The Big JUNE Dig!

Dr Amelia PannettJune offers another exciting month with Forgotten Landscapes project at the Blaenavon World Heritage Site.  There will be one of the biggest archaeology digs taking place this year.  So we thought we’d have a quick chat with Dr Amelia Pannet who is leading the dig and find out what the community archaeology dig is all about.

Hill Pits Workday

Hill Pits Workday

 
The Community Archaeology Dig  on 12th – 16th June and is overseen by Dr Amelia Pannett MIFA, who’s the Project Manager for Archaeology Wales Ltd.

 

 

1. What is your role as part of the Community Archeology Dig?

Church and Archaeology sites 189The community archaeology dig forms part of a course that I (in my role as Project Manager at Archaeology Wales) am running for Forgotten Landscape Project (FLP). The course aims to train volunteers in the skills they need to run their own research project and how to monitor sites within the WHS to ensure their long-term preservation. For the dig itself, my colleague Sian and I will be training the volunteers in all aspects of excavation, recording and surveying.

2. How and when did you begin teaming up with the Forgotten Landscapes project?

I first started working with the FLP volunteers in early 2012 when we were compiling a Conservation Management Plan for the site of Hill Pits. This involved recording the different features of the site as they survive, looking at possibilities for future work and monitoring the features to ensure they do not deteriorate in the future. This initial work leads on to a programme of small-scale clearance at the site, revealing the footprint of part of the cottages associated with the mine, making it easier for visitors to understand.

3. Why is the Blaenavon area of such archeological importance?

Church and Archaeology sites 193Blaenavon is unique! The landscape contains a huge number of sites relating to all aspects of the industrial use of the area – from the very early scourings to extract coal to the modern workings at Big Pit. Aside from the industrial sites, for which Blaenavon is best known, there is a lot of pre-industrial archaeology, ranging from prehistoric burial cairns to the small hill farms that existed in the landscape before mining and ironworking came to the area, allowing us to see the evolution of the use of the landscape. The preservation of sites is also significant – although most are in a ruinous condition, a large number of post-medieval and industrial sites are still recognisable as houses or mine workings, which is fantastic for visitors who can visualise how people would have lived and worked in the landscape.

4. Could you briefly outline exactly what you’re working towards in June?

We are investigating the site of four ruined cottages and their associated outbuildings, fields and water supply. The cottages sit within one of the main areas of early mining in the landscape and date to at least 1820. We want to learn more about the development of the site – how did the occupants of the houses live and work the surrounding land, what did they have to do to ensure a fresh water supply and where are they likely to have worked. Our research so far has involved looking at old maps and documents and we have also started a survey of the site, producing a drawn and photographic record of its current state of preservation. This information will allow us to put together a series of research questions that we will then aim to answer through the excavation of a small number of trenches.

For more information see below or visit Blaenavon Visitor Centre:
Forgotten Landscapes Dig

Catch a Falling Star at Blaenavon, World Heritage Site

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Here’s a wonderful event happening on Friday 10th, so why not roll up to the “Whistle Inn” near Blaenavon to discover the stars and explore the galaxy, using a portable planetarium which will be focused on interesting phenomena in the … Continue reading

Discover Garn Lakes at the Blaenavon World Heritage Site

Around the Forgotten Landscapes World Heritage Site there are plenty of places soaked in history to explore and discover.  An important way to find out about these sites is to start off at the Blaenavon World Heritage Centre.

Garn Lakes

Garn Lakes

One place that is worth a visit is Garn Lakes.  The Garn Lakes nature reserve was created on the site of spoil tips as part of the regeneration of the area when mining ceased.  It comprises two large ponds, woodland plantations, meadows and, most recently created a boggy area with reedbeds.  The reserve thus contains a range of habitats that would occur naturally in the area and supports a wide diversity of wildlife.  The Forgotten Landscapes volunteers have been undertaking projects to enhance and to maintain the reserve, in order to maximise its value to human visitors and its other residents.  For the last year, volunteers have been conducting a monthly count of the wildfowl and wading birds on the reserve.  This data is included in the national Wetlands Bird Survey conducted by the British Trust for Ornithology.  Compared with major sites, the numbers at Garn Lakes are small but all these small sites nationally add up to a great deal, providing nesting habitats for some species and winter feeding for many more.  2012 saw the first record of Tufted Duck breeding at Garn Lakes as well as the ubiquitous Mallard.  Snipe, a wading bird of conservation concern on account of its declining numbers, have been recorded regularly and might breed in the reedbed area once the habitat matures.

