Tir Gofal - Five Years On
Map of CPAT area showing all Tir Gofal farms
Administered by the Countryside Council for Wales, Tir Gofal, the all-Wales, whole-farm agri-environment scheme is currently in its 5th year, and is still going strong. Within the scheme, farmers are offered funding to enable them to farm in more 'environmentally friendly' ways, so rare habitats and species of flora and fauna are safeguarded for the future. The other main aims of the scheme are to open up public access routes and areas, and to protect the historic environment, which is where we come in. The Welsh Archaeological Trusts are consulted on every farm that enters the scheme within their area. Each farm is first subject to a desktop survey (ie, a study of resources held within the office - the Sites and Monuments Record, project reports, old maps). On the strength of the results of this study, the archaeological trust may recommend that one of their field officers visit the farm to carry out a more in-depth survey of the features within that farm. This can then lead to the specific management of those features, improving the condition of archaeological sites.
Since the launch of the scheme in 1999, CPAT have been consulted on almost 1300 different farms, ranging from tiny valley bottom holdings of a few fields, to vast tracts of upland, often havens for wildlife and archaeology alike. Areas where Tir Gofal can have the most positive effect are where groups of neighbouring farms or large estates join the scheme. As can be seen from the map above, one of the largest concentrations of farms in Tir Gofal is around the Elan Valley in Radnorshire, where much of the land is moorland. Here we have carried out several farm visits, improving our knowledge of the archaeology of the area, as well as enabling us to provide better management advice to the Countryside Council for Wales. The archaeology of the area is widely diverse, encompassing prehistoric burial monuments, medieval chapel sites, post medieval farming remains such as ridge and furrow, pillow mounds (artificial rabbit warrens) and potato stores, and 19th and 20th century farm buildings.
Left: Potato store in the Clwydian Range, nr Llandyrnog © CPAT 1562-048
Our work on Tir Gofal over the years has increased the number of sites within the Sites and Monuments Record by several hundred. Many of these are features such as trackways, wells and quarries that we identify from 1st edition OS maps of the late 19th century - individually low-level and relatively uninteresting sites that nevertheless form an intrinsic part of the rich fabric that is the Welsh historic environment. However, we do occasionally discover exciting new sites, the largest group of these being traditional farm buildings. Houses have long been the subject of great study and debate, but farm buildings have only recently been afforded any wide-scale attention. There have traditionally been relatively few Listed farm buildings in Wales, though many Listed farmhouses, though this is being remedied by Cadw in current surveying programmes. Also, practically the only farm buildings in the Sites and Monuments Record were Listed Buildings, but this is where Tir Gofal is having a huge impact. Almost every farm you visit will contain interesting buildings, whether stone, brick or timber (and sometimes all three), wherever you are in the country. Tir Gofal provides grants to farmers for the upkeep of these buildings using traditional methods and materials, something that is eagerly accepted.
Right: Traditional stone barn near Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant
© CPAT 1725-072
We will continue to be a part of Tir Gofal for as long as the scheme survives. It is the first time that we have been able to have widespread input into the monitoring and management of archaeological sites of all types and of all importance, and not just the Scheduled Ancient Monuments, those deemed to be of national importance. Most aspects of the scheme have been a success, and as with anything, though it is not perfect, it is certainly better than nothing. We are continually involved with training for farmers and CCW project officers, the vast majority of which have no archaeological experience, and hope that the long-term future of the Welsh historic environment is looking rosier as a result of this.
For more information on Tir Gofal from our website click here
Abi McCullough, November 2004
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