Tool time

This week we have been planning for the short season of fieldwork we plan to do in April on Fairy Holes cave.The aim is to dig the platform outside the three entrances, re-dig the areas that were dug in the 1940s and produce new plans and sections of the cave. We will also be sampling the deposits in the surviving sections inside the cave for Martina’s pollen work.

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We won’t actually start digging until the 15th April. This sounds like a good long time, especially as spring is conspicuous by its absence just at the minute. However, I’m starting to wake up to the fact that it is only really just over three weeks away. It is time to stop thinking in general terms about what the archaeology might tell us and to start working out if we have enough buckets and 6H pencils in the stores.

We don’t of course. One thing I have been doing this week is compiling lists of  equipment we really could do with for the project.  This means that I get to spend valuable time on tool store websites. Like many archaeologists I am a sucker for this kind of thing. My favourite shop in the whole world is probably Berry’s in Leyland, the monster independent builder’s merchant (famous over almost the whole of West Lancs). Any day when I get to walk up to the trade counter in Berry’s in my hi-vis coat and boots and with an order number in my hand is a good day in my book.

This week I have bought: a three pack of clear tarpaulins and lots of nylon rope (this is to make the shelters outside the caves that will keep the project running if the weather goes bad on us); 12 new hard hats with eye shields (you can’t dig in caves without helmets and integral eye shields means there is no excuse for forgetting your goggles when you pick a hammer up); 12 new sets of gel knee pads (much more use, at least in caves, than the garden kneelers preferred by lots of archaeologists) and 30 one tonne grab bags (these are the kind with the fork-lift loops that we use to contain the spoil from the excavations, we used them a lot last summer and they work a treat for confined spaces and awkward terrain)

The next thing on my wish-list is portable rechargeable floodlights. When I did lots of (relatively) deep cave excavation on sites like Hoyle’s Mouth and Pontnewydd in Wales we used 240 volt floodlighting and a portable generator set. These gave a fantastic light but took about an hour a day to set up and take down. At Goldsland we were never really out of the daylight zone and made do with giant ‘Clulite’ torches. These were basically a motorbike battery with a headlight fastened on the front. They are rechargeable, waterproof and very rugged but they don’t give the spread of light you get from a floodlight. Now I’m off to poke about on the internet for some monstrous hybrid device that combines the best of both worlds.

Rick

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