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Foresters have helped to preserve a Bronze Age burial mound dating back hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus.
The ancient burial ground – called a barrow – overlooking the village of Llwynygog in Hafren Forest was surrounded by trees whose roots threatened to disturb the surface and soil structure of the site.
But now Forestry Commission Wales has cleared the encroaching trees to protect the burial mound – known as Clap Mawr Barrow – and restore the structure to how it might have looked 4,000 years ago.
FC Wales worked closely with archaeologists from CADW, the Welsh Assembly Government’s historic environment service, during the operation to remove the trees from the mound dating back to the Bronze Age, which ran from 2,300 to 800 BC.
The construction of a barrow above a tomb all those years ago would have required a huge amount of effort from the community and, along with human bodies, might have contained possessions such as pots and jewellery.
This well-preserved round barrow is one of a group of seven scattered across the landscape around Llwynygog, to the west of Staylittle. The loosely grouped “prehistoric cemetery” reflects the importance of the area during the Bronze Age, potentially over a sustained period of time.
Julian Barnes, FC Wales Planning Forester, visited the site several times before the trees were felled to agree the best approach to the delicate task with Ian Halfpenney from CADW.
“I was amazed when I visited the site after the felling to see how much the mound stood out in the landscape, and was pleased to have been involved in looking after an important part of Welsh heritage,” said Julian.
“Once the trees were removed it became glaringly obvious that the barrow had been deliberately placed in this specific spot to make it a focal point from all across the valley.”
CADW’s Will Davies said the removal of the trees around the Clap Mawr barrow had re-established it as a prominent member of the group, clearly visible on the skyline from the west and north, as was almost certainly the intention of its prehistoric builders.
“The managed Forestry Commission clearance of the Clap Mawr barrow stands as a prime example of how the needs of agriculture and conservation can be balanced to enhance a fine monument in an active woodland setting,” he added.
Forestry Commission Wales now plans to replant broadleaved trees on the site to reflect the special landscape character of the surrounding countryside, but a buffer area around the mound itself will be kept clear.
“This will mean that the barrow will be visible from the south, giving potential for the many visitors who visit Hafren to see it as they travel through the forest,” said Julian.
The barrow is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, meaning it is protected by law and classified among the best examples of ancient monuments in Wales, despite its inconspicuous appearance.
NOTES TO EDITORS
About 14% of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Assembly Government.
Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Assembly Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.
For more information on conservation work in the Hafren forest, contact Julian Barnes on 0300 068 0300, mobile 07836708997.
More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on www.forestry.gov.uk/wales
Cadw is the historic environment service of the Welsh Assembly Government and aims to protect the historic environment of Wales by working with partners and private owners.
Media enquiries to Forestry Commission Wales Information Officer Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922.