Voyages to the House of Diversion
Seventeenth-Century Water Gardens and the Birth of Modern Science

March, April, May 2021 - In and out of Lock-down

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After our Christmas lay off further separation was enforced by further lock-downs as the Covid 19 pandemic continued to range. Fortunately most of our older volunteers were able to get vaccinated and by May had had the two shots necessary for the Astra-Zeneca jab. Even so the same kind of restrictions had to apply as per the construction industry plus it made it very hard for us to offer our usual hospitality, still, where there's a will there's a way...

Speaking personally, once again lock down proved to be something of a benefit as I was able to write out the final 20,000 words or so of my thesis and give a thorough going revision to say nothing of sorting out formatting issues and drawing up the bibliography. When we did return to Hanwell in late February it was to enjoy the early spring flowers, a welcome sight and the not so welcome site of blanket weed that for the first time had decided to colonize our water filled trench

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Crocuses on the lawn and swans nesting on the lake... well they're there somewhere



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Our water-filled, weed-filled moat, now what are we going to do about that?




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Another casualty of the winter months, the marquee collapsed following heavy snowfall, still as ever there was the compensation of the snowdrops.




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So this is what we did about the blanket weed, we raked it out, we pumped it away then we scraped it up, thanks to Ian and Chris



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There was also lots of tidying up to be done around exposed walls to say nothing of replacing the fallen marquee with our new executive lounge.




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.... and a little extra digging around the walling to the south east.


Much of March was spent in preparing for our first 'big dig' of the season: two weeks over Easter when we were able to welcome friends old and new. With pump going almost continually we were able to drain to moat to enable digging to go ahead plus we had lots of exciting things to do up at the finds department.




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Hannah and  Nina start work on the back-log of finds washing whilst Sarah begins the huge task of drawing up our stone catalogue.




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Down on site we v balance on boards and squeeze into narrow trenches to continue the process of cleaning, recording and lifting pots...




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... and here's a selection numbered up and photographed, although it's not always easy to tell where one pot ends and another begins.




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After the photography there's the drawing.




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Whilst we had  plenty of labour to hand it was a good time to do other important tasks around the site such as cleaning the wall at the Temple of Flora where Christopher had removed a fallen tree.
Later on Nathan and Emilia did a splendid job of anastylosis, yes it's that word again, putting back the fallen stones.




A very welcome addition to the finds department was a new extra large storage shed for our growing collection of architectural fragments, endless thanks to Christopher and Rowena for this.It meant we could get the stones off the ground and under cover so they could be properly shelved for Sarah to work here cataloging magic on them. Unfortunately it came as a flat pack and we had to assemble it...




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Someone had to  wrestle the slabs into position and level them before Ian and Sarah started to put it all together




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Ian prepares for the addition of the roof panels, Sarah contemplates the last piece to be added on and here's the completed store with shelves thanks to Burger king via Oxfam.                     




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Down below more walling emerges and Nathan and Emilia keep the waters draining so they access the last few finds from the area



Opportunities for digging on the main site were limited by space and after May turned out to be so dismally wet we examined several other areas with two new trenches adjacent to the massive walling on the south east corner, a series of trenches at the northern end of the great eastern terrace, a little look at a small mound above the fairy dell, a new trench on the site of possible medieval fishponds and a couple of expeditions to the far end of the valley.




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Here we go with a trench to north of our main section of walling and another to west, what are we going to find?




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Well not too surprisingly more walls including one that runs across the dam rather than along it! Paolo and Ian look on in amazement.



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So Peter and Leonie try and find its other end, and it's not there.




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Still squeezing folks in to the north east octant, Rupert and Kate lift a couple of very impressive urns with patterning we haven't seen before.




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Finally after six weeks or so of sitting we get... cygnets, eight of them, and growing rapidly under the care of their attentive parents.



The quest goes on... for Sir Anthony's mill. As we inevitably come towards the end of our programme of digging on the House of Diversion thoughts turn to the other great 'monument' described by Plot, the water mill that could simultaneously grind corn, polish stones and bore out guns. It's here somewhere and we have permission to begin survey work at the far end of the valley.





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Where the ground has been cleared we come across a small ditched enclosure adjacent to the stream below the bottom dam. We also examine some exposed rubble next to and below dam number 4.



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May provided enough water to fill the trench back up again so Helen and Alan are dispatched to clear the ground for a new trench on the site of possible medieval fishponds.




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Meanwhile up top John  and Olwen have worked extremely hard to expose the terrace walling at the east end of the great terrace and found.... nothing. Oh well, let's mark out the trench on the new library site.