Day 1 - Windy with lots of brick
Updated: Mar 8
The official first dig day of STR819 today and it was with a sigh of relief that I drove up the Farm's driveway and saw that all of our tents appeared to be intact and in the same place despite the gale-force winds last night. We had a really good turn-out today so once everyone had parked up we walked through the sheep field to the marquee and had a quick hot drink and then the morning brief.
The task list was simple: Mark was going to head over to the paddock next to the Seven Stars with his bladed strimmer to chop back some of the undergrowth for a test pit; everyone else (apart from David Pink in the Finds Tent) was going to carry on with Trench A.
For some reason the ladies had a real thing about portaloos today. First they were not happy about how theirs was swaying, so Mark kindly strapped it down. Then, despite Juliet having decided yesterday that they would have the one on the left (despite my motto that women are always right) they changed their minds and opted for the one on the right after all. Fortunately I had not stuck on the newly prepared signage.
I checked all the tent pegs (some of which had been pulled out by the gusts) and the guy ropes. In Trench A there was a bit of finishing off to do with the top layer. Compared with Colemore this soil is so much easier to dig and the overnight rain had helped soften it some more without making it muddy. Everywhere you could see lots of pieces of brick and tile sticking up. We don't know the last time this field was ploughed but the signs are it was a very long time ago, if ever.
Here Sue and Hannah are going over the spoil heap looking for any pieces we might have missed.
Because of the number of diggers we had, Juliet decided to open a second trench over a feature seen on the geophys, square this time and a bit closer towards the water trough, called Trench B which was opened up by Carl's team.
After morning tea break Juliet asked me to give a background site brief to those who had not been to Stroud before and just as I was finishing Oliver Howe, the Farm Manager, kindly came in to see how we were getting on. We showed him the trenches and all the building material we had found and I think he was quite surprised. He asked if it looked to us like a road surface and we said we thought not. The CBM is a bit of a puzzle still at the moment because we don't know yet whether it is in situ demolition rubble or perhaps where the material from the 1906 villa excavation was dumped. The latter is possible but would be surprising because of the distance from the villa and the fact that it is on the opposite side of the stream. The only way to find out is to dig through and see what we find underneath.
As the diggers were finishing off the first levelling off of Trench A seen above, Mark and I went over to the paddock next to the Seven Stars. While Mark was busy strimming I wandered over to the stream and found that despite the rain it only had an inch or two of water in it, so I climbed down into the stream bed and found some more pieces of pottery and tile as we had done last year. This is upstream from the villa so the pottery and tile cannot have washed down from the villa site. We got back to the main dig site just in time for lunch.
When I called in to see how David Pink was doing, I found him literally surrounded by buckets and trays of CBM which he was busily sorting by size, weighing and recording before re-depositing. He told me that there have been a very few pottery, glass and metal finds but the vast majority of finds is CBM.
In Trench A Liz got her team to work levelling off and then trowelling back context 1001.
Liz looking serious as she got on with doing her supervisor's paperwork:
Carl looking equally serious over at Trench B with his team:
At this point I nearly forgot to mention that today we were treated to no less than 4 cakes! Carl had even baked 2 because he knows Juliet does not like honey so he made a second version with maple syrup. Thanks everyone for the lovely cakes. We were saying that we ought to hold a baking competition. Anyway, here is Carl's team making good progress in Trench B.
We worked right through until 4.30pm by which time a light drizzle had started again - which from our point of view is welcome because it will soften the soil for tomorrow. The weather forecast is looking much better and despite some sore knees, backs and wrists everyone was looking very cheerful at the end of the day. So far it seems to me to have been a very good-humoured and enjoyable dig.
I must try not to forget to take the radios with me again tomorrow. They are quite useful when you have people working in different fields. And Paul Kennedy emailed me to say he is going to try to borrow one of the super-accurate GPS units from his office - the perk of having a surveyor as a member of LA - so that we can get a more accurate fix on our baseline end points. They have an accuracy of 1-2cm - very useful when you are so far away from the benchmarks on the Winchester Road.