Archaeologists from across the country are rallying to defend a unique ancient funerary monument under threat from housing development: the Mound of Ref.
Located in deepest rural Ioloshire, mid-Wales, and yet simultaneously within 200m of the thriving market town of Llanref, the Mound of Ref is an ancient burial cairn thought to date from either the Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age. The 18th-century antiquarian William Stukeley famously interpreted the site as not only the principal temple of the ancient British druidic procrastination cult, but the tomb of generations of arch-druidic time-wasters. While discounted by archaeologists, this idea has entered local folklore and is widely circulated by fringe archaeologists and tourists.
The Mound of Ref is now a local beauty spot, heritage attraction and is protected as a scheduled ancient monument. It also attracts attention from neo-Pagans who perform ceremonies there every year, although devout druidic procrastinators avoid the site (mainly because they never get around to going there). The Mound of Ref is today particularly enjoyed by many local dog-walkers, picnickers and subterranean paragliders.
The Mound of Ref is described by Julian Cope as “surely the most indecisive of all Britain’s ancient monuments.”
Plans to built houses near the Mound of Ref, first announced by Ioloshire County Council in 2014, are causing consternation among locals and archaeologists.
“It is not only the enjoyment of locals which is under threat, this new housing development will open the flood gates, putting all of Welsh druidic procrastination heritage at peril”, explains itinerant archaeo-megaphone Dr Hieronymous Windpower. Dr Windpower, is an international expert in druidic procrastination and author of the long awaited (and never finished) book Prehistoric Inertia: the Past That Time Forgot, Remembered But Then Couldn’t Be Bothered With and the forthcoming monograph Druids and Archaeology: From Procrastination to Reinvention. He is referring to the plans by Ioloshire County Council to grant planning permission for development of a field close to the Mound of Ref. He further states: “the field is assigned for a new housing development and Cadw are just sitting in Cardiff on their mobile phones and laughing like insane old crones playing backgammon. They’ve taken the tradition of apathy associated with the monument to heart!”
A popular campaign to save the landscape around the Mound of Ref has found particular support among local publicans and university-based academics who are inspired to support the campaign and submit impact statements by 2020.
Professor Johnny B. Morganwg, Professor of Heritage Annihilation at the Llandewibrefi campus of Trinity St Fagans University of Wales College of Wales, takes up the story: “The Mound itself is scheduled and houses can’t be built there. This might seem ok and fine. However, there is a field – only half a kilometre away – which is under threat. It is unique for Wales: its hedges alone are over a century old!”
Herr Professor Doktor Sunshine Charlemange of the University of Velshist Vales has also commented on the scheme:”Who knows what Keltic treasures lie therein? The only reason diese feld ist nicht ein, how do you say it, ‘skeduled ancient monument’ ist because it hat been, how do you say it, ‘ploughed zur buggery’.
It is not only the heritage professionals who are worried. Local people are grief stricken that the field, known locally as ‘The Field’, is under threat. For locals, the Mound of Ref is intimately bound up with ‘The Field’ in local folklore:
“The field is part of our history, part of our life”, local campaigner Oswald Headphone explains, “It may be without public access and situated between an A-road with no footpath, a B-road, a KFC drive-thru and a pub, as well as adjoining a run-down industrial estate, but the field is a location of outstanding natural beauty. The Mound of Ref is just about visible 500m away behind a large agribus farm which itself dates back as far as the 1950s. Both the Mound of Ref and ‘The Field’ are filled with lore and folk: John Lennon once walked the ancient pilgrimage trail from the Mound through The Field on his way to the pub.”
Dr Geraldine Greenbelt, Reader in reading at Rentmouth University (formerly of Reading University) has waded into the debate: “The Mound is a locale of historic inactivity. No work should ever happen near it. Not only will digging ahead of development employ dozens of commercial archaeologists otherwise safely out of work and idle, they might find dangerous new evidence which might threaten to upset the antiquarian druidic procrastination interpretation of the Mound of Ref so beloved of academics and locals alike”.
The list of international objections to the housing development has escalated: “This is the thin end of the wedge”, writes Cambridge Professor Bartholomew Bunlift, “if we allow developers to threaten an empty field vaguely in the vicinity of the famous hub of ancient indecision known as the Mound of Ref, what next?”
