My Manchester Metropolitan University page: http://www2.mmu.ac.uk/hpp/research/current-phd-students/

Please help fund my research: http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks

I’ve been very fortunate to see two books to which I have contributed chapters published in the last two weeks. One has had a very long gestation period for one reason or another, whilst the other has appeared almost without me realising.

‘Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen’, edited by Mark Baker, was published by the charity ‘Love My Wales’ on the 6th of December 2014 in a parallel English and Welsh text. In a blog post back in August 2013 https://medievalparksgardensanddesignedlandscapes.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/park-it-like-you-stole-from-it/ I mentioned that I’d identified the medieval park at Brynkir (Longitude 52.966347; Latitude -4.199188) and that the Welsh national media had picked up on the story http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-north-west-wales-23458968.

Subsequently Mark Baker, who is researching ‘The Impact and Development of the Welsh Country House’ for his PhD at Cardiff University contacted me to ask if I would contribute a chapter on the identification of the medieval deer park and how it could have been used by Welsh royalty in the 13th century. The opportunity to be able to write about a park I had only very recently identified and set it in context with other research on the estate and its inhabitants was too good to turn down.

The cover of the 'Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen' book.
The cover of the ‘Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen’ book.

Research into the park at Brynkir is important because it offers the opportunity to place it into context with the two successive houses which were constructed within the park. These houses were constructed from the fifteenth century onwards, replacing the park hunting lodge which would have served the motte and bailey castle of Dolbenmaen (Latitude 52.964237; -4.224996).

Plas Dolbenmaen with the motte for the castle at Dolbenmaen in the background
Plas Dolbenmaen with the motte for the castle at Dolbenmaen in the background

Importantly, the landscape context of the medieval park remains substantially intact, particularly compared to other parks which have seen development impinge upon them. The book launch was held in the Community Centre in Golan, a village to the south of Brynkir and the launch was opened by Lord Dafydd Ellis-Thomas who contributed the foreword to the book and is the Welsh Assembly Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, the political constituency in which Brynkir is situated.

Left to Right: Spencer Gavin Smith, Mark Baker, Adam Voelcker, Lord Ellis-Thomas, Ceri Leeder, Spencer Beale (behind Ceri Leeder), Shaun Evans
Left to Right: Spencer Gavin Smith, Mark Baker, Adam Voelcker, Lord Ellis-Thomas, Ceri Leeder, Spencer Beale (behind Ceri Leeder), Shaun Evans Picture taken by Rhys Mwyn

If you would like to purchase a copy of ‘Plas Brynkir, Dolbenmaen’, visit the Love My Wales website at http://www.lovemywales.org Price is £15:00 with £4:99 postage and packing. All proceeds from the sale of the book being used to fund the 2015 season of archaeological excavation at Brynkir.

‘Deer and People’, edited by Karis Baker, Ruth Carden and Richard Madgwick was published by Windgather Press on the 9th of December 2014. Bringing together twenty four papers from conferences in Lincoln and Paris, I attended the conference in Lincoln in 2011 and gave a paper on the topic of ‘Parks and Designed Landscapes in Medieval Wales’. The presentation of this paper marked the first time I had presented a paper on my PhD topic as a whole, rather than on an individual park and its attendant landscape. The paper attracted several questions which I wasn’t able to fully answer at the time, but the paper benefited greatly from presenting in front of people who were able to push me like this.

Cover of Deer and People
The Cover of the Deer and People book

The paper covers parks and designed landscapes I have discussed previously in my blog, including Sycharth (Latitude 52.824530; Longitude -3.1808960), Eyton (Latitude 52.991226; Longitude -2.968168) and the Parks of Dyffryn Clwyd including Ruthin (Latitude 53.114477; Longitude -3.310576). I’m hopefully that the paper encourages other researches to engage with the topic. Over the next few weeks I’ll discuss the papers in greater detail, but I wanted to inform you that my research – along with the research of others – is available for dissemination.

If you would like to purchase a copy of ‘Deer and People’, visit the Oxbow Books website at http://www.oxbowbooks.com/oxbow/windgather-press-imprint/deer-and-people.html Price is £36:00.


Enroled…Thank you so much! Let’s keep the adventure going…

So now I’m back in the fold of the academic community.


And I wouldn’t be here with the help of the online community of people who may never have met me, but have read my posts on this blog and felt able to contribute to funding my research.

Am I nervous about restarting? Yes. But, having been able to keep a toe in academia through attending conferences and seeing material published in books and journals whilst I have been a little bit out of the loop is very comforting.

Time I feel to provide a comprehensive update of what I am writing about and why it needs to be done.

My PhD will consist of four chapters when completed. These will be:

1. Introduction to the topic and previous research undertaken.

2. Parks

3. Gardens

4. Temporary and Permanent Designed Landscapes

In addition to these, there is a Bibliography and a Gazetteer – created so each landscape component can be entered onto either a regional or national archaeological database.

Some of the people mentioned in the research will be be very familiar to you. The ‘big’ names like Owain Glyn Dŵr or Edward I make an appearance, but not as the leader of a rebellion, or as ‘The Hammer of the Scots’, but rather as men who created landscapes to enjoy with their families and utilise for economic gain.

I’m also writing about men like Reginald Balle, who lived in the village of Hope in north east Wales (Longitude: 53.118235; Latitude: -3.0328984) during the middle of the fourteenth century and how he profited from the creation of a brand new park just outside the village. And the numerous un-named servants who for 15 days in May, for at least a century and probably much longer, would have to climb trees to capture fledgling sparrowhawks in Pennant Lliw, near Llanuwchllyn in central north Wales (Longitude: 52.876692; Latitude: -3.744210).


You may have visited some the places I’m writing about, for example Conwy castle (Longitude: 53.280082; Latitude: -3.825695) on the shore of the Conwy Estuary and the River Gyffin. Others, however are a bit further off the beaten track, like Hornspike on the Wales-England border Longitude: 52.903693; Latitude: -2.775291).

This research needs to be done for the simple reason that it has never been done before in a complete way. This research pulls together information from many different sources in three different languages and helps archaeologists, historians and literature specialists all work together to look at this area of the country.

So, please, if you enjoy my blog and would like to help. Either share the link for my blog, or if you are able to contribute then you can do so at: http://www.gofundme.com/medievalgardensandparks

Thank you…and enjoy watching the work unfold here.