Llanmelin is an Iron Age hillfort located just over a mile (2km) north-west of Caerwent Roman Town, between Newport and Chepstow. Traditionally, Llanmelin was thought to be the tribal centre of the Silures before the Romans arrived, but there is no strong evidence to support this idea.
In general, hillforts began to appear about 1000BC or 3,000 years ago. In the Welsh borderland, however, the main phase of hillfort construction seems to have been around 400BC to 500BC. Small enclosures, with a single bank — known as a rampart — and ditch, predominated. Further ramparts and more elaborate entrances were often added later and hillforts could remain in use until 2,000 years ago.
We do not know whether this elaboration reflects a real threat or a form of display, but the diversity of shapes and characteristics suggest a range of functions.
Set high above the coastal plain, Llanmelin follows this pattern of development. It began life with a single bank and ditch. More banks were added and a hundred years later the entrance was remodelled and strengthened.
From excavation evidence, we know that people lived in circular houses here made of timber and mud. They kept and ate cows, sheep and pigs, used pottery, smelted copper and carved antlers from red deer.
Today, only earthworks survive at Llanmelin. They are made up of three distinct elements: the main camp, the annexe, which is a series of rectangular enclosures tacked onto the main camp, and the outpost, located 275 yards (250m) away in woodland close to the road.
Llanmelin is also home to many different animals and flowers. You may encounter adders at this site. Adders are a protected species. You are advised to:
• Keep to footpaths and wear sensible footwear
• If you see an adder, please wait for it to move or walk around it — do not attempt to pick it up
• Keep dogs on paths and on leads — if you think your dog has been bitten or falls ill after visiting an area where adders are present, please take him/her straight to a vet
• In the unlikely event that you are bitten by an adder, please attend hospital straight away