bumps in the Ground
The Elan Valley has a surprisingly large number of archaeological sites, many having been recorded only recently as part of the Elan Links scheme and others discovered by volunteers walking the lesser trod uplands. Discernible as earth banks, ditches and clusters of stone there is a rich history of people having settled, lived, died and entombed across the estate.
From our prehistoric ancestors who first farmed the uplands and buried their dead on the terraces of the hills and mountains to the masses of medieval people building houses on the fringes of the valleys there are tantalizing clues if you know where to look and what you are looking for.
Craig Cnwch Stones are part of the Craig Cnwch prehistoric monument complex of five round barrows (cairns), three possible clearance cairns and five or six standing stones within the area.
The probable Bronze Age Cairn Ricet, although appearing on early maps had almost disappeared from the modern record and was threatened by off road vehicle traffic.
Surveyed by Trysor Heritage Services and made visible by the snows of early 2023, a trial excavation has determined its survival below the turf.
Often the dense swath of bracken can hide archaeological features such as earthworks and early house platforms. Sometimes the bracken’s uniform height shows the contours of the earthworks beneath, such as this example near Pen y Garreg reservoir captured as part of the Trysor survey. (photo credit: Trysor heritage services)
Some platforms are so slight that they are easily missed, especially when, for example, they have a wire fence across them! This is one of a number of medieval or post medieval house platforms that sit below the Claerwen dam. Low sunlight often helps to see these features , exaggerating their shadows, so it’s often a combination of knowing where and when to look. Next issue I will point out some other ways to ‘see’ the archaeology to reveal some of the hidden history of the area.
You can learn more about the archaeology of Elan and recent discoveries at the Festival of Archaeology and History over the last weekend of July at the Visitors Center. There are still upcoming opportunities to take part in training workshops and volunteer for community excavations, to get hands on with the history of Elan Valley, please contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Gary Ball, Engagement Education and Events Officer: Heritage