strata florida ~ ystrad fflur
Archaeology Field School
Strata Florida Archaeology Field School 2021 –
Archaeological training for all 29th June to 25th July 2021
"It was by far the best dig I’ve ever been on.
It was very well taught with a human dimension I never found anywhere else”
About us – a foreword by Prof. David Austin, SFAFS Director
The Strata Florida Archaeology Field School (SFAFS) opened its doors (and trenches) for the first time in 2019 and we are now back for another year of excavations. We are fortunate to have received a grant from Allchurches Trust to support our first three years of operation. Come and join us for what will be an exciting year!
The school will offer a fully accessible training programme and include a wide variety of archaeological excavation and survey techniques; from understanding how to correctly use a trowel through to the collection of geophysical data for archaeological mapping. In addition to field-based learning, the school will have a weekly programme of field trips to local sites and monuments and talks from experts on topics of local historical and archaeological interest.
Our mission is to share Strata Florida’s unique history, archaeology, heritage and links to Welsh culture, with as diverse an audience as possible, including members of the public, students, volunteers, veterans and others.
The SFAFS will be delivered by the Strata Florida Trust in partnership with The Prince’s Foundation, Breaking Ground Heritage, Allchurches Trust, Sacred Landscapes Research Project and the University of Wales Trinity St David.
Strata Florida Abbey (Abaty Ystrad Fflur in Welsh) is a captivating, evocative and internationally significant site located in the heart of Wales. Known affectionately as the Westminster Abbey of Wales, it had its heyday in the 12th and 13th centuries and was once an important centre of culture, religion and trade, with connections spreading far across the Welsh landscape.
The Cistercian monks who founded the abbey were quite the entrepreneurs, taking advantage of the rural location to become self-sufficient, farming thousands of sheep and building roads and bridges to allow pilgrims and traders to visit the site. The abbey would have been a very striking and imposing building and you are still, today, able to admire the majesty of its iconic, carved west doorway. The plan of the church can still be clearly traced and, rather remarkably, some of the original richly decorated tiles from the abbey have survived intact. One of them, ‘Man with the Mirror’, depicts a medieval gentleman admiring himself in a mirror!
One of the foremost early Welsh historical sources, the Brut y Tywysogion, was written at Strata Florida and the site has many important connections with Welsh culture and identity. Dafydd Ap Gwilym, Wales’s most famous medieval poet, is buried in the churchyard, as are several medieval Princes of Wales.
Today, Strata Florida is made up of a variety of different elements, from the 12th century abbey ruins now in the guardianship of Cadw; to the early 19th century St Mary’s church built on the site of several original abbey chapels; through to the adjoining 17th century Mynachlog Fawr Farmstead.
In partnership with the the Princes Foundation, we are restoring the grade II and II* listed farmstead.
excavation & survey
The 2020 field season will focus on excavating the farmyard and doing wider landscape surveys and ground-truthing. Led by our fully qualified and very experienced staff, we will be excavating in the yard of Mynachlog Fawr farm whose historic buildings the Strata Florida Trust and The Prince’s Foundation are working to conserve and put to new use. The farm was built over the remains of other structures, some of which were part of a gentry house, outbuildings and gardens which go back to the early years of the abbey’s foundation in the Middle Ages. You could be part of the team that unearths these suctures for the first time in hundreds of years and record them for future generations! Trial excavations have shown the complexity of these remains which will be further explored by the field school participants.
We shall also be undertaking geophysics and other survey work in the wider precinct areas and testing some of the features we find with small ‘ground-truthing’ excavations to discover their nature and date. All of the excavation and survey findings will be documented in a comprehensive report written by SFAFS staff. As a participant you can have a copy of this report.
“I have enjoyed all of the activities but dendro, geophysics and finds processing have been the most beneficial”
Accredited Courses and Archaeology Skills Passport
The Archaeological Field School is now able to offer an accredited 4 week, 20 credit transferable module for level 4 students. This will deliver skills in field archaeology and excavation, knowledge of archaeological systems for processing and recording data, in addition to experience of a variety of activities and techniques applied on side. Teaching and training will be delivered by expert archaeologists and fully qualified site supervisors.
The Archaeological Skills Passport training pathway developed by BAJR (British Archaeological Jobs & Resources) is also available to gain recognition for the skills gained at the SFAFS. The Archaeological Skills Passport lists many archaeological excavation and recording techniques and breaks them down into individual tasks and activities. When these elements have been completed in the field and observed by one of our fully qualified site supervisors, they will be signed off in your own Skills Passport. You will be given your passport on the first day of the course and the cost is included in the fees.
Making archaeology inclusive
Breaking Ground Heritage (BGH) is the SFAFS’s social inclusion partner. BGH specialise in promoting well-being and rehabilitation through heritage-based activities, specifically to individuals with severe physical/psychological challenges (largely but not exclusively veterans).
Operating on an inclusive mentoring model here at Strata Florida, BGH will be broadening their reach and engaging with people in civilian communities suffering from exclusion or mental/ physical health issues. This proved incredible successful in the first year with participant feedback such as ‘I felt accepted and valued for what I was able to contribute rather than isolated because of what I could not'.
If you’ve always wanted to get into archaeology but been held back by physical or mental challenges, then this might be the place for you. The SFAFS aims to be the most open and inclusive field school in the UK. Please get in touch and we will work with you to find ways for you to get involved. In addition to archaeological skills training, we aim to harness the heritage of Strata Florida to encourage physical and mental well-being.
