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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The TARAGGAN Tale – Bargoed

Doris and her six hoglets

***  Doris and her six baby hoglets  ***

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The TARAGGAN Tale

A concrete jungle atop a mountain,

You made it beautiful, you made it bountiful.

 

Red and yellow and pink and blue,

A rainbow of colours and an Eco-loo.

A green-fingered glory with quite a story,

About those who have tended it and those who inhabit it.

 

A haven for the hedgehogs, who help keep slugs away.

After dark those spiky balls will all come out to play.

There’s Brychan and Gwladys and Doris and her brood,

Tummy’s grumbling they’ll wake up and search the grounds for food.

 

In the daytime welcome feathered friends, like Cheeky and his mates,

Who fly around and feast on fat-balls, nuts and juicy gnats.

And don’t forget Mice Manor, where voles are welcome too,

And the great Buggingham Palace, with creepy crawlies running through.

 

Buzzing bees and pollinators visit for the wildflowers,

And the sensory garden full of herbs with healing powers.

 

The bottle greenhouse is impressive, it’s the biggest of its kind,

Aluminium tool-sheds are packed with tools for you to find,

To till and sow and work the land

And grow great things by your own hand.

 

New potatoes, old potatoes,

Red and orange Tiger tomatoes,

Russian Kale and cabbage green,

Big orange pumpkins for Halloween.

Artichoke heads blowing in the breeze,

Fragrant flowers on tasty sweet peas,

Carrots that help you see in the dark,

Radishes that give your taste-buds a spark,

Onions for frying, so good you’ll be crying,

Beetroot for boiling and juicing and pickling,

A wonderful variety of lettuce hearts,

Succulent strawberries for jamming and tarts,

Fruit bushes laden, ripe for the picking,

Gooseberries, raspberries, blackcurrants for tasting.

 

Aesthetically pleasing and teaming with life,

Once wasteland, now fertile and blooming with growth.

A station for sitting, a scarecrow for scaring,

A spade man, planted, at the entrance, for guarding.   

 

As you stroll along the log lined ash path,

A feeling of peace comes to pass.

Touch the standing stones before you go,

And salute this project that continues to grow.

 

The TARAGGAN Tenants And Residents Association

Green Gym And Nursery, you are an inspiration.

Working Class Heroes – Commemorating 30 years since The 1984/85 Miners’ Strike

Back in 1984 the miners fought their own cold war

Secret documents now unfold

The truth at last it will be told.

It’s 30 years since that debilitating strike

When Dai and Phil and Ron and Mike

Fought every day for one whole year,

Families in poverty and fear.

To starve them back to work she tried

Stopping benefits for which they applied,

Sequestering funds from the NUM

She divided the country into us and them.

She called them ‘The enemy within’

Let them cast the first stone who is without sin.

Pit closures were what they wanted to prevent,

To save what they had, so they could pay the rent.

They travelled the country picketing for their rights,

‘Coal not Dole’ their slogan emphasised their fight.

Up each day at 3am,

Hard working heroes, real men,

With their women’s support, on they fought,

United above, as they were when underground.

Now she’s joined the miners, at last she’s in the ground,

But the legacy of destruction prevails all around,

Empty pits, face value tips,

Community spirit no more,

All because that evil bitch, shut the mine doors.

Dharma11 18th Feb 2014

School For Hedgehogs – Last Book in the Hedgehog Trilogy

Finally, the last book in the hedgehog trilogy will be available on Amazon by Monday 11th November, which just happens to be Baarbaara’s 102’nd birthday.

Happy Birthday

 Summer is here, the weather is warm,

fourteen baby hedgehogs, have just been born.

 Itchee & Harriet gave birth today,

A celebration of life is on its way.

 Two little nests made from

Sheeps’ wool & leaves,

With fourteen soft skinned babies

enjoying the breeze.

 Their prickles will develop later in the day,

Then harden into proper spikes to keep them from prey.

 Tiny feet complete with claws,

 Little milk teeth

and very strong jaws.

In a few weeks they’ll go

hunting with their Mums,

foraging slugs and worms on their nightly runs.

This is what the baby hedgehogs look like after just three weeks……

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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

 

 

 

Biodiversity Poetry

Biodiversity so close to home

As the sun shone in the blue sky high above,

I sat in our garden and acknowledged all we have:

Three chaffinches with little red berets, were busy investigating the flower beds,

Red Kites soared high above, playfully riding the warm thermals,

Jackdaws were calling, feeding young, their nest in a chimney top, safe from prey,

Blue tits brave upon the feeder, catch our gaze, chatting amongst the fertile Hawthorne, heavily laden with life sustaining nourishment.

Delicate fern fingers reaching toward heaven, bathing in the suns warmth, growing hearty,

Rosebuds cracking open, a hint of crimson colour,

Young elders, bushy, green,

Buddleia, their purple haze, nectar for our butterflies and  bees,

Lily of the valley, scent sublime, tiny droplets of ivory satin,

Carpet of blue Forget- me- nots, I’ll try…..

2/6/13

Dharma

 

The Future Leaking Through

A Bee See,

Where?

I thought they had gone long ago!

A casualty from the time before the flowers were not all pollinated by hand,

From the time when

Pesticides, drip

Insecticides, drip, drip

Herbicides and Biocides, drip, drip, drip

Were not banned,

The old people say, they buzzed, In ages past,

What a waste,

It should have been as easy as A. B. C.

 

By Tog Deri  23rd May 2013 FOE….

 

 

Save the Butterflies

Ivory butterflies with sunset tipped wings,

To see you flying free, makes my heart sing,

Cabbage whites where did you go?

What have we done to make your numbers so low?

The noble red admiral with colours so bright,

Why are we not more aware of your plight?

When I was a child, in a field I’d lay,

And watch hundreds of species going about their day,

Now my vision is clouded and we’ve shrouded the sun,

Because pesticides and pollution are taking you all, one by one,

It is our duty to save you from depletion,

So campaigning to protect you, must now be our mission.

2/6/13

Dharma

 

 

The Humble Bumble

Humble Bumble, Busy, Buzzy Bee,

Enhancing life and creating biodiversity,

Pollinating flowers, working long hours,

A co-operation, like a mini factory nation.

How much We owe you fuzzy little creatures,   (We Collective)

With your black and yellow stripes and your delicate features,

Living in a dimension so different from ours,

Like little tiny faeries with magical powers.

Lives so short, yet powerful and creative,

Now it is our turn, to help you thrive and live,

Without your help, biodiversity will die,

And you’ll Bee a distant memory way up in the sky…  (You Bee)

 

 

Dharma

23/5/13