The Historic Environment sector in Wales addresses climate change challenges
An expert group has launched Wales’s Historic Environment and Climate Change in Wales Sector Adaptation Plan.
Some of Wales’ most iconic historic sites and landscapes are threatened by warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, changing rainfall patterns and more frequent extreme weather events.
The plan highlights the need for collaboration and action across all sectors that will improve understanding; build adaptive capacity and increase the resilience of the historic environment – so that it can be enjoyed by future generations.
The Historic Environment Group (HEG) is a national forum, led by Cadw, that consists of public sector bodies and representatives of voluntary sector organisations and owners of historic sites. The HEG Climate Change Subgroup was charged with assessing and reporting to HEG on how the historic environment sector in Wales should address the challenge of climate change. They have reported on this through the Historic Environment and Climate Change in Wales Sector Adaptation Plan. The plan results from extensive consultation with stakeholders and sits alongside the recently published Welsh Government climate change adaptation plan for Wales, Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales.
The Group met with the Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas in order to launch the plan. The Deputy Minister, said: “We have to re-think the way we manage the historic environment in Wales to respond to the threats of climate change. While we are taking steps to limit climate change, we must also adapt to the changes which are already happening as a result of historic and ongoing emissions.”
Chair of the Historic Environment Group Climate Change Subgroup, Jill Bullen said: “Many of those managing important historic sites and landscapes are already thinking deeply about climate change and its implications on their work. We have tried to learn from their expertise and share their experience and lessons learned more widely”
Environment Minister, Lesley Griffiths welcomed the plan, and said: “In addition to decarbonising the economy of Wales, we must also respond to the impacts of climate change we are already witnessing on an increasingly frequent basis.
“This new plan complements the actions contained within Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales, which we published recently.
“We have already invested significantly in climate change adaptation and preparing for the future, through a wide range of policies, programmes and interventions. It is important we continue our efforts to deliver a more prosperous, equal and greener nation.”
The Deputy Minister, concluded: “I would like to thank the Historic Environment Group for leading the way with this Plan. It identifies climate change risks, opportunities and adaptation needs for the historic environment. Above all it is a rallying cry to us all to rise to the challenge and start taking action now.”
Cadw has also published guidance on Flooding and Historic Buildings in Wales - which provides advice on ways to establish flood risk and prepare for possible flooding by installing protection measures. It also recommends actions to be taken during and after a flood to minimise damage and risks. Further information available here: https://cadw.gov.wales/sites/default/files/2019-07/Flooding%20and%20Historic%20Buildings%20in%20Wales%20Eng.pdf
Notes to editors
The adaptation plan highlights case studies where climate change is impacting sites and landscapes across Wales and where new approaches are being developed.
- At Dinas Dinlle hillfort, near Caernarfon, the western side of the site is being washed away by the sea and the outcomes of climate change will lead to more rapid erosion of the monument, which could be entirely lost over the next few centuries. A series of adaptive actions are taking place, including the construction of wooden pathways to control erosion and a fence along the edge of the cliff, plus the repair of other footpath erosion. New research led by a team of archaeologists, surveyors, geographers and scientists from the European-funded CHERISH Project began in 2017. This has included survey of the eroding cliff face, a programme of geophysical survey and archaeological excavation. The latter resulted in the discovery in 2019 of two sides of a well-preserved stone structure, buried under sand. The structure is interpreted as a round house approximately 13 metres in diameter, with stone walls surviving 3 to 4 courses high and 2.4 metres wide. A possible second round house was identified to the south.
- Waun Fignen Felen is an important Mesolithic archaeological site, a place used over several millennia as a hunting location by populations exploiting the uplands. The blanket bog and upland raised bog are significant for biodiversity and for prehistoric cultural palaeoenvironmental evidence. But the bogs are drying out and this contributes to high levels of peat erosion, as shown by the columns of peat which identify the height of the original bog surface, and the bare peat that demonstrates ongoing erosion. In response to this The Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and the Waun Fignen Felen Management Forum are working to restore favourable hydrology to conserve and enhance biodiversity and the archaeological and paleoenvironmental values of the site. An archaeological assessment will inform and support the conservation programme.
- Extreme Weather uncovering the past - Over a three-week period during the summer drought of 2018, the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) aerial archaeologist captured around 4,000 high resolution images which resulted in the discovery of approximately 100 new historic assets. This new evidence enhances our knowledge and understanding of the historic environment, provides new resources for future research and contributes to the historic environment record.
- In early January 2014 a series of storms battered Aberystwyth Promenade damaging many structures including the grade II listed Bathrock Shelter, which dates from the 1920s. The storm and resulting turbulent sea, combined with very high tides, breached the bastion on which the shelter sat and revealed the footings of a bathhouse associated with the Marine Baths built by Doctor Rice Williams Esquire in 1810. Loose material used as fill for the bastion was washed away and the resulting void led to the partial collapse and subsidence of the Bathrock Shelter.
Adaptation saw the removal of the shelter, its careful restoration over a strengthened and re-engineered sea wall and reinstatement by Ceredigion County Council. Emergency recording comprising detailed photography of the shelter and exposed remains of the bathhouse was undertaken by the RCAHMW.
Jill Bullen (Natural Resources Wales); Gwilym Hughes (Cadw); DM; Jill Fairweather (Cadw). Jill Bullen and Jill Fairweather are members of the Historic Environment subgroup who prepared the adaptation plan.