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Brest Cwm Llwyd Early Lime Kiln Community Excavation Dig Diary

With funding from the Brecon Beacons Trust and Brecon Beacons National Park Sustainable Development Fund, Dyfed Archaeological Trust is facilitating the excavation of two small lime kilns on the Black Mountain at Brest Cwm Llwyd by local school pupils and volunteers.

The two kilns are thought to be evidence of the earliest lime making on this part of the mountain. The kilns are different from each other and probably represent two different methods of making lime. The project aims to discover when and how the kilns were built and operated.

The information from the dig will add to the research undertaken as part of the Calch Project which is developing the Black Mountain Quarries heritage trail around the quarries near the car parks on the A4069.

The earliest form of lime kiln at Brest Cwm Llwyd (Kiln B)

A slightly later form of lime kiln at Brest Cwm Llwyd (Kiln A)

Day 1 - 23 June 2014

Under blue skies, two trenches were cut across the top of each kiln.

The team stand beside Kiln A prior to cutting the trench 1a

Trench 1a across the top of Kiln A; Carreg Cennen Castle in the background

Tony removing the turf from the top of Kiln B

Day 2 - 24 June 2014

A class from Ysgol Gyfun Tre-gib, Llandeilo visited the excavation, accompanied by Toby Small, of Brecon Beacons National Park. They ended up staying all day taking part in the excavation of Kiln A during the morning and geocaching on Mynydd Du in the afternoon.

Day 3 and 4 - 25 and 26 June

Two days spent cleaning the trenches after removing the topsoil. In the picture below of Kiln A you can see the stones that have tumbled down from the kiln wall.

Kiln B is a lot harder to take an overall photo of as the ground is so undulating.

Hubert trying to get round the problem by using a ladder to take the photographs of Kiln B.

Day 6 - Monday 30th June

It is week 2 and our first visitors of the day are a group of ponies who are very interested in the plastic sheeting!

At Kiln B we begin to uncover the edges of the central chamber or ‘pot' where the limestone was fed into the kiln.

Hubert and Ian excavating the area where we believe Kiln B's flue is located, going by the amount of ash and burnt lime in the area.

Day 7 - Tuesday 1st July

Every day this week we have a number of Year 10 students joining us for work experience. Today Sophie, Harley and Aaron started work on Kiln A. Sophie and Harley (centre of picture) began the excavation of Kiln A's chamber, whilst Aaron (far right) moved to help on Kiln B.

Below, Aaron working within Kiln B's chamber. So far we have not reached the bottom.

Below – Mel shows how much of the inner edge of Kiln A's chamber has been revealed by the end of the day.

Day 8 - Wednesday 2nd July

Work continues on exposing Kiln A, undertaken by Sarah and Tony (back row) and Sophie and Harley (front).

By the end of the day a good section of the walling of the ‘pot' or central chamber is visible, as shown in the photo below.

Meanwhile over at Kiln B, Thomos, Ian, Aaron and Duncan work hard and uncover the curving walls either side of where we believe the access arch to be, although we can't quite see it yet. The access arch covers the draw hole through which the burned (calcined) limestone is raked out after firing.

Recording of the section through the ‘pot' is carried out by Hubert.

Day 9 and 10 - Thursday 3rd and Friday 4th July

Unfortunately the rain arrives but a few hardy volunteers (Anthony, Tony, Arthur and Ian) work through it and with Hubert and Fran efforts are concentrated on excavating Kiln B.

Below Fran excavating the ‘pot' of Kiln B

By Friday we have finished excavating the ‘pot' and its conical shape is clear to see (see photo below)

The remains of the access arch over the draw hole to Kiln B is exposed but we will have to dismantle much of it before fully excavating the draw hole, as the stones of the arch are somewhat unstable.

Hubert and Tony wrapped up against the rain but clearly visible!

Day 12 - Tuesday 8th July

We have decided that we cannot excavate anymore because there is a lot of recording to do and we are going to have to backfill the trenches by hand. So the recording work starts today with Alice drawing the section through the top of Kiln A

and Tomos works on the Total Station Theodolite (or TST as we call it) helping to survey all the detail of Kiln B.

Day 13 - Wednesday 9th July

Recording the walls of the kilns is not an easy task. We have to erect horizontal strings to measure down from and it ends up looking like a cats' cradle in Kiln B.

Whereas at Kiln A the section string is in a series of steps down the slope (it is very difficult to see the string in the sunshine).

Day 14 - Thursday 10th July

After finishing the recording it is time to backfill. Even though the piles of stone and soil by Kiln A (in the photo below) don't look that large – it takes us all day to fill Kiln A's trenches and replace all the turves.

At last we lay the last turf – you'd never know we had been there!

Day 15 - Friday 11th July

The final day and Hubert, Fran, Alice and Ian have the last task of backfilling Kiln B. First all the stone is placed in the trench,

and then all the soil,

and then each turf is replaced – in as near a position as the one it came from!

Finally it is time to pack up the last tools, load the van and leave Brest Cwm Llwyd, now knowing more about the construction methods of lime kilns, hopefully with some charcoal for dating and with a much greater appreciation of the physically demanding work it must have been to build and operate these small kilns.

DAT staff Hubert, Fran, Holly, Sarah and Duncan would like to thank all the volunteers: Ian, Daioni, Tony, Anthony, Alice, Mel, Tomos, Aaron, Sophie, Harley, David, Rhys, Amanda, Arthur, Victoria and Laura for their hard work in all weathers. The project would have not been possible without you.




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