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Archaeology Field School

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A Welsh Icon in a

Sacred Landscape

Strata Florida is an enchanting spot in the western heartlands of Wales among the folds of the Cambrian Mountains.  A once great Cistercian monastery in a landscape of immense spiritual importance to the Welsh people for a thousand years.

strata florida ~ ystrad fflur

about us...

We are now at the stage of Conserving and Developing the historic buildings at Strata Florida acquired by the Strata Florida Trust.  This is being conducted through a strategic partnership with the Prince’s Foundation which will complete this programme of works.  Once this is done the Strata Florida Centre will use the buildings for a wide range of activities which will sustain it financially as a long-term enterprise within the regional economy.  Other partners and an array of funders, both public and private, are helping us along the way in a wide variety of ways.  In close parallel with all this is the Strata Florida Research Project, which is also part of the Sacred Landscapes AHRC-funded programme.

 

The Strata Florida Trust

(Registered Charity No: 1117469; Company Limited by Guarantee no. 5862222)

The Trust was founded in 2016 with the first aim of acquiring and restoring the complex of historic buildings at Mynachlog Fawr (Old Abbey Farm).  The acquisition happened in 2016 and conservation has recently begun. 

The second aim is to develop the buildings and its surroundings as a Centre celebrating Welsh history, culture and environment in one of its ancient heartlands., culture an environment in one of its ancient heartlands.  This will be undertaken as a not-for-profit but economically sustainable enterprise embedded in the local and regional economy.  Activities which will work towards this have begun, much of it in co-operation with the local community and businesses.

 

The Trustees are:

 Andrew Green (Chair); Emeritus Professor David Austin (Academic Director); Helena Venables (Secretary); Richard Broyd; Councillor Ifan Davies; Dr Jane Davidson; Professor Dafydd Johnston; Gaenor Parry; Professor Elan Closs Stephens; Michael Taylor; John Wildig; Dr Eurwyn Wiliam

Trust Officers are:

Lowri Goss (Chief Executive Officer); Nick Foot (Treasurer); Gill Ogden (Community Engagement Officer); Carys Aldous-Hughes (Project Development Officer); Nathan Goss (Buildings Manager)

Trust Special Adviser:

Professor John Darlington (Executive Director of World Monuments Fund Britain)

Trust Ambassadors:

Professor Roger Earis; Dr Ann Rhys

 

The strategic partnership with the Prince’s Foundation

 

The Prince’s Foundation is working in partnership with the Strata Florida Trust to help transform Strata Florida into a vibrant visitor destination, a hub for learning, engagement and appreciation of Welsh heritage, identity, craft and culture and a centre for heritage and archaeological skills training.  The Partnership will aim to achieve:

  • The conservation of the Mynachlog Fawr historic buildings within the local vernacular tradition.

  • The creation of a management plan to show how the Centre will sit sympathetically within its setting and operate as a regenerated place for the public good.

  • The identification of financially sustainable business and an activity plan so that the new Centre will make a permanent contribution to the local, regional and national economy of Wales.

  • The design and refurbishment of the interior and exterior spaces of the Centre to serve the functions identified in the planning.

  • Collaboration in raising the funds for the capital works required to create the Centre.

     

The partnership is run by a steering group

.

The Prince’s Foundation

 

The Founding President of The Prince's Foundation, His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, has long been interested in the survival of this magical place and the project is part of a special community regeneration initiative, 7 for 70, launched in 2018 to celebrate The Prince of Wales' 70th birthday.

  • Prince's Foundation works with local communities to save heritage and promote local culture by creating appropriate and sustainable uses for historic buildings and sites.

  • The Prince's Foundation's work in the built and natural environment helps in building and sustaining local communities.

  • The Prince's Foundation's projects reflect The Prince of Wales' interests and aspirations for the built environment, the environment, well-being and community.

  • The 7 for 70 initiative builds upon the successful community outreach work undertaken at Dumfries House  in East Ayrshire – the restoration of New Cumnock Town Hall in 2016 and the rebuilding of New Cumnock’s outdoor swimming pool in 2017.  Both projects were completed in partnership with the local community in response to an appeal for assistance in saving these two much-loved local assets

 
 
 

Other Partners

​We have two key partners essential to the developments on the site and who are represented on the Strata Florida Steering Group:

  • Cadw which runs, as an arm of the Welsh Government the guardianship monument which includes the Abbey Church and part of its cloisters which are open to the public for just over half the year.  We are in discussion with Cadw to enable the site (both monument and historic buildings)  to be visited as one experience.

  • Ceredigion County Council  which is looking to help and advise the partnership  in the development of the Centre.  Its particular concern is to promote economic regeneration in an essentially upland rural landscape.

