One of the
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?
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
victory at last!
Hmmm... I think I might have become a little
obsessed with this task...
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
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.
NO FROGS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS MOVIE
The snatch of tune is from something called Froggy's First Jump by the Albion
(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
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
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
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...
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.
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")
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 FeldonArchaeological 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.
The display at Warmington before the crowds
Rescued from a Nottingham tip, Phillip'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.
Elevation drawing proceeds
A continuation of the wall emerges as the last of the rubble is swept