Aspull Ring Feature

Thursday 5th May
Day 8 – 8 volunteers today, joining Bill and Andy were Chris, John S, John N and Steve with Patrick coming later – and in the afternoon Mark arriving with Ian Miller from the GMAAS.
The two Johns were set trowelling Trench 3 ready for photos. Bill had brought his 15m monopod but forgot his phone which he needed to remotely operate his camera perched on the end of it. He struggled for a while with this camera trying to guess the  angle to set it at to get a good result, until Patrick came to the rescue with his camera which did in the end produce a decent photo. In the meantime Chris and Steve were tasked with cleaning Trench 1, having dried out a bit from the previous day, to reveal the bedrock in all its glory. Steve then set about re-wetting the section ready for photos and drawing. Andy was asked to set up the dumpy level and bill showed Steve how to take readings. This was to get relative heights across the site – taking a back site from Peg1, then a front site on Peg 5 (Trench 2) and Peg 7 (Trench 3). Readings were 3.23m, 0.26m and 3.26m respectively.
Andy was then tasked with opening a sondage in Trench 2, in the middle where we expected the ditch, just to make sure the hard clay wasn’t overlying it. About 10cm down he hit a very hard stony layer (presumed to be bedrock), confirming there was no ditch there. Andy then checked the rest of the trench with a 20mm corer which showed bedrock at a constant level all across Trench 2.
With Trench 1 cleaned and re-wetted Steve helped Bill with finishing his drawing of the section. They both then set about drawing Trench 2 that despite showing no ditch, had layers to record i.e. below the topsoil and sub-soil there was another layer of soft sandy clay before hitting the hard clay layer. This we presumed to be the remnants of the central mound (although we did get it on the outer end of the trench as well).
When Ian Miller arrived he was very complimentary on our efforts and was amazed at out result in Trench 1. However he couldn’t offer an explanation, however his colleague Ben Dyson at GMAAS my have a better idea as he was more versed in prehistorian matters.
After Ian had gone we set about digging out the dark brown feature in Trench 3 starting at each end of it. Not far below the surface (about a spades depth) the recognisable stone of the bedrock began to appear, the slope on the outside being steeper than the slope on the inside. Gratifyingly this reflects the shape of the ditch in Trench 2. It was now getting late so, after our best efforts at cleaning up what we’d revealed, we left it there for the time being. However it was clear we had another section of the ditch which was a big relief and renewed our confidence in what we believed to be there. To add to this Andy busied himself with the 20mm corer on the opposite side to Trench 1 along Profile 1.This also seemed to produce a result showing the ditch exist in this area as well. When the three locations for the outer edge of the ditch were plotted a ditch diameter of 43.4m appeared which fits nicely with the geophys result and to a certain extent with the ESRI aerial photo (but not so much with the Google aerial for some reason).

Wednesday 4th May
Day 7 – Despite the rain we had a decent turnout with 6 on site, i.e. Bill, John S, Chris, Bob and new starter Steve Taylor (and Patrick when the rain eased). At least the wet weather had brought out the colours in the ditch section.
Chris and John were tasked with removing the step we’d left in the ditch for access on the NE side, so that the full section could be drawn. This left us relying on the step in the opposite corner which proved a little unreliable. When the removing the step Chris found more charcoal to take a sample of.
The previous day Patrick and Bill had marked out Trench 3 on a line perpendicular to Profile 1 and 25m along it from out first peg (Peg1). When Nick (the farmer) arrived with his machine, we directed him to the starting point which was 25m from Profile 1. Working inwards, he opened our new trench to about 5m down long, down to the subsoil but there was no obvious colour change. We therefore asked him to take it down another 10cm through the subsoil. This produced a light orangie brown soft sandy clay (with stones) changing to a darker brown about 2m in. Was this our ditch? – probing with a steel rod suggested it was. We therefore asked Nick to expand the trench another 2.5m which produced more of the light orangie brown clay about 3m from the edge of the first colour change. We spent the rest of the day cleaning and squaring up the trench so that we could photograph this potentially exciting new find (it was great news after the disappointment of Trench 2).
While we busied ourselves doing that, Chris droned the site and later produced two 3D images which he presented at the Society meeting later that evening.

