How lucky am I! Last week I was invited by Toby Driver, Senior Investigator (Aerial Survey) at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, to join him on a flight over the Garden.
As part of a study commissioned by Cadw, Welsh Government’s Historic Environment Service, Toby is taking photographs from the air of the most important historic parks and gardens in Wales. As the Garden includes a nationally important registered historic park and garden “Middleton Hall Parkland” it was on Toby list to be photographed. Luckily for me he had a spare seat in the plane flying from Withybush airfield, near Haverfordwest, and he invited me along.
Although incredibly excited I have to admit that I was also somewhat nervous. I had been flying with a colleague, to take archaeological photographs, years before and it had been a very bumpy ride! However when Eric, our pilot, took us up in his 4 seater cessna airplane the journey was amazingly smooth and comfortable, and I didn’t feel sick once.
There are two seasons when archaeological remains are more likely to be visible from the air. One is in the summer when dry conditions result in differential growth of crops over buried archaeological remains – filled in pits and ditches retain more moisture and the crops grow stronger over them. The other is in the winter when the low angled winter sunlight results in earthworks casting longer shadows than when the sun is higher in the sky. Sometimes early morning frost can result in the shadows being emphasised as the frost only melts on the side the sun has reached.
The slight humps and bumps that survive from historic parkland features can often be difficult to see when you walking over them on the ground, but from the air their patterns become much easier to make out. My photographs have captured some of these slight humps and bumps including two circular banks, which I think are tree planting circles (although it has been suggested that the largest might be a prehistoric camp) and parallel corrugations which are the remains of cultivation (which could pre-date the circles).
These aerial views have enabled us to recognise and record more of the Garden’s surviving archaeology and to understand more about the parkland’s development. Through knowing more about what survives from the past we can ensure that these remains are protected and conserved as part of the Regency Restoration Project for future generations to explore and enjoy.