Neolithic Knapping and Other Skills

James Dilley is a PhD student at Southampton University. He is also a skilled craftsman working with materials such as flint, wood, bone, horn, leather, ceramics, metals, natural fibres and wool.

His outreach object is to encourage people of all ages to learn about ancient crafts by bringing our ancestors’ skills and knowledge back to life.

He is dedicated and enthusiastic, an expert in his field, and an excellent teacher.

You can find out more about James on his website:  ancientcraft.co.uk

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As members of The Darran Valley History Group, we were lucky enough to be invited to Parc Cwm Darran for a hands on Neolithic skills course taught by James that involved flint knapping, bronze age metal casting, woodwork and making nettle cordage. We joined Andy Wilkinson (Senior Environmental Education Ranger for CCBC‘s Countryside Service – Parc Penallta), Mark Batchelder (The Winding House Museum – New Tredegar), and Morgan Roberts (Welsh Language Voice Project Officer for Menter Caerffili) for a thoroughly informative and enjoyable week.

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As part of Neolithic skills week at Parc Cwm Darran, James gave a demonstration of traditional bronze age copper smelting. Copper smelts at approx 1100 degrees centigrade. Bellows are used to keep the temperature up. A small pit is dug and a crucible filled with alternate layers of blue malachite and charcoal is placed into the charcoal furnace. The whole process takes around half an hour.

The main part of the course involved flint knapping. Flint is one of the sharpest materials on earth, how it is formed still remains a mystery. Its composition is similar only to that of glass. The use of flint dates back to before the Neolithic times where it was a highly useful material for making tools necessary for survival.

 

Because flint is so sharp it was necessary to take health and safety precautions when knapping. A kit consists of: Leather leg cover, Gloves, Goggles.

Basic knapping, to create flakes, is hitting the flint nodule on a flat surface (platform) using a hammer-stone (pebble) no more than 1cm from an edge that is not over 90 degrees.

The flakes are formed underneath the area that you are working on.

Flint knapping is a skill that takes many years of practise in order to become accomplished. We did, throughout the week, manage to make a selection of tools that we used to fashion our own knives with by the end of the course.

They included; Scrapers, Saws, Knife Blades, Harpoon Blades.end-knives-large

Hi

I’m Andy Wilkinson and I’m the Senior Environmental Education Ranger for CCBCs Countryside Service. I’m constantly looking at ways of engaging people in the fantastic local countryside we have in Caerphilly. We are blessed by incredible biking trails, walk, wildlife etc. right on our doorstep. Our local countryside has seen humans living on it for thousands of years and there are many ancient remains and signs hidden all over it. You just have to look. As the Darran Valley has some excellent remains, along with Mark Batchelder from the Winding House, we decided to put a Neolithic project together which would celebrate this fact and be very hands on. Hence I ended up learning Neolithic crafts for a week at Parc Cwm Darran with James Dilley. The week was fascinating, frustrating, rewarding and illuminating! I think my biggest impression was that Stone Age man was extremely intelligent. The incredible skills and understanding needed to chip a flint at the right angles, force etc. is incredibly detailed. It is a very difficult thing to do to create stone tools, but incredibly rewarding too. The week opened my eyes to new skills and I enjoyed the company, enthusiasm and shared knowledge of my fellow students. Now its time to put it all together to create a 2 day project that, hopefully, will build self esteem and inspire!

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A big thank you to James Dilley for his enthusiasm and patience. Thanks also to all the guys who made the week so much fun.

 

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Let The Tails Continue – Part 2

Before attending University, I also wrote a trilogy of stories, with my friend Poppy, the cat, about two baby hedgehogs called Itchee and Scratchee. The books were inspired by the hedgehogs that visit our garden on a nightly basis. We are lucky enough to see them from early spring through to the end of October or early November depending on the weather.

Four years ago we had two of the tiniest hoglets we had ever seen turn up on a freezing November night. We brought them inside and put them in a box with some cat food water and a blanket to keep them warm. Unfortunately, during the night, one of them died. The next day, however, another one arrived. We named them Itchee and Scratchee.

I then researched on the internet about how big they needed to be to survive the winter. Ideally they needed to weigh at least 750 grammes. We weighed Itchee and Scratchee on a kitchen scale and Itchee, the smallest one weighed only 110 grammes, whilst Scratchee weighed in at 230 grammes. There was no way that they would survive the winter outside so we decided to bring them into the house.

That evening we bought a rabbit hutch that we found on Gumtree from Tredegar in the next valley over. We cleaned it and put some straw in for bedding and placed it in our lounge next to the radiator. We also put some cat litter into the lid of an old shoe box, hoping that they would learn to use it. Fortunately, they were clever enough to do so. We fed them on wet cat food, crunchies and meal worms and a bowl of fresh water for them to drink. After a week they had doubled in size so we were obviously doing the right thing.

We kept blankets on top of the hutch which could be folded down to prevent them having too  much daylight. My friend Poppy, her kitten, Mini-me and her brother Tyger then decided to sleep on top of the hutch.