Hill's Pit at Dawn by Nicholas Beswick ©

Hill’s Pit at Dawn by Nicholas Beswick ©

Garn Lakes are also a good site for many species of small birds, including warblers that visit in the summer.  Rich song from scrubby undergrowth may betray the presence of Blackcap or Whitethroat; wet areas may attract Reed or Sedge Warblers whilst the wistful song of the Willow Warbler may be heard in the woods.  The Forgotten Landscape project has recently installed an artificial Sand Martin bank.  These relatives of the Swallow excavate nest tunnels in sandy banks near water and it is hoped that they will take to ready-made homes at Garn Lakes as they do elsewhere.

Better Yourself – Volunteer Focus- Education and Engagement

Help the Forgotten Landscapes project educate and engage.  This is a chance to volunteer to help younger generations learn about the Forgotten Landscape Projects great history and guiding walks around some of the most significantly historic places in the World.

The Walking Festival By Peter Fry ©

The Walking Festival By Peter Fry ©


The Junior Rangers Team.

It isn’t just the grown ups that can help make the Forgotten Landscapes Project a continued success. The Junior Rangers club, which is led by Forgotten Landscapes Education Officer Ceri Cadwallader, is the perfect option for any kids that love wildlife and exploring out in the open countryside. Open to children aged 7-11, the team meet once a month and get to do all sorts of fun activities, from learning bushcraft skills and canoe safaris to helping out with practical conservation tasks. The project is currently looking for new leaders.

Guided walks and events.

On top of helping to care for the landscape, our dedicated volunteer rangers also find the time to help out with our events and guided walks. At the recent Garn Lakes Country Fayre, this has involved manning the stand and talking to visitors about the scheme, as well as promoting the volunteer rangers. Where guided walks are concerned, volunteers have helped prepare for and even led the walks themselves – including at this year’s first first Blaenavon Walking Festival.

To sign up contact: 
Sarah Lewis, Forgotten Landscapes Volunteer Recruitment & Training Officer
E- mail: sarah.lewis@torfaen.gov.uk
Tel: 01495 742335 

Better Yourself – Volunteer Special – Wildlife Monitoring Team

Help the Forgotten Landscapes project reintroduce wildlife.  Volunteer for the monitoring team to participate in upland & wildlife monitoring…

Peregrine ©

Peregrine ©

Help take care of some of the region’s most important yet declining wildlife species by carrying out surveys throughout the year. Volunteers spent the winter of 2011-12 monitoring red grouse, which rely heavily on the heather moorland. They’ve also been instrumental in monitoring just what larger effect the Forgotten Landscapes Project has had on the environment. Other wildlife monitoring activities have included recording and photographing at the FLP reed bed creation site where water levels, reed height, signs of mink and other general observations are recorded.

If you’re into birds, you can do the British Trust for Ornithology a massive favour and help out with the monthly Wetland Birds Survery of Garn Lakes Local Nature Reserve. 

Individual Benefits
Mental: Slow down, enjoy a peaceful setting and enjoy the positivity of knowing you are contributing to the progression of nature.
Physical: Enjoy being active and relaxed.
Environmental/ Future Society: Helping the welfare of nature and improving habitats.

To sign up contact: 
Sarah Lewis, Forgotten Landscapes Volunteer Recruitment & Training Officer
E- mail: sarah.lewis@torfaen.gov.uk
Tel: 01495 742335

 

Better Yourself – Volunteer Special – Archaeology Group

Sign up today to help save history! Improve the landscape around the World Heritage Site, learn a new skill and help make a difference…

Hill Pits Workday

Hill Pits Workday

Ever wanted to turn back time and discover just how people lived their lives many years ago? Join this group and you’ll do just that. Volunteers meet twice monthly (one indoor and one outdoor learning session) to hone their archeology skills under the watchful eye of experts from Archeology Wales. Complete the scheme and you’ll have the tools needed to complete projects on other sites.

Individual Benefits
Mental:
Learn about the outstanding history from the area, learn how to find historic evidence and understand what to be an archaeologist. 
Physical:
Enjoy fresh air and being active.
Environmental/ Future Society: Preserving history of the area to ensure future generations are aware of the areas proud past.

