Field and Farm
Rural Wales is governed by the cycles of the farming year: from winter sowing and spring lambing to the cutting of silage and the summer harvest. In places houses, yards and fields of present-day farms exist alongside their Iron Age forebears showing an almost continuous tradition of farming on Welsh hillslopes and valley sides over three thousand years or more. Below the aircraft, and away from the highest peaks and moors, Wales is predominantly a farmed land. Where quarries and industrial remains dominate the scene they invariably coexist with, or now obscure, wider-spreading fields and cottages of earlier generations. Where cities have spread, patches of open ground or common land may yet preserve traces of past fields. Beneath the impenetrable conifer forestry, which covers much of upland Wales, old fields and ruined farmsteads are now being rediscovered by archaeologists, and preserved by forest managers in new clearings.
The shapes of fields tell their own stories. Tiny, curved, and embanked field walls, which wander and crawl across the hillslopes of Pembrokeshire and Gwynedd have their origins in prehistory, and may have been first laid out four thousand years ago. More recent stone walls and fences spring from prehistoric foundations and so perpetuate age-old land holdings under new owners. In south and west Wales, earthworks and cropmarks of Roman field systems survive close to former Roman towns at Caerwent and Cowbridge. The landscape was replanned by Norman lords with their strip field systems, and again by successive revolutions in farming practice and land ownership in more recent times. Today the cycles of the farming year and patterns of drought shape the annual seasons of cropmark discovery for the aerial archaeologist.