Low res model showing all 3 trenches:
https://www.mapsmadeeasy.com/maps/public_3D/3c4a677b241741b79d0139c6bcea73cb/

Low res model of Trench 1:
https://www.mapsmadeeasy.com/maps/public_3D/a87ccd48c4e44124a079e1fd021e18de/

Saturday 23rd April
Day 6 – Another good turnout at the weekend with 7 on site – joining Bill were Andy, Bob, Paris, Conor, Ken and Patrick.
Paris and Bob were tasked with trowelling and squaring up the SW end of the trench while Conor and Ken continued to dig the the loose out of the ditch – Conor working on the SW side while Ken concentrated on the bottom of the ditch. When all the loose was removed, the bedrock at the bottom was revealed showing it to be quite flat. When Patrick arrived he took over from Conor cleaning the SW edge of the ditch which was proving difficult as a lot of loose stone was coming out. It was difficult to determine whether this was a crumbling bedrock or backfill in the ditch. When cleaned of the loose clay, it did look like the former but this can only be confirmed by removing it to see what’s underneath. When the ditch was finally cleaned up (leaving a step on the NE side for access) the full extent of the feature could be seen – and it was quite astonishing. A ditch cut through hard clay and bedrock over 3m wide and 1.5m deep using just the tools available at the time represents a huge amount of effort.
When Nick the farmer arrived with his digger, he was directed to the area we had marked out on Thursday. Starting on the inside of the feature he soon had the topsoil off but there was no evidence of a colour change in the subsoil. We therefore asked him to remove the sub-soil to see if we could identify the natural we had seen in Trench 1. This came up just another 15cm or so below the subsoil but no sign of a ditch even when tested with a steel probe. It was decided to extend the trench by 2m on the east side in case we had made an error with our measurements but still no ditch visible in the natural. However, when Andy was asked with squaring up and clean the section at this end of the trench, the depth of subsoil was revealed to be quite deep and probably represents the start of internal mound. Paris and Conor were tasked with cleaning the section of the trench on the west side. This revealed that the light coloured subsoil giving way to a deeper darker brown layer, which may have something to do with the crop mark images we saw on the aerial photos. After we left for the day, Nick extended the trench on the west side by another 2m but reported that there was still no obvious sign of a ditch.
This is certainly a setback and we will now need to look at opening up a third trench, Trench 3 on the southeast site where the resistivity was more positive. Hopefully this will re-establish the ditch and confirm that it really does form a circle as indicated on the aerial photos.

Thursday 21st April
Day 5 – Just 5 today, Chris, Bob, Andy, Bill and Patrick.
Andy was tasked with cleaning and squaring up Sondage 4 while Bob extended Sondage 3 all the way to the end of the trench.
Chris was tasked with chasing down the hard clay on the SW side of the ditch to see if he could confirm the inner edge of the ditch (first identified by Paris on Saturday). To do this he removed the loose stone layer he had previously discovered. His work revealed that this was the inner edge of the ring ditch feature and, as with the outer edge, the side was almost vertical.
In the meantime Bill concentrated on digging out the ditch on the NE side. This revealed more of the bedrock in the wall of the ditch and at the bottom of the ditch, a lot of loose flat stones embedded in light yellowie brown soft clay (the clay was sticky and quite wet).
When Patrick arrived, he took over from Bob extending Sondage 3 and cleaning it out. To convince ourselves that the hard pinkish clay was natural, Andy was tasked with taking Sondage 4 down further. Again this proved to be very difficult and Andy was soon convinced that this layer was the natural.
In the afternoon, Nick the famer together with his wife and daughter, came to visit. We discussed using his machine to do some of the digging. It was decided not to use it in Trench 1 as enough had been already dug out by hand to understand its structure. We therefore talked about another trench, Trench 2, on the other side of the ring feature so that it’s diameter could be determined, Bill said he had already identified a couple of spots, not necessarily diametrically opposite Trench 1 as this might not cross the centre of the feature, but at two locations roughly equally spaced around the circle. The site selected for Trench 2 was for a 8m by 1.5m trench on the west side of the feature in an area where the two crop mark images from the aerial photos coincided (the resistivity in this area though was particularly vague). A third trench, Trench 3, was located on the southeast side of the ring feature so that an accurate value for the diameter of the ring can be obtained. This one may have to be 14m long due to the variations in the crop mark images but it would take in an area of low resistivity shown on the resistivity survey. Andy, Bill and Bob finished the day by marking out the site of Trench 2 ready for Nick to dig with his machine which he said he could do next time we’re out.