However, not all agree about the significance of the Mound of Ref.
Local estate agents are vocal in support of the new development. Glyn Flynn says: “Llanref is uniquely positioned, commanding access to countryside, heritage and local amenities, and providing only a short 4-hour commute to Birmingham, Bristol and Cardiff. However, while the community sports many older properties in need of minor cosmetic updates, it is crying out for the 989 deceptively spacious micro-houses proposed for the new ‘Golden Shower Mews’ development.”
More significantly still, the farmer Ivor Half who owns ‘The Field’ was succinct in his views: “It’s been the family for generations, the sheep never liked it, ’bout time to get rid of it”. He added: ‘Mound of Ref? Difficult to decide about that. I used to shoot crows up there though…’
Even some tourists are ambivalent. American visitor Manfred Amoth said: ‘How many ancient monuments do ya need? You Brits have Stonehenge, why do you need others?’
Meanwhile, socialite, vocal heritage critic, daughter of a prominent national building contractor and sometime TV-presenter Shafta D. Planingprocys, has said “my company has a Year Zero approach to local people and local heritage: we restart the clock”. “Anyway”, she added, “every historic landscape is like an old face. It may be interesting, but it is ugly. Unless it gets regular planning botox and a construction face-lift, it’s only good for radio”.
Mayoress of Llanref Blodwen Hog is similarly minded: “the housing scheme must go ahead to prevent unwelcome thinking and talk about heritage.”
A surprising voice of criticism for the campaign comes from representative of Wales’s premier Society of Druidic Procrastinators: Archdruid Festive Starbucks. He is quoted as saying “we don’t go to the Mound of Ref, it is a silly place”.
Even some academics are cynics: heritage guru and Oxbridge don Dr Wetwangina Slack has eyes for the big picture and gender relations: “The more that phallocentric monuments like the Mound of Ref are erased by housing, the more we can celebrate the rise of a fully symmetrical, as well as gynocentrically futurist, metanarrative for archaeology to become truly, finally and emergently perceptible.” Dr Slack added: “Meanwhile ‘the Field’ offers latent vistas of absence and unknown, unknowable unknowntitudes – meshworks of intangible heritagosities, revealed only by being obscured through the building of houses”.
Dr Olivia Tweedle, Senior Lecturer in Deleuze Smoking at Farchester College, Swindon, objects to the notion that the Mound of Ref and its nearby ‘Field’ really exist: “landscape is a Renaissance invention”, he asserts, “ergo, the Mound of Ref enshrines notions of ‘sites’ and ‘monuments’ and ‘countryside’ which are all rooted in out-moded concepts of aesthetics and measurable distances inherited from the Victorian era and before”. He concludes: “how do we really know the Field is really there, let alone a Mound of Ref? If anything, the Mound of Ref and the Field are merely components of an assemblage in the process of becoming a housing estate.”
Dr Windpower has no time for this level of theoretical masturbation. What he does fear is local apathy – a trait inherited directly, some claim, from the procrastination tradition of prehistory. Windpower says “indifference is the greatest evil to the historic environment.” Local people are unsurprisingly idle when it comes to popular protest too it seems. Local pensioner Vera Llyn had never heard of the Mound or the Field but did like bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, while a spotty youth who preferred not to be named (because he couldn’t remember it) recalled drawing a picture of the Mound of Ref at primary school. The youth said “it’d make a brill quad bike trail or mobile phone pylon.”
Despite the controversy, Dr Windpower feels the campaign is going well. Ref tweets in support are at an all-time high. Their Facebook page is inundated with ‘likes’ for the Field. Windpower believes one argument alone will save ‘The Field’ from development says Dr Windpower: “if houses are built on The Field, literally a full 10 seconds of view of the Mound of Ref will be blocked for those travelling at 50mph along the ancient nearby A99. The public won’t stand for it!”
Protests will culminate in a special event called ‘Mount the Mound of Ref’. Campaigners are inviting the public to visit the Mound of Ref and re-enact an ancient druidic proscrastination ritual first conducted in the distant past (sometime around 1972).
Archaeologists say they want the protests to have considerable Ref impact, leading to an enhanced Ref environment, and possibly new fieldwork to create more Ref outputs.