Porth-y-Rhaw Coastal Promontory Fort – Dig Diary 2019

The promontory fort is being actively eroded and in 2019 the aim of the excavation is to recover as much information as possible from the entrance to the fort before it is lost to the sea, or before excavation becomes too dangerous. This project is being funded by Cadw and is being undertaken in partnership with The National Trust which owns the site.

Aerial photographs taken by Toby Driver of the RCAHMW on 15 July as part of the Cherish project.


Days 1 and 2 – 1st and 2nd July 2019

The first two days of the excavation everyone works really hard removing the thick springy turf that covers the site, within the area of the hill fort entrance. Thankfully both days are are sunny and bright, although a stiff breeze blows across the site all the time.

De-turfing the entrance; looking towards the entrance from outside the hill fort

The trench at the end of two days – cleaned and ready to be excavated; looking towards the entrance from inside the hill fort

The amazing view from the southern end of the trench- looking southwest


Days 3 to 5 – 3rd to 5th July 2019

The weather continues to be hot and sunny.

Views of Porth y Rhaw hillfort from the north showing the excavation trench opened within the entrance of the fort that cuts through the inner defensive bank.

Work progresses on removing a layer of silty clay that lay across the majority of the trench. At one point there are fourteen of us trowelling in the trench – we all just about fit in.

By the end of day 5 we are starting to see the extent of the tumbled stone that once formed part of the defensive banks.

The BBC came to film us for the ‘Weatherman Walking’ programme that will be broadcast in January 2020.


Days 6 to 7 – 6th and 7th July 2019

The good weather continues and we carry on removing deposits of tumbled stone and soil that have eroded from the defensive banks either side of the entrance.

Jeremy, Hayley, Rick, Josie and Joan working at the northern end of the entrance revealing revetment stones that have collapsed into the entrance area.

Rosie, Geraint and Joan revealing a large boulder at the northern end of the site. We think it was part of the western bank revetment in this area.

Hubert trowelling along the surviving base of the eastern bank revetment emerging from the tumbled stone.

Hubert, Rob and Rick working in the trench opened within the internal area of the defensive bank.

Peter and Aled producing a plan of the site.

Will helping out with the survey of the site. Both Will and Aled have been volunteering as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award during the first week. Many thanks to them both for all their hard work.


Days 9 and 10 – 9th and 10th July 2019

Written by Hubert Wilson

Day 9 morning and the fort entrance awaits the arrival of our happy band of volunteers.


Kim and Mike trowelling within the entrance reveal a cobbled surface.


Looking down through the entrance at the end of Day 10 with the cobbled surface in the foreground; showing the depth of the deposits that have to be removed.


Joan and Peter at work on the slopes of the inner bank. The stone wall to the left of Peter could be associated with the inner bank or possibly a roundhouse built into the bank.


Day 10 and more of the wall in the inner bank was revealed whilst Jude trowels the other side of the bank. As well as Romano-British pottery Jude recovered a small fragment of a crucible probably used in metal working.

This fragment of a quernstone was found within the possible roundhouse. It was used to grind cereals and produce flour.


Days 11 to 13 – 11th to 13th July 2019

Work continues removing all the stone and soil that has fallen from the defensive banks over the years into the entrance of the hillfort. Elsewhere recording takes place of features we have identified within the internal area of the entrance.

Moving a very large boulder from the entrance of the hillfort.


Everyone works on clearing stones and soil from within the entrance. 
Looking roughly north.


The hillfort entrance at the end of day 13.


A posthole with stone packing still in place; one of a number of postholes just within the entrance.


The curving wall of a structure built inside the defensive bank. Could this be the remains of a roundhouse or a guardhouse?


Joan excavating a trench through the southern end of the western defensive bank. Behind Rob is drawing the curving wall mentioned above.


Rob drawing the curving wall.


The lengths we go to trying to provide shade for a photograph!


Days 14 to 16 – 14th to 16th July 2019


Another beautiful morning and our site, perched high on top of the cliff, awaits the arrival of our intrepid band of volunteers.


We could be on a Greek island but it’s our view looking east.


Many days of hard work finally pay off when revetment walls either side of the hillfort entrance are revealed. These walls represent the last phase of the hillfort entrance before it was abandoned over 1,500 years ago.


This is a close-up of the last phase of west revetment wall that was built against an earlier wall to reduce the width of the entrance.


A large excavated posthole which probably held one of the gateposts within the hillfort entrance.


We are nearing the end of the excavation and everybody’s busy drawing elevations and sections.


It’s a hive of activity between the entrance revetment walls. One person measuring whilst another draws.


Bethan and Eva take a rest from drawing this section.


Day 17 to 19 – 17th , 18th and 19th July 2019

Day 17 – a narrow trench excavated through the western bank eventually reveals the old ground surface on which the bank was constructed. Excitingly there is also evidence for activity predating the construction of the bank and numerous flint flakes have been recovered from below the bank as well. Unfortunately we are running out of time so digging has to stop and we concentrate on finishing the recording.


Rob and Jude finish excavating the trench cut through the western bank, whilst Hayley and Pete work out what context sheet they are meant to be filling out.


Simon and Karl sieve for flints.


Simon and Hubert plan the position of the two postholes that we think held gate posts for the last phase of entrance.


The two holes for the entrance gate posts.


Bethan struggles with the wind whilst filling out the photo log.


It’s heads down whilst cleaning the site for photographs.


The entrance if you were approaching the promontory fort.


The view if you were leaving the fort.


Day 18 – the joys of backfilling! Thankfully it’s another fine day.


First a permeable membrane is laid and then the majority of the stones.


And then all the soil we so carefully removed is returned to the trench.


Nearing the end of the day and much of the soil has been returned to the trench.


Day 19 – Unfortunately not such a nice day. The wind is blowing and it is raining heavily but everyone is very stoical and wants to see the backfilling completed.


Working in low cloud – not much of a view today.


Josh, Jude and Joan laying the turfs – you can only do this if your name starts with a J!


Hubert, Rick and Geraint spread the last of the soil in the trench.


A view of the entrance now backfilled and with all turfs replaced.


A distant view of the backfilled trench; taken as we wander back to the cars.


Most of the team at the end of the day – very wet and muddy but satisfied with a job well done.


Many, many thanks from Fran and Hubert (DAT) to all the volunteers who took part in the excavation. It was a pleasure to work with you and as usual we were amazed at the hard work and commitment of you all. The results have been fantastic and hopefully we will get the chance to return next year. An interim report will now be produced on this year’s work; which once completed will be found on the DAT website.

Our thanks go to Cadw who funded the project, project partner the National Trust who own the site and their tenant Ian, and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. In particular thanks go to Menna Bell (Archaeologist [South Wales] National Trust) for so ably giving site tours at the weekends. We missed you during the week, although Hayley was a very good stand-in!