The Hanwell Park Project


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Peter perches on the wall at the outset of the plan drawing whilst Mike clears the rubbish.

Having celebrated May Day in fine style in Oxford the start of the month saw us getting on with the plan of the standing stonework. Many, many thanks to Peter for the superb job he did on this, you can see a copy of the initial plan below and appreciate the great attention to detail that has gone into it.


We also took a look round the immediate area of the sluice using metal detectors, primarily to see if there were any unusual concentrations of metalwork that we should be alert to. Virtually all the signals returned the presence of iron. We marked their positions with our yellow flags and then investigated roughly 10% of the sample.
We repeated the procedure down in Mesopotamia with our most significant find being a large and intact iron skillet or frying pan.

May      May
Detecting around the excavated area                                                                                        One of the sampled signals - part of an alignment - multiple strands of cable and barbed wire.

Rubble cleaning goes hand in hand with trimming roots.

Excavation into week two concentrated on removing the final vestiges of topsoil, particularly from around the rubble on the downstream side of the wall. We were getting hints that there might be stone walling edging the channel further down so we have to plan and photograph and remove the rubble as the next step. I'd fondly believed that we had left the twentieth century behind but as we began to clean round the rubble this emerged securely packed down amongst it....

Find of the Month

Yes, it's a golf ball  and in the same spirit that greeted the rescue of Sir Anthony's Ball we proudly announce the discovery of Captain Berkeley's Ball. The Berkeleys lived here in the early years of the twentieth century and of course I have no idea if the captain played golf but the alliteration is appealing. There is plenty more material associated with these deposits which I have to say all looks first half of the twentieth century so we could be on to something. I understand that some vintage golf balls are of considerable value to collectors but this one I fear is past saving.

We are always delighted to welcome visitors to the site and here is a small party from The University of Oxford come to Hanwell to see the sights and discuss possible support for aspects of the project. As Rowena commented, 'all very serious in intent'. As it turned out the outcome was a good one and later in the month an offer came through of a place at Oxford to study for a D. Phil. in architectural history... result, as they say.

All in a line (photo by Peter Spackman)

Work was suspended on the island to allow the nesting birds: ducks and geese, to get on and do their thing. The ducks were very quick off the mark and were swimming around with their ducklings by the second week of the month but the Canada Geese hung on and on until the last week. Once they were safely launched on the water I returned to the island to assess the the amount of regrowth from the weeds and the whole family decided to come ashore and join me!

Hanwell     Hanwell
New weeds, shouldn't take too much clearing                                                                                                      The deserted goose nest.

And here's the happy family, curiously unconcerned by the camera and the cameraman and his bright orange life-jacket!

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

Late in the month I took a walk with our photographer, Chris, along the Southam Road (A423) from Banbury Crematorium to Little Bourton. Two things strike me about this particular piece of landscape.  Firstly this ridge to the east of Hanwell is the only location where you would get anything like a view of the park from a distance. Because most of it is sunk into the valley that runs east from the castle it is profoundly inconspicuous from any other quarter. I was also trying to see if there was any evidence of a trackway linking the site of the manor at Hardwick, which was also a Cope possession, with the castle. Nothing sprung to view but a closer examination of the ground and particularly early maps could prove fruitful.

Even from the east Hanwell has something of the appearance of a secret garden, the line of trees to the right of the oil seed rape mark the position. (Photo by CM)

May ended  with a fairly wet spell so working down in the channel was a pretty damp business and the clay banks were particularly slippy. Nevertheless we managed to clear considerable further quantities of tumbled rubble from the downstream side of the wall to reveal  what initially appear to be flanking butresses with some interesting lime mortar still in place.

Down in the pit Peter and Mike struggle manfully to clear rubble and clarify features east of the wall.