History buffs are invited to dig into the past as Strata Florida’s Archaeology Field School returns later this month.

The Strata Florida Trust’s Field School will be opening its gates (and trenches) to the public this summer from 12 June to 10 July.

The school takes place in the grounds of Mynachlog Fawr, the historic farm adjacent to the 12th Century Strata Florida Abbey (Abaty Ystrad Flfur), which is a captivating, evocative and internationally important site–affectionately known as the Westminster Abbey of Wales, in Pontrhydfendigaid.

Strata Florida is rich in historical detail and is deeply significant to Welsh heritage.

The Cistercian monks who founded the abbey made it an important centre of trade, religion and culture in the 12th and 13th centuries, with connections spreading far across the Welsh landscape.

One of the foremost early Welsh historical sources, the Brut y Tywysogion was written at Strata Florida and the site has many important connections with Welsh culture and identity.

Strata Florida Archaeology Field School
The dig at Strata Florida (Strata Florida Trust)

Dafydd Ap Gwilym, Wales’ most famous medieval poet is buried in the churchyard, as are several medieval Princes of Wales.

The field school has been set up with the aim of providing vocational training and archaeology skills to a diverse range of participants.

The residential field school is open to everyone from 18 years old upwards; offering a fully accessible outdoor training programme suitable for all levels of experience, from beginner upwards, providing an opportunity for people both young and old, from different backgrounds, with and without experience of archaeology to take part in all aspects of an archaeological excavation at this important historical site. The non-residential courses and day courses are available to young people from the age of 14 provided they are accompanied by a responsible adult.

The 2023 field season will focus on excavating the farmyard and doing wider landscape surveys and ground-truthing. The farm was built over the remains of other structures, some of which were part of a gentry house, outbuildings and gardens, which go back to the early years of the Abbey’s foundation in the Middle Ages. Led by our fully qualified and very experienced staff participants can look forward to being part of the team that unearths these structures for the first time in hundreds of years and record them for future generations. All of the excavation and survey findings will be documented in a comprehensive report written by the field school staff. All participants can have a copy of this report.

Participants can look forward to learning a variety of archaeological excavation and survey techniques; from understanding how to correctly use a trowel through to the collection of geophysical data for archaeological mapping.

All participants on the weekly courses will complete an Archaeology Skills Passport developed by BAJR (British Archaeological Jobs & Resources) which lists various archaeological excavation and recording techniques and breaks them down into individual tasks and activities.

The Passport helps participants master core techniques to more complex skills – helping those starting out on a career or interest in archaeology. For those already with fieldwork experience the Passport is a valuable addition to the CV, as it enables existing skills to be built upon and provides proof of experience and competence to potential employers.

The Strata Florida Archaeology Field School is dedicated to making archaeology inclusive and promoting well being through heritage is at the core of the field school. The field school welcomes hearing from anyone who would like to take part in archaeology but has been held back due to physical or mental challenges. Alongside archaeology training staff the field school will also have pastoral and mental health support staff on site through the assistance of Cambrian Counselling. The Strata Florida Archaeology Field School aims to be the most open and inclusive field school in the UK, harnessing the heritage of Strata Florida to encourage physical and mental well being for all.

The inclusivity includes being as financially accessible as possible. Therefore, bursary places are offered for every week of the field school.

Participants can choose to book one, two, three or four weekly, residential or non-residential courses or Digger One Day courses. Full residential packages include, accommodation camping in Pantyfedwen Hall, breakfast, lunch, dinner and refreshments.

Places are limited and the organisers advise registering as soon as possible. The Strata Florida Trust are extremely grateful for the generous support of the Benefact Trust, The Prince’s Foundation, University of Wales Trinity St. David, Sacred Landscapes Research Project and Cambrian Counselling.

Full details of the field school can be found here.