 

Also working closely with us are:

  • The National Library of Wales which is the custodian of much of the early Welsh-language literature, some of which was created at Strata Florida.  It also houses the Nanteos Cup, a medieval object associated with the Abbey, which the NLW kindly permits the Trust to borrow for a day or two each year.

  • The University of Wales Trinity St David which is assisting us build and validate our teaching and training courses which will be offered at the Centre.  It also has a role in the running of the Sacred Landscapes Project.

  • The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Wales has considerably helped our teaching, research and development programmes through its national records and its considerable expertise in survey and archiving.  This will continue as the Centre’s activities increase.

  • The National Museum of Wales is looking to work with us on the material culture and archaeology associated with the site.  It has long housed objects and architectural fragments found in the late 19th-century excavations.

 

More locally we are also working closely with:

  • The community itself through a Community Liaison Group, chaired by Councillor Ifan Davies and with 15 representatives from across the Pontrhydfendigaid area.

  • The Ystrad Fflur Community Council which represents Pontrhydfendigaid and its area.

  • The Pantyfedwen Strata Florida Churchyard Trust which administers the ancient burial ground itself an integral part of the early story of the Abbey.

  • The Coed y Bont Community Woodland Group which runs a newly created public amenity area for walkers and naturalists laid out over one the old peat-cutting bogs of the Abbey.

  • The Church in Wales is the inheritor of the great Christian tradition of sacred worship at Strata Florida and supports and helps us when, for example, we borrow the church for events.

  • Natural Resources Wales runs for the Welsh Government large blocks of forestry and woodland adjacent to the Trust’s holding and working with us on increased public use and access.  NRW also looks after Cors Caron, a nearby bog which has international conservation status and is a National Nature reserve.  This was once owned by the Abbey.

Funders

Both private individuals and public bodies have helped us along the way in getting this project started and we are extremely grateful to them.  They are too many to note here but more can be found elsewhere on the website.  We want to acknowledge in particular:

Ceredigion County Council; the Architectural Heritage Fund; the European Union; the Welsh Government; the World Monuments Fund; the Laura Ashley Family Foundation.

 

Two current projects must also be noted in particular:

  • The Camau Bach (Small Steps) project, is part funded by the Cynnal y Cardi LEADER scheme in Ceredigion through the Welsh Government Rural Communities-Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the Welsh Government and the European Union. This project has enabled us to have the two-year post of Community Liaison Officer.

  • The Beudy Hub project, is part funded by the Rural Community Development Fund (RCDF) through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020 which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.  The project seeks to restore and develop one of our historic listed buildings.  This will become, in later 2019, our first permanent base on site

 
 

The Strata Florida Research Project

This is the longest-running part of the whole Strata Florida project, directed by Professor David Austin and assisted principally by Dr Jemma Bezant and Quentin Drew until 2015.  It began in 1999 as an annual archaeology field school for undergraduates of what was then called the University of Wales Lampeter (now UWTSD).  Despite the Foot and Mouth outbreak of 2001 which kept us out of the field until 2004, research has slowly built a much larger understanding of the Abbey site and its wider hinterlands.  Since our primary intention was to establish how much archaeology survived (vast amounts) and how well preserved the remains were (impressive), we have not excavated either very large sites or very deeply, with the exception of the Great Abbey Gatehouse which once stood between the Inner and Outer Precincts of the monastery.   We have also undertaken large-scale survey and geophysics in the neighbouring fields and research on the documents relating to Abbey and its successor estates.

Sacred landscapes project

Sacred Landscapes is a major new project starting in January 2019 funded by a major grant from the Arts and Humanities Council of the UK

 

The full title is: the sacred landscapes of medieval monasteries: an inter-disciplinary study of meaning embedded in space and production’.  The work will look at how the world around monasteries was shaped to reflect the sacred and to understand how the monks and their associates influenced and expressed the intellectual and emotional ideas about nature and the productivity of the land.  At the heart of the project are comparative studies of the historic landscapes of two welsh Cistercian abbeys, Strata Florida and Valle Crucis and one cluster of monasteries in the limewood landscapes on the north side of the River Witham in Lincolnshire. The project began in January 2019 and continues until the end of 2022. 

 

The Principal Investigator is Professor David Austin (UWTSD) with Co-investigators, Professor Janet Burton (UWTSD), Professor Emilia Jamroziak (Leeds University) and Professor Ann Parry Owen (the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Celtic Studies) and the Principal Research Associates are Professor David Stocker (Leeds University), Paul Everson (Keele University) and Professor Howard Williams (Chester University).  The post-doctoral researchers are Dr Jemma Bezant (survey and historic landscapes) and Dr Jenny Day (medieval literature).  The project has also been funded under a UK-wide initiative examining the future of land use in the post-Brexit and post-subsidy era.