ACCESS to an Iron Age hillfort that dominates the skyline above Penparcau has been improved thanks to the work of a local archaeology project.

Since its launch 12 months ago, the Pendinas Community Archaeology Project - led by the Royal Commission and Dyfed Archaeological Trust and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund with Cadw - has done much to deliver what was requested by the local community: to know more about their hillfort and to see it better maintained.

The ACV student volunteer group with Beca Davies (front left) near the Wellington Monument on a damp Sunday last month
The ACV student volunteer group with Beca Davies (front left) near the Wellington Monument on a damp Sunday last month (RCAHMW)

There have been two excavations assisted by volunteers, numerous guided walks, mapping and craft workshops, a programme of talks, and a very successful archaeology festival last September.

The latest initiative has seen the amazing transformation of this historic hillfort.

Until a few weeks ago much of this magnificent site, which is also a celebrated Local Nature Reserve, was hidden by an impenetrable and damaging blanket of bracken and gorse which threatened the precious archaeology and ecology of the site.

Pen Dinas
A similar view taken in winter 2017 showing the extensive cover of gorse and bracken threatening the ecology and archaeology of the hillfort (CHERISH Project)

Drawing on the help of Aberystwyth University’s ACV (Aberystwyth Conservation Volunteers) student volunteer group, working with local contractors and Ceredigion County Council with the advice of local conservation expert, Chloe Griffiths, the encroaching gorse has been successfully cleared. This has not only revealed the ditches and banks of the hillfort in all their glory but also improves the condition of the rare coastal acid grassland habitat on the hill summit.

Beca Davies, the Project’s community outreach officer said: “You can really see how extraordinary this hillfort is with its fantastic tiers of defences at the heart of the Pendinas and Tanybwlch Local Nature Reserve.

“Now that the site has been cleared the Commission has started a new archaeological survey of the hillfort which will map all the earthworks on the hillfort to produce a new plan that will help increase our understanding of the monument!’

Robotic mower
The new robotic mower hard at work on Pendinas (RCAHMW)

Conservation expert, Chloe Griffiths, added: “Thanks to the work of the project, in collaboration with Ceredigion County Council, Pendinas is now better managed for wildlife than it has been in many years. Bluebells are emerging already, and Pendinas is now a much better place for our native plants and wildlife.”

The project is due to finish in August 2024 but before then much more is planned, including a free bilingual booklet on the hillfort for local schools and the community, workshops and guided walks, and another festival is planned for the 2024 Festival of Archaeology in July.