On a sunny and cool morning in November 2023, nine volunteers and a very enthusiastic spaniel helped PCNPA ranger Richard Vaughan and community archaeologist Tomos Jones to hack at brambles and saplings near the paths at Nevern Castle. Several came from different parts of Pembrokeshire to lend a hand, and stories were exchanged of digs and clearances on all sides. Lunch was very pleasant at the picnic tables, and we went home well exercised and, if not exactly sun-tanned, nevertheless having enjoyed time in the fresh air. Thanks once again to Angie and James at the Trewern Arms for the use of their car park.
Once again, Friends of Nevern Castle took a stand at Nevern Show, to promote knowledge of the castle and connect with visitors and local residents who might not know of it. Gaynor, Mick, Kath and Alan chatted to people who’d turned out on a very pleasant day to enjoy the competitions, crafts, and exhibitors at the lively Show. We talked to lots of people! Of the 35 conversations we made a note of: So, plenty of scope for promoting the castle and its fascinating history. Many said they’d plan to visit the castle now. Well … they would, I suppose! We handed out copies of various bits of literature: the Nevern Trail Guide; an introductory booklet about the castle; and the leaflet about Friends of Nevern Castle. Everyone was very positive and supported our aims. Teenagers were very interested, having learned about the period in school. There was quite fascination in the artefacts that had been dug up, as well as the historical events. Those who knew the site also enjoy its tranquillity today. One lady remembered the nature trail, now dilapidated, and suggested we restore it. It felt very worthwhile and interesting to speak to so many people from… Continue reading Nevern Show 2023
A devastating innovation The castle was an important tool of conquest. Initially built quickly in wood, it served as a base for the invading soldiers, a place to protect their equipment and provisions, and a place to defend from counter-attacks. Once a foothold was established, castles were strengthened by rebuilding in stone. They became living quarters for the lord and his family, as well as an administrative and military hub from which to control the surrounding territory and collect taxes from the population. Castles were a Norman innovation. The motte-and-bailey style was introduced in Normandy in the 10th century, and brought across the English Channel in 1066. South of the Preselis, the Normans were secure in the castles they built. But it was a different story further north, where the Welsh were more difficult to subjugate. In Nevern as in Cardigan and Cilgerran, the Welsh fought off the invaders and occupied their castles. And not simply occupied them, but extended and improved them as well. Both Normans and Welsh extended the stone buildings at Nevern at different times; and it was Rhys who reconstructed Cilgerran into stone, in place of the Norman wooden structure. The Welsh lords took up the… Continue reading Castles come to Wales
The first Annual General Meeting of the Friends of Nevern Castle was held at the Trewern Arms on 12th July. During the past year, we have: In the coming year, we plan to: Find the minutes here.
Dr Chris Caple, the archaeologist who led the digs at Nevern Castle for ten years, gave a popular and fascinating talk at the Trewern Arms on Wednesday 12/7/2023. Since its destruction in 1196, ploughing and weathering have obscured what remains of the castle. Only fragments remain – and the task of the archaeologist is to piece them together, to reveal the dramatic events of the time, and the life that people led. 52 archaeological trenches were dug between 2008 and 2018, revealing buildings and roads, as well as thousands of fragments that are still being analysed today at the University of Durham. Finds include fragments of weapons, tools, shoes, horseshoes, harnesses, locks, lamps, gravestones, building stones, stones for throwing at people, stones for games, grains, seeds, beads, and lots more. Ultimately, the research will be published and the pieces returned to Nevern. The plan is that delicate items will be loaned to a museum, which can preserve them safely in a dry atmosphere. More robust fragments will be displayed in the Village Hall, and in the Trewern Arms. Thanks to James and Angie, proprietors of the Trewern Arms, who provided facilities for the talk.