To sign up contact:
Sarah Lewis, Forgotten Landscapes Volunteer Recruitment & Training Officer
E- mail: 
sarah.lewis@torfaen.gov.uk
Tel: 
01495 742335

Better Yourself – Volunteer Special – Dry Stone Walling

Sign up today for dry stone walling! Improve the landscape, learn a new skill and help make a difference…

Learning the historic methods of Dry Stone Walling

Learning the historic methods of Dry Stone Walling

A tricky skill to master, dry stone walling means not only helping to repair and save the region’s numerous historic areas, but also bettering yourself in the process by picking up a completely new skill. Volunteer and you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you’ve helped improve the landscape that relies on the walls to manage the land.

Individual Benefits
Mental:
Better yourself, learn a new skill, discover a new side of yourself and feel a wonderful sense of achievement.
Physical: Enjoy regular exercise and being active. 
Environmental/ Future Society: Help the landscape remain intact, preserve history, landscape legacy and ensure the countryside is controlled for wildlife.

To sign up contact: 
Sarah Lewis, Forgotten Landscapes Volunteer Recruitment & Training Officer
E- mail: sarah.lewis@torfaen.gov.uk
Tel: 01495 742335

 

Better Yourself – Volunteer Focus

Spring at Forgotten Landscapes

Spring at Forgotten Landscapes

With the weather so fine, it’s a great time to get outside, grab a few lungfuls of fresh country air and do some good to the area around you!

From the very beginning, volunteers have played a hugely important role in the success of the Forgotten Landscapes Project at the World Heritage Site.

With no less than five different volunteer groups, each one offers its own unique skills and challenges for individuals. So if you want to be a bit more active, see some more of this beautiful country of ours and help contribute to the lasting legacy of the South Wales Valleys, there’s really only one thing to do… volunteer!

So this week we’re going to focus on each of the five types of volunteering and today we’re kicking off with:

The Practical Conservation Team…

The Conservation Team Reed Bed Planting

The Conservation Team Reed Bed Planting

Working within a conservation team offers individuals more than just an opportunity to be out in the countryside helping to improve the landscape.   

This team carries out a wide range of countryside and rights of way management in a group of about six people, usually every other Wednesday and Saturday and sometimes on other days of the week too. To name just a few, these tasks have included:

  • Helping with controlled burning to manage the important moorland habitats of the landscape
  • Managing the invasive bracken to clear paths and make way for more heather
  • Putting in new signage for walking trail
  • Planting a new reed bed habitat

Individual Benefits
Mental
Get yourself out of the house, meet new people and make new friends.
Feel the positive karma of helping to improve the environment around you.
Physical
Fresh healthy air, exercise and being active
Environmental/ Future Society
Contributing to the welfare of the environment, helping reduce unique wildlife species back into the countryside and helping to clean up the World!

To sign up contact: 
Sarah Lewis, Forgotten Landscapes Volunteer Recruitment & Training Officer
E- mail: sarah.lewis@torfaen.gov.uk
Tel: 01495 742335

 

Some Remarkable Facts About Wildlife

The Forgotten Landscape project has successfully helped increase a variety of wildlife to the area.  One big success story has been the increase of the native red grouse to the moorlands.

Nicholas Beswick is a volunteer for the project, his role has been to monitor the red grouse and other wild birds in the area.

Here’s a quick insight to red grouse in the area and some facts that you probably never new!

Hill's Pit at Dawn by Nicholas Beswick ©

Hill’s Pit at Dawn by Nicholas Beswick ©

Grouse (correctly, Red Grouse, Lagopus lagopus scotticus)

The Red Grouse is a native game bird, unlike the Pheasant which was introduced by the Romans.  It is found only on heather moorland, with the bulk of the UK’s population in the Scottish highlands.  Our local birds are the most southerly native in Britain (they were introduced on to Dartmoor for game shooting).

Grouse in the Wild

GrouseThe grouse eat heather shoots and therefore flourish only where the moor is well managed.  Under or over grazing results in loss of heather and grouse.  In times past, local landowners employed gamekeepers to manage the moors and to control predators but cannot now afford to do so.  There is, though, still an established shoot which hopes to resume limited shooting if grouse numbers grow to a viable level.

