October sun makes way for November chill
The autumn has been in full swing for a couple of weeks now, and the mild weather has resulted in some spectacular scenes here at St Fagans. The days of October were sunny and clear and the winds have been calm. The result of all this were spectacular shades of orange, red, yellow and brown as the leaves changed colour but stayed on the trees. Now that it is mid November we have had a couple of blustery days and a couple of rainy days and the branches are becoming increasingly bare as piles of dry leaves collect along the paths and roads. The temperature has also dropped dramatically over the past week, with the cold nights often leaving a frost on the leaves by the morning.
Many of the trees and hedges that bore fruit earlier in the month have been picked clean by the hungry birds. The squirrels are having a field day with all the seeds and nuts currently in abundance on the trees, Particularly the Beech Mast which is just starting to fall. I’ve also seen a good few Redwing over the past few weeks that have flown south from Scandinavia to cash in on the bounty of Hawthorn and Yew berries.
As far as activities go I had a very busy week with the school half term holidays. I ran workshops based on the BBC Autumnwatch and Nature Detectives schemes and personally dealt with over 1100 visitors! There was a leaf identification trail and an autumn identification challenge as well as colouring in for the little ones. The autumnwatch website is well worth a visit as it has loads of free resources and information that will keep you busy for years!
The woodland path is coming along nicely and plans for the panels are moving forwards. I’m particularly pleased with some of the ideas for activity panels that will get people interacting with their surroundings, and actually looking differently at the woodland. The path was cleared last week with the help of some volunteers from Legal & General and it's starting to look more walkable. Many thanks to the guys and girls at L&G for being such tough nuts and doing a great job! I've put some pictures below.
The Ty Gwyrdd interpreter Elin Roberts and myself have also started getting bird food from a company called Wiggly Wrigglers and have been feeding the birds all manner of treats outside the Ty Gwyrdd . I'm hoping to put up several bird feeding stations in the next few weeks as well as some nest boxes and hedgehog boxes too. Let me know if you have any comments and don't forget to look at the pictures!
Iron Age Turf Walls?
In my previous incarnation, I was Education Interpreter for the Celtic Village here at St Fagans. One of the last projects we undertook before I left was to consider the possibility of re-building one of the houses with a turf wall rather than with wattle and daub.
Below, you will find a brief outline of the reasons why we think this is archaeologically sound. What do you think? We will try to engage as many archaeologists as possible in this debate by sending out the link to various contacts. We then hope to organise a mini conference in 2008 to discuss the pros and cons of turf walls. Please feel free to contribute, and please send the link on to more people.
Understanding Welsh hillforts: Experimental reconstruction of a turf-walled roundhouse
The Celtic Village at St Fagans: National History Museum, Wales is a popular attraction for visitors, schoolchildren, students and archaeologists. It comprises two wattle and daub structures, based on evidence from Moel y Gerddi, Gwynedd and Moel y Gaer, Flintshire, and one stone structure based on evidence from Conderton, Worcestershire. They were built in 1992 by Dr Peter Reynolds, the leading expert in roundhouses at the time, and have been preserved, with essential modifications, ever since.
However, the Moel y Gaer reconstruction is nearing the end of its life, just as predicted by Dr Reynolds. We therefore propose to demolish the present structure, and to rebuild it, basing our efforts on current archaeological theory. We are interested, therefore, in starting a discussion with leading experts in the field, with a view to establishing a networked web forum of interested parties which will share ideas and advice on general roundhouse reconstruction.
We are presently in discussion with Dr Rachel Pope, Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology at Liverpool University, about her research into Iron Age roundhouses. With her advice, we are interested in re-building the Moel y Gaer as a turf-walled structure.
Dr Pope's doctoral research - funded by the AHRC - combined a large-scale dataset of 1180 prehistoric houses, with a long-term trajectory (2400 BC-AD 500). All aspects of prehistoric roundhouses were studied - their design, construction, use and lifespan.
She has also studied the Welsh Roundhouse - a project funded by the Board of Celtic Studies. From this extensive research, she proposes that stake walls were used as a dominant form in reconstruction largely due to the misinterpretation of structural remains from Wessex e.g. the Longbridge Deverill and Pimperne reconstructions at Butser, both of which have failed due to structural problems. The Moel y Gaer structure has also failed, with the wall bowing at the entrance at a rate of approximately 1 cm per year.
Dr Pope argues that convincing evidence has emerged which suggests that the structures were wide turf-walled structures with a wattle lining, rather than having a stake wall and projecting porch. Turf construction is well understood in Iceland, with the reconstruction of Norse longhouses and traditional turf dwellings of the eighteenth century. It is also found in northern Scotland with some traditional blackhouse.
The research is supported by Richard Brewer (Keeper of Archaeology, National Museum Wales), Gerallt Nash (Senior Curator, National History Museum), Adam Gwilt (Later Prehistorian, NMW), Owain Rhys (Curator of Contemporary Life, NHM), Ken Brassil (Learning NMW) and Nia Williams (Learning, NHM).