Walls have been uncovered that were built by people over two thousand years ago, and which probably haven’t seen the light of day since the great storms of eight hundred years ago when all the sand blew in and forevermore totally obliterated parts of the coastline.
Yesterday, I went with my family to visit our local beach – the one nearest to us, only four or five miles along country lanes which normally takes us approximately twelve minutes to drive to in the car. Archaeologists have been excavating on top of the hill fort there this past couple of weeks. The public were then invited to go and see what they had discovered.
Gazebos and tents to house photos and maps and other significant information bucked and flapped in the aftermath of the gale which had assailed north west Wales the previous evening. The sun shone but the waves roared in thunderously as they crashed upon the beach relentlessly and the wind nearly blew us away, especially once we reached the exposed summit of the hill which the fort crowns. It was hard to stand still or upright and the furiously swirling air snatched our guide’s words away in a possessive tantrum, but what we saw and discovered there took my breath away far more thoroughly that the exigencies of the wind.
We were told about the Roman watch tower which was probably built from stones taken from the older hut circles and later, the farms which came and went – even a golf course which was laid out across the hill fort at the turn of the last century!
But it was the stones. Stones carried, held, placed by hands over two millennia ago… laid with infinite precision and care by ordinary people shaping their homes… people with vision of a new community… ordinary people going about their everyday business, with blisters and sore backs, with loved ones, with hopes and aspirations just like you and me. I felt the intervening years dissolve and I stood with them – those people of old – and looked on with them as their great round houses and animal folds took shape.
I walked with them towards the entrance to the enclosure which faces away from the sea and the wind and envisaged hunters returning home with their prey, farmers walking back up the track at the end of a long weary day from toiling in the fields… the laughter and chatter of children, the women’s voices and the smoke rising from the cooking fires. It was all there, just a blink away… and then was gone. But I was still left with a feeling of shared community… connection… experience.
As I walked back across the summit of the hill and looked out across the bay to the mountains opposite, I saw the very same view that these ancestors of the place must have looked at every day of their lives and felt again that frisson of connection. I thank the archaeologists whose care and work enabled me to briefly walk beside these older folk once more. It gave me a sense of place and time and of fitness to carry on the task of preserving the planet and our life upon it – more precarious now than at any other time this past few thousand years.
With much to think about, we descended the steep slopes and sought sanctuary within one of the bright, warm cafes. I bet those older folk would have a loved a cup of hot tea or coffee!