vMoel Fenlli, Moel y Gaer (Llanbedr DC), Moel Arthur, Penycloddiau, Moel y Gaer (Bodfari) and Moel Hiraddug could all lay claim to have been the most important “buildings” in the Vale of Clwyd. They are certainly the oldest known to us. They are, of course, the iron age hilltops of the Clwydian Range, dating from between 800 and 600 BC. Little of them is left—an earthen or stone rampart here, a hut platform there, and several ditches. But, according to Ian Brown in “Discovering a Welsh Landscape: archaeology in the Vale of Clwyd”, ‘when fully occupied, they must have been an awesome site and would have been visible for miles around’.Our local hilltops form one centerpiece for an ambitious project to find out more about the history, prehistory, and ecology of the Vale of Clwyd, being planned at the moment by a team which includes Fiona Gale, Denbighshire County archaeologist, who addressed the AGM of Ruthin Civic Association, standing in for David Williams, who was ill, and who, sadly, has recently died.
The Heather and Hillforts Project (as it is called) is still in its early stages and covers the Llantysilio Mountain as well as the Clwydians—and has yet to obtain major funding. But its main aims are clear. “We know far too little about the hillforts”, said Fiona. With careful planning and expert archaeology we could find out much more about our predecessors in the Vale of Clwyd—how they lived, what kind of buildings they lived in, how they protected them, what they ate, what gods they worshipped. They need conservation just like more modern buildings in towns and villages. But the project would be about Heather as much as hilltops; in other words, it would explore all current ecological challenges to the Clwydians and Llantysilio, from bikers, walkers, and even farmers—working out how to conserve our landscape for future generations—but without being obscurantist or anti-everything modern. The project planners are keen to involve all of us descendants of the Iron Age peoples, and, during October, they also sought the opinions of expert visitors from South Wales, Scotland, Holland, Slovakia and the United States, who sat in on public meetings as well as walking the hills and making their own assessments. Their report will be published shortly, and used to help put together the application for major funding. Ruthin and District Civic Association hopes to play its part—in the first place, by organizing conducted tours of the hilltops next May. Bobby Feeley, newly-elected to the committee, will take the lead. Meanwhile, we are adding hilltops to our existing tally of buildings in Ruthin and district, which need conservation, careful watching and public education.
Long before Ruthin was thought of, hillforts provided shelter and Protection... the built environment of the iron age needs conservation, too, wrote DEREK JONES, in December 2012