ARD Site Diary (2024)

Thursday 18th July
Day 31 – Joining Bill and Chris today were Andrew, Miles and Jen with Ben and Patrick joining later. We also had a visit from a new member Adam McCann who is in his final year at UCLan studying archaeology with a particular emphasis on the Neolithic (which could prove quite useful). As Bill gave him the usual site tour, he mentioned that the academics at his uni would certainly be interested in or site.

Although it seems (in Trench 3C) we had established the limit of the stony layer in the east side of the central area (and perhaps the burnt layer), we still hadn’t reached the limit of the mottled clay layer in that direction. Bill hadn’t see the mottled layer in the test pit he had dug in that area (Day 22) so it was decided to put another test pit in (TP10) about half way between it and the furthest extent of Trench 3C. Andrew, who was tasked with the digging it, soon revealed the mottled layer under the top soil so his test pit was extend. This produced more signs of the mottled layer so the trench was extend again. Eventually he reached the the test pit Bill had dug but still the mottled layer could be seen (not sure how Bill had missed it). This is surprising as we are now only a few metres away from the ring ditch.

Jen was asked to carry on were she left off last time exposing the stones embedded in the Sandy Clay Mound on its northeast side. She had to be careful as she was getting quite close to the feature (F5) which Chris had previously looked at containing dark brown material and cremated bone. As she eventually reached the feature, carefully trowelled it done remove and storing the bone as she went. It was noticeable moving closer to the centre, the embedded stones seemed to be diving down into the Mound.

Mile was asked to continue were Dan had been working the previous day in the section on southwest side of the Mound, taking down and extending it into the original cut made by Steve Taylor last year. At first it seemed that there was a layer of darker material at the bottom of this cut. However it was soon realised that it was the result of the cut having been exposed for so long to the elements (in fact holding water during wet periods). It soon disappeared after more trowelling and there was no sign of it in the section wall. Mile did however came across some random stones embedded in the soft sandy clay.

Chris was keen to explore the developing features in the new cut in Sondage S5 and when Ben arrived it was decided to extend the cut in the north east direction with a smaller cut through the new vee-shaped feature. It was early days but it seemed to reveal more stones in this area.

As it seems we had reached the bottom of the octagonal feature, it was thought that perhaps we should be looking at the side walls of the vessel (if that’s what it is). It was obvious that the depth of it went well below the depth of the mottled clay layer. Before cutting a section through it therefore, Patrick suggested trowelling down the outside (on the northwest side) to see if it gave any clues to its construction. As he was doing this he was able to investigate any patterns in the layer indicating how it was made up (assuming turfs, in which direction they were laid). A couple of thin black bands were soon revealed travelling northwest from the feature (difficult to see in the photo). These seemed to move to the southwest as he trowelled indicating the bands were diagonally placed in the layer (similar to the bands seen in the northwest wall of Trench 3a). This suggests the turfs were placed initially against the Sandy Clay Mound, gradually moving away from it as more turfs were added (frustratingly Patrick couldn’t see this pattern in the side wall of the area he was trowelling).

Wednesday 17th July
Day 30 – Just a small turnout today with just Steve and John Needle joining Bill and Chris. Patrick arrived just before lunch and Dan Taylor came to help came in the afternoon. First off though, a 9 strong contingent of visitors arrived from the Borsdane Wood and Rayner Park Friends Group arrived. Bill gave them his usual site visit for which they showed great interest, marvelling at this nationally important monument lying on their doorstep.

Meanwhile in Trench 3b, the extent of the stony layer had still not been found. it was decided therefore to extend it once again in the southeast direction, although this time just a half metre wide cut. Steve, helped by John, was tasked with the job and at last it seemed the limit of the stony layer had been revealed. However the exact edge was not clear as the layer just seemed to dissolve into a scatter of random stones (as had been the case in general in the adjacent trench, Trench 3c. While Steve finished cleaning the stones in the extension, John spent some time re-cleaning the stones in the area of the original Trench 3b cut. This revealed some small pockets devoid of stone, matching the situation experienced generally towards the edge of the layer.

Chris continued investigating the strange feature in Sondage S5 (now referred to as Feature 6). Having achieved an initial plan of it (seemingly circular) Bill suggested a cut through it so that the section at 90o might reveal its 3D shape. This did seem to show that the feature was conical in shape, the fill of which, although similar in appearance to the general mottled clay layer, seemed significantly harder. Tracing the burnt layer also became difficult and a new small vee-shaped feature appeared in the northeast end of the cut. There also appeared to be a lot of stones in the area with the ones on the southeast side showing both above and below the burnt layer.

Patrick was able to continue excavating our strange octagonal feature and was at last able to declare that he thought he’d found the bottom of it – the surface was hard and seemed to have the same feel as the side walls.

Dan when he arrived was directed towards the section on the southwest side of the mound having sufficiently dried out after the recent rain. It was now becoming clear that there was a band of dark material lying under the stony layer, not directly under it but separated by a thin layer of sand. This band though was lying on top of the usual soft sandy clay and the only stones embedded in it where located at the extreme southwest end of the section.