Unlike many other birds, the Red Grouse is resident all year round and can survive the harshest weather on the mountains.  Indeed, some severe weather may be beneficial in killing insect parasites.  They are most easily found in fine weather in early spring when the males will be calling to establish territories and will usually be seen flying off, low over the heather.  They are Woodpigeon size and dark red-brown all over – good views through binoculars will reveal intricate markings and the male has red eyebrows.  They have harsh, barking calls; a typical one is often represented as “Go back!  Go back!  Go back!   Go back!”  The presence of grouse may also be inferred from their characteristic droppings which are often deposited on paths and look rather like small heaps of cigarette ends.

The Forgotten Landscapes Project

The Forgotten Landscapes project hopes to improve management of the moors for the benefit of the grouse and other wildlife.  This includes creating firebreaks to reduce the problem of wildfires, conducting controlled burning of over-mature heather, limiting the encroachment of bracken and encouraging helpful grazing regimes.  Volunteers are monitoring grouse and Skylark numbers to enable assessment of the success of the moorland management.  This will need to be a continuing task for many years as there are no quick fixes.­­­

 

If you would like to be involved in projects similar to this and learn more about volunteering contact Forgotten Landscapes today.
Contact: 
Sarah Lewis, Forgotten Landscapes Volunteer Recruitment & Training Officer
E-mail: sarah.lewis@torfaen.gov.uk   Telephone: 01495 742335

 

Springtime Things to do at Forgotten Landscapes

With spring finally in the air, April is the perfect time to discover the abundance of wildlife around Blaenavon. With fresh buds on the trees and famous Welsh daffodils in the meadows, local wildlife takes its cue from nature and makes its spectacular reappearance. We take a look at three great activities, perfect for flora and fauna enthusiasts.

Storming around Carn-y-Gorfydd

Spring at Forgotten Landscapes

Spring at Forgotten Landscapes

Enjoy an energetic, 4km circular walk or cycle around Carn-y-Gorfydd, meaning “site of the battle”, will introduce visitors to the great variety of plants and animals in the area. Spring offers the opportunity to ramble or ride through meadows carpeted with violets and oxalis. On the banks you’ll find the intense hues of bluebells, campion and white stichwort. Be careful though! Legend has it that if you pick the white stichwort you’ll bring on a storm.

A great chance to meet the locals.  Along the glacier-carved slopes, you’re sure to come across some of the areas avian residents. Declared a site of Special Scientific Interest, the beech woods and meadows provide the perfect springtime habitat for redstarts, pied flycatchers and green woodpeckers with their memorable, laughing call. Bring your bird watching book and you won’t miss a thing! More information can be found here. 

The Greening of the Garn Lakes

Visitors  enjoying Garn Lake

Visitors enjoying Garn Lake

One of the most remarkable sites around Blaenavon, the Garn Lakes offer visitors the chance to see first-hand the true regenerative ability of nature. Covering 40 acres of lakes and grasslands, the area was once covered in spoil tips and old colliery workings. Thanks to an extensive land reclamation scheme, it was reopened in 1997 as an area offering visitors outstanding views and a host of interesting local residents from the plant and animal world. It’s since been declared a local nature reserve.

Get your binoculars out.

A great starting point for walks around the area, the Garn Lakes is an ornithologists dream. Springtime brings visitors from Africa in the form of the Common Sandpiper and Willow Warbler. Around the lakes you’re also likely to see Tufted Ducks, Skylarks, Snipes, Redshanks and Little Grebes- a must-see for twitchers!

A short walk: Rare fauna on the Coity Tip Trail

A walking along one of Forgotten Landscapes nature trails

A walking along one of Forgotten Landscapes nature trails

A more genteel 1km (15 mins) springtime wander will take you through what might appear to be an unusual place to spot wildlife in this corner of Wales.  As the name suggests, the Coity Tip trail takes you round a former coal tip. Don’t let the history of this former ironstone mine fool you though! With the warmth of spring, visitors will be able to spot common lizards soaking up the rays on the boardwalk. In the UK these cold-blooded reptiles are rare and can only be seen between March and October. Taking your eyes off the boardwalk, you might also see buzzards searching for prey in the skies overhead. These birds are the most successful birds http://www.freepressseries.co.uk/news/pontypool_news/pontypool_news/10322520.Blaenavon_statue_of_rugby_legend_Ken_Jones_unveiled/ prey in Wales, with the abundance of rain providing a plethora of earthworms to eat. If you listen carefully you’re also likely to hear the piping call of the Meadow Pipit, an upland bird, whose ‘parachute’ flight is a common sight in the upland areas of Wales.

A Fun Event & a detailed guide the Coity Tip Trail please see the link click here.