Read Paul’s blog about the CAER Project and digging Caerau…
Normally, I ascend Caerau hillfort by a slightly different route each time. By avoiding the road I can then see how the hill’s biodiversity is progressing through the seasons and then, hopefully, making more sense of the hill’s overall shape and physical features. Sometimes reaching the second rampart, below the ringwork, I can then get an amazing view across Cardiff as far as Cwm Carn and its (much smaller) hillfort. Climbing the ringwork I then see St Mary’s which, despite being often described as ruined, I still think is magnificent especially given its setting. Early summer mornings are best because the traffic on the ring road has yet to start and bird-song can then be heard from across the Vale and to the north for miles and miles. Walking around the churchyard, disturbing rabbits, I then come to the field which has now sprouted gazebos and earthworks of its own.
This hill is about people although normally one wouldn’t think that given the quiet and contemplative solitude it can bring. It seems to have a habit of ‘touching’ something deep and then surprising one again. Like when one finds a piece of pottery or a nice fossil that was last handled by another over a thousand years ago. Time dissolves and one can almost see or feel that person and I sometimes wonder how long our own impact will have.
When a few of us sat around a table in Ely library on a rotten winter’s evening early in 2011 I never thought that, in my lifetime, we would get as far as we have in such a short time let alone that I would have the privilege of kneeling in an unrelenting sun, scraping at baked clay with a 4″ trowel on a (possible) Dark Age ‘roadway’. To see the professionals in action, both here and at St Fagans, only serves to emphasise one’s own many and manifest inadequacies and the kindness, tolerance and patience of those guiding us.
This project has grown considerably and will no doubt grow further, perhaps embracing the country and even further afield, because there is so much more to do. Even extending it to say nearby woodland blighted with fly-tipping would have significance. A long forgotten corner of Cardiff has now been turned into something of national importance and I’ve no doubt that it can be done again, elsewhere. The trouble is there can only be one ‘Britain’s best hillfort’ and at Caerau we’ve got that already!