This morning was very drizzly again so we had a doughnut break and a last look at the site before we started. Trench D only required a few more measurements on drawings and a soil sample column down into the fill of the curved ditch. This should allow us to look at preserved pollen and microscopic charcoal to see what was growing in the surrounding landscape over time. We have also taken bulk soil samples from the lower fills of all the features. These will be passed through a range of very fine sieves to look for a range of microscopic evidence.
On site C, across the main enclosure ditch, we had slightly more to finish off but even here we were able to complete all the sampling by about 11.00. When this photo was taken we had completed everything but another soil sample column down into the ditch fills.
At this point we were facing up to the likelihood that there would be no tractor free to help us with the backfilling until tomorrow morning. We knew that in that case we would have to make sure we had done as much as possible beforehand to have a good chance of finishing everything on time. I didn’t take any photos of the process of backfilling by hand using shovels in the pouring rain; that is a story for which the world is not yet prepared.
However, by dinner-time, we had managed to shift about half of the 32 grab-bags around trench D. A great effort but still a bit dispiriting knowing there were another 43 perched around the edge of Trench C. At this point John appeared on a quad-bike to say that the rain had stopped them gathering up the grass and he could spare us a tractor for the afternoon. If you heard a sudden and loud noise around 12.45 today, that was us cheering at this news.
Wildlife of the day. Karl doing his renowned impersonation of a leopard lurking in an acacia tree, if leopards wore red caguoles, while waiting for the tractor.
The cavalry arrive. What’s better than one tractor? Not only did we get John with the fork-lift spikes on the front of his tractor but Woody with a full fork-lift on the back of his. John set to work on the rest of the bags around trench D. While Woody came over to trench C to start on the ones there.
This shows how I hoped the whole backfilling process would work using the grab-bags. Woody has hoisted a bag above the east end of trench C. I have just slashed through the base of the bag with a knife, ‘nil deposit no refund’ as it says on each bag, and the spoil poured out into approximately the right part of the trench straight away.
Of course it didn’t always go quite so smoothly. Sometimes the spoil needed to be shoveled around a bit to level it up. We also had a spate of bags towards the end of the day where one or more of the fork-lift loops snapped while they were being handled. Mostly we rescued these but we do have a little bit of tidying up to do in one or two places. Still, by 5.00 tonight all the spoil was back in the trenches. This method was also very much cleaner, especially in the wet, than a traditional spoil heap would have been. This is very important as we have worked hard to avoid damaging the species rich grassland of New Laund Hill throughout the excavation.
Tomorrow we need to complete the job by getting all the turf back onto the trenches and then we will have to clean and pack all the tools so they can go to Wales with Vicki on Saturday.