Understanding environmental impact is crucial to sustainability and community quality of life.

South Sebastopol Archaeology and Historic Landscape Re-evaluation

4 The recent past

4.1 The first piece of analysis is to remove from our historical consideration the actions of the more recent past. The elements of the landscape which seem to fall into that category are shown on Figures 2 and 3. There are three major components. First, within the last forty years or so there has been extensive deep ploughing and drainage of many fields, especially those in association with the farms of Bryn, Wrens Nest and Uplands (Figure 3 shown in red). Some of this ploughing has been totally destructive, while some still has traces of earlier landscapes showing as faint earthwork features. This agricultural improvement, associated with new hydraulic technologies and European arable subsidies, has also included the removal of some hedgerows (Figure 2). It is clear also that there was a mid nineteenth century rearrangement of hedges around the Bryn Farm complex. This is evident from a comparison of the Tithe Apportionment map of 1842 and the first edition 25-inch map of 1881.

4.2 The second major component is the relatively modest intrusion of the industrial revolution as shown on the 1881 map and little added to since. The most prominent of these was the construction of the Brecon and Monmouthshire Canal (opened 1801), especially the cut-and-cover tunnel which also involved the damming of one of the small streams with a considerable dump of material, now looking like a natural piece of the landscape. In this area there were a few nineteenth-century cottages (now gone) which were associated with the canal works. One other feature to be associated with the creation of the canal is an area of scrub woodland on its eastern edge (Figure 2) which seems to have started to grow on land whose drainage was impeded by the building of the canal. On the eastern margin of the development area was the Newport and Pontpool railway line (opened 1852), now a cycle track, although there are surviving elements of the small Pontrhydyrun station which once serviced this locality. To the immediate north, south and west of the development area, as shown on the 1881 map, there were much more extensive indications of industrial activity, most of which have been swept away by post-war housing estates and industrial complexes (Figure 2). What does survive in these areas, however, is some, at least of the nineteenth century housing stock constructed to service the coal and related industries.

4.3 The third component is the building and development of farms or farm-related structures. Most notably this includes the Wren's Nest Cottages (perhaps mid-nineteenth century), Wren's Nest Farm (twentieth century), and extensive modifications to the Bryn and Uplands Farms, both of which may also be modern additions to an earlier landscape. A variant of this was the nineteenth-century gentry complex of Cwmbrân House whose northern walled garden is one part of the development area, although now almost invisible in the landscape. However, all of this needs further documentary research and access to the buildings.