The third season at Croft began in May
as the contractors undertook 'dry' work concentrating on the
restoration of the cascade on dam 7 and the spillway on dam 6. Work
anywhere near water was carefully avoided as it was breeding season for
the rare white clawed crayfish. This is what happened:
An interesting start to the week. I hadn’t appreciated the issues
around the crayfish at this time of year so we had to change our plans
a little. We opened up a trench just past the end of the cascade to
uncover a deep channel full of tumbled but well shaped stones. Birch Brothers took
out the stone sets from the cascade to reveal a serious retaining wall
and what may be the remains of an earlier phase of spillway. All
photographed and recorded. We also opened an area above the west end of
the dam to look for the other end of the scouring tunnel examined in 2017. I’ve got an
idea that we are looking at a two phase structure here. The area marked
on the eighteenth-century estate map as a conduit is currently buried
below a mass of brushwood however we have permission to shift it and
Charlie was happy that it would be a crayfish free zone so we can start
on that tomorrow as well.
Another productive day. After I had drawn the new elevations of the
side walls to the cascade the contractors lifted one of the capstones
to examine the void below the main channel. This enabled us to extend
the elevations and take a look at the other side of the cross wall. At
the foot of the cascade a lot of topsoil and loose rubble was removed
from the channel. It was agreed that the tree should go.
The test pit above the tunnel at the west end of the dam was cut down
at one corner by well over a metre to reveal what is assumed to be the
upper surface of the tunnel arch This area was fenced off due to the
depth of the trench.
The highlight of the day was a visit from Imogen bearing cake!
An action packed day with a sudden shift down to dam 6 to clean and
record the spillway. Jeremy Milln had drawn a part of the east wall but
the brick paving had not been seen so we opened it all out and did some
further excavation on the side walls facing the pool. At this point it
became clear that as well as a major slump close to the centre of the
spillway other areas of brick had also been displaced and loosened from
the underlying clay some of them were bedded in. The surfaces were
drawn at a scale of 1:10 and multiple photos taken.
Back up at dam 7 two of the volunteers carried on looking for the base
of the cascade whilst the third ( thanks Malcolm) took down the levels
in the test pit above the conduit. Excavations here at the start of the
day uncovered a curious revetment of what appears to be corrugated iron
sheeting. More to investigate here tomorrow.
Relocated to the spillway on dam 6, a rush job to clean it all up and
record it in its pristine condition... if you ignore the slumps.
There are always lots of other things being done by the contractors in
the valley, here is work underway to improve access to dam 7.
Huge excitement up behind the modern pump house. The team of volunteers
started clearing the brush wood and followed the trail of building
debris until they stumbled upon a wall and not just any wall but a well
mortared one of large well dressed blocks. Exploring further we ended
up with a corner and a second wall and perhaps most remarkable of all
the remains of a ceramic tile floor! My best guess at present is that
the name 'The Conduit' on the late eighteenth century estate map refers
to a building centred on a natural spring with stone walls, a tiled
roof and probably home to a cold bath as found at a number of other
properties of the period. This could give us the major focus for our
investigations in July and potentially another monument for valley
bearing in mind that in places the wall could survive to a height of
1.5m. The plan for tomorrow morning is to uncover enough to identify
the limits of the structure so I can start to think about the logistics
of any future full excavation of the site plus there is a fallen tree
The impenetrable tangle of brushwood cleared by the volunteers... as if
by magic, OK actually with a lot of hard work, ultimately to reveal....
By the end of the day two walls and a corner.
The tree at the foot of the cascade was expertly felled by Jason who
dropped it with great precision exactly where he wanted it and the root
was removed by Grant at the controls of the digger. Not much new
archaeology though we did get a chance to take a look at the section
through one of the side walls. I told Nick that I was finished with the
cascade so he was free to move on to the construction phase.
Down at the spillway at dam 6 I excavated the area around the slump at
the centre of the brick paving and recorded the deposit beneath. Again
I handed this over to contractors who lifted and stacked the remaining
The very deep test pit has now uncovered substantial walling, it may be
associated with the culvert but it stops way short of the upstream face
of the dam. Sections drawn and plan nearly complete, tomorrow I’ll
finish off and hopefully start back filling.
Exploring below the brick paving on the spillway to dam 6... it's just dirt.
The tree is down, Jason slices it into manageable chunks ...
... and Grant digs out the stump ...
... leaving a mess which we tidy up to reveal, well not a lot really.
Back in the test pit the limit of what is safe to dig is reached, it's time to try and understand it all.
After all the dismantling it's great to see things being put back
together again, the foundation for the debris catcher at the top of the
Well we certainly finished the week in style. Whilst waiting for the
volunteers to arrive I completed the recording on our rather deep test
pit at the west end of dam 7. We ended up with quite a complicated
sequence involving the culvert through the smaller earlier dam of red
clay being sealed by a cross wall before the later larger dam was
dumped on top.
From 10.00 onwards the team of 5 volunteers set to to meet my immediate
objectives namely first off to remove enough vegetation and topsoil to
enable everyone to see the character of the new monument we have added
to the Croft landscape and also explore the limits of the site to
aid me in thinking through logistics for July on the grounds that we
may want to proceed with further investigations into this structure.
With extraordinary efficiency a member of the Trust's staff turned up
with his chain saw and we were able to slice up and remove the trunk of
a fallen tree that was hampering our efforts. This enabled us to see
the big picture of an extremely well build stone structure - probably
square and note arrangements for flooring (at least two periods)
and draining the structure. At the moment I'm going to stick with the
idea that this was both a conduit house which tapped the natural spring
but could have been a cold bath too.
Huge thanks to all the volunteers and especially the team who went back
in the rain on Friday afternoon to fill in the big test pit. There's so
much to look forward to later in the summer.