A FARMER has been heavily fined after he admitted creating a 7.5m-wide hole in one of Wales' most famous ancient monuments.

Appearing at Mold Crown Court for sentencing, Richard John Pugh, 35, had pleaded guilty to damaging or destroying an ancient, protected monument, after clearing the section of Offa's Dyke which ran through his farm near Knighton, Powys.

The 8th century earthworks traditionally marked the border between Anglian Mercia and the Welsh kingdom of Powys and roughly follows the current border between England and Wales for 150 miles.

Prosecutor Richard Edwards said that in January 2018, a member of the public reported a section of the dyke, which is protected as a scheduled monument, had been damaged.

Two wardens from Cadw attended in February and again in May and agreed that there was evidence of "sustained damage" where an opening had been created between two fields.

Track marks could be seen where the opening had become a 'pinch point' for machinery and livestock and Pugh, of Treburvaugh, Knighton, admitted that he had removed a hedge and fence to create a crossing point which was used twice a day by farming equipment, quadbikes and livestock.

The crossing had become muddy and Pugh had put stone down to firm up the ground, but he denied using a mechanical digger to clear the section of the dark ages fortification and maintained the main damage had been created by livestock passing through.

At an earlier hearing in December, Judge Rhys Rowlands had rejected this as "hard to believe" and he repeated his belief that the farmer's claim was both "unbelievable" and "ridiculous".

Matthew Curtis, defending, said his client lived on the farm with his wife and children and ran the operation in partnership with other family members.

"This experience has come as a great learning experience and not one that is welcome," said Mr Curtis, before adding that Pugh had "done all he can to put it right" and had spent around £1,600 rebuilding the earthwork.

"He (Pugh) now has a greater awareness of the importance of the dyke and knows what is required," added Mr Curtis.

Fining Pugh £1,500 for the offence, Judge Rowlands, said he had shown "a degree of ignorance" and although it had not been a deliberate excavation it was still a serious matter.

"Offa's Dyke is a well known ancient monument and has been there since the dark ages," he said. "As a local, I find it hard to concede you were not aware of both its historical value and its value to tourism.Your actions meant that a significant archaeological site may have been lost."

Pugh will also pay costs of £500 and a victim surcharge of £150.

A spokesman for Cadw said: "We have noted the decision of the court and would highlight that we are more than happy to provide owners with advice about the sympathetic management of scheduled monuments on their land."