In our February session we took part in an exciting new project by Keep Wales Tidy– the Well-Being project. This is a project seeking to identify and map some of the key well sites in the area and raise awareness of the importance of holy wells and springs, celebrating their heritage, stories and traditions. The project is in its early stages and we were using our YAC session to trial a number of activities and provide feedback on what we enjoyed.
The focus of the session was Maen Du Well, a lovely well and spring site on the northern edge of Brecon. The well is covered by a stone well house that bears the date 1754, but the well itself is almost certainly much older and it is thought that it supplied water to Brecon Castle.
We all met at the Cathedral and walked up to the site as a group. It was a cold February day, so we all wrapped up warm. When we arrived the Well-Being Project team from Keep Wales Tidy had a number of activities for us to try for which we split into smaller groups. All the activities were designed to help us to engage with and understand the site and its different values and significance. Some of them were more traditional archaeological activities and for some of them we needed to think a bit more widely and understand that that it isn’t always just about archaeology (shock horror!) and that as archaeologists we have to consider the other ways that sites are important too.
We all had a go of using tape and offset survey to produce a plan of the well house and the surrounding features, putting our archaeological surveying and mapping skills into practice.
We also looked at the natural environment of the well site, particularly the trees and learned how to identify different species and estimate how old they were. There were lots of young trees at the site, but there was also some very old trees, including one gnarled and knotted Oak tree that we used our estimating technique to work out was nearly 400 years old! We also looked a some of the creatures that were living in the pond, indicators of the excellent quality of the water that spilled from the well.
We put our sensory and creative skills into practice to get to grips with the fact that there are often more to these sacred and special places that just what you can see, and spent some quiet time listening, experiencing the site and reflecting on how the site made us feel. We made a note of the words or phrases that different parts of the site conjured up within us, and used these to create some beautiful and sometimes quite profound poetry about the site.
Everyone had a wonderful time! A big thank you to Keep Wales Tidy for inviting us to be part of the Well-Being project and for the activities that helped us to understand this important local historic site.