AHNE Bryniau Clwyd / Clwydian Range AONB

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Hillforts timeline

Want to know what life in our hillforts was like over the last few thousand years? These characters will tell you all about it in their own words.

Timeline overviewMesolithic

Who goes there?! You’d better be careful wandering around these parts- you could’ve ended up on the end of me spear!

MesolithicMy name is Helfeydd, Helf, and you’d better stick with me if you want to be safe. It’s not only spears you need to be worried about on these hills.

Come with me for now. I’ll guide you through this bit of forest on me way back to me camp. Need to sort some things on the way though. And to pay me back for me protection you can help me do ’em. 

Here, take this. You’ll see that we have the finest tools here. They’re made locally up in the hills near the big sea that you can see over there to the north. Made out of the finest stone on this land. Cut well they do. 

So, help me chop down these few trees. Easier to burn ’em down usually but not in this weather...  Making a clearing in the trees you see. Attracts the beasts to graze. Gives us a better shot with our arrows and spears as there’re no trees in the way. And they stand still while they’re gobbling down all that grass – greedy beggars. Serves ’em right I say. And makes our dinner all that easier to get, the more of these glades we ’av. So get these cut down for me, will ya? 

Come on then, back to me camp now. These hills are covered in trees but you get to know your way around easy enough. Now we’re taking some of the trees down it’s even easier to know where you are. Lovely view from the top of this hill and just this once we’ll go to the summit so you can see where you are. 

I’ll leave you now though, you carry on this way. Got some nice roast deer waiting for me on the fire. You’ll find your way from here on…

The Iron Age

Hello there, stranger. Are you here to celebrate the birth of baby Bryn? Don’t worry, I know it’s a bit scary to approach these big banks and fences and gates at the fort, but I’ll get you through, just leave the guard to me.

Iron AgeCome on, cariad, let’s get inside the fort. I’m Gwen Weaver and it’s a pleasure to meet you. It’s not so scary once we’re inside! It may look intimidating and yes, that is the point, but actually we’re a nice friendly community of crafts people, traders, like me. And now Rhodri the Blacksmith makes that new shiny metal “iron” by magic, some say, we have more people than ever coming to buy our goods.

Our home, the hillfort of Penycloddiau, has many uses and has been lived in for generations! We believe it to be one of the largest hillforts in this land and it is visited by many travellers to trade and come to market. Also to celebrate the births, deaths and marriages of our friends and families. Why wouldn’t you want to come and celebrate in this magnificent settlement – it can be seen for miles!

We are also farmers though, don’t you forget that! We grow grain on the hilltops and without our sheep and our cattle, how could we trade our meat, milk and wool? The animals provide us with food, drink, leather and fleece so we can survive.
These ditches and banks around our settlement and the fence surrounding the fort stops our stock from getting lost – and of course to stop wolves coming inside to steal them from us!

But we do like to keep other things from coming inside our settlement as well, you know. INVADERS! Were you out of breath from walking up the hill? And so you should be! Imagine running up the hill with heavy swords and shields to attack us here. That’s why Penycloddiau is so safe! Being on the hill means we can see people coming. It means they are too tired to fight by the time they get here! And these huge ditches and banks (some of them 20 feet high!), well, they mean we can attack raiders as they try to get in and, of course, we always win!

But we are a peaceful community here at Penycloddiau. Happy farmers, enjoying the fresh air on the hillside, tending to our grazing stock, cooking on our open fires and sleeping soundly around the hearth in our roundhouses, cosy inside the wattle-and-daub walls and under the thatch.

Talk of the fire is making me hungry- it is time for my lunch. See you at the party, goodbye!

Dark Ages

Hello there, I’m Grug. 

I live in the Commote of Ial in Cymru. You will most likely have heard of our lands as we’re a stone’s throw from the new earthwork that the King of Mercia ordered to be built. It is known as Offa’s Dyke and it represents the boundary between our lands and the lands of Mercia’s King Offa.

Dark AgesI live on the big hills – the first ones you get to in Cymru, the ones that overshadow England. Some people believe them to be our ancestors, overlooking our lands and protecting us from invaders!

The hills are also part of our livelihood, we use them every day. For generations my family tried to grow crops on the hills, but the soil was too poor. A purple plant that favours this weak soil has started to spread and we call it Heather – just like me! It comes in very useful!

When the heather gets old it is almost like a wood and this is very good for making brooms for sweeping. It also has a lovely smell and it is good for dyeing cloth. 

As we cannot grow anything else in the hills, we put our cattle and sheep out to graze there. They like to eat the heather when it is young. 

I think it must be a magical plant though. One day the hills were alight with fire. We still to this day do not know what caused the blaze but within six months the whortleberries were growing juicier than ever and after a year the heather had returned to the spot it had burned away and was ripe and lush! It is the same when we cut the plant back to use it at home; it grows back better the more you take it away – magical! 

Hwyl Fawr.

Middle Ages

Greetings! Sir Clwydalot at your service!

Middle AgesI see you are travelling these hills – well! Do you know that you are stepping on the lands of the Earl of Ruthin?

