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  • David Quick

Stroud Dig, Days 5 and 6

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

Having split the seat of my Rohan trousers at the end of Day 4, I sewed them up again when I got home and then sent a tongue-in-cheek email to Rohan's customer services department saying that I was disappointed to have had this problem after only 25 years of wear, They sent back an amusing reply saying that they would be prepared to quote for a repair so that I could get another 25 years of wear out of them.

Day 5

We arrived on site on Day 5 to find that we could not park in the usual places, so squeezed our cars in wherever we could. Briefing was fairly quick and we got back out on site with two 'old hands' joining us for the first time - Mark T and Chris W. We also had a new member join us, Lydia, who is thinking of doing archaeology at uni.

In Test Pit 3 we had Liz working with Chris and Carol to continue exploring the diagonal edge of CBM found the previous day, which appears to slope down from one corner of the test pit. It was very hard work trowelling the grey clay.

Meanwhile Mark T was helping Pete and Ann in Test Pit 2, which at that stage was looking depressingly featureless - lots of very hard clay interspersed with only the occasional bit of CBM.

By about lunchtime this test pit was looking like this:

What was interesting was that at almost a metre in depth they were just starting to find some very large flints and pieces of CBM in what until then had yielded very little. Pete insisted he wanted to dig deeper and that it was only just getting interesting.

Meanwhile in the centre of the field Dave B was working with Karen and Lydia on Test Pit 4:

They had started to extend this pit southwards slightly because of the amount of large tiles sticking out of the side, and sure enough they found yet more. It was continuous layers of stone and CBM down to about a depth of 90cm and still going:

The material coming out of this pit was interesting too; yet more large tiles and some very large chunks of what I think are malmstone, stained a reddish colour.

Mark R meanwhile opened up the new Test Pit 5 a short distance away:

By the end of the day everyone was quite weary but it had been a very successful day, with progress in all the test pits. I rang Mr Atkinson who owns one of the nearby fields where we think a trackway runs from what was the villa entrance and tried to persuade him to visit our site this week, harvest permitting. We packed up before heading back to the Farm store to meet up with Andy, who Juliet had asked to bring his metal detector to check out some areas near the test pits - which he and Juliet did at 5.00pm.

Day 6

True to forecast, there was steady drizzle when I arrived at the farm to set up at 08.30 this morning, feeling grumpy because there are now traffic lights in Selborne causing huge queues each way with no signs of any workmen. I opened the store and decided that given the rain it made sense to sign in and and do the briefing in the store. A few people had cried off, probably because of the rain, but the turn-out was surprisingly good for mid-week.

Alan was on the dig for the first time this year but everyone else had been here earlier in the week and we set off for the site in the rain. I'm so glad we bought those fairly cheap pop-up gazebos last year because we put the covers on them quickly and were able to work and store our gear under cover. We only put them at half height to stop the rain coming in sideways and covered the windward side of two of the test pits with a windbreak and some tarpaulins.

From about 9.00am the rain hammered down but everyone just cracked on. Here in Test Pit 2 Ann and Pete were having to use a step ladder to get into their excavation:

In Test Pit 3 it was also very cramped and humid, with Liz's team working on discovering the depth of the CBM 'bank' they had started uncovering. Here Liz is trying to put up a parasol to stop water splashing off the side of the gazebo roof onto her head.

Phelim posted on Facebook that he assumed we were rained off today so we quickly disabused him of that notion and everyone grafted away on just these two test pits until and early lunch break.

My phone said on the BBC app that the rain would stop at 3.00pm and on the Met Office app said the front would pass through by 1.00pm. Fortunately the Met Office app was the right one because suddenly the rain stopped and the sky brightened. I went back to the car to change my coat which was soaked through. Juliet and I also went for an explore down the school lane to see where the trackway crossed it, and I called in at Vyne Cottage to ask permission to geophys the adjoining field at the weekend.

After lunch Test Pit 2 was looking like this, with some of the big flints and CBM revealed at below one metre depth:

However, a little while later I was astonished to see it was looking like this:

A whole new layer of CBM and flints was appearing in the 100-110cm layer that appeared to be aligned with the CBM feature in Test Pit 3!

Likewise in Test Pit 3 Alan Carol and Liz were digging downwards to find that the 'ramp' of CBM did extend deeper.

With the rain having stopped and the covers of the gazebos having dried out, we decided to take the covers off and pack them away while still dry. Juliet also decided to further extend Test Pit 4 in the middle of the field and is seen here taking the turf off. Yes Rob, she did take off the smart jacket you gave her before starting to dig so as not to get it dirty.

One bit of good news on my emails was that the local parish magazine, the Squeaker, had kindly put out an enquiry on our behalf about some Polish temporary workers in the 1950s having picked up Samian ware from by a stream on their way to work in strawberry fiends. A family that has lived in Ramsdean for years remembered the strawberry fields and were able to give us a clue as to which field and stream.

I took advantage of the brightening weather to put he drone up, take some paroramas, and then take some shots looking down on the test pits now that the gazebo covers were taken down. Here you can see a bird's eye view of Pete on the left in TP2 and Alan on the right in TP3, and see how the features in both pits appear to be aligned:

This is Carol (left) and Liz (right) working on extending TP4:

This is a slant view of our shelter area in the foreground with TP2 and 3 in the background, with the hazard tape reminding us of the electric fence so we don't trip over it.

And this is another view of TP4 (centre) and TP5 (left) with Juliet at the top of shot and Carol and Liz digging.

The day finished with two more visitors: Jeremy Mitchell and his wife, who I had invited over. Jeremy was instrumental with Ron Allen in asking us to come and explore the village two years ago.

All in all a fascinating day:

  • We have lots of theories about the material in TP2 & 3;

  • TP 2 is now deeper than the stream nearby;

  • I found lots of R-B pottery in the stream near the Seven Stars;

  • We are astonished by the amount of Romano-British building material in the field we are working in and how shallow it is beneath the surface in some places and how deep in others.

Oh, and the sole of one of my leather boots came away from the upper when I was taking them off this evening. I really am not having much luck with my personal kit on this dig.

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