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  • David Quick

CM519 - Setup day

Updated: Aug 21, 2021

There was quite a crowd of us at our equipment store in West Liss at 0830 this morning. Thankfully Rob had managed to borrow a large van from work because we don't have Mark and his van on this dig I shinned up the ladders and passed down everything we needed to take with us as the rest of the team loaded up Rob's van, Arthur's trailer and then our own cars. It had really helped speed things up by having taken and set up the Stores and Fines tents yesterday.

By 0915 we were fully loaded, or so I thought - we later found that we had missed the kneelers and the finds display cases, which I will probably go back for tomorrow. I texted Juliet to say we were on our way and we all disappeared down the A3 towards Colemore.

As we got to the field we saw that Juliet and Carl were well under way in measuring out and marking with string the positions of the trenches and test pits. We offloaded our vehicles just as all the other volunteer helpers arrived - and thank you all, there were a lot of you.

While Soo sorted out the Finds Tent and Chris and Jane the Store Tent contents, the rest of us got on with erecting the marquee - and very efficient it was too. It was the first time in my memory that we put it up without then realising we had missed some critical step.

Once we had the roof framework assembled, those smaller and more agile than me crawled underneath and attached the roof covering to the frame with the usual bungees as seen here.

Meanwhile Arthur is seen here assembling the frames for the sieves we use for the spoli from the trenches.

The other crucial piece of equipment is seen below: the hot water urn, powered by our generator. It had a big build-up of scale inside from the local hard water, so Chris and Jane were descaling it so we could have a brew.

With the roof attached to the frame, seen here, we were soon able to fit the uprights, slot them into the marquee's base and start attaching the side panels.

In the Finds Tent Soo was doing some final preparation for the dig's start tomorrow and Carl was looking at the geophys plots on our laptop to determine the measurements for trench positions on the south side of the pond.

With the marquee assembled, our only other concern was that the Met Office is forecasting Storm HANNAH hitting the UK tomorrow with winds in some areas reaching 75-80mph, so the final stage was fitting the orange tension straps seen in this photo to the frame and some very large metal stakes, to make the marquee properly secure.

By this time Juliet, Carl and Robin in his mini-digger were making good progress with taking off the turf and ploughsoil layer for our trenches and test pits. While some of our volunteers had a brew and started lunch, despite the strong wind I took advantage of the bright conditions to put the drone up and get some aerial photos.

This view is looking north, with the pond in the trees in the foreground. Juliet is in red next to Robin in his mini-digger, working on a test pit with one of the five planned in that area still to dig.

Meanwhile in this view looking south Carl and the measuring team can be seen using tape measures to establish the planned positions of the trenches to the south of the pond. The large bare patch on the left of view is Trench W from last year in which we found a new R-B floor surface in the spring, with a trench either side of it in which we found more of the building in the autumn including rows of postholes.

As usual our site is tucked away in the south-west corner of the field, which gives us some shelter on windy days.

It was generally sunny and sheltered from the wind between the marquee and the fence, so everyone can be seen sitting outside while having their lunch.

Here you can see me on the left flying the drone while Barry is wearing DJI Goggles which give him a high-definition view of what the drone's camera is seeing. You can steer the drone's camera by turning your head, but this tends to induce motion sickness is some people!

This is what Barry was seeing. The drone is at 400 feet altitude looking due south and the east-west road between Four Marks and Petersfield runs horizontally through the view. You can actually see as far as the Isle of Wight.

This is a view looking roughly east, with the Field Farm Project and the White House in the cluster of buildings in the centre of shot. Lots of newborn lambs in the foreground.

And this is looking vertically downwards over the pond, with Robin's digger working on a square test pit just to the north.

Carl and the measuring team at work with their tapes and trench plots.

After lunch the main site had been finished and all gear stowed. The forecast was for rain at 1400, so the team got on with stacking the turf and fencing off the excavations north of the pond while the mini-digger started south of the pond.

I am not sure what Juliet has decided for trench and test pit names yet, but what is planned is:

  • 3 trenches (10 x 1m) north of the pond;

  • 2 test pits (2 x 2m) north of the pond;

  • 4 trenches (8 x 2m) south of the pond.

All of these have been sited on features noted on geophysics plots, some of them on features such as Iron Age ditches that we have found elsewhere on site. Juliet pointed out to me the different soil colour in the topsoil of one of the trenches where there was a ditch, and where she had already noticed the rim of a R-B jar and a large iron nail just below the turf layer.

Emma, the tenant farmer, kindly called in on site to check on her sheep and make sure they were not causing us any problems - which they are not, although they seemed interested in one of our test pits when we had fenced it off.

I fitted our hose connector to the field's water supply and filled up the big water containers for finds washing and hand washing. You begin to realise just how accurate local weather forecasts can be nowadays because as predicted the heavens opened and we had a brief downpour at 1400. I didn't have waterproofs on and got a bit wet. After the shower had passed we put the generator and urn on again for a brew and I updated the whiteboard in the marquee ready for tomorrow with details of supervisors, first aiders, etc. Then everyone was back out in the field to finish off stacking the turf and erecting the mesh fencing again. Because of the number of fences we actually ran out of fencing and the road irons to support them. As we were doing this task, Barry was going over the spoil heaps with his metal detector.

As Robin finished off removing the turf and ploughsoil from the last of the trenches we decided that we had done enough for one day. It was 1615, a bit cold and everyone had worked incredibly hard. It will be good to make a start tomorrow on tidying the trench edges. Meanwhile the very best of luck to Carl for Sunday - he is running for charity in the London Marathon - and best wishes to Dave Butcher in hospital for a speedy recovery.

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