Panoramic view from Conwy’s town walls
Conwy’s town walls

Recently I spent a splendid day out visiting two Cadw-managed 13th-century Edwardian castles in North Wales. First I visited the wonderful castle of Rhuddlan – my favourite castle site. As well as exploring the ruins, I got to meet a Cadw inspector who was lurking around the ruins. I then went on to walk around the town walls of Conwy before exploring the castle itself.

Previously I’ve blogged about the archaeology of inaccessible spaces here; spaces you can see but have no public access. This are personally disturbing for me, since they accumulate rubbish that is dropped and cannot be picked up. They are womble-free spaces and I hate it!

Conwy’s town walls are some of the best-surviving 13th-century town walls in Europe and in the base of the one of the towers over which you traverse as one promenades around the wall-walk, is a space one cannot get to, but where things can get to. Inside is a snapshot of a summer’s detritus of tourists’ accidental losses including plastic bottles, drink cans and even a child’s umbrellas. If seeing litter on the street distresses you, this is a self-contained rubbish nightmare of out-of-place, inaccessible waste. The horror!

The horror of heritage litter!

And yet there is comfort here also, something proudly subversive about the rubbish amidst the manicured heritage landscape: a little bit of tawdry grot. At Rhuddlan Castle there is pigeon poo to subvert the cleanliness and cause problems. At Conwy Castle it is herring gull mess. On Conwy town walls, it is the inaccesibilty of this tower’s lowest recesses that brings home the futility of attempting heritage perfection.

I’m guessing that they seasonally, or perhaps even monthly, clean it out. Yet we have here a perfect snapshot of the stuff that might otherwise be scooped up by conscientious wombles like me if dumped on the street, or else by an employee of the local council. In this case, I was denied and I found it incredibly disconcerting and comforting in a crazy mix.