Wednesday 20th April
Day 4 – 6 attendees today, Chris, John N, John S, Bob, Bill & Patrick.
Bob was set to cleaning up the SW end of the trench (i.e. Sondage 3) and then widening it to 1m. The rest of the team were tasked with removing the baulk in the ditch area to enable Sondages 2 and 3 to be joined up. Before this however Bill recorded the position of the 3 presumed postholes and a sample of the charcoal taken from the third one. As the baulk was removed it became clear that the so called postholes were in fact one single layer of brown stained sandy clay, containing with flecks of charcoal. This perhaps represents a burning event when the ditch was still open but partially filled. As the fill was taken out of the ditch in the Sondage 2 area the outer bank of the ditch began to be exposed. It consisted of the hard pinkish clay lying on top of stone bedrock. Further down in the trench another brown stain appeared representing an earlier phase in life of the ditch.
On the other side in the Sondage 3 area, a layer of loose of stones  began to immerged, perhaps as a result of a slighting of the central mound. It lay on top of more soft clay fill so certainly not part of the bedrock.
Finally Bob was tasked with opening up a new sondage, Sondage 4, located well inside the ring feature to investigate the stratigraphy in the this area. Bob needed the mini mattock to cut through the hard pinkish clay which lay under the sub-soil (indicated by the blue line).  The clay was very similar to the clay in the Sondage 1 but some doubt was cast on it being natural as black flecks appeared in it which were thought to be charcoal. On closer examination however, these turned out to be small pieces of shale therefore quite likely to be natural.

Saturday 16th April
Day 3 – big turnout today with 10 on site in total. With the usual 4 i.e. Andy, Chris, John S and Bill, we were joined by newcomers Paris Welsh, Conor Grant and Bob Sanders (Patrick, Jim Meehan and Mark Tildesley joined us later).
It was Bob’s first time but he showed great enthusiasm trowelling out Sondage 1 to reveal in some detail a compacted stone surface  (in other circumstances this could have been a nice section of Roman road but there was nothing to suggest this was manmade).Chris and John were tasked with chasing the profile of the cut in Sondage 2 which seemed to get steeper and steeper. At a depth of about a metre a large stone appeared which had black material around it, presumably charcoal. Removing the stone revealed a brown stain with flecks of the charcoal in it suggesting perhaps a post hole. It was decided to take a sample of this black material for later analysis. Paris was tasked with trowel the surface of Sondage 3 and when Patrick arrived the sondage was expanded towards the NE. Pretty soon a stony surface was revealed but it was unclear what this represented – was it a result of a slump of the mound or a deliberately placed kerb around the mound (could even be natural but didn’t feel like it as the stones were loose). As Paris trowelled down towards the centre of the trench a distinctive edge began to appear perhaps indicating the inner edge of the ditch. Further in a darker brown stain began to appear and, as with the stain in Sondage 2, it contained flecks of what appeared to be charcoal (we assumed this was another post hole). When Jim Meehan arrived, Andy showed him how to set up the dumpy level and Mark came, the three were set with the task of surveying the profile of the mound. Using Chris’s 100m tape, readings were taken every 2m from the outside peg towards the centre of the mound for a distance of 60m. This done, a second 60m scan was taken a 90 degrees to the first at 25m along the first scan line (Jim took the readings in his note book).
Finally it was decided to expand Sondage 2 towards the centre of the trench (new recruit Conor provided the muscle for the task).  In the bottom corner another brown stain appeared, again associated with a stone and flecks of charcoal under it (it was assumed to be yet another post hole).
Before we packed up for the day Chris flew over with his drone and later that evening sent an amazing 3D model of the site, which can be view here.

Thursday 14th April
Day 2 – just 5 of us today,  Andy, Chris, John and Bill (with Patrick joining us later).
Chris brought his drone to get a plan of the site.
John was initially tasked with expanding Sondage 1 and then join it up with Sondage 2 following the surface of the compacted clay. This revealed that the sub-soil sandwiched between the plough soil and the compacted clay was uneven (there was even a suggestion that the clay represents a bank outside of the ditch – although the clay layer did not seem to be a manmade deposit). Andy was tasked with opening up another sondage a few metres further towards the SW to see if we could pick up the inner edge of the ditch. There was nothing to indicate where this was on the surface and trowelling down through the sub-soil to reveal any indication of an edge – in fact the sub-soil just kept on going. In the meantime Bill busied himself with setting up a string line so that the section could be drawn. To get the string level he used the dumpy (but this only confirmed that an early attempt by Andy with his line level was correct).
Having finished with drone, Chris started to expand Sondage 2. This was to explore the profile of the newly discovered ditch.  Following the compacted clay, Chris was able to show that the cut was quite steep and when the section was clean a re-cut was revealed (showing that there was at least one multiple phase to the feature.
The day ended a little early due to an unfortunate incident when the gate to the next field was left open.  This allowed half a dozen excited horse into our field and a farcical attempt by us to try to them round up and get them back into the other field. When this failed we had the embarrassment of having to ask the stable girls to do it for us.

