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A Real Sense of Power…

The process of writing this PhD has brought with it a feeling of wonder. How, as I’ve rediscovered lost sites and changed people’s perception of previously identified ones, that they were all already there in the landscape that we all use for our own lives, and that we can pass by them every day without giving them a second thought.

A couple of weeks ago there was a post on a group on Facebook highlighting an excellent resource of the National Library of Scotland. http://maps.nls.uk/os/ has a series of searchable Ordnance Survey maps which date – depending on where you live – from 1842 to 1961. Now, in case you haven’t realised by now, I love maps and mapping, and dove straight in to wallow in all this digitised loveliness.

The first place I looked at was, as I am sure many of you also do when you pick up a map, was my home town. In case you are new to the blog, I’m from Wrexham in North East Wales (Latitude 53.045083; Longitude -2.9931521). I selected the earliest map available http://maps.nls.uk/view/102341204 and opened it up.

A few months ago I gave a lecture at the University of Worcester to the archaeology undergraduates, and one of the questions I was asked was ‘How do you know you can see a park in the landscape if it’s not marked as one?’ It’s a difficult question to answer because, as with everyone who has had training in a specialism, sometimes you just ‘know’. However, this piece of map work might explain the methodology a little more clearly.

This is the image that appeared when I opened the map:

Denbighshire Sheet XXVIII Surveyed: 1872 Published: 1879
Denbighshire Sheet XXVIII
Surveyed: 1872
Published: 1879

Parkland – or rather – private parkland around high status houses is shaded in a mid-grey colour, and the town of Wrexham can be seen on the right hand side of the map.

Detail of Denbighshire Sheet XXVIII Surveyed: 1872 Published: 1879
Detail of Denbighshire Sheet XXVIII
Surveyed: 1872
Published: 1879

This parkland is an estate known as Plas Power (‘Plas’ is the Welsh word for Palace or high status house). Although it isn’t very far from where I was brought up, I have to confess I didn’t know very much about it. The parkland is surrounded by high walls and it is still a private estate. The church is accessible, situated outside the parkland, but inside those walls is one of those locations which has been perpetually off limits. I was aware that Plas Power, the house itself, had been demolished in after World War II and there were photographs of the building which has been taken prior to this.

Plas Power Hall prior to demolition
Plas Power Hall prior to demolition

When I’d opened the map originally I’d spotted a darker colour oval shape within the Plas Power parkland (if you want to go back to the original map at this point you might be able to see this) and to me, that oval seemed to be very similar in size and shape to the deer park enclosure at Eyton which has a long and well attested history and which I’ve previously blogged about here: https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/making-the-familiar-unfamiliar/

Detail of Denbighshire Sheet XXVIII Surveyed: 1872 Published: 1879
Detail of Denbighshire Sheet XXVIII
Surveyed: 1872
Published: 1879
Detail of Denbighshire Sheet XXXV Surveyed: 1872 to 1873 Published: 1879
Detail of Denbighshire Sheet XXXV
Surveyed: 1872 to 1873
Published: 1879

A full site visit will have to wait for the owners permission, but I was able to use the ‘Clywedog Trail’ http://www.wrexham.gov.uk/english/leisure_tourism/clywedog_trail.htm to access a viewpoint to the south of the site which allowed me the opportunity to take a picture of the southern boundary of the site.

Southern Edge of the Plas Power Enclosure
Southern Edge of the Plas Power Enclosure

What is immediately visible from the photograph is that the western boundary has a very steep edge. This would fit with keeping deer within an enclosure of this type, and in addition the LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) data http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/research/landscapes-and-areas/aerial-survey/archaeology/lidar/ appears to back up my hypothesis. This identification of this enclosure is excellent news, because it means there is another early enclosure which I can compare directly others previously recognised.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone for their support. The message I sent via Twitter two weeks ago is still being re-tweeted and has raised another £25 towards my course fees. If you think you can help, please visit http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks

