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Growing Iron Age wheat

Date: 
Sunday, 1 September, 2013 to Sunday, 30 November, 2014
Responsible: 
Steve Burrow, Head of Historic Properties
Andrew Dixey, Estates Manager
Quantity of Products: 
3.4 hectares of spelt

The reconstruction of two large roundhouses is one of Amgueddfa Cymru’s most significant contributions to WP5 with construction work being programmed to begin in spring 2014. In preparation for this we have begun a large scale experiment to grow a crop of spelt for use in thatching the new structures. Spelt is known to have grown at the original Iron Age site of Bryn Eryr so we presume that they had access to spelt straw as a roofing material.

Estimates have varied as to how large an area should be sown in order to grow sufficient straw, so we have chosen a generous estimate and have ploughed an area of 3.4 hectares, fencing an area twice that size to allow for future experimentation. The aim of our experiment is to secure a crop, rather than to explore Iron Age sowing or harvest practices so we have used modern farm machinery rather than oxen and ards. Once we have learnt more about growing spelt for thatch, these more traditional technologies may be explored.

At the time of writing the crop has germinated and stands to a height of around 8cm, so the prospects are good for a useful crop. However, there is a long way to go between now and the harvest in the summer.

A full project brief is attached.

Images

Metal detecting in advance of planting our...
Fieldwalking prior to sowing
The first sign of the crop growing
Fencing the crop