Wednesday 13th April
Day 1 – start of the excavation proper. 7 attendees altogether, Ken Scally, Chris Drabble, John Smalley, John Needles, Andy Wilcock and Bill (Patrick arrived later in the morning).
All joined in with the trowelling and soon a distinct change of colour began to appear in the NE end of the trench. Further trowelling revealed the exact change point represented by a line across the trench about 3m from the NE end where the colour changed from a light orangie brown to a dark orangie brown (as previously detected in the test pits). The only other feature to be detected was a series of dark parallel lines running W to E which were probably the result of deep ploughing. It was decided to put in two sondages (a sondage is a small trench to help clarify stratigraphic sequences but carrying out the main excavation). The first was in the N corner of the NE end which deemed to be outside the ditch. This was to establish the nature of the subsoil in this area. This turned out to be a thick layer of firm pinkish coloured clay lying on top of a surface of compacted stones both of which we assumed to be the natural substrate. The second sondage was positioned on the line of the colour change on the NW side of the trench to see what was causing the colour change. The thick layer of pinkish layer of pinkish clay again appeared in the section but this time it dipped down towards the SW. This seemed to represent a cut in the clay, filled with dark brown sandy clay (the cut is marked with a blue line in the photo as it doesn’t show up well in the photo).
This was quite exciting as it’s our first clear evidence of the ditch we are looking for.

Monday 11th April
On site (Bill, Patrick and Chris Drabble) – met with the famer to watch him remove the topsoil after having marked out the 2.2m x 11m trench. This was done skilfully and just enough to show signs of the subsoil coming through (it didn’t take more than half an hour).

Thursday 24th March
Today we made a short site visit (Bill, Andy and Patrick) to mark out the suggested Phase 1 Trench location. Two Pegs were installed at the corners of the SE side of the Trench and two test pits were dug no bigger than 30cm x 30cm  to see how deep the topsoil was at each location. This turned out to be between 25and 28cm. The change in colouration of the sub-soil was also very encouraging as the sample from the internal position was much darker.

Later we spoke to Nick the farmer about the possibility of using a machine to remove the topsoil.


Introduction
We first became aware of this feature when Steven Twigg (formally of STAG – South Trafford Archaeology Group) contacted us with an aerial image in 2019. The crop mark shows up quite clearly as a dark green circle and seems to represent a circular ditch around 40m in diameter. Viewing various other aerial images spanning a number of years confirmed the mark to be more than just a temporary agricultural feature.The size of the circle would suggest something prehistoric and probably older than Iron Age as it is certainly bigger than a roundhouse. The LiDAR image however revealed the site to have a shallow mound in the centre. This would suggest a Bronze Age barrow (similar sized ones can be seen at Normanton Down in Wiltshire). Its central mound and continuous surrounding ditch would suggest a Type 2 Bowl Barrow as classified by Historic England. (ref)

Other features are also noted on the LiDAR image.  About 230m to the south on the other side of the road leading to Gorses Farm, another circular mound can be seen. This is quite visible on the ground, but its size would suggest that it’s a natural feature probably a product of glacial activity. A linear feature runs for 370m (or perhaps more) diagonally to the northwest just 50m north of the ring ditch feature. This feature seems to relate to an old field boundary which is shown on early maps.

The site lies in an open field which gently slopes towards the east. From the site, there are extensive views over the fields towards Bolton to the east (its football stadium can be seen in the distance lying at the foot of Winter Hill). In the middle distance, Borsdane Brook runs from north forming the boundary of the Wigan Metro Borough.

On our first site visit, we were able to talk to the landowner who showed great interest and allowed us to wander over the field. We attempted drone imaging, but this failed to detect anything. However, the shallow mound was just about discernible on the ground.