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Trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg (A blog post through the medium of Welsh)

Wythnos yma, dwi wedi dewis ysgrifennu am fy ngwaith ymchwil trwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg. Er mae fy nhreuthawd PhD yn cael ei ysgrifennu yn Saesneg, mae rhan helaeth o’r cerddi dwi’n trafod ond ar gael yn ei iaith gwreiddiol, sef yr iaith Gymraeg. Mae cerddi ‘Beirdd yr Uchelwyr’, sydd wrthi yn cael ei golygu gan staff y Ganolfan Uwchefrydiau Cymreig a Cheltaidd Prifysgol Cymru yn Aberystwyth a cyhoeddi fel cyfres, yn gallu helpu ateb cwestiynnau am hanes ac archaeoleg y cyfnod.
http://www.wales.ac.uk/cy/YGanolfanGeltaidd/ResearchProjects/CompletedProjects/PoetsoftheNobility/CyflwyniadProsiect.aspx Rhaid cynnwys hefyd y safle we http://www.dafyddapgwilym.net/index_cym.php gan Brifysgol Abertawe ar waith y bardd Dafydd ap Gwilym

Mae cerdd ‘Yr Eos a’r Frân’ gan Dafydd ap Gwilym yn son am Nghoed Eutun, ger tref ganoloesol Wrtyn yn Sir Dinbych. Sgwenais yn y blog mis Mai blwyddyn diwethaf am hanes y nghoed Eutun /Parc Eutun, https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/making-the-familiar-unfamiliar/ ond nid am yr eos a oedd yn byw yn y parc. Mae’r Eos angen cynefin sy’n cynnwys coedlanoedd a prysgwydd, a mae’r cynefin yma yn cael ei creu gan dynion y tywysog sy’n gyfrifol am y coed.

Eos
Eos

Fel archaeolegydd, dwi’n tueddu i feddwl fod colled yr Eos i wneud a newidiadau i sut mae’r parc yn cael ei ddefnyddio, gyda llai o bwyslais ar gadw cydbwysedd i’r cynefin o mwy o bwyslais ar gwneud pres trwy rhentu y tir allan i ffermwyr lleol.

Mae cestyll y mers yn cael ei cynwys yn y cerddi. Ysgrifenodd y bardd Iolo Goch yn y gerdd i Ieuan ab Einion am llys ‘Fulk’, a llai o bres yn cael gwario arno. Mae’r enw Fulk yn perthyn i deulu Fitz Warine oedd yn cysylltiedig a castell Whittington, nawr yn Sir Amwythig. Mae’r dogfennau sy’n son am gastell Whittington ar yr un pryd mae Iolo yn ysgrifennu y gerdd yn egluro fod llai o arian wedi cael ei gwario ar gadw y castell mewn cyflwr da – ond bod y gardd sy’n perthyn i’r castell mewn cyflwr da ac yn werth pres.

A Gateway at Whittington Castle, Salop 1794 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851  Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-whittington-shropshire-the-castle-gatehouse-d00377
A Gateway at Whittington Castle, Salop 1794 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/turner-whittington-shropshire-the-castle-gatehouse-d00377

Dwi’n gobeithio ellir y blog yma codi ymwybyddiaeth am fyng ngwaith ymchwil ar gyfer PhD – a hefyd y ffaith nid oes pres ymchwil ar gael i wneud y gwaith yma. I helpu’r achos, sefydlais tudalen lle ellir cyfrannu at talu ffi y gradd http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks Os fedrwch helpu, diolch yn fawr iawn am eich cymorth yn yr achos yma.

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And now for something completely different…click on my picture to watch the video…

Something a little different this week. A Vlog filmed at Flint Castle. If you think you can help me with my research. Visit my page at:  http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks
Something a little different this week. A Vlog filmed at Flint Castle. If you think you can help me fund my research. Visit my page at: http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks

(And if you can edit the sound to reduce the wind noise – thank you very much).

