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  • David Quick

Stroud Big Dig Day 7 - some results at last!

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

To be honest last weekend was a bit depressing, partly because the weather was so wet and horrible, and partly because we found so little. So today I was desperately hoping for better things - not that the weather forecast was looking very good.

I arrived early at New Buildings Farm and was able to see Oliver Howe, the Farm Manager. He kindly lent me the Winscom family's key finds from the Farm, including the Neolithic axe head Juliet found last year and the 50 Roman coins. He also confirmed that the main field we want to do field-walking in has been harvested but has to be left fallow for 10 days before 'cultivating', i.e. having the top 25cm turned over to bury the chaff. So hopefully we will be able to field-walk towards the end of August if we can find suitable free dates, given everything else that is going on (including Butser).

Juliet and I then agreed that the area we wanted to focus on today was the field the other side of the stream from the villa's gateway, well outside the Scheduled area. We wanted to set up for two test pits, due south of the villa's gate and where Moray-Williams speculated a driveway had extended.

We headed across to the field with all our gear and first task after deciding on locations was to erect two gazebos per test pit site because of the rain forecast. I then discovered that I had left some of the equipment at home in my garage, so had to nip back to Alton to collect it - and some loo roll for the only toilet we had access to.

By the time I got back at 1045am, it was obvious good progress was being made in both test pits.

Juliet then told me that Tom from the Petersfield Post was due at 1130am, so I was distracted for a while as I showed him around the site and explained what we had been doing. Tom stayed for about half an hour and took some photos for the paper.

By the time Tom left it was obvious that both test pits were making finds of R-B material - including pieces of roof tile and also hypocaust tiles with combed surfaces. One of the test pits also seemed to have a packed stone surface like that of a trackway, so Juliet asked Lyn to double the size of the test pit to try and find more of this feature. You can see some of the CBM pieces in the test pits below when they were newly-uncovered.

We broke for lunch but during the lunch break the rain started again, just drizzle at first.

Juliet and I were impressed by what we were finding and also interested in some of the apparent platforms a bit further along the field, so we decided it was worth setting up 4 grid squares and a partial for us to geophys later in the weekend; four of us set up the baseline and then squares using plastic canes.

By early afternoon the test pit being worked on by Lyn's group was definitely turning up a hard-packed stone surface cutting diagonally through their test pit, as seen here.

They were also turning up lots of finds - worked flint cores, stones and pieces of roof and hypocaust tile as seen in these two trays.

Liz's group was also doing very well and finding similar types of CBM. However, by about 2.30pm we had to stop. the sky had turned black again and it was obvious that it was about to pour with rain again. Our phones showed that the rain on its way was likely to last several hours. So we decided to stop and pegged tarp[aulins over both test pits to try to keep rain out, then lowered and tied down all the gazebos to stop them being caught by the expected winds.

Hopefully we can pick up tomorrow where we left off today. I am worried about the forecast for yet more rain, not least because tomorrow we are supposed to be manning a stall at the Stroud Revels in the late afternoon.

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