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History of Abergwesyn Commons

Using a trowel during a costumed recreation of the 1930s archaeological dig by Basil Brown at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk
Discover a wealth of archaeological remains at Abergwesyn Common | © National Trust Images/John Millar

Influenced and shaped by changing climates and human activity, Abergwesyn Commons in Powys is anything but a static landscape. Today you can walk in this vast and wild place, but for thousands of years people lived all over the uplands and Abergwesyn has been home to farms, churches and ritual sites throughout the ages.

Remnants of the past

You can see the evidence of three very distinct periods on Abergwesyn:

  • Bronze Age with ritual sites dating back 4,500 years
  • Early medieval settlements from between 700–900 years ago
  • Modern era shepherd huts and sheep pens up to 250 years old

Preservation perfection

People have lived and worked in the uplands for at least 9,000 years and unlike lowland sites, upland sites have never been ploughed or disturbed by recent activity.

Visit the summit

This means Abergwesyn Commons has a wealth of archaeological remains including around 14 Bronze Age cairns, as upland areas were used for ritual purposes. The most impressive of these is at Drygarn Fawr, right on the summit of Abergwesyn and is well worth a visit.

Reclaimed by nature

Our climate became milder in the 12th and 13th centuries, making the uplands a more hospitable place to settle, and there is plenty of evidence of medieval activity at Abergwesyn. There are around 95 medieval sites, including ruined long huts and the remains of enclosure banks.

Decline in population

But the onslaught of the plague in the 1340s saw a decline in the population of up to 50 percent in some villages. The climate also changed for the worse. These changes resulted in many villages being abandoned and gradually being reclaimed by nature.

Post-medieval sites

Abergwesyn has around 459 sites classed as post-medieval. There are shelters, quarries, route ways and clearance cairns.

It's largely thanks to its isolated position that Abergwesyn has held on to the physical reminders of its long and varied role in human and natural history.

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