Author: arfordir_ggat

Coastal archaeology and community engagement

I’m Ellie, a project archaeologist with GGAT, and I’m currently working on a community project, Arfordir (‘coastline’ in Welsh) which involves working with volunteers to monitor and record the vulerable archaeology in the coastal zone of south east Wales.  The study area encompasses the coast of the Gower peninsula and Swansea Bay as far as the mouth of the River Ogmore.  This includes fascinating archaeology of all periods, much of which is at risk from coastal erosion, sea level change, visitor damage and other threats.

A view of the ruined Candleston Castle in the sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr

A large part of the workload of the project involves general admin, I spend the first part of every morning checking and answering emails from volunteers working on the project and liasing with colleagues.  The project study area has just been expanded to the east and a lot of new volunteers have been recruited in this area, so I’ve been organising a meeting and training session, and inviting interested people to come along.

We’ve also just started working in partnership with a similar project in Swansea, and I’ve been creating a leaflet advertising the opportunity to volunteer and get involved in this.  I’m also planning a series of guided walks around the study area so I can show volunteers some interesting archaeological sites and they can get some experience in recording and surveying.  In preparation for this, I’ve been creating maps showing the sites in the area and lists detailing what they are.  Finally, I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon writing a proposal for a spin-off from the Arfordir project, a small excavation on the foreshore of Swansea, investigating a series of wooden posts embedded in the Brynmill peat shelf.  In the past features in this peat shelf have been found to be of prehistoric date, so these wooden posts could be thousands of years old.  I’m hoping to spend part of the autumn excavating them with a team of volunteers so that we can find out.

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Bury Holms full of potential!

The Arfordir project coordinator with a group of volunteers discussing the ruins of the religious buildings on Burry Holms island on a recent guided walk

Volunteers on a guided walk to Burry Holms

As part of the Arfordir project, Ellie recently led a guided walk for volunteers out to the tidal island of Bury Holms.

They were very lucky with the weather, and had a very enjoyable day identifying new archaeological sites and assessing the condition of other sites.

The hillfort which encloses the top of the hill is very well-preserved with a deep ditch and a high bank forming defences on one side, with the steep cliffs forming defences on the seaward sides of the island. There is a Bronze Age burial mound at the far western end of the hillfort, which would have been in existence when the fort was in use. One new site that was identified in the course of this fieldwork was a modern concrete pad, partially cut into the burial mound, which was initially interpreted as a Second World War gun emplacement, but which turned out to be a lighthouse base for the gas-fired lighthouse which was set up there after the Whiteford lighthouse was decommissioned.

On the other side of the island, the group visited the extensive ecclesiastical complex. They saw the ruined remains of a small stone church, and the ruins of another building which might have been a teaching room, both dating to the medieval period. Just to the south of the church are the foundations and earth banks which defined a large area of domestic buildings and living quarters. To the north of these is a building which is thought to date to after the reformation of the church under Henry VIII, part of which are still standing to around 2m high! When parts of this site were excavated in the 1960s, they found that the remains earlier buildings from the Early-medieval period survived underneath these buildings.

The group hopes to do a detailed survey of the ecclesiastical remains as part of the project, though that will have to wait until autumn, when the vegetation is a little lower!