Aspull Ring Ditch Site Diary

Wednesday 29th June
Day 23 – After a long spell of dry weather, looks like the rain is back in earnest. Today’s intrepid crew joining Bill and Patrick included Chris, John N and Peter.  The strip trench in Trench 5 is not wide enough to be certain what we have so Peter and John were tasked with making it much wider.  Bill examined the lip of stones uncovered last week but wasn’t convinced it was the edge of the ditch. He also noticed there was a layer of sub-soil inside the running about a metre from the ‘lip’ towards the centre but not on the other side of it. Once the trench had been widened and trowelled,  sub-soil began to appear further away from the ‘lip’. It seems there’s a wide 2m band where there isn’t any sub-soil. More trowelling needed before any we can draw any conclusion as to what this means.
The wet weather has certainly improved the look of the ditch in the other trenches, particularly the flag floor in Trench 4.
The section has also benefitted from the damp, showing up layers in the fill – but a downpour curtailed our session before Bill could get around to recording it.
Chris was showing off his new drone (his old one apparently was losing operating it’s range). His latest 3D model of Trench 4 is available here and his overall model of the site here. Recent drone views have shown up, what appears to be evidence of ancient ‘ridge and furrow’ ploughing running north south (how ancient is uncertain). However looking at the section we recoded in Trench 2, it looks like we may have identified the ‘furrow’ as a dip in the sub-soil.

Thursday 23th June
Day 22 – Today’s work proved to be a bit of a disappointment. Trench 5 did not shown the expected colour change. We may not be deep enough – but it’s starting to look ominously like Trench 2 all over again. John S uncovered a lip of stones about where we expected the edge of the ditch to be, but confusingly there’s another lip of stones about a metre further in.
The coring was also less productive than we expected. The corer went pretty deep everywhere it was tried. There were subtle differences in the feel of the ground as the corer went through, but nothing certain. The best guess is that the terminus must be right up to the edge of Trench 2, and that the ditch may flare out as it approaches it. Obviously more work to be done, possibly opening up a large area between Trenches 2 and 4 chasing the colour change until it disappears.

Wednesday 22th June
Day 21 – Good turn out, joining Bill and Patrick were John S, John N, Chris and Steve (with Martin Trumble late in the afternoon). The day before Patrick had managed to get hold of Nick the farmer and had opened up the Trench 5 using the pegs put in on Monday as a guide. Chris, John N and Bill set about trowelling a half metre strip on the northeast side looking for the tell-tale colour change. By late afternoon the strip was complete but disappointingly no sign of the colour change (maybe we’re still in the subsoil but even the subsoil in Trench 1 had a colour change).
In Trench 4, John S and Steve completed the cleaning of the floor of the ditch, showing it to be 3 metres wide (which is wider than Trench 3 but but similar to Trench 1). Before taking a photo Bill tried wetting the surface of the section but this failed to show up the subtle colour changes which were certainly there (both John and Steve reported on a layer of sticky clay lying on part of the bedrock floor suggesting a pooling of water when the ditch was open).
Trench 4 is only 11 metres from Trench 2 where there was no evidence of a ditch. Some dramatic change must therefore take place somewhere in the space between. It was decided a campaign of coring with the 20mm corer might detect where this might be, so a radial line at 20m meters from the supposed centre was marked out between Trench 4 and Trench 2. Bill tested the technique with a number of cores in areas where we already knew the result, showing a successful outcome was possible.

Monday 20th June
Day 20 – Bill, back from his hols, joined Patrick for an assessment of the progress. The rubble area outside the ditch in Trench 3 is dividing opinion – is it natural or manmade. What appears to be a clean edge has emerged beyond which is most definitely bedrock – maybe too sharp to be manmade and below it there seems to be more rubble. The opinion of a geologist is obviously needed here.
The full width of Trench 4, now fully exposed, shows it to be just over 4 metres wide, which is wider than both Trench 3  and Trench 1. The floor has not yet been fully exposed but appears to be quite flat bedrock. Bill took the opportunity to start recording the section profile of both trenches  (it was particularly noticeable that there appeared to be no subsoil outside the ditches of both trenches).
The lack of a ditch in Trench 2 was still puzzling. A new trench, Trench 5, was therefore marked out diametrally opposite to Trench 3. Pegs were put in along Profile 2 at 15 and 23 metres from Profile 1  (it was noticed while doing this that Peg 6 was slightly out – 30cm in fact closer to Profile 1, Trench 3’s location as remeasured and drawing will be adjusted accordingly).

