A few weeks ago, if you were to walk up to the top of Yr Allt – a hill near the A40 between Brecon and Bwlch – you might not have realised how important a hill it really is. In fact, at the top of Yr Allt lies an approximately 2,500 year old Iron Age fort.
A relatively modern wall runs through the middle of the fort effectively cutting the monument in half. The eastern part of this land belongs to the Forestry Commission and the western part of the land is Section 45 common land which means that the owner of the land is not known and could not be tracked down. As such, the National Park has the power to undertake conservation work on the Iron Age fort. With advice from Cadw we worked to devise a plan to clear the overgrowth from the ramparts. These works would safeguard the ramparts from further damage by woody scrub and tree species and would allow visitors to appreciate the fact that they were walking through an Iron Age fort.
On the 20th February, the heritage team were joined by three volunteers and one warden to make a start on clearing the vegetation from some of the ramparts. We parked at the bottom of the hill, loaded the quad bike up with all the tools; chainsaws, forks, scythes, loppers and a newspaper. As our helpful warden, Sam, sped the quad bike up to the top of the hill the rest of us followed (albeit slowly in my case). We reached the northern end of the fort and decided where to begin with our clearance. The only clear ground was the path and none of the ramparts were visible for the gorse, bracken and brambles which were blanketing the fort.
We then began clearing the overgrowth – an arduous task! – the dense brambles got caught on our clothing and the gorse was all prickly. But with all the safety gear we got though a large area of clearance with little more than achy muscles.
To dispose of the cleared vegetation we burnt it (in a controlled manner) outside the scheduled area of the hilltop – it is illegal to burn anything within the area of a scheduled monument. The bonfire also worked well as a heating system after we had cooled down during out lunch break (and this is where the newspaper came in handy).
Our second day of clearance commenced on the 26th February and this time we were joined by two National Park wardens and two trainee wardens who were to help us with continuing clearance on the ramparts of Yr Allt Iron Age Fort. The day was considerably warmer than the last and we continued our work clearing the overgrowth.
We are planning to do some more clearing before the start of the nesting season, which doesn’t give us much time! However we can continue clearance after the nesting season, which ends in September. The Brecon Beacons National Park warden team will be working on improving the footpaths along the whole of Yr Allt, resulting in a less muddy path up to and through the hilltop monument.