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

South Sebastopol Archaeology and Historic Landscape Re-evaluation

6. Date and significance

6.1 It is impossible to date in any specific way the early landscape which has been described in this report. Much more work, both archaeological and documentary in nature needs to be done, but it is hard to escape the conservative conclusion that this landscape was certainly functioning by the later Middle Ages and existed into the seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. It is too dangerous, at this stage to speculate how much earlier than this it might be, but the pattern of dispersed farms among ancient enclosures with traditional rights of access to other resources is one which is deeply laid in the countryside of Welsh custom and practice and in essence takes us back into later prehistory and the Dark Ages. This is a very speculative area for landscape archaeologists and historians, largely because so little of this kind of landscape has been identified as surviving down to today. We can, however, certainly assert that this landscape contains elements within it that carry us back beyond the modern era to a pre-industrial countryside with its roots deep in an ancient Welsh culture and society. For that reason I have identified areas, shown in purple on Figure 5, of high historic landscape value, considering especially its context within a predominantly industrial and post-industrial landscape. It represents a resource for the valley community in terms of education, amenity and identity.

‘… a pre-industrial countryside with its roots deep in an ancient Welsh culture and society.’

6.2 In terms of formal designation, there is unfortunately no currently available statutory or indicative designation which deals with relatively small areas of historic landscape as holistic units. The current CCW/Cadw/ICOMOS Landscapes of Outstanding or Special Historic Interest are relatively extensive areas and in the case of isolated islands of historical survival they are unlikely to be so designated. Very curiously and because of special historic pleading the only small areas which can be designated in this way are Parks and Gardens which have been given privileged status largely because of their elevated position in the aesthetic appreciation of designed landscapes. This status, in comparison with other, comparably small areas of historic landscape, has never been subjected to rigorous intellectual scrutiny. The only other potential designation is ‘Ancient Monument’ covered by the 1979 Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act. These are specific points in the landscape and part two of the Act covering archaeological areas has never been implemented for anywhere other than a few historic town cores. Sometimes small historic landscapes have been protected accidentally by designations primarily intended for other purposes (usually nature conservation) e.g. SSSIs, Ramsar sites or National Nature Reserves. None of this can apply at South Sebastopol and so it will fall between all the stools, however good or historically valuable it is.