Wednesday & Thursday 15th & 16th June
Days 18 & 19 – Trench 3 properly cleaned awaiting drawing. Trench 4 – ditch fully excavated and at 1.75m is even deeper than Trench 3 (1.65m). A dark shadow crossing the trench about half a metre outside the of the ditch (noted on Day 14) turned out strangely enough to be a modern plastic field drain (Nick didn’t put it in so must have been his dad).

Wednesday & Thursday 8th & 9th June
Days 16 & 17 – Efforts were split between Trench 3 and Trench 4 this week.

Trench 4: Stirling work done by John and Peter revealed the inner and outer edges of the ditch. John worked on the outer edge and has dug down about a metre below the lip and has not yet reached the ditch bottom. This sondage needs to widen now as it’s getting too cramped to work in. Peter carefully trowelled back at where our best guess was for the inner edge of the ditch and appears to have found it.

Trench 3: Continues to confound. The mass of rubble which is
(apparently) outside the ditch just keeps growing. We’re getting further down and back, and the fill here is loose stone. So loose you can dig it out with your fingers – it’s full of voids. We’re aware that there is a possibility of finds in this loose fill, so we’re proceeding with all caution. The gap between the rubble fill and the outer ‘ditch wall’ is getting narrower and narrower. Although the stones at the base of the outer ditch wall are lying flat, they may turn out to be loose. The slope of the outer ditch wall may suggest that it’s acting as a retaining wall against the rubble fill beyond. The bedrock beyond the rubble fill is beginning to appear, which may suggest a 6m-wide ditch at this point – confusingly half-filled with sand and half-filled with rubble, perhaps with a retaining wall between them. Maybe we have different phases here, but certainly it’s baffling.

Saturday 4th June
Day 15 – Back from his Vindolanda trip, Bill made a short site visit, before flying off again for a week in Greece (assuming no flight cancellations that is) to join Patrick to do some measuring and take some photos. Bill was amazed at the depth of the ditch in Trench 3 which, although not quite as wide as Trench 1, is actually deeper (1.65m as opposed to 1.5m).  Despite the recent rain, the site had dried out so, before taking photos, Patrick sprayed the section with water to bring out the colours. This didn’t reveal much as the section fill looks quite homogeneous, much more than in Trench1, with no obvious recuts. Even a subsoil was difficult to discern, the topsoil seemingly lying on top of the natural. About way down the ditch however, a subtle change in colour and texture could be detected, going from a hard brown soil to a softer lighter brown sandy clay. What this represents is unclear but no evidence of layering would suggest only one or two backfilling events.
From the measurements taken of the position of the change in colour in Trench 4, Bill was able to draw circles on the plan representing the possible track of the ditch. This gave an outside diameter of just over 42m (assuming of course it’s perfectly circular.
A fifth trench on the opposite side of the ring to Trench 3 would confirm the shape i.e. whether it is circular or not.

Thursday 2nd June
Day 14 – Skilful trowelling by John Smalley in Trench 4 has revealed what appears to be the outer edge of the ditch, manifested by an obvious change of colour (a dark line about half a metre before this could be a plough mark). A small sondage, following the hard surface at this point, seemed to confirm this by revealing the edge of the ditch. This is great news as the diameter of the ring can now be positively established (assuming the ring to be circular – which tends to be the case with Bronze Age barrows).Using his drone Chris was able to complete a contour survey with the hope it might show up a crop mark. Unfortunately it didn’t, but he was able to show the relationship between all the trenches we’ve dug so far, suggesting a OD of between 42m and 43m (assuming it’s circular). The projected line of the ditch seems to go through our Trench 2 which did not reveal a ditch (this is a mystery that we will need to resolve somehow).Investigations in Trench 3 in the area of the 2 meter extension revealed a large area of loose rock – it looks like the rock dug out to form the ditch. It’s very wide and very deep – even deeper than the top of the bedrock that the ditch is cut into. Theories abound as to what could this represent – secondary ditch – filled in ditch because it was dug in the wrong place – extra-wide main ditch – large pit – etc ., (more investigations needed here).

Wednesday 1st June
Day 13 – A wet day today but Nick the farmer was able to open up Trench 4, guided by the pegs put in by Patrick and Chris. The topsoil appears to be quite shallow here but Nick very skilfully managed to remove just enough to reveal the start of the underlying level. He also backfilled Trench 2 and also extended Trench 3 by another couple of meters on the outside of the ditch.

