The Hanwell Park Project


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One of the effects of working at a single location throughout the year is that one becomes very attuned to the natural ebb and flow of events in a way which doesn't usually happen with the traditional summer season dig. We've had nesting birds, growing weeds, drifting blossom and now.... a plague of baby frogs. Well not a plague as such, I mean I quite like the little things, charming in their way, but on the morning of Monday July 2nd. they were everywhere. I reckon there are 20 in the photograph below, go on have a go at spotting them all.


I mean how can you work under these conditions?


The following day saw slightly fewer froglets around although it did take me half an hour at the start of the session to evict as many of them as possible from the site. For me the whole day was given over to tree stump removal, the remains of a sycamore to be specific. Mike and Peter had worried away at it for a day or so checking out the surrounding archaeology. I was much less patient and took a mattock to it, then a bow saw, then a pick, then a crow bar, then a spade then, at the end of the day, with aid of Christopher's very large axe and piece of angle iron we got it out.

July         July        July
The opponent...                                                                                      the vanquished foe....                                                                                    victory at last!                   
 Hmmm...  I think I might have become a little obsessed with this task...

Some serious work was done and in particular Viv sorted out the southern terminus of the sluice wall. It's odd how the construction becomes progressively less sophisticated as it moves out from the centre. In fact looking at it again I think this south wing may be a later addition to main wall. Stratigraphically and morphologically it seems to have  more in common with the adjacent rather rough and ready flight of steps I've been trying hard to ignore.

The end of it all, thanks Viv.

The situation the following day regarding froglets was even worse. There had been rain in the night and when we turned up parts of the site were covered in a moving carpet of tiny frogs. Large numbers had gathered on the stonework and from time to time would throw themselves off for no apparent reason. Fortunately being so light they seemed to come to very little harm, even so it was a bit disconcerting having frogs raining down. In the end we abandoned any thought of digging and set up the level to do some measuring instead but even that was fraught with difficulty as I struggled to position the staff without standing on amphibians. We gave up around 11.00 and came home.

The snatch of tune is from something called Froggy's First Jump by the Albion Band.

(If nothing happens try right clicking and selecting "view video")

The following week saw the frog menace starting to recede so Peter and Mike were able to capitalise on the removal of the sycamore root and get to grips with clearing the last of the rubble downstream from the walling. The exact relationship between the cut for the channel, the masonry and the subsequent silting remains unclear, it shouldn't be but there you are. I undertook a detailed examination of all this along the face of the south pier, tricky because of the root disturbance, and did come up with some useful dating evidence: three pieces of salt-glazed stoneware hard up against the stone blocks that underpin the whole thing. Now all we have to do is establish whether it's seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth century and Bob's your uncle!

They're not fighting, really, in the foreground the stone cataloging continues.                                                   Stoneware emerging from the material packed under the south pier.

If you are very fortunate and are invited as Rowena and Christopher's house guest do come prepared. Inspired by the fine weather on Sunday July 14th. (remember it... phew what a scorcher) they elected to clear the undergrowth from around a curious flight of steps that wound down the slope on the east side of the sunken garden. Christopher has indicated that these pre-date the Berkeley's early twentieth-century improvements as when he first saw them one flight was sandwiched between a pair of mature ash trees which looked fairly ancient. Anyway now the way is clear it is easy to see that we have an interesting construction which, as is typical for the site, makes considerable use of second hand stone. At some point we'll carry out some more clearing on this second front, remove the loose rubble and record it all.

The intrepid crew, the day after...

July       July      July
The top step, Rowena suggests a reused tread from a spiral stair.     The way through the woods....    The bottom steps with an edging that looks like the bits of windowsill on the sluice by the Lake.

July      July
The retaining wall along the east side of the sunken garden: the north end and the south end.

Regular readers will be well aware of how much we are soaking up of the natural environment in which we work. Lunchtime on Monday July 15th. and time for a tuna sandwich. Straight in front of me, perched on a branch, a buzzard; to the right, alighted on the fallen tree in the Lake, a heron. I reached for the camera. The buzzard took flight. The heron remained insouciant.

A nonchalant heron, the Canada Geese remain unimpressed.

The following day continued the extraordinary run of hot weather, nevertheless a good turn out and Mike excavating close to the area where we discovered the stoneware came across another clay pipe, here is a short movie showing something of the process of excavation.

'Makes Ben Hur look like an epic' Martin Scorsese, 'I thought the frog movie was good but this just blew me away' Quentin Tarentino, 'It was just like being there' Sam Mendes

(If nothing happens try right clicking and selecting "view video")

July       July
Mike proceeds carefully.                                                                                         Close up of the pipe in situ showing oak leaf decoration.

Sunday July21st. saw us fetching up at the National Herb Centre at Warmington where the local heritage group had opened up a large room so a variety of organisations could mount displays to celebrate National Archaeology Day. The Feldon
Archaeological Society had a particularly wonderful collection of Roman finds which attracted large numbers of interested visitors. For Hanwell we had some display panels and a few key finds. Unfortunately our efforts to publicise our work had a couple of unintended consequences, namely visitors who having heard us extolling the virtues of the site simply turned up to take a look for themselves! We welcome visitors but only by appointment, please email me first to arrange a convenient time.

Another highlight of the Warmington day was the arrival of an extraordinary piece of sculpture recovered for a Nottingham tip and brought in by Phillip from the FAS. It is a remarkable and possibly unique depiction of tricephaly or the condition of having three heads... think Cerberus. Anyway this grotesque composition features  the faces of two bearded males joined at the forehead with a hound's head nestling between them. Discussion raged with opinions being offered as to date which covered everything from the Iron Age to the seventeenth century. My money is on the latter date by virtue of the similarities with carved faces on Elizabethan and Jacobean woodwork but it's all guess work at the moment
. If anyone has seen anything like it before please, please do give us a clue.

July      July
The display at Warmington before the crowds arrived.                                                                                    Rescued from a Nottingham tip, Phillip's head(s).

Back on site we had a big push to get the standing masonry recorded before entering into what may be the closing phase of excavation downstream as we sample the earliest silts. In the meantime up stream we cleared the rest of the rubble caking either bank revealing at least on the south side more of the wall's construction. On a different tack altogether on the third front I was delighted to be able to meet with some members of the Enstone Historical Society to thrash out details of our programme of preliminary investigations round the village. We are scheduling these for September through into November for a couple of days each week but are planning an official launch at Enstone Show on Saturday August 24th.

July       July
Elevation drawing proceeds apace.                                                                                     A continuation of the wall emerges as the last of the rubble is swept away.