First day on site

On site: Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, Chris Hobbs, Muriel Hardman, Mick James, Alan Goodwin, Keeley Hale, George Hunt, Philip Dean, Gary Botazzi, Tony Ireland, Sophie Brookes, Elizabeth Brookes, Alice Brookes, Jon Goodwyn, Henry Marshall, Georgina Brackenbury

Weather: dry, broken cloud, warm and humid

A number of people turned up early, so the work of removing the turf had started before I arrived. It’s much softer than last year (we’ve had a fair bit of rain in recent days), so despite the heat and humidity, we ought to make decent progress. The mechanical digger to remove last year’s backfill will be arriving around noon and we may have a lot of the turf off by then.

Stripping the turf

Stripping the turf

Unexpectedly, we are going to need sunblock. I amended the site safety guidelines yesterday to include this very provision, not thinking that we would need it, at least not this week!

There are bullocks in the field again this year and they seem to have the same pattern of movement of those who were here in 2007. They seem to be keeping to the more shaded edges of the field now that the sun is high in the sky, whereas earlier, they were close to our compound (in fact, they were in front of the gate when I arrived at 10 o’clock). There are more of them but I hope that they will be less of a nuisance than before.

Removing the turf is going well and the team has already reached the top of the hollow way. Here, there does not seem to be much of a depth of backfill, as Mick found geotextile immediately under the turf.

We have some finds processing going on, too. The finds are from 109 Norton Road, where there was an inconclusive test pit last October. They look to be largely twentieth-century brick and window glass, which is basically what I recall of the material from the site.

We have a new finds control system from today. All bags of finds will now be logged on and off site, with information on dates of on-site processing (if any). Each day, a record will be made of which bags of finds are on site, whether they have been processed and where they have gone off site. I have designed a proforma to record these details but realise that I need to do a specific bag record form, too, which will record all the movements of a finds bag, not just as a daily record. It will add to the bureaucracy but will ensure that we know at all times where the finds from a particular context have gone.

The mechanical excavator in action

The mechanical excavator in action

The mechanical excavator arrived around midday and began removing the backfill, starting at the western end of the site. It was deeper here than towards the top of the slope, while on the slope itself, there is no need to remove any backfill as the turf sits almost straight on top of the geotextile.

By 3.45, all the backfill that could be removed mechanically had been. The remainder, principally in the hollow way, is being removed by hand. At this point, odd spots of rain were falling, so it looks as if we’ve got the hardest work done just in time.

The rain was the merest sprinkle that was actually rather refreshing: it cooled the air down, making the last half hour on site easier than it had been, as the temperature had reached the high 20s at one point. Work began on clearing the last of the backfill left on top of the geotextile, so we ought to be well on our way to doing archaeology by lunchtime tomorrow.


About Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews

I'm the Archaeology Officer for North Hertfordshire District Council Museum Service. I was born and brought up in Letchworth Garden City, so I have a life-long connection with the area.

Posted on 5 August 2009, in Fieldwork, Norton Church Field Dig 2009. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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