It was so warm and sunny today it could easily have been summertime as eight members (Jenny, Keith, Ian, Margaret, Tina, Liz R, Andy and Terry) continued on with last week's training session. We had already marked out two trenches from a temporary bench mark in this old orchard and measured them to certain specifications (1m x 1m x max 750 deep) with the plan of excavating and record our findings onto context sheets. All this was to prepare new members (and refreshing old ones!) for a future project that involves digging a series of test pits.
Testpit 2 with its compacted clay and sondage
The trenches were well on their way when we last left them, so we continued to take them down even further to see what they next revealed. Within two contexts both trenches had reached orangy clay mixed with charcoal & coal bits. Number 1 had reached wet clay last week and water was found seeping in this week, so it seems probable it was near the source of a spring. Accordingly, once the trench was fully recorded by Liz and Ian and photographed, it was closed down.
Interestingly, even though Number 2 trench was situated only a few meters away, once the context of clay mixed with charcoal had been reached instead of getting wetter, as expected, the clay soil became harder and more compacted. A sondage was then cut, as seen in the photo, and taken down a little further (but not to full depth) before also being recorded. Needless to say that in both trenches any small finds (clay pipe pieces, pottery, nails etc.) discovered were mainly in the upper 2 contexts.
We were delighted to have Andy along with his Drone filming the whole area, which included the newer orchard next door and a secton of raised ground that was purported to be old house platforms. He and Tina then did some metal detecting that uncovered the two items in the photos and, after everyone had watched the drone film, we all had lunch from Terry's barbeque. (Thanks to him and Ian for the yummy not too burnt sausages)
The intriguing "platforms" then beckoned us so, armed with a few spades, everyone walked to the area beyond the new orchard where a testpit was then put in to see how far down the soil went before finding anything solid, which was several feet (all with the landowner's approval of course). Meanwhile the rest of us did a quick assessment of the area to see if it offered up any other clues, like an entrance from the nearby road. Sadly the results of the investigation, apart from finding the George III penny and the tiny thimble (child's?) above, suggested that the area was little more than raised soil. While it was the same height as that in the next field and did, after a few metres into our field, drop away again as if it was an old boundary. but strangely the "platform" did not stretch the whole width of the field. Perhaps the owner's provision of an old map next will shed some light on it?
We were back to Test Pitting again today after our Easter break. It was a fine day until about 1o'clock when it started to rain lightly. Even so, as the weather the previous week had been unusually hot it baked the clay at the bottom of each pit, as seen below, making it hard to work.
Test Pit 04 prior to being back-filled.
Once our findings had been recorded on Context sheets, the next thing to do was back-filled them.
Excavation of Test Pit 05 in progress
A selection of finds from Metal Detecting the general area.
After Lunch, and with the promise of Area 1 and 2 having its grass cut, the group moved to Area 3, where the possible house platform is located. As further practice, Sam and Keith measured out and chose their own location for another Test Pit right on the edge of the raise platform. It will be interesting to see if they find anything relating to a domestic dwelling. Meanwhile other members trimmed back the undergrowth to permit easier access to the field.
Test Pit 08 in Area 3 was measured and marked out before deturfing.
Despite the threat of thunderstorms on Wednesday, after a day with every season's weather, it really wasn't too bad on site today. We also expected the orchard ground to be saturated, but it seemed to be well drained for digging.
Continuing with our training sessions, two more 1 x 1m testpits were measure out in the field and deturfed. Since Terry's meeting with the organisers of the future project that involves digging of testpits in lots of communities around the county, we were informed that, rather than trowelling down and recording the depths of the the different contexts (which was working out at about 20 -30 cms), it was considered more reasonable or practical to excavate and record at 10cm depths. Terry provided some training literature for everyone to take away and read, which also reiterated how to fill in context record sheets correctly.
NWAG preparing for their talk to the Freinds of Dudley Castle, inside Dudley Zoo. on Thursday 30th May 2019.
There was a good turn out to listen to the talk given by Fransesca on NWAG and its activites lots of interest with our display.
On Monday 3rd June 2019, NWAG gave another talk, this time to the Pensnet & Brierley Hill Active Retirement Group.
Many thanks to Francesca for giving the talk, promoting NWAG and raising some cash for the group
Test Pit 09 final photograph before being filled in. Note the bedrock base of the test pit. Sidmouth Mudstone Formation.im told by our local geologist.
NWAG team preparing to open a new test pit, (tp 011) whilst new member Julie records final context of test pit 10.