RALPH AT LARGE
BRONZE AGE CALDICOT
In early 1991 I was in a bad place. I was still reeling from a miserably ended relationship, had pretty well run out of money, and was existing on an occasional freelance commission. To survive I decided to return to something I knew I’d enjoy and which would at least pay me enough to survive, so long as I lived on baked beans and beer— field archaeology, I managed to get a job on a CADW excavation at Caldicot Castle, borrowed some cash from my good friend (and saviour) the late Delvine (“Delly”) Beckley, and persuaded Chepstow Youth Hostel to let me stay in a disused room that I shared with (long-suffering) fellow excavator Ken Bramwell until the ceiling collapsed.
Cycling to and from the dig every day, I worked at Caldicot for about six months, until the excavation ended, leaving with happy memories. The excavation was a fascinating and challenging one, as it involved digging and recording waterlogged deposits crammed with Bronze Age timbers and various other artefacts, including the remains of several dogs. The team were pleasant company, especially Ken, with whom I’m sorry to have lost contact.
However the highlight of my stay in Chepstow was meeting my future partner Lenore on the porch of the hostel that looked south out over the Bristol Channel. I did manage to repay the load from Delly, and at the end of the excavation, clutching a £69 seven-day Greyhound bus ticket, I caught a £64 one-way flight to Toronto and travelled to Vancouver, British Columbia. That of course is another story.
The Caldicot Castle site is now an artificial lake, and Chepstow Youth Hostel closed in 1992 and was converted into flats. The photographs are not mine, but I can’t remember who took them!
Reference:Caseldine, A. E. and Nayling, N. (1997). Excavations at Caldecot, Gwent: Bronze Age palaeochannels in the lower Nedern Valley. Council for British Archaeology Research Reports https://coflein.gov.uk/en/site/20805/
Last updated 1st January 2022