Monday 30th May
Patrick and Chris on site this morning to mark out Trench 4. Nick had gratefully cut the grass on Sunday which made life much easier. The new trench was marked out where Bill had suggested i.e. on the same alignment as Trench 1 but on the other side of the ring. It was easy enough to do by measuring across from our initial two pegs and a couple of new pegs where put in at 40m and 48m from Peg 1. They were also able marked out a 2m extension to Trench 3, to further investigate the possibility of a bank outside the ditch.
Previously Chris had been out with his drone again and was able to produce a plan and section view (looking NE) in Trench 3. This shows a sondage cut into the outside edge of the ditch to investigate the possibility of a bank. This unexpectedly revealed stone rubble which will require further investigation.

He’s also produced a 3D model of this trench which you can access here (it’s a large file so takes a little time to download).

Thursday 26th May
Day 12 – Six diggers today, joining Patrick were Andy, Chris, John, Steve, and new to the dig, Peter Cooke. All the work today was carried out in Trench 3.

Steve, working on the inside of the ditch, got right down to the bedrock (and seems intent on continuing downwards!). We expected to find evidence of the mound here, but there was no sign of any structure at all.

The walls of the ditch have been further revealed and cleaned. Looking very impressive, but the imagined turning of the walls has tended to fade.
The theory of a stone bank outside the ditch still prevails, and that the slope of the outer wall is caused by slumping from this bank (some of the material in front of this wall does look like slump).
Steve, who has now been nicknamed ‘Steamshovel’ has broken three trowels
(need to have a word with him about trowel use).

Wednesday 25th May
Day 11 – The good news is that on Sunday the grass is being cut. It’s well over knee-depth now and is getting tiring to walk through, especially when wet, which it was (very) this morning.

Trench 1: Patrick deconstructed the pile of stones that lay just inside the ditch. Sadly, there was nothing obvious under it. The clay was a lighter colour than that around it, though, so it may repay further investigation.

Trench 3: In order to investigate the apparent turn (inwards) on the outer wall of the ditch, we’ve cut into the ditch fill in the western side of the trench and moved outwards towards the wall, which still seems to be turning inwards, but the rocks are at an angle that may suggest a slump or collapse.
At the northern end of the trench, where the two holes were found, is an area of large, thick, flat-laid stones, that in another context I might have been tempted to call a pavement.
With the results we’re getting, doubts are creeping in about whether this is a Bronze Age barrow at all, as first speculated, as it does seem to follow the usual pattern. The ditch is far too deep and there appears to be a rock-built bank outside the ditch in Trench 3 (which may have partially slumped into the ditch here).
In Trench 1, a possible clay bank also on the outside of the ditch can be seen. Banks do occasionally appear on the outside of Bronze Age barrows but there is a hint that the monument may have been a henge, at least in its original form. The raised centre may be due to its conversion to a burial at some later date (just speculation of course).
The answer hopefully will come later in the year as Bill has sent off the sample of charcoal from the bottom of Trench 1 for Carbon14 dating. We’ll have to wait though until the end of September however for the result.

Thursday 19th May
Day 10  –  Today Patrick was Joined by Chris, Andy and Steve.
The excavated ditch in Trench 3 was extended width-wise to reveal more of the floor and walls. The outer wall continued to slope, with the rock being flat, not angled as would be the the case of slippage. The inner end of the trench was investigated following the discovery of three or four large stones marking a possible kerb. This end of the trench is very stony, but the thought is probably not a kerb. Two interesting circular holes were found, 2 or 3cm in diameter, 50cm apart, looking for all the world like post holes. In Trench 1 Patrick started dismantling the large pile of stones just within the inner wall of the ditch. He found it very hard going, and material was coming out at the rate of just one bucket load per hour (this would suggest its part of the natural substrate).

The grass in the field is now knee deep, making walking more of a chore.
Assurance was received from Nick the farmer that it will be cut within the next two weeks.

Wednesday 18th May
Day 9  – With Bill being off on his jollies for the next few weeks (excavating at Vindolanda), Patrick has taken over the reins. Joining him today was Chris, Bob, Andy and Steve.
Digging continued in Trench 3 and the bottom was found being at the same depth as in Trench 1. Also both sides of the ditch were confirmed revealing that this ditch doesn’t appear to be as wide and interestingly, the outer wall of the ditch is sloping, not vertical, whilst the inner wall is vertical, like the walls in Trench 1.

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.

Archaeologist’s commute

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.