In May 2021 Chris Drabble carried out a comprehensive aerial drone survey. This revealed a dry central circular area 23m diameter rising to a height of 1.4m and surrounded by a further damper area 6.5m wide. This seemed to confirm that the feature is man-made (Drabble, 2021).

In the Autumn of 2021, we carried out a resistivity survey of the site with very encouraging results as reported in our October Newsletter (No.246). Our two scans covered an area 50m x 46m and revealed the existence of below-ground archaeology in the form of a huge circular feature with central targets and possible outer bank in the southwest corner.

The next step would be to carry out some form of excavation but first we needed a Project Plan to know how this will be undertaken by setting out our aims and objectives and formulating a methodology. It is envisaged that excavations would be carried out in phases, the first phase being an exploratory trial trench (no more than 2m x 11m) across a section of the circular feature. The suggested position would cover a rare area where both crop marks from Google Earth and ESRI more or less coincide with the result from our resistivity survey.

 

Aspull DMV Survey

In February 2020 our attention was drawn to crop marks appearing on earlier versions Google Earth in a field in Aspull. They only appear in 2012 and 2013 but as they span over 12 months it suggests they are likely to represented something more than just agricultural activity.   What is interesting about the rectilinear shapes of the crop marks is that they have all the hallmarks of a DMV (i.e. a Deserted Medieval Village). A circular feature on the left side of the field could be even be prehistoric. DMV sites can be found all over the country although few occur in the northwest (the nearest examples is perhaps at Tatton Park in Cheshire). Their dates can range across the whole of the early Medieval period although they are usually the result of either the plague or clearance by the lord of the manor to create a park (as was the case at Tatton).

The field lies on the east side of Haigh Road and is bordered on east and north side by and on old railway line which originally led from Wall hey Pit to Heath Field Cannel Pit on the north east corner of the field. The old maps show an old field boundary cutting across the bottom corner of the field but apart from that, nothing else can be seen (the old boundary is also the only thing to show up on LiDAR). Later aerial images on Google Earth also fail to show anything but a Bing Maps image (not sure from what date) does show the field to have a typical herringbone pattern of field drains. Historically there isn’t a lot recorded about Medieval activity in the Aspull area. However there are a few moated sites within a mile or two radius that date from this period – Moat House Farm lies in the grounds of Haigh Hall just north of Copperas Lane – Gidlow Hall which still has its water-filled moat, lies to the south of Dicconson Lane and finally Lower Highfield (now known as Manor House Farm) lies just opposite Duke’s Row on Wigan Lane. Interestingly though Higher Highfield Farm, which dates to the early 18th century, lies just to the south of the field we are investigating. Also an earlier Higher Highfield House is marked on the 1849 OS map – could this have been another Medieval manor house?

Although not much to show historically in this area from the Medieval Period, the crop marks were interesting enough to warrant further investigation. This we could do with a resistivity survey and as the field was only being used for pasture we were confident a date for this could easily be arranged – but then of course the pandemic struck and it is only now, twelve months later, that we’ve been be able to progress this. Luckily we discovered that the field is owned by the farmer at Toddingtons who quite generously allowed us to excavate recently in his fields to the north of the farm (i.e. Mrs Pendlebury’s Milestone and the Well Site on Toddington Lane). The first thing to do though was to create a drawing from the maps and aerial photos so that an area to investigate could be selected that would hopefully identify significant features.As can been seen from this drawing some of the horizontal linear features seem to line up with the field drains detected on the Bing aerial photo. We located our initial scans however, over areas that would hopefully capture some of the sub-rectangular features not related to the field drains and also one of the strong linear features that runs parallel with the Haigh Road.

First Survey Day (Friday 7th May 2021)
We picked a good day for the survey, managing to avoid the hail and thunderstorms which seem to be quite prevalent this month. Our small party of volunteers (due to the current Covid restrictions only six allowed) gathered in the morning at Toddingtons for a site briefing before making our way into the field which was only a short distance away (beside myself attendees included Jim Meehan, Chris Drabble, Christine Barbour-Moore, Dave North and John Smalley). Everybody agreed it was great to be out in the field again and were looking forward to see what we could discover. As usual some time was taken setting up of the survey areas. This was made easier, however, by Patrick and I having set  base line on a previous visit  5 metres offset from the southern fence line. Our first 25 metre x 50 metre scan area was located 25 metres from this into the field and 65 metres southeast of the current fence line running down the centre of the field. Our second scan area was located another 25 metres further into the field but offset 25 metres to the northwest hopefully to catch one of the strong vertical features running parallel with Haigh Road (mentioned earlier).