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From Psychiatrists to Peter Rabbit

My apologies for not putting up a blog post in quite a while, so I hope you will read this one in its entirety, and if you think someone else should read it, please pass it on.

On the 6th of December 2013 I was at work when I suffered what can best be described as the mother and father of depressive panic attacks. It really frightened me and thinking of the consequences of what I might do to myself in this mood, I drove myself straight to my Doctor’s Surgery and asked to see someone. The receptionist was really patient with me, especially after she told me there was no Dr. available to see me and I pointed out I wasn’t leaving, because I was scared of walking away from a situation where I would receive help.

The Dr. who saw me took one look at me, asked me a couple of questions and immediately phoned to make me an appointment with the mental health team at one of the major hospitals. I was taken there and after a brief conversation with a nurse was put in a quiet ‘special’ room to wait for a full assessment. The room had very heavy furniture with rounded edges and no easy way to get your fingers underneath to lift any of it up. The windows were bolted shut, the pictures screwed to the wall and a panic button fitted behind where the assessor was to sit. I suppose people had been there in far angrier moods than me.

The assessment was an opportunity to talk. I was allowed to ramble on, follow tangents and let everything tumble out of my mouth in an unfocussed narrative. Much is written about how writing a PhD can be detrimental to your mental health, but not much is written about when a PhD is the glue that binds your mental health together. I have a good life, as many people do who suffer mental health issues, but when that indefinable something gets in under your skin and the tiny problems you are experiencing start to expand and fill your every thought. Well, you get the picture.

I’ve been ill before, and I mean physically ill. I’ve had a couple of operations on my kidneys and my gall bladder out. Add to that some other scars from various other adventures and I have parts of my skin that look like a dog chew toy. Physical pain I can handle, junior doctors at the end of my bed staring at my testicles I can handle, but letting someone look inside your head is a very different experience indeed. In one sense, writing these blog posts are letting people inside my head, by explaining the inner workings of how I come to work out various concepts and points of my thesis. In another sense, many of you don’t know me as a person and form your opinions of me from what I write on here, and my writing has meant that my first term was funded by you, and I in turn am inspired by your faith in me.

After the assessment by a psychiatrist I was allowed home and this was the start of my recovery. In order to recover from something like this you have to admit that you understand that there are problems, and that you need to address each one as an individual rather than screw them up into one big ball which is then juggled around as one big worry. Making sure I fulfilled my obligations to you, the people who support me by reading the blog and contributing to my PhD fee payment fund http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks is something which I have to admit worried me and was rolled up in my big ball.

Thanks to the dispassionate honesty of my psychiatrist, the love of my family and the support of three friends in particular – you know who you are – I’ve been able to work through my problems and I’m now well enough, both physically and mentally, to be able to continue with the writing process and to able to talk about my latest discovery, which all starts with the ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tale_of_Peter_Rabbit by Beatrix Potter.

One of my friends has just given birth, and she and her husband have decorated the nursery. They chose to put up illustrations from ‘The Tale of Peter Rabbit’. I remembered that the illustrations were drawn in the garden of Gwaynynog Hall near Denbigh (Latitude 53.177178; Longitude -3.445713) and so posted a link to the BBC News article http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/north_east/4441615.stm to show her.

Galch Hill

And then I thought. Hang on a minute. Where exactly is Gwaynynog Hall? So, I checked my maps and it lies within one of Denbigh’s medieval parks. Which then made me think that Peter Rabbit, or at least the rabbits that Beatrix Potter was inspired by when she created Peter Rabbit, arrived in the area during the medieval period. Whether these were imported by English or Welsh royalty is a little bit more difficult to establish without archaeological excavation of the medieval rabbit warren locations, but it is an important step forward in understanding the landscape. And I’ll be sure to tell my friends’s newborn daughter someday how she helped me start writing again.

If anything in the first part of this blog post struck a chord, you could try the following websites:

http://www.mind.org.uk

http://bemindful.co.uk