There is a small area of paradise known locally as Greenmeadow Woods tucked away in a corner of Cwmbran which has remained relatively untouched by the development of the New Town.
Fortunately, part of the master plan when the architects of the New Town were designing the layout was the inclusion of green spaces between the housing developments. Hence, many of the ancient woodland areas still survive.
Greenmeadow Woods has long been the haunt of local residents and dog walkers. Many have noticed the strange, long walls within the woods, and children have often played around them giving little thought to what they could be .
Through our research, we eventually discovered that these walls are made of 350 million year old quartz conglomerate stone, which (for reasons we still do not really understand) were arranged into huge walls some six feet high by four feet (known as 42 inch linear flanked construction) by persons unknown. Conglomerate (or pudding stone as it known locally) is a very heavy material containing quartz pebbles mixed together in a matrix. Read more about conglomerate here
The experts tell us that they are too large to be animal enclosures and it is not thought that they were for defensive purposes either. We have been told that a simple ditch or hedge is sufficient to constrain farm animals, and that no farmer would spend such time and effort in moving these huge blocks of stone to keep animals from straying. Basically, it is still unclear what was going on in these woods.
Why were huge blocks of stone used to build these huge wall, by whom and how were they moved without heavy equipment ?
As one of our volunteers remarked one day,
"There is more stone here than at StoneHenge"
Our archaeological research on the site has also discovered the existence of a Cist , which is a small stone built coffin like structure which at one time would have held a body. Although robbed out, this is evidence that, at one stage, the area was used as a Bronze Age Burial site.
The Ancient Cwmbran Project
Due to the interest and determination to find out more about the woods by local residents Richard Davies and Mike Price,the Ancient Cwmbran & The Cistercian Project was created and a £48,000 grant was provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund to explore this woodland some other previously unrecorded sites of interest in the area
Several sites of archaeological interest in the Thornhill and Greenmeadow areas of Cwmbran were investigated over an 18 month period. This work was carried out with the help of volunteers from the community.
The project also celebrated the medieval pilgrim heritage of the area through a complementary art project, produced a carved statue of St Derfel, a medieval crop growing project and also aspired to bring future tourism to the area.
(left) A classrooom training Session, project members were instructed in Archaeological Techniques
the view from the ruins of LLanderfell Chapel looking out over Cwmbran towards the Fibreglass factory
( everyone in Cwmbran knows the Fibreglass factory ! )
The Ancient Cwmbran Society 25th May 2011 to present day
Although the Ancient Cwmbran Project came to an end after its 18 month period of activity, the Volunteers involved with the project found that there was still so much interest in our local archaeology that the
Ancient Cwmbran Society
The Ancient Cwmbran Society continued to build upon the foundations laid down by the original project, and over several years built up a large membership made up of interested local people and experts alike, at one point having over 150 members on its books, becoming a registered charity with a social enterprise that saw us making interesting items for sale from local resources.
Archaeology is heavy work, sometimes wet and uncomfortable too and as time progressed our membership grew older and less able to continue trudging around in muddy woods and fields, and unfortunately, after ten years of operation, interest slowly waned within our membership with the most active members eventually becoming the Committee Members, which seems to be par for the course with many of these types of organisations.
Also a change in the rules and regulations regarding community based archaeological organisations such as ourselves effectively sealed our demise, due to endless rolls of "red tape" thrown into the works by the establishment.
Sadly the Society has now wound down it's operations and no longer accepts new members.
We still maintain the web site to show what we achieved over the years we were operational , and we will continue to do this for as long as the funds to operate the web site remain.
The Committee members still remain firm friends and continue to meet socially once a month.
As for the future - who knows ?
One lucky find, one ancient artifact, one Warrior's bejeweled sword and it could all start up again !!!