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The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust News - old stories

Conservation work on one of the Corndon Hill Bronze Age round barrows

photo 2100-0066 + 2849-0013 CPAT The Corndon Hill round barrow during excavation in March 2006 looking towards Lan Fawr (above), and again in May 2009 looking towards Corndon Hill (below).

Many people walking along the bridleway from Old Church Stoke to White Grit past Corndon Hill, are probably unaware of the 'Tumulus' marking the highest point of the track, at an altitude of 395 metres. In fact, the tumulus (or round barrow) is one of a distinct cluster of Bronze Age burial mounds occupying prominent hilltops and hill spurs in the Corndon Hill and Lan Fawr area. These monuments are perhaps contemporary with the Mitchell's Fold stone circle on Stapeley Hill, the site of which is visible from the Corndon Hill round barrow. Unfortunately, the round barrow was inadvertently damaged during the course of tree-felling operations late in 2005, when a number of holes were dug into its northern side looking for material to build a forestry road.

In the early months of 2006 small-scale excavations were carried out by staff from CPAT in order to make a record of the structure of the round barrow before the holes were backfilled. The round barrow was found to be partly obscured by the dry-stone wall built along one side of the bridleway and is much larger than had been expected - being about 15 metres in diameter and up to about 1.8 metres high. The mound had been built of soil and turf stripped from the surrounding area, and incorporated a few fragments of prehistoric pottery and a number of flint flakes. No attempt was made to find the original burial which no doubt still remains intact below the centre of the burial mound, but alder charcoal was recovered from a buried ground surface below the barrow has recently been radiocarbon dated. This suggests that vegetation clearance was taking place here during the later Neolithic period, between about 3000-2700 BC, about 5000 years ago.

photo 2100-0048 CPAT The siting of the Corndon Hill round barrow viewed from Mitchell's Fold stone circle.

Evironmental evidence from the excavations has been studied by Astrid Caseldine and Kate Griffiths of University of Wales Lampeter. Pollen and charred plant remains suggest that the local environment in the later Neolithic and early Bronze Age period was open woodland with hazel scrub with some alder and ash and grassland with weeds and ferns. Oak woodland, including lime, is indicated in the wider environment, perhaps on lower ground. There is growing evidence, as at Corndon, of human impact upon Welsh upland woodlands during this period.

Once we had completed our small-scale excavations the holes that had been inadvertently dug into the mound were backfilled and the site has since been designated by Cadw as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Revisiting the site again in May 2009 showed that the restoration work was successful. Hopefully, the monument will now continue to survive intact as a landscape feature for many thousands of years to come!

Bill Britnell, April 2009

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