The cleaned area south of the barn looking north
Back at Hanwell
wanted the big dig to get off to a flying start - we were very
conscious that last year most of the really interesting things came up
after we had finished - and so Peter and I began by stripping topsoil
and preserving snowdrop bulbs for replanting
before any of this year's volunteers arrived. We also worked hard
setting up the infra-structure, a rather grand term for a marquee and a
couple of gazebos plus, new for 2015, a boardwalk out to the island.
Although not a particularly hazardous site by archaeological standards
we do take health and safety quite seriously and each new arrival was
treated to a site tour and a heath and safety briefing.
We opened two areas in the Sunken Garden: a large open area to the east and a long section through the bank to the west.
The marquee is up and Peter and Mike assemble
The boardwalk complete with safety rope and warning signs.
Work begins in earnest with volunteers continuing to save snowdrops whilst on the island the weeds are cleared mercilessly.
And here we all are again, relaxing outside the new improved tea tent: fridge, kettle and microwave this year!
Verna reopened work down on the increasingly complex Second Sluice
whilst up at HANI (W) drawing of stone slabs revetting the slope is
Lost in the greenery, Peter marshals his
No Pat and Albert this year so we had to take turns on finds washing
After completion of the first stage of excavating the west section in the Sunken Garden, early 20th. century landscaping.
Our strategy for the fortnight was to concentrate on the Sunken Garden
in the hope of clarifying the origins and subsequent developments of
this part of the garden but as the lake remained low we took the
opportunity to excavate around part of the periphery of the island...
and then of course there remained the Second Sluice.
Out at the island, we didn't really start finding anything until we
extended our trench until it was around 3m out from the existing
perimeter when we came across a stone edging at the point where the
lake bottom plunged away.
As part of our
offer to further educate our volunteers in the ways of diggers we had
our first away day in Chacombe where we conducted a programme of
test-pitting in the grounds of the well known seventeenth-century
Poplars Farm. This was undertaken in response to our host Geoff pulling
out a load of sherds at the end of our day's workshop on early medieval
pottery with Paul Blinkhorn. He was astonished as there were some very
nice pieces of pre-conquest material amongst this collection all of
which had come from underneath his summerhouse. Our test pits were
designed to try and establish something of a context for these finds
but in truth results were a little disappointing, still the exercise
was a useful one and the hospitality superb! Everything was
back-filled at the end of two days except for the first pit in the
outbuilding next to Silver Street which revealed a wall foundation
further in and on a slightly different alignment from the existing end
wall. Geoff is hoping to extend this and use it as a training exercise
to engage more of the local community in archaeology.
As rain was forecast we tried to make sure everyone was undercover, pit 3 below a tarpaulin and pit 4 under a gazebo.
Pit 2 was in a fine barn and pit 1 under the floor of a small building adjacent to Silver Street
The next day the sun shone and we enjoyed a splendid lunch....
... but back at Hanwell our lakeside trench was partly flooded, there had been a lot of rain.
Down on the Second Sluice partial demolition of the blocking wall
started to clarify matters whilst Peter's trench in the Sunken Garden
began to reveal walls with unfeasibly deep foundations
Not really sitting down on the job, Chris begins the tricky process of
planning the steps at the north west corner of the Sunken Garden.
Our second away
day was to visit our good friends over at the Roman settlement at
Warmington, this continues to be in equal measure an exciting yet
enigmatic site. Again it was a very different experience for our
volunteers and one in many ways much more in line with conventional
archaeological practice... long lines of trowelers working their way
across a surface... classic. There was some additional excitement as
some folks were asked to assist in the excavation and recovery of a
Roman hound dog whilst others help set up sections or took a turn on
the soil sieving. Unfortunately rain clouds blew up, you can certainly
see them coming at Warmington, and we finished around 3.00, still
another valuable experience and many many thanks to David Freke and his
team for giving us such an interesting outing.
David updates us with latest news and here they go, our line of trowelers.
Federica gets to grips with the sieve whilst Sarah receives instruction in how to lift a dead dog.
Our final couple of days at Hanwell
saw the full extent and complex nature of the walling and paths along
the east side of the Sunken Garden revealed whilst the structures on
the west section continued to remain elusive. It was quite a sad moment
when we said our goodbyes to the last of our student volunteers and
then started to take down the tea tent. However, as always, there
remained plenty to do with efforts certain to continue into the autumn.
A puzzling set of steps emerging from the right, probably early
twentieth century but on the other side just loads of rubble, could it
be quarrying debris?