IT'S THE WEEKEND: Family Fun - Fancy a slice of medieval life? Head for Cosmeston

Fans of the TV series Merlin might recognise some of the sights at Cosmeston Medieval Village - and its country park setting also makes it ideal for a great day out.

AS A depiction of life in Britain more than 650 years ago, Cosmeston Medieval Village - one-and-a-half miles south of Penarth - offers a unique glimpse into a way of life long since lost.

Its remains were discovered in 1978, as work began to create the 250-acre Cosmeston Lakes Country Park.

The uncovering of a group of 13th-14th Century buildings was the trigger for a painstaking project undertaken by Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust, that has seen the village restored and recreated.

The importance of Cosmeston Medieval Village lies in its size. Most other finds from the period have been fragmentary but here, one-and-a-half miles from Penarth, was the outline of a whole community.

Archaeological, architectural and historical information has been used to recreate as closely as possible a range of village buildings, using the original sites and foundations.

It appears something of a pastoral idyll, but in reality, life in much of 14th Century Britain was harsh, with the majority of the population tied to the land they cultivated for the lords of whatever manor their humble place of residence happened to belong to.

Cosmeston's buildings reflect this brutal hierarchy. It includes buildings that would have been occupied by a reeve, or higher ranked villager, who oversaw the peasant's crop growing efforts and made sure they did not encroaching on each other's plots.

Many of those peasants were tied to the land they cultivated through the manorial system and Jake's Cottage in the village, is an example of a typical villager's very humble abode.

There is also the baker's house and the village ovens, the tithe barn - where a percentage of everything grown, produced or made was stored as a tax collected by the church- and a swineherd's cottage, a combination of home, pig yard and butcher's.

The reconstruction and setting of the village has been developed to be set in 1350, which depending on a person's status at the time was either a grim or exciting time in live in.

King Edward III ruled a land that was at war. An often bloody conflict with France was 12 years old and although they did not know it at the time, was to continue into the 15th Century, thus earning its title, the Hundred Years War.

Britain meanwhile, was in the early and fragile stages of recovery from the ravages of the Black Death of 1348, which killed almost half the population.

How such momentous events affected life at Cosmeston are included as part of the overall presentation of the village.

A great way to get a sense of 14th century life is by taking a village tour with a guide in costume and character. There is the chance to ask the 'villager' questions and you may encounter other village residents, such as Henry Hogg the swineherd, Elsbeth of Oxford, Father Edwin the village priest, and Walter the village reeve.

The village's unique character has lent itself to period reconstruction for television, and it has regularly featured in the popular series Merlin.

It is important to remember too, that Cosmeston Medieval Village is set in the 250 acres of Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, which is a haven for wildlife to the extent that it was granted Local Nature Reserve status last year.

Gravel paths and wooden boardwalks have been added to the extensive network of paths through woodland, meadows and wetlands to make the park a lovely setting for a walk and a great place for youngsters to let off steam.

* Access to the country park and the medieval village is free, though there is a charge for the guided tour of the village.

The website at www.valeofglamorgan.gov.uk/en/enjoying/parks_and_gardens/cosmeston/cosmeston.aspx offers plenty of practical details, including how to get there, opening times, guided tour prices, and special events.

It also contains information on the history of both the medieval village and the surrounding area.

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