Tomos Jones, PCNPA Community Archaeologist, led a group on a tour of Newport Castle, St Brynach’s Church, and Nevern Castle. Early Purple Orchid seen at the Castle today
Alan represented Friends of Nevern Castle at the Pilgrimage Today conference in Enniscorthy, Co.Wexford in March 2023. The gathering celebrated the opening of the Wexford-Pembrokeshire Pilgrim Way from Ferns in SE Ireland across the sea to St Davids. The meeting, sponsored by the Ancient Connections project and British Pilgrimage Trust, was attended by about 80 people including artists, businesses and places of interest along the route, officers of Visit Pembrokeshire and Fáilte Ireland, together with academics studying tourism and pilgrimage. Alan was also there for his part as a software developer in Pererin Wyf, a project sponsored by Ancient Connections which links people of the Irish and Welsh diasporas worldwide. Some notes from the conference “Pilgrimage” for me recalls Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. But these days it’s the big trend in travel. A quick Google reveals heaps of articles, TV series, and personal accounts. Travel companies, tourist destinations and everyone that provides services along the way are talking about it. The conference in Enniscorthy was for those providing for travellers. We talked about what makes a good pilgrimage that people will enjoy, and perhaps encourage them to return. “Pilgrimage” is more than a hiking holiday, although it’s that too. There’s additionally… Continue reading Pilgrimage conference
Friends of Nevern Castle conducted a tour of the Castle for a group of 9-10 year olds from St Dogmaels Primary School on 14th November 2022. While walking around the site, we looked at mock-up pictures, talked about the characters of the time, and had great fun role-playing the coming and goings between Norman and Welsh control. And of course we talked about archaeology. The teachers said afterwards: (Photos: Miss Hughes, Ysgol Llandudoch.)
Friends of Nevern Castle showed round a group of visitors from Ireland on Sunday 23/10/2022. The visit was a first trial of a guided tour round the castle. We told the story of the main characters in its 90-year history, while explaining the visible remains and showing artists’ impressions of what it looked like at the time. While there are commercial guided tours that come to the Castle, there is scope for us to guide smaller tours and school groups, as part of our aim of promoting knowledge and awareness of the castle. The Irish group were also shown around St Brynach’s Church and the Pilgrims’ Cross. During the weekend, they also visited Dyfed Shire Horses, Tafarn Sinc, Castell Henllys, and several sites around Aberystwyth. They visited Wales as part of the CUPHAT project run by Aberystwyth University, which aims to develop types of tourism that respect culture and heritage. It focuses on West Wales and County Wexford, areas with long traditional links across the Irish Sea. Part of the project takes people involved in places of cultural and heritage interest to visit each other’s sites, to compare notes and with a view to developing some resources in common.
We had a great time at the barbecue in the castle bailey on bank holiday Monday. Good company in lovely surroundings, and delicious barbie food! £240 was collected in donations towards the work of the Friends of Nevern Castle.
Friends of Nevern Castle had a stand in the craft tent at Nevern Show on 10th August. Gaynor, Mike, Kath and Alan chatted to show goers about the castle. The aim was to raise awareness of the existence of the site and the importance of the castle in the 12th century. We told visitors how the castle’s history, with its alternation between Norman and Welsh control, encapsulated that pivotal period in the history of Wales. A surprising number of people said they’d lived in the area for many years but never visited the castle, or even known it was there. We collected a dozen new members for the Friends mailing list. We handed out this leaflet about our work.
Nevern Trail Guide leaflet was published in 2016 by Nevern Community Council and Pembrokeshire National Park Authority. It’s now due for a reprint, and so there’s an opportunity for updates and improvements. Friends of Nevern Castle recently had a meeting with other residents of Nevern to discuss changes to the leaflet. We’ve also had discussions with representatives of St Brynach’s Church, the Village Hall, and the Trewern Arms. The resulting revision has a number of improvements over the 2016 version: The draft revised leaflet can be seen here. Comments are welcome! Thanks to the Trewern Arms for hosting the meeting. Update 19/3/2023: The new leaflets have been printed and are being distributed to information points and businesses. If you’d like some to give to your guests or customers, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.