Friday 8 August 2008
On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Mick James, Muriel Hardman, Sheila Love (a.m. only), Cameron Gormill, Luke Gearing, Christl Squires (a.m. only), Howard Webber, Pauline Gimson, Jim Skipper, Owain James, Freddie Sharman, Alan Goodwin, Chris Hobbs, Phil Thomas
Weather: cloudy, occasional drizzle (sometimes quite heavy) and much cooler than previous days, becoming drier in the later afternoon
It’s really autumnal today: the sky is overcast, there is light drizzle and the wind is distinctly chilly. At 9.30, the rain was quite heavy and I was wondering about delaying the start of work; by 9.45, though, it had cleared to little more than a heavy mist. Things are improving slowly and it’s actually quite good weather for trowelling (people on site are at least keeping warm, while I sit here with my fingers slowly turning blue).
I’ve decided to get people to re-do the trowelling begun yesterday as there were areas where lots of crumbs have been left. We’re trying to put experienced diggers between the inexperienced to give them encouragement and lead by example.
Planning is going to be difficult: we have only one drawing board (the planning equipment from last year having been mislaid) and most people will be left standing around. Mick, Chris and Cameron left to collect the planning frames from Chris’s house three quarters of an hour ago and have still not returned…
Trowelling has progressed quickly, with everyone working at roughly the same pace. There had been a problem yesterday afternoon, where some people barely covered a metre when others had completed a five-metre strip. The system of mixing experienced with inexperienced diggers seems to work well.
Shortly before noon, the weather took a real turn for the worse. Although there had been some drizzle during the morning, it suddenly became much heavier and I decided to stop for lunch at that point. I’ll make a decision about whether to carry on or abandon work for the day when we resume at one.
Over the lunch break, it brightened considerably and we were able to finish the trowelling. There have been a few finds from the topsoil, which we are calling context (1); most interesting are two sherds from an internally glazed earthenware vessel of seventeenth- or eighteenth-century character. There is also at least one struck flint, which is encouraging.
There were a few more light showers during the afternoon, but it was generally more pleasant than in the morning (even if the better weather promised by the forecast never reached us). I was able to do some basic training in planning and use of the dumpy level, so we have begun to create an overall plan of the trench. Since the afternoon break, we have been levelling the first plan (which I completed as part of the training) and have completed a second.
In a number of places, where the turf-cutting was perhaps a little over-enthusiastic, deposits under the topsoil have been exposed. In several places, there are traces of chalk rubble, which appears to be a laid surface rather than weathered natural (including in the hollow way, where it appears to be a resurfacing). Elsewhere, there are traces of a more clayey deposit, especially around the site of the platform that I’ve been interpreting as the foundations of a building. I suspect that it may have been damaged by the harrowing that we identified last year (and which I suspect occurred during the Second World War). It will be interesting to see just how deep the deposits are on this site: there must be a reasonable build-up in the hollow way, but there may not have been too much erosion to its north-west, where the platform is located.
We’ll be able to tie the site grid in to the Ordnance Survey National Grid by referring it to the north-western corner of 115/117 Norton Road and the south-eastern corner of 13 Church Lane. There is also a pylon beyond Nortonbury that would do at a pinch, if we need a third point.
Chris left around 3 o’clock to go in search of materials for planning: he’s going to Tim’s in Letchworth for drawing boards and large graph paper, which will be an improvement on what we’ve got currently. Work has come to a virtual end, as there is a bottleneck with the one drawing board we have currently. Luke and Cameron are looking distinctly bored… At least we’ll be digging again tomorrow (weather permitting).