Hasta Mañana

This year’s Day of Archaeology was the end of a busy week for Trysor. We are a partnership of two archaeologists based in southwest-Wales and are used to having to cover all bases between ourselves.  The day began with an early trip to western Pembrokeshire to attend a planning enquiry relating to a wind turbine appeal, convening at 9.15am.  We were there to give specialist evidence on behalf of the appellant.  The historic environment seems likely to be a key issue in determining the appeal, so it became apparent that it was to be discussed next week. This would give Cadw time to respond to our report on the issue of impact on Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

By 10.30am we were told that we would not be needed until a site visit being organised next week, when we would hopefully be able to have a constructive debate with a representative from Cadw.

This was an unexpected development, but it gave us a wonderful opportunity to do some much-needed CPD.  Having sat in the enquiry all day the previous day, listening to planning and landscape experts talk about the visual impact of the turbines on various landscapes, we seized this chance to go out and see for ourselves what their comments meant on the ground.  This meant a trip out to Strumble Head and Mathry village, on the west coast.  We rushed to visit key viewpoints along a section of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, near Pwllderi.  Here we also saw the clifftop memorial to the poet Dewi Emrys, which includes a few lines of his poem “Pwllderi” (in the Pembrokeshire dialect of Welsh);

A thina’r meddilie sy’n dwad ichi

Pan foch chi’n ishte uwchben Pwllderi”

These are the thoughts that come to you

When you sit above Pwllderi”

This was preferable to sitting in an enquiry, truth be told, as it was a hot, sunny, summer’s day.  We were aware that we needed that strenuous walk in the sun, as we are soon to return to Snowdonia to continue an extensive upland survey project we are carrying out as part of the RCAHMWs Uplands Initiative project. The exercise would certainly do us some good.

Having gained a useful insight into the minds of landscape specialists, and fitted in an extra visit to the Scheduled Ancient Monuments which are at the heart of the debate at the enquiry (no slacking there!), we had to travel eastwards again.  We had made daily visits during the week to a solar farm under construction in eastern Carmarthenshire, where we were undertaking a watching brief.  This site was staffed by a veritable League of Nations; Chinese, German, Spanish, Italian and Welsh teams tackling separate parts of the project, co-ordinated by a cheerful group of Irishmen, who kept everything proceeding in an orderly fashion, despite the lack of a common language for most of the workers.

Our job was a simple one – to carry out a watching brief along several hundred metres of the main cable trench.  It turned out to be archaeologically sterile ground, and our most difficult task was trying to work out when the friendly Spanish contractors would cut the next section of trench.  “Mañana” was the usual answer – the one word we actually did understand, although a mutually developed sign-language proved exceptionally useful too.  The Spaniards were wonderfully efficient workers, carrying out a technically difficult job, but opening the main trench was low on their list of daily priorities.  Five visits during the week saw the job completed and we could sign off our contribution to the project as the multi-national taskforce departed the site, as evening fell, with shouts of “whisky” and “cervezas” ringing in our ears.

The week was certainly winding down, but ended on an unexpected high note.  A potential client got back to us to confirm that our services would be required to undertake an archaeological assessment for a proposed wind turbine site in Lancashire.  This brought us some satisfaction.  Trysor was 10 years old in April, 2014 and this will be our first contract outside Wales.  All in all, our Day of Archaeology was a very pleasant one.