By mid-afternoon we had completed our second scan (by this time Patrick had joined us and Christine had left thus maintaining or contingent of six). The results however, when loaded onto the computer, were disappointing. The herringbone pattern of the field drainage system was quite clearly revealed suggesting that, as we suspected, this was the cause of most of the linear features. The only other major feature we detected was the old field boundary although it was showing as high resistance suggesting  compacted bank rather than a ditch or perhaps even a stone wall. There are some unexplained features including high resistance at the bottom edge of the scan and with the farmers permission it maybe worthwhile putting in a test pit or two to investigate these. However I think we can forget about the idea that this was once the site of a DMV. We also have the ring feature on the was side of the field which will require another site visit in the near future.

Second Survey Day (Wednesday 26th May 2021)
Anther good turnout albeit with a slightly different crew (this time , I had Andy Wilcock, John Needle and new member Kadie Gray joining me together with Chris Drabble and Patrick). Our target this time was the ring feature in the south west corner of the field. The problem presenting itself though was that it straddled the current fence line. Our strategy therefore was to do two separate scans on either side of the fence line. For ease of marking out we also decided to use the fence line a the base line (although not a permanent feature, it does appear on current maps so scan locations can be easily transferred on our layout drawing).

When doing resistivity scans various things can impede your progress – at Burscough it was stalks tangling the wire, at Blackrod it was cow muck. Here it was the mud – horses had churned up the ground and just walking across the field was a task in itself. Resistivity can be quite frustrating, more often than not we fail to detect anything of significance – we keep going though because occasionally we hit the jackpot like the spectacular results at Burscough. Unfortunately that was not the case on this occasion. We did manage to pick up more of the herringbone pattern of the field drain system we had previously discovered but nothing at all of the ring feature showing from the crop marks (maybe the ground was just too wet to detect the ephemeral features we were looking for).

On both scans we’ve managed to pick up a high reading along the bottom edge but they are big – if not a track, most likely will be natural. We didn’t have time for test pitting on the features revealed from our first trip but we did have time for a quick coring exercise which we did across the major high res feature from our first trip. This revealed sandy stone material at a depth of about half a metre. Our enthusiastic team also managed tiny test pit on the same feature but failed to produced any evidence of man-made activity. This seemed to confirm that this prominent high res anomalies is most likely to be natural.

Ah well at least we tried (it maybe worth a test pit or too across the new anomalies but I suspect we’ll get the same result).

Douglas River Source Trip

As part of the Douglas River Project, last month Eric and I met at Rivington Barn for a trip onto Rivington moor. This was to see if we could trace the route of the River on the moor and perhaps find its source (clues where to look are in the name i.e. Douglas Springs). Having climbed up through the terraces of Lord Leverhulme’s Japanese garden onto Belmont Road, we soon had our first encounter with the River – little more than a stream at this point, it passes through a culvert under the road at a place called Brown Hill. As you can see, I had brought the drone and was determined to use it despite the gusting wind conditions (the light wasn’t the best but the results were good enough for our purposes). From here the River winds its way down the hillside towards Horwich, passing under Rivington Lane at Jespon’s Bridge, then crossing in front of the Lower Reservoir before passing under Bolton Road on its way towards Anderton and Adlington.  Looking the other way, the River can be clearly seen snaking its way up the hillside (the one on the right in the photo below) with the Pike summit in the distance on the left. Our next stop was the boundary stone, just a hundred metres or so further along Belmont Road. It marks the boundary between the metro boroughs of West Lancashire and Greater Manchester. Following the dry stone wall the boundary continues all the way up to the TV mast (up till this point the boundary had been following the River). As we cross into Bolton, the road changes its name to Georges’s Lane and just another hundred metres along is Sportsman’s Cottage, which is now a boarding kennels and small gift shop. Just beside it is the path which takes us onto the moor. The view at the rear of the Cottage shows a well manicured garden, deceptively making you forget you’re on the high moor. The path past the Cottage leads to our next stop i.e. the Two Lads hill and its cairns. There are actually three cairns, the first is a well built and well maintained structure but the other two are basically just piles of stones. However looking more closely, beneath the rubble, circular structure can be detected under the rubble. Many myths seems to be associated with these cairns and there has been periods of collapse and rebuilding have been recorded but I don’t think anybody really knows their origin. Chorley Archaeology Society showed some interest in the 1950’s and carried out some ‘excavations’ there. In his diary published on their website, John Winstanley claims to have found amongst other things Roman artefacts i.e. pottery and glass (a word with  his companion at the time, the venerable Jack Smith, may shed more light on this).

