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17 December 2006
Protecting ancient Welsh forts from modern invasion

Ancient Welsh people from the Iron Age were defended by forts, often built on cliff-top promontories for extra security. The very reasons they chose these locations create problems today with the narrow strips of land being eroded on both sides by the sea. A partnership between the National Trust and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority is helping to ensure that these important monuments remain safely accessible to interested visitors, while making sure they are protected from the impact of pounding feet.
     At Longhouse, a promontory fort between St Davids and Fishguard, the path has been routed away from eroding cliffs. The new footpath will also help protect the fort's ramparts. Similar concerns led to work at Porth y Rhaw where footpaths crossed the ramparts and ran along crumbling clifftops.
     Emma Plunkett Dillon, archaeologist for the National Trust, said, "We know that features like Porth y Rhaw are very popular but unfortunately such historic landmarks can't withstand the impact of large numbers of visitors. We have to consider where the safest route lies and how people can enjoy seeing the fort whilst doing our best to make sure it will be around for future generations to enjoy."
     A second phase of work at Porth y Rhaw will reroute the path away from the cliff edge, with a small archaeological excavation of the area. In the future it may be increasingly difficult to balance all these needs. Emma explained, "As we see more climate change impacts in Wales it is likely that the coast will change more quickly. We will have to monitor erosion and the risk of tidal flooding and look at what aspects of our coastal heritage are vulnerable. And of course we always need to consider people's safety." She added "It is important that any new footpaths being planned along the coast take this into consideration and are designed to be fit for the future."
     Phil Bennett, archaeological heritage manager for the National Park Authority, said, "It's not just prehistoric monuments that are vulnerable to the sea; there is a long history of medieval graves eroding out of the cliffs in the National Park.

Source: icWales (12 December 2006)

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