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The summit stone circle and centrally placed sculpture
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A woodland landscape – a massive spoil heap landscaped and replanted with thousands of trees during the 1980s and 1990s

This morning I went to Bonc Yr Hafod Community Park in Wrexham Borough and I want to sing its praises as a visitor experience and briefly discuss its commemorative material culture. This builds on previous posts exploring the sculpture and commemorative monuments of post-industrial landscapes in Wales as, for example, here.

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The first plaque introducing the landscape and its evolution since 1962

The community park is situated on a human-made hill comprised of mining waste on the site of Hafod colliery. In operation from 1860 to 1968, at its height the mine employed 1900 people from the surrounding villages of Johnstown, Ponciau and Rhos. The site was stabilised in the 1980s and landscaped and then planted with over 80,000 trees from 1997. Today, it has maturing trees and is a haven for wildlife. With miles of walks spiralling around it, this is a perfect venue for exercise and recreation.

There are four related dimensions of the commemorative landscape.

Waymarkers

Walks are puncutated with wooden posts carved to invoke the landscape’s plants, insect and mammal species, but also mining material culture.

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Monoliths

There are a series of monoliths marking major view points along the paths with heritage boards integrated into them. Some illustrate how the site would have looked in 1962 before the colliery’s closure from the specific viewpoint of visitors. Meanwhile another discusses the formation of coal in the Carboniferous c. 300 million years ago. The circuitous walking trails are thus monumentalised in stone; a landscape-scale stone circle.

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From the Carboniferous to the present
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A precise reconstruction of the view from that particular viewpoint as it might have looked in 1962

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Stone Circle Sun Dial

At the summit of the hill is a stone circle, each low stone carved with animal and plants commemorating the rehabilitation of the landscape, and the location of historic sites visible from that spot. The choice of sites is selected so that you can view each stone and look out from the circle to the specific direction of that location. Some are given numbers, referring to hours in the day, with Bersham at 1 o’clock. This is because the central sculpture is a huge sundial and the surrounding stones mark the hours of the day when its shadow strikes them.

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Stones within the circle line-up to historic features in the surrounding landscape; the nearest of which is Bersham Colliery
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Chirk Castle is visible to the south
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Wrexham is skylined to the north
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The National Trust property at Erddig is to the north-east

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Beeston Castle is on the horizon
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The Wrekin is to the south-east

Sculpture

At the centre of the stone circle is a distinctive sculpture of a miner, kneeling and face buried in the stone

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The miner: in prayer, at work or in mourning?
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The miner looks north, is he a sundial too?

Summary

Together, the stone circle is an outdoor panopticon, affording directed views to specific locales and themes identified within the surrounding natural and historic landscape in each stone. Simultaneously the stone circle and its central sculpture draw that surrounding landscape to Hafod and celebrating it in relation to the colliery’s history itself. It is unclear, but are celestial links being made here too and is the miner also a sundial?

Appreciating this link between circularity and time involves a walk around the inside of the stone circle (or for my kids, to jump from stone to stone). The circularity of the walks around the contours of the hill serve to accentuate this theme of perambulation and remembrance.

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