Unprecedented meteorological conditions for the first day of the dig today. Yes, it was hot and sunny, but we were expecting that. After all, this is what the weather forecast has been saying for several days now. It was also almost completely still. I don’t think I have ever been on the top of New Laund Hill before without a wind blowing somewhere between ‘very fresh’ to ‘absolute howling gale’ but today there was barely a breath to stir the leaves.
Everyone hard at work taking the first of the turves off what will become trench H. This is the area to the north of last year’s trench D. So we are expecting to find more of the inner timber circle at the centre of the enclosure here. We are opening up one area at a time this week so as to share out the misery of de-turfing.
By dinnertime we had the whole of trench H clear of grass. As last year it has all been laid out on transparent tarpaulins to keep it as healthy as possible and to allow it to be replaced in four weeks time. Unlike last year it will have to be watered to keep it alive.
This left us free to move on to trench J, which runs off the south side of the hill and should cover the main enclosure ditch as it heads around the slope. For the moment we have kept this to a 1 metre wide exploratory cutting. When/if we find the ditch we may make it wider. Karl, James and I had a big struggle this morning to get this surveyed in before we could start de-turfing. All the known points we used last week to set out trench H were beyond the range of the total station in the heat haze. John had a simple solution, get up earlier in the morning. However, unlike hill farmers, there is only one six o’clock in our day, so we had to be content with using the fixed points from trench H instead.
Karl’s tree provides the only shade on the hill for Gwen, Irene and Barbara. By afternoon teabreak we were able to start digging in both trench H and trench J. We are already getting some interesting finds. In the topsoil layers on both trenches there are worked chert tools and waste, including a lovely little blade from the north end of trench J. There are also some very small fragments of burnt bone from trench H, which may mean we have more bits of the disturbed cremation burial we found in trench D last year.
Wildlife of the day? Tempting to say gilla monsters or fennec foxes but actually nothing more exciting than buzzards soaring on the thermals above the road through Whitewell.