The EnvironsThe environs consist of an area of some 2 square kilometres defined by the boundaries of the precinct and the land beyond which was reshaped by the Abbey as a demesne of specialist farms and production zones to provide for its own direct consumption needs. This is where the landscape seems to have been most radically altered by the Cistercians as they designed and built their operations at Strata Florida.
The Project has begun to work on this demesne, looking at the water management systems draining the precinct area and delivering fresh supplies to the Abbey itself as well providing power for mills. Survey by Louise Barker of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments in Wales and others has demonstrated that the water system incorporated a holy well at its head.
We have looked closely too at the Abbey Wood and the survey here carried out by Louise Barker shows a great complexity of earthwork features. Together with documentary and ecological research undertaken by Katie Fretwell, we now have a complex story of long-term land use on the southern periphery of the Abbey precinct.
Within this woodland, protected as an SSSI and a PAWS, there are the remains of what we take to be a very large kiln although we are still a little uncertain, despite preliminary excavation, as to what it was producing.
Nearby too was an area, devoid of trees which, on excavation, produced evidence for the making of good potting clays from the underlying boulder clay, using a settling tank. A little further away are the earthworks, which we have partially excavated, of a small medieval vernacular building of a type well-known in the upland areas of Wales.
On the opposite side of the valley are the extensive remains of metal mining, some of which can certainly be identified as the extraction and processing areas of the 19th century Abbey Consol Mine. However, a line of shafts, close to the ruins of Bron y Berllan farmhouse, together with their spoil tips, have been the subject of survey and excavation by David Sables as being potentially of medieval or early post-medieval date. The Abbey is known to have mined for lead and silver.
Further afield there has been a study of one of the demesne farms, Henfynachlog, by Jemma Bezant, and of the Abbey sheep farm and other contemporary and later farms at Troed y Rhiw by Andrew Fleming and Louise Barker of the RCAHMW.