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South Wales

Far left With a width of 44m, the ‘spread’ of machinecleared ground into which the pipe trench is cut forms a brown snake of bare soil rolling across the landscape. middle Long sections of pipe are fixed together and then picked up and lowered into the ground by a battery of machines. left Archaeologists at work alongside the pipeline.

m ore than 300km long and the largest extension to Britain’s National Gas Transmission System since the 1960s, its construction cut a swathe through five counties – Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, Powys, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire (see map P.36). Like an 18th century canal or a 19th century railway, it is a monument to modern industrialism, only this 21st century natural gas pipeline will be buried at least 1.2m underground, invisible once land reinstatement is complete. Construction itself, however, has required a working width of 44m, and within that, a trench wide and deep enough to take the 1.2m-wide pipeline. Since this working width extended across South Wales and the Welsh Marches, the result has been the biggest archaeological investigation in the history of Wales.

Along the first 120km alone, 129 sites have been identified and recorded, of which 20 have developed into major excavations. At any one time, around 100 archaeologists from Cotswold Archaeology and Cambrian Archaeological Projects are at work somewhere on the line. Masterminding and co-ordinating this whole vast operation is Archaeology Project Manager Neil Fairburn.

A 21st century industrial monument North Sea gas supplies are in decline and a new ‘dash for gas’ has begun, with Britain already a net importer. Milford Haven, on the southwestern tip of Wales, is developing fast as one of three major ports for importing liquefied natural gas (along with Easington and Isle of Grain), and by 2010 it will be able to provide around 20% of Britain’s needs. The new pipeline is designed to carry this natural gas 120km east from Milford Haven to Aberdulais to link into the National Gas Transmission System and then, in a huge northern loop avoiding the main part of

Below Hundreds of pipe sections stacked ready for distribution along the length of the ‘spread’. Sections of pipe will then be joined together before being lowered into the pipe trench.

With a width of 44m extending across 300km of South Wales, the construction of the pipeline has resulted in the biggest archaeological investigation in the history of Wales.

With a width of 44m extending across 300km of South Wales, the construction of the pipeline has resulted in the biggest archaeological investigation in the history of Wales.

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