Welcome ! This is a blog for people who want to be a friend of Wincobank Hill, for those who are fascinated, curious or concerned about the unique hill fort set high above Sheffield's Don Valley, encircled by ancient woodland that conceals the mysteries of history.

Who was here and why? Did they live, work or keep watch here? What part did this place play in the politics of an emerging nation? Was this the cradle of the British metal industry? And where was the water?

So many people are beginning to retell their stories, ask good questions and make suggestions that it's time to share what is happening ....

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Penny reporting from Caerau Hillfort, Cardiff

There's something pretty special going on up a hill in Cardiff.  Not just any hill - but one just like ours.  And what's nice is that we were invited to join the party. The logistics of organising a coach trip to Wales defeated us and, as there really wasn't room in Cousin Betty's bungalow for all the Friends of Wincobank Hill, I went on my own with a mission to bring back the news of those long lost Celts who once lived on the hillfort in the district of West Cardiff now known as Caerau and Ely.

I just missed the weekend community dig and celebratory hog roast that had followed the first fortnight of excavation. I didn't stoop to pick up a trowel, neither did I shake the sieve,  But I talked to people and I listened.  And now I'm trying to remember what was said.  There was just so much that made me realise how similar the two projects are and just how much we can learn from each other.

Wincobank has its trials with speculative builders trying to plug the greenspace gaps between houses.
Fifteen years ago or so, Caerau was under threat from a new dual carriageway planned to run right through the middle of the hillfort.  A damage limitation compromise still resulted in the loss of a slice of woodland. You can just see the road cutting between the trees.
 The housing development couldn't get much closer either, Heritage Close is exactly what it says - close to the heritage - probably on top of it.   Just like the houses on Fort Hill Road are almost part of Wincobank Hillfort.

All the other challenges are there too - vandalism, litter, graffiti, off road vehicles.  The woodland paths are overgrown and steep. Barbed wire encloses the summit to contain the cattle who usually graze on the hillfort. The picturesque ruin of St Mary's Church is a focus for anti-social behaviour and local people, who remember it as an active church and lively youth club are trying to keep it tidy and protect the ancient graves.

It is the Friends of St Mary's who are the main community partners and several members were on site, working in the blazing sun to scrape away the dry and dusty soil searching for fragments of molten metal in the clay that might suggest early metal working. Not far away, a team of university students were gradually revealing the gulley and post holes of an enormous round house that was large enough to shelter three generations of a family along with their cattle. I was really impressed with the patience and persistence of the diggers and how willing they were to explain to visitors what they were doing and how important this experience was to them.

Every find was carefully logged on an individual sheet, bagged up and sent to the finds store at the local Glyn Derw High School where school pupils had the opportunity to help sort and wash the collection.  The school staff had welcomed the opportunity to be involved with this three year project and were delighted that their young people were able to benefit from working alongside the university students.  There was clearly a very good relationship between university and school based on an understanding of each other's needs and priorities. The school staff had found opportunities for meaningful history research, art, creative writing and technology and talked about individual children who had  been really inspired and affected by the project.

There was much talk about a beautiful brooch that had been found, but wherever I went it seemed to be somewhere else.  The closest I got to this finding it was this enlarged photograph pinned on the notice board in the school art room so I am still guessing that this it.  I was amazed that such a beautiful piece could survive and keep its colour for thousands of years.  Perhaps this brooch will appear in the history books of the future and I will be able to say I was near to its discovery and I think I nearly saw it. Hundreds of school children and community volunteers will certainly be able to tell their grandchildren that they saw it, held it and remember the excitement. A priceless memory.

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