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One morning, when I looked in the hutch, there was a bright green lump of jelly in the litter tray. At first I thought it belonged to the boys, some sort of Alien Goo which they used to like playing with. I later found out it wasn’t, so I researched on the internet and found out it was a sign of intestinal worms. If left untreated, the hedgehogs could have died.

Once again, I returned to my computer and found a hedgehog hospital a few miles from our home, in Pontlanfraith. I rang them and they asked us to take them over as soon as possible. Itchee was infected but Scratchee needed treatment too because they had been caged together. After a series of antibiotic injections, they were kept in an incubator where they stayed until March. They were then released back into the wild.

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Since then, our hedgehog population has thrived. We now have at least 15 seasonal visitors every night. They have their own plate of food which unfortunately the rats are partial to as well. We have seen a rat and a hedgehog sat side by side munching away many times. We have also gained a new black cat, Bagheera, Baghee for short, who is fascinated by our spiky friends. We are looking forward to the hedgehogs returning in the next fortnight. Last year the first ones were sighted on 16th March.

Baggy and Hedgehogs

All the books are available on Amazon – take a look by clicking on the images.

 

Return of the Hedgehogs

School for Hedgehogs

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Me and Poppy welcoming Itchee and Scratchee home.

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Baby Hoglets, drawn by the children of Deri Primary School and Lorna Card’s grandchildren (Tir Y Berth), and their new friends, the Owlet triplets, drawn by myself.

One evening, a couple of years ago, during the summer, we had a surprise. We were sat in the lounge, the back door was open, and we heard a strange scratching noise underneath the table. Upon investigation this is what we saw…Spiky on the books

A cheeky little hedgehog had made his/her way inside.

Happy Birthday to Baarbaara The Sheep (BBTS) Publications – Let the Tails Continue – Part 1

Today is the first day of the 5th year of BBTS publications – Not bad for a sheep – My work involves writing/editing and publishing. I also help people to understand the process of Self – Publishing or Indie Publishing as it has become popularly known. As little as 6 years ago Indie Publishing was frowned upon, thankfully today people’s views have changed for the better.If you would like more information on my services please email me at: baarbaarathesheep@hotmail.co.uk

What began as a one off publication, ‘Save Our Valleys – A Sheep’s Tail,’ printed and bound from the comfort of my field, has become a proper entrepreneurial adventure. After encouragement from friends and local people, I published the book via the Createspace Platform on Amazon.

The book was written to raise awareness of a local campaign group,  (UVAG) United Valley’s Action Group, who were opposing a proposal for an incinerator on the mountain at Ffos Y Fran, Cwmbargoed. Details of the successful campaign can be read at the following links:

Wales Online – Incinerator Battle Goes To Downing Street

Covanta Drops Incinerator Plans

Initially I wrote a story about the animals from the mountain helping the campaigners with their fight. This was to try and encourage younger people to get involved. Due to its political nature, no publisher would get involved, that is how I came to self-publish. The book now sits on the library shelves in Caerphilly County Borough.

Complete Cover Save Our Valleys

Click on the Image to view the book on Amazon

The second publication was a poetry anthology by locals to raise money for another, ongoing, fight. A new opencast mine opposite the existing black hole at Ffos Y Fran. Nant Llesg is an untouched site of natural beauty. The habitat is perfect for migrating birds. Rhaslas pond, situated in the middle of the site is of historical interest as well as being a spectacularly beautiful part of the area. Despite Caerphilly Council’s unanimous decision against the proposal in August 2015, the company involved, Nant Llesg Ltd, a subsidiary of Miller Argent, have decided to appeal. The most recent opposal by UVAG has been against Nant Llesg Ltd’s intention to fence off the area.

Rhaslas Pond Blog and Photos

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More about the Campaign (Americymru)

Black Hole Cover Image

Click on Image to view book on Amazon

Details of the ongoing campaign by UVAG against Nant Llesg can be read on the links below:

Best Outcome for Anti-Opencast Campaigners

Wales Online – Thousands Pen Objection Letters

Victory to Anti Opencast Campaigners

After the success of the first two books, I was encouraged to go to University by a friend of mine who had just completed her BA Honours in Creative and Professional Writing. To be honest, I didn’t think I stood a chance of getting in. The last time I attended school was over 30 years ago. But to my surprise I was accepted on the initial course which was a two year foundation degree in English and History at Lambridge University, formerly Glamorgan, Treforest, and now known as The University of South Wales.

 

Part 2 coming soon…. Watch this space.

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Leaves

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Autumn Leaves

 

As autumn approaches, the evergreens stay the same,

But the cherry trees they turn to flame,

A festival of colours, as far as the eye can see,

Yellow, red and gold, adorn the maples and oak trees,

Sycamore and Poplar, Horse-chestnut and Ash,

Their shades change dramatically, as if painted in a flash,

Before the winter takes their leaves,

Before the swallows nest in eaves,

See their glory shining bright,

Against the backdrop of the light,

Even when the skies are grey,

Magical their beauty stays,

An ever changing colour scheme,

Is nature’s gift to us, as lucid as a dream.