Accommodation & Food
Welcome to Pantyfedwen Hall! Accommodation and catering will be provided at Pantyfedwen Hall in the village of Bont one mile from Strata Florida.
The venue has showers, a dining area, communal seating and work space areas, WiFi, laundry facilities and ample parking. The site is fully accessible with disabled toilet and shower facilities. You will need to bring your own tent, sleeping bag, air mattress, towels etc. Local bus transfers for the two miles to and from site will be included.
Included in the full residential package, our in house chef Steph will be providing a hot breakfast and a tasty packed lunch for you to take to site six days a week. In the evening there will be a choice of two meal options (including a vegetarian/vegan option), and dessert. Every Sunday night Steph will bring her BBQ Train and lay on a feast of different foods! We will be showcasing local produce wherever possible.
“Food was delicious, plus plenty of choice”
If you would like to arrange your own accommodation, there is a selection of B&Bs and self-catered accommodation in Bont and Tregaron, as well as a caravan and camping ground on the outskirts of the village. Please get in touch if you would like a list of providers. We recommend you book early to avoid disappointment.
Included in the cost of your weekly fees are your Archaeology Skills Passport and a souvenir dig t-shirt.
How to register
Click here to go to the register page.Enter your details and submit. Upon offer, you will be asked to pay a deposit to secure your place, the balance of the fees will then be collected in March. Payment for day courses will be taken in full at the time of booking.
A typical day...
A day in the life of Strata Florida Archaeology Field School - Full residential basis
8am – Start your day with a hot, full Welsh breakfast or cereals and pastries tea/coffee.
9am – Bus transfer from Pantyfedwen Hall to the Strata Florida site.
9.15am – Morning briefing by Excavation and Survey Directors.
9.30am to 11am – Work & train by excavation in the trenches in the farmyard or do some finds processing or carry out a geophysical survey of the field surrounding the abbey or do some field walking in the countryside adjacent to the main site.
11am - Mid-morning tea break.
11.15am to 1pm – Excavation/finds processing/surveys etc.
1pm – Lunch: Tuck in to a tasty packed lunch prepared for you by our local chef which could include a chicken pesto & zucchini or wild mushroom noodle salad box, a bottle of water, fruit, crisps, and snack bar.
1.45pm to 3.15pm - Excavation/finds processing/surveys etc.
3.15pm - Mid-afternoon tea break.
3.30pm to 5.00pm – Excavation/finds processing/surveys etc.
5pm – Bus transfer back to the Pantyfedwen Hall.
6.30pm – Enjoy a hearty evening meal and pudding which could include honey roast ham or vegan seitan ham with buttered mash, peas, carrots and parsley sauce followed by lemon tart with crushed berries and double cream.
7.30pm until….. – Have some chill-out time in one of the many communal spaces in the Pantyfedwen Hall, wander into the village, grab something from the local shop, go for a few beers at either of the two pubs, take an evening stroll in the summer countryside then back to base to camp under the stars or inside the main hall - whichever you prefer that night!
What is there to do on my day off?
Strata Florida is in the centre of Wales, a place of spiritual presence where many come to enjoy its peace and tranquillity. It was also a place of hospitality and the village of Pontrhydfendigaid has two public houses and a shop where you can stock up on things you might need during the week.
Both are in the heart of beautiful Welsh countryside. Immediately to the west lie the uplands of the Cambrian Mountains with forest tracks and paths for walkers and mountain bikers alike. To the east lies the world-famous Tregaron Bog, a National Nature Reserve, with board walks that take you right out onto the centre where the bird life is extraordinary. And on the edge of the bog, once a year in August, are the trotting races, much beloved by Welsh farming communities.
Just over the hills to the north are Hafod, a restored picturesque landscape, and nearby Devil’s Bridge with its wonderful waterfalls and a light railway which runs down to Aberystwyth. To the south are the market towns of Tregaron and Lampeter and all around are small churches in lovely lowland settings.
Further afield are the coastal towns of Aberaeron and Aberystwyth with many attractions. Aberaeron is a wonderful Regency town and harbour with many good places to eat and admire the sea view. Over the summer too are festivals and events, many in the NT house and park of Llanerchaeron nearby. Aberystwyth is a sizeable university town and still has a pier!
A selection of the lovely food you’ll be served up
Breakfasts will consist of a buffet with a hot option including, Welsh sausages, bacon, eggs, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes
& toast. Veggie sausages will be available.
The cold option will include cereals, fruits, yogurts,
pastries and juices.
Chorizo, mozzarella, rocket & cherry tomato baguette.
Sweet potato & chickpea falafel with beetroot hummus
and micro herb salad box.
Coronation chicken pitta breads or quorn coronation chicken pitta breads.
Lunches will include a bottle of water, fruit, crisps, and a snack bar and will be supplied in an eco-friendly lunch pack to be reused daily.
Moroccan lamb tagine or apricot & aubergine tagine,
both served with couscous.
Fish pie topped with Welsh cheddar or courgette, spinach and mushroom pie, both served with garden greens
and crusty bread.
BBQ Train with Slow Roasted Pulled Pork, Chicken Wings, Cajun Tofu & BBQ Pulled Jack Fruit, Jacket Potatoes, Cobbed Corn, Salads and Slaw.
Eton mess or vegan Eton mess.
Hot chocolate fudge cake with ice cream.
Lemon tart with crushed berries and double cream.