The aim of this trip was to gain practical fieldwork experience in the field of environmental archaeology and to learn basic botany, as well as to explore the history and development of the sites we visited.
Llanymynech Rocks is a series of quarries on the border between Shropshire, England, and Powys Wales. It is a rare habitat where butterflies and orchids can be seen, as well as a wealth of other plants and animals. This diversity is what made it a perfect destination for our trip.
We were tasked with identifying as many different species of plants and animals as possible; this was competition between groups of us. We were all given a guide to identify the plants, and told that we would be given more points if we could identify the species and give its scientific name. At first we were sceptical that we would be able to get more than 100 points. Our three groups in fact managed to rack up scores of 136, 128 and 105 which, David said is very respectable. My team actually won.
There was a great variety of plant life to be seen on our walk up to the quarries, and our identification guides proved very useful, as did Dr. Smith’s expert eye. As we progressed, a few different strategies developed. Two of the groups sped ahead to try and see as much as possible, while the final group opted for a slow detailed approach to find as many species as possible in each area before moving on. After the task we headed up to the viewpoint for lunch, looking out over a landscape shaped by the lime quarried from the Rocks we were exploring.
Mitchell’s Fold Stone Circle
Next we took a trip over to this Bronze Age monument. While standing amongst the stones we considered its place within the landscape, the proximity to one of the major mines for the production of Neolithic Stone Axes. Also the way it offers commanding views over the landscape, while remaining secluded.
Here we heard the story of how the damage to some of the stones was caused by the tradition of newly married miners dynamiting the stones, and how the remaining stones were nearly uprooted by a farmer desperate to discourage a group of travelers who had taken up residence on the common land around the circle.
Caer Caradoc Hill Fort
We made the rather arduous climb up to this fort from the minibus, but the views from the top more than made up for this….
Here we saw the remains of Iron Age defensive ditches, and discussed how their extension in the pre-Roman period may have had more to do with wealth and status, than the practical need for defense. Having assaulted the hilltop ourselves without having to deal with any ditches or defenders, we can confirm that it would have been very well defended without the need for more ditches.
By Alex Moore
For more photos from this trip click the link to David Smith’s Student Trips 2014 Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/123418600@N05/