Current Research

Gwent Foreshore:

For the past 20 years the inter-tidal area of the Gwent Levels has been producing some of the most remarkable archaeological discoveries ever made in Wales. Derek Upton identified nearly all these sites and archaeologists have followed them up with a succession of Cadw grant-aided projects (see Uskmouth footprints, Goldcliff, Redwick and Magor Pill Wreck elsewhere on this website). The main threat is coastal erosion, which is wearing away the salt marsh and breaking up the buried peat shelves in which these sites occur. Preservation in situ is impossible. Coastal defences are either being strengthened or are subject to retreat to cope with this threat. These processes will reveal yet more archaeological remains in the future, and they will prove as surprising as those from the recent past. However, highly cost-effective methods of rescue excavation and recording have been developed by SELRC members, in response to the dangers of working in the open estuary. New discoveries are inevitable, and what seems a bleak muddy wasteland to most people has been an inspiration to archaeologists from elsewhere in the UK and abroad.

The Gwent Levels Historic Landscape Project

In the 1990s, it was increasingly realised that one of the best preserved reclaimed landscapes around the Severn Estuary - the Gwent Levels between Cardiff and Chepstow - were under growing threat from development. From 1993 to 1995 Cadw and the Countryside Council for Wales therefore funded the Gwent Levels Historic Landscape Study, that was undertaken by Dr Stephen Rippon (now of the University Exeter: The results were published in 1996 as a Council for British Archaeology Research Report (number 105) titled The Gwent Levels: Landscape Evolution and Wetland Reclamation (

Although well-known for its remarkably well-preserved buried archaeology, this project focused on the origins and development of the ‘historic landscape’: the pattern of settlements, roads and fields that make up the modern landscape, but which are mostly many hundreds of years old. In fact, the story appears to start back in the Roman period when extensive areas of the Wentlooge Level, between Cardiff and Newport, were reclaimed, creating a distinctive pattern of long narrow fields. Most of the Gwent Levels, however, remained a great expanse of intertidal saltmarshes and mudflats until around the 11th century when the medieval phase of reclamation began. Initially, small, oval-shaped areas of marsh appear to have been embanked as was also seen on the Somerset Levels, for example at Puxton [link to Puxton page]. By the 12th century a sea wall had been built along most of the coast, and behind this protective barrier the land was gradually settled and enclosed. One of the most distinctive settlements was the planned village at Whitson [link to Whitson page], while the villages (and pubs) at Goldcliff and Redwick are also well worth a visit; the churches at both places have plaques marking the height to which floodwaters reached in 1607 (which it has been suggested was Britain’s own tsunami event).

The North Somerset Levels Project

The Somerset Levels [link to Somerset Levels bits of SELRC website] are rightly famous for their remarkably well-preserved prehistoric remains, but until the 1990s their Roman and medieval archaeology had been somewhat neglected. There had also been a bias towards work in the Brue Valley, where sites were threatened with peat extraction, at the expense of the coastal marshes that were somewhat neglected. The North Somerset Levels Project set out to redress this imbalance by studying a series of well-preserved landscapes near Weston-super-Mare. A key part of this work was establishing how the environment had changed over time, and in particular how the natural saltmarsh was transformed into the freshwater environment of today. This was achieved through excavating a large number of ditches of different periods, and comparing the plant and animal remains (‘palaeoenvironmental evidence’) that were preserved in the waterlogged conditions. Excavations included Late Iron Age/early Roman salt production sites, an early Roman probably seasonal settlement on the high intertidal marshes of the Puxton Dolmoors [Link to Puxton page of SELRC website], late Roman sites at Banwell Moor and Kenn Moor that appear to have existed within a reclaimed landscape, and the shrunken medieval village at Puxton. The results have been published as a Council for British Archaeology Research Report published in 2006 titled Landscape, Community and Colonisation: the North Somerset levels During the 1st to 2nd Millennia AD (

Welsh Ports and Harbours:

Until the coming of the railways, the Severn Estuary was seen as the main highway between south-west England and south Wales. The coastline was punctuated by larger ports on tributary estuaries, and small creeks and harbours on the foreshore. These structures go back to Roman times, if not earlier, and are threatened by coastal erosion and the redevelopment of the region’s waterfronts.. To assess and respond to these threats, Cadw grant-aided the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust to undertake an historical and archaeological study of the ports and harbours in its region. The first phase looked at the four main ports, Swansea, Cardiff, Newport and Chepstow, which had medieval customs houses and remain in use today. The second phase looked at all the small creek ports listed in the Welsh Port Books and known from other sources. Here the remains are less tangible. The objective was to inform all of those responsible for the management of this resource and ensure that proper regard is given to their archaeological potential in the planning process and during coastal defense and other engineering works. The results are published in an attractive illustrated booklet that can be obtained from GGAT or Cadw, and are posted on the Trust’s website

Click to enlarge an image - click left side for previous, right for next.
The village of Redwick, looking across the Gwent L
Recording a Roman ditch on the Puxton Dolmoors, an