Bulletin 392

May, 2015

Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Radnorshire’s Walton Basin

by Nigel Jones

The settlement at Walton Cross Roads at the head of the Basin in East Radnorshire, is just down the road from Kington, and by and large is a quiet place, but this has not always been so, as intensive recent aerial surveys, augmented by geophysical examination and selected excavations have revealed that during the Stone Age and later, the whole area was seething with activity, and monuments have been revealed which would have required huge organization and man power to produce. It is apparent, however, that the activities what ever they were, would have been episodic or seasonal, as there is no hard evidence of actual settlement at the period under review, as signs of occupation are restricted to some flints and pottery fragments, but the acidic soil does not allow preservation of bone for possible dating.

To the modern eye, it all looks like these scattered arrangements are the constituents making up some sort of Theme Park!

The earliest structures, of about 3500 B.C., was a “Cursus”, stretching way out from Hindwell to the west, and another, but shorter, at Walton Green. They were curiously aligned to point to the direction of sunrise on May Day! – ? significant,? festive, and were carefully delineated by ditches.

The other structures are palisaded enclosures of varying size. The land, originally densely forested, was cleared, and huge oak tree posts of more than 2 foot across, set up 6 feet deep in the earth, all charred for preservation, a few feet apart all around the perimeter. The largest is at Hindwell at least half a mile across, and includes Hindwell Pool. The smallest and latest enclosure at Walton Court, is a ring ditch, of about 100 yards across, of about 2300 B.C.

The only remaining visible structure, are the Four Stones, right in the centre of the area, but thought to be of Bronze Age origins, and not local but from glacial erratics.

Along came the Romans, and quite early in their occupation @ 50 A.D., planted utilitarian marching camps at an apparent cross roads at Hindwell, overlying some of the earlier structures. At the eastern end of the main fort, was the civilian settlement, obviously best connected with the valley to the east of Burfa.

Well, they are pretty standard, and don’t need explanation, but what were the earlier structures all about? The blanket archaeological explanation for such arrangements is that they are of “Ritual Significance”, but there could be a better one. My ancient Latin Dictionary defines a ‘Cursus’ as a Race Track and the Romans were probably right here, and also every one who has been to the Races knows that there are various enclosures – for horses, for the ‘nobs’, and for ‘others’, etc. The largest ? animal enclosure has a good and persistent water supply in the Hindwell Pool, and we know that the Celts loved their horses and racing, and that is well shown on their coinage.

See also “Radnorshire from Above by Chris Musson of 2013.

Review: John Rerrie