I am stationed at Castell Coch yn yr Gwernfor, the Red Castle in the Great Marsh. You will know it well, as Ruthin Castle is made of the finest red sandstone and it lies 100 feet above the great marsh in the valley.

I work for my Lord and will take up arms for him on these unruly Borderlands, but on these hills I am best known as a “Forester”. I am honoured to be trusted with protecting the Deer Park on these hills and overseeing the sale of their produce.

Yes, I also have the privilege of hunting myself, which provides a fine feast for my table. And a good day’s entertainment, of course – you can’t beat a good day riding your steed in the forest with some dear friends.

I have been so faithful to my Lord that I have some other beneficial rights too! I have a pannage to graze my pigs on the fallen acorns, oh yes. My pigs are the fattest in Wales!

Most importantly I can administer fines for trespass – which is why I am so interested in what you’re doing here… I have dealt with many poachers who have been after the Lord’s Deer and Boar on these lands in my time, so you had better scarper! I’ll let you continue on your way this time, but next time you could be fined! GO!

Victorian

Greetings! My name is Reverend Drewyn and I’m glad you’ve come to see our little exploration. As you can see, we’re digging up this mound as we believe it to be an ancient relic of the past and we hope to find the treasures of our ancestors buried here!

VictorianI have studied many of the historic texts and books and am conducting what we call an “archaeological excavation” – yes, that’s right! So we have cut a hole through the middle of the mound to see what we can find.

You may say that it is simply “the fashion” to look at these relics nowadays and even more fashionable if you have a monument in your back yard, but isn’t it an excitement to have this link with the past? You read of ancient treasures being discovered overseas, so why not in the Clwydian hills too?

Well, yes, so far we haven’t found very much but there is still hope. And you never know what the future holds for archaeology, so we will leave some of today’s objects behind. This means people in the future know that we have been there before them. Perhaps a dated penny, or a bottle, or perhaps even the stem of the clay pipe I accidentally broke this morning. Easily enough done, they’re flimsy things!

Well, we have discovered that this mound is definitely made by a human rather than geological. Once we got the turf off of the top we could see the stones all piled up like a wall underneath. This has definitely been built, not formed – very exciting news! 

Well, I hope you will come back another day to see how we’ve got on. A large grassy mound inside of an ancient fort – we’re bound to find something!

Good day!

Mid 20th century

Sut’mae, I’m Bryn!

I’m on a trip to Wales with my friends from my Scout Group in Birkenhead. We come here as often as we can to go camping and enjoy the great outdoors. We’re working towards a badge!

Mid 20th Century“Sut’mae” means “hello” in Welsh by the way – I’m learning Welsh. I’m named after my Granddad who is from round here. “Bryn” means hill – maybe that’s why I like it at Moel Famau – the biggest hill around here! 

I used to live with me Granddad here in Wales a few years ago. I was a ’vaccie you see. Glad to be home now. It was a scary time with all those bombs, but glad I was sent somewhere so nice. I don’t remember much, I was only little, but I remember me mam waving me off on the train to Wales. Most people went to Colomendy not far from here, but I stayed on the farm with Granny and Granddad.

I come back here now to explore the hills. We get the bus to Mold and then walk to Loggerheads. We ask farmers if we can camp in their fields and barns and then we use maps to go round the hills and go up Moel Famau to the old tower. Stubby base is all it is now but I can see Liverpool from the top! 

The bus home leaves in five minutes though so I’ll leave you here. Me mam’ll kill me if I’m late for me tea!

Ta’ra rwan – bye now!!

Present day

Hello, I’m Heather and I graze my sheep on the lush heather moorland of Llantysilio Mountains.

My farm is not far from the village of Llantysilio, near Llangollen in north-east Wales. The farm has been passed down from generation to generation to me. With my farm and land come important historical grazing rights to put stock on the common land of Llantysilio Mountains.

Present dayThis is a huge lifeline to us as farmers as it means that we have extra space to put our sheep. We can rest the fields we own in the valley by putting sheep up on the heather moorland. They love to eat fresh young shoots of heather and the lovely bilberry that carpets the hills. 

The sheep don’t like the older heather though, so we have to manage the moorland accordingly to make sure there is a patchwork of different ages of heather. Every winter we burn or cut strips of the moorland, which leads to nice new growth. The bilberry simply flourishes after a burn too! The shorter younger heather makes it easier for our sheep to get around the hillside, spreading them out on the moorland. If it was all older, longer, woody heather not only would the sheep not eat it, but their little legs would find it hard to move around in, too! 

This burning and cutting also makes the mountain a better place for the rare birds and animals that live here. I have even seen black grouse displaying on my cuts! And we have flushed them out of their hiding places in deep heather when gathering the sheep!

No, we’re not too worried about the sheep getting lost on the mountain though- the sheep are very clever actually! The mummy ewes actually know the boundaries of their territory, or “cynefin”, and will teach this to their lambs, so they never stray too far. This makes it easier for us to find them too, when it’s time to round them up.

I consider myself so lucky that we have this beautiful landscape as part of my home. Checking on the sheep is sometimes just a good excuse to get out in the open to enjoy the fresh air and the view with my dogs!

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