NO TA to NATO

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Photographs courtesy of Nigel Pugh, Mark DarkMavis Davies and Wales Online.

NO  TA     to     NATO

Austerity measures in place

      Capitalism in your face!

Money spent on war – Food-banks for the poor.

Nuclear Alliance – Where’s the fucking sense?

So called humanitarian interventions!

Paid for by the tax-payer conventions!

A Berlin wall – 11 foot tall!

Billions of pounds wasted, on ego’s inflated!

Voted in by the people – In power deceitful.

These leaders – Soul reapers!

Our natural resources exploited, to the point of NO RETURN!

Mother earth is in turmoil but they have NO concern!

We must fight their oppression, regain possession,

Save our world from destruction, from overproduction.

Stop ethnic cleansing, we are brothers not others!

Our protests are peaceful,

But the police they are brutal.

Still we stand in solidarity – To stop this waste of humanity.

 

 

Dharma 11 Sept 2nd 2014

 

Devil’s Bridge – Ceredigion in Photographs and Prose

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An old folk tale relating to Devil’s Bridge or Bridge on the Mynach in Ceredigion.

The Devil’s Bridge is the lower of three bridges spanning the falls and the river Mynach below.  The story goes that the Devil himself built the bridge as a ploy to harness an old lady’s soul.  The old lady’s cow had wandered across the river when it was low, to eat the lush green grass on the other side.  The Devil who just happened to be holidaying in Wales at that time, offered to build her a bridge in order to retrieve her, now very fat cow.

However, there was a condition attached to his kindly offer.  He said that he would build the bridge if he was allowed to take the first soul that crossed it.  The old lady agreed, but thought it strange, until she realised that he was expecting her soul.

The next day the bridge was built and as the Devil rubbed his hands in glee across the opposite side, the old lady threw a crust of Bara Brith onto the bridge, which her dog promptly followed.  The Devil was outraged, and extremely embarrassed at being outwitted by the old Welsh lady and vowed never, to return to Wales.  In a way he was quite glad because every time he came it always rained and he hated rain.

 

This is my experience of The Devil’s Bridge and Falls………

 

The Promised Land

A journey up the mountain,

A steam train from ages past,

Puff, Puff, Puff,

A wondrous experience, if you have no fear of heights.

The Valley below shrinks as we chug higher,

Spectacular views invade my eyes,

Sickness invades my stomach,

Palms clammy, shivering,

Temperature continues to drop rapidly.

It’s summer in Wales,

In picturesque Ceredigion we sport T-Shirts and Jeans,

Artic clothing more appropriate now.

The children had poured excitedly into the open carriages,

Like sheep we’d followed suit.

‘Best seats behind the engine’ the black-hearted drivers shout,

Your fate is sealed.

Laughing their hot steaming rocks off, as a veil of hail descends upon the train.

We are greeted at the summit by mist and a torrent of icy rain.

Just one hour to see the promised vista,

We follow the steep and slippery paths down to the Devil’s punchbowl.

It is certainly beautiful, made more so by the sun now shyly peeping through.

There is a scramble to return to our awaiting carriage, you do not want to get stranded here.

Seated comfortably, the journey down begins,

Warm rays caressing the protective window panes.

 

Dharma 11

29th August 2013

 

 

 

The Return of Itchee & Scratchee

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What is the working title of your next book?

The Return of Itchee & Scratchee

Where did the idea for the book come from?

This is the second book in a trilogy about two baby hedgehogs we rescued from our garden last year.

What genre does your book fall under?

Children, Young Adults, Parents who like to read to their children and anyone who loves Hedgehogs.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a move rendition?

Baarbaara, Poppy and Itchee and Scratchee would play themselves, however cameo appearances from Shaun The Sheep and Bagpuss would be appreciated.

What is the one sentence synopsis for your book?

After spending the winter in hospital, Itchee and Scratchee are returned to their rescuers, now their adventures begin.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-Published, available on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk as well as CreateSpace.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

Approximately three months due to other commitments, should be finished by the end of January 2013.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

No specific book, but any wildlife rescue stories, or fun tales about animals.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The Hedgehogs that come to eat in our garden, from March to October.  They are so cute and their numbers are declining rapidly, due to heavy traffic, and people mistaking them for rodents.  They are becoming a protected species, so we need to help them.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Interesting facts such as they “DO NOT” have fleas, they can swim and they have very sharp teeth.

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Other Books by the Author are available on Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk on the links below…..

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Hedgehog-Rescue-Saving-Itchee-Scratchee/dp/1479341177/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&qid=1357306594&sr=8-5

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Save-Our-Valleys-Sheeps-Tail/dp/1470111004/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357306705&sr=1-1

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Hole-Poetry-Anthology/dp/1478361204/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357306805&sr=1-1