From Two Lads we made our way up towards the Winter Hill TV mast which was quite easy once we located the single track road leading to it. Once there, we noted the Manx Memorial to the air disaster in 1958 when thirty five people lost their lives And also beneath the mast guy ropes, Scotchman’s Stump, a memorial to George Henderson, the Scottish merchant who was shot dead on the moor in 1838. Wandering around the back of the TV station we came across a concrete culvert carrying the track over what we perceived to be the early vestiges of the River. Just a few metres further north from here, Eric point out what he deduced to be the actual source, a spring (or at least one of them, we assumed it to be the highest). It was getting late and feeling we had achieved our goal, we started to make our way back down the hill, looking for the track that would lead us back to the Pike (other sites such as the Winter Hill Cairn and Noon Hill would have to wait for another day). However this is where we came unstuck, marshy ground hidden between the grassy tufts proved our undoing and both at one point time or another ending up on our backsides, knee deep in the bog. We did eventually find the track we were looking for but not before stumbling on strange linear features of light coloured vegetation and mounds of earth (surely not undocumented tumuli). On closer inspection they turned out to be constructed of pit soil and the rubble from brick and stone buildings. This was clear evidence of mining activity in this area. Researching later on the 1849 OS map, we could see there has been extensive coal mining on the moor but this seemed to be confined to the area to the east of the county boundary. Wildersmoor Colliery is marked as having pit shafts either side of the road leading up to the top of Winter Hill and Holders Colliery is shown further east but nothing is shown in the area we were at. Having found the track we quickly made are way back off the moor towards the Pike and eventually came across our last encounter with the River, i.e. footbridge leading us to the back of the Pike. Here I decided to have another go with the drone but this time the wind was too strong and soon realising its limitations, I returned it to base before I lost control of it altogether.
It was time to pack up and head off home, this time following the track round the back of the Pike. It had been quite a successful day and Eric and I thoroughly enjoyed it (despite the mud). The intention is to return perhaps with better weather conditions to get some good drone shots and also visit the sites we missed (i.e. Winter Hill Cairn and Noon Hill). The sites we did visit are indicated with orange stars on the map below.
For more information about the mining activity on Winter Hill Dave Lane’s website gives a fascinating insight into an industry that was still active as late as the 1960s

Roman Road Research Online

Lockdown has given me the opportunity to catch up with all the research we have carried out over years on the Roman roads in our area. Our investigations go back to the earliest days of the Society – we made our first foray into the field as early as 1985. However our researches began even earlier when, in 1983, we produced our first report on the road leading north out of Wigan. You can now see all this work here  .Also

Wigan to Walton-le-Dale
Wigan to Warrington
Wigan to Manchester
Wigan to Burscough
Wigan to Ribchester

St Wilfrid’s Ledger Stones Survey

Following on from our Graffiti Survey last year in the Parish Church at Standish, it has been our intention to record the grave slabs (ledger stones) inside the church. These were exposed when the carpets were removed last year. These ledger stones have not seen the light of day in a good many years and we thought it would be a shame for them disappear again without being properly recorded. You can follow our progress here.

GM Festival of Archaeology 2019 (Toddington Lane Well Site)

Another great festival weekend with eleven bodies on our site at Toddingtons on Saturday and a further nine on Sunday – including a total of seven members of the general public. We also had a good number of visitors stopping by over the two days inquiring about our activity on our Well Site, which is on the west side of Toddington Lane at Haigh. 
We were looking for the old well marked on the 1849 OS but not on any later maps, and also evidence of the possible Roman road linking Wigan with Ribchester. You can follow our activities on our site diary here.

Eye in the Sky

We bought our new drone in October last year after being inspired by our unusually dry summer. It was obviously too late for us to take advantage of those conditions but we have found plenty of opportunities to try out our new toy. This last week has been no exception – with the unusually warm and sunny weather for this time of year, we took advantage of the ideal conditions to visit sites north of Coppull at :-
Row High Wood and
Charnock Richard where the line of the Roman road extends towards Euxton – also
Pingot Valley where 4 years ago we looked for remains of The Arches viaduct, and
Dean Lock a new site for us on the Douglas Navigation where the remains of a river lock may have survived.