First day in Church Field – Good Friday, 22nd April 2011
On-site: Tony Driscoll, Mervyn Evans, Ernie Ford, Greg Ford, Pauline Gimson, Keeley Hale, Ruth Halliwell, Nigel Harper-Scott, Sid Rowe. Afternoon: Christl Squires, Mary Wood.
Weather: hot and sunny with high, thin cloud.
Late last year, Pauline and her geophysics team surveyed Church Field, intended to be a final close on the NCAG’s investigations in that location. The survey produced unexpected results, including an anomaly that has been tentatively identified (by its shape) as a “Roman corn-drying kiln”. Subsequently, the committee agreed on planning another trench to investigate this possible feature over the Easter and Royal Wedding/May Day weekends. Preliminary work was carried out in previous weekends to mark out and erect a fence around the proposed trench in a position that transects the northerly aspect of the feature.
The excavation team for today assembled at 9:45am and was on-site promptly for 10:00am. This is my first time as a site supervisor and my morning speech reflected this with its lack of rousing Braveheart-style charisma. Nevertheless, we began the day by fixing string around the four corners of our planned 7m x 2m trench to provide a guideline for removing the turf. De-turfing using spades was made difficult by the long grass which was close to a 30cms in patches, and drier soil in areas with shorter grass. Fortunately Nigel had a turf-cutter which made easier going of the work.
Another problem was the heat of the day; it was already quite hot and the area where the trench is located is very exposed. Naturally, with this heavy work, I was nervous about members of the team becoming ill through dehydration and heat exhaustion/sun stroke. I made it a rule that work will be stopped for short water break every twenty minutes between the main tea-breaks and lunch break, with an unwritten rule that people can take water as and when they felt the need.
Nevertheless, the team work hard and the turf was removed, conveniently, before lunch break. A considerable collection of finds has already been collected from the unstratified soil within and immediately underneath the turf sods, including various ceramic types; pottery, tile, brick and drain pipe, some metalwork; nails, metal rods and a large door latch (possibly from the barn excavated in 2007), a button, glass fragments, and numerous pieces of industrial metal and glass waste including a piece that looks like a fossilised blackcurrant.
After lunch, Tony and Nigel measured out the 5 metre pegs for planning, although two placed outside of the trench were shortened to 3m and 2.4m due to limitations of space within the compound. Meanwhile, the other team members removed the loose spoil that had fallen from the turf sods, which was subsequently sieved for further unstratified finds. It is plainly evident that we have three contexts revealed by the turf removal; context (1) is the layer of remaining topsoil, context (2) looks preliminarily like a dump of amorphous modern waste extending out of the north-west section of the trench, and context (3) which consists of large flint and chalk pebbles sits just south of the centre of the trench.
Due to the hot weather, lateness of the day and the hard work accomplished by the team, I called an early halt to the dig and we packed up and left the site just before 4pm. I feel today has been quite successful and tomorrow we should be ready to start planning the trench and begin trowelling away the remaining top soil.