Thursday 11th July
Day 29 – Joining Bill and Chris today were Andrew, Steve, Miles, Jen (who had stayed overnight in her campervan) and Ben with Patrick joining just before lunch.

Although there had been heavy rain over night, Bill was grateful to see that the tent had survived with no damage. The rain had left standing water in some of the sondages which would mean heavy going. Chris therefore, instead of working in the section on the southwest side of the Mound, turned his attention to the feature appearing in the section in Sondage S5 (this maybe a significant feature as it seems to be the first that cuts into the underlying sandy clay and also seems to be at the point of transition from the stony layer to the stones embedded in the Sandy Clay Mound). Ashley had previously suggested that we first looked at the top of it to get a general idea of its plan and then do a half section (depending on what we found in the plan). When Ben arrived, he took over with this task taking a half-metre square cut across half of the feature. As he worked down through the mottled clay layers, he came across flat stones and shapes which he though could be features. Bill however just thought they we just the typical random patterns we had always been getting in the mottled clay layer. Chris recorded it anyway just in case before Ben carried on going down. As he reached the burnt layer, a tell-tale circle began to appear which Chris thought was defining the plan of the feature.
Next time out we will cut a half section through it to get an idea of its shape.

Bill spent some time recording the side wall section of Sondage S1 in Trench 3c so that he could complete his drawing of it. While doing this, he asked Andrew to expand the sondage at the southeast in an attempt to chase the curving feature discovered by Marlene last time out. To do this he took a half metre square out of the corner where the feature was heading. After going through the mottled clay layer he hit on the burnt layer which seemed merge into the curved feature. However as he trowelled down, the curved feature seemed to disappear showing that it was quite shallow and probably just part of the overlying darker brown soft sandy clay layer (frustrating Andrew who has spent all day on it).

Jen carried on the work being done by Heather and Jensen the previous day, cleaning the stony layer on the east side of the mound. When Patrick arrived, he resumed his usual slow delicate work on the octagonal feature, removing more burnt bone and charcoal.

Steve meanwhile, help by Miles, continued clean in the stony layer in the newly exposed extension to Trench 3b. It soon became obvious that the edge of the stony layer had still not been revealed. it was therefore decided to widen the trench once more in the southeast direction by another spades width. As before , the surface of the mottled clay layer was recorded before being taken down to reveal the underlying stony layer – and, as before, this failed to reveal the edge of it.

While we had lunch Chris carried out and drone survey and later Frank turned up with some planks and another board to help with access across the site trenches. Marlene also arrived, not to dig but to show her friend the site (Bill obligingly giving her the site tour).

Wednesday 10th July
Day 28 – Good turnout – Joining Bill and Chris were Andrew, Steve, Marlene, Jen, Christine, Heather and grandson Jenson. With the weather being unpredictable, Bill decided to put the tent up again and, as we planned to be there on the next day, he was hoping he would be able to leave it up.

Bill was still struggling with the connection between the general stony layer and the stones embedded in the Sandy Clay Mound. Chris therefore suggested that the stony layer east side of the Sandy Clay Mound should be cleaned which Heather and Jenson tackled (Jenson excitingly finding a small void under the stones). Chris also asked Jen to explore the area on the northeast side of the Mound to see how far the embedded stones went. This revealed more large stones at depth.
Chris himself carried on looking at the section through the Mound on its southwest side.

No more work had been done on the Sondage S5 extension since the discovery last month (Day 24) of a large stone at depth. Removing more material from it had not been possible because there was an area rich in charcoal and burnt bone immediately above it. this area had recently suffered some damage an some fragments of bone had dropped out. It was therefore decided to focus some attention on it. Andrew, helped by Christine, therefore collected the loose bone fragments, boxed and labelled them before trowelling the area around it. This seemed to reveal the extent of the charcoal rich area which encompassed the area around our second urn.

Meanwhile Bill asked Marlene to trowel down Sondage S1 in Trench 3c and clean up the section so that he could have another attempt at drawing it. This section is proving to be particularly difficult as there was much more going on than the usual mottled clay, red and burnt layer on top the the stony layer sequence. The section at the northwest end is particularly important as it is hoped that it will show the relationship between the stony layer, the stones embedded in the Sandy Clay Mound and the underlying Soft Sandy Clay. On close inspection though it still wasn’t clear which followed which or whether they are all contemporary. However it did seem to show a separation between the Stony Layer and the embedded stones indicating possibly two separate events.

The other end of this trench was also proving to be difficult to analyse. Although the stony layer had disappeared, it had been replaced by a deep layer of darker brown soft sandy clay. At its deepest, as she trowelled down, Marlene started to uncover small cobbles, each completely covered in black (presumably) charcoal. They seemed to be part of what appeared to be a slightly curving feature in the underlying soft sandy clay. It was also at this point, in the section, that the mottled clay layer ended to be replaced by a layer of what appeared to be subsoil. Towards the end of the trench the burnt layer had disappeared and the layer of darker brown soft sandy clay below it had thinned out leaving just the deep layer of underlying soft sandy clay (this was not necessarily uniform as it had areas of lighter coloured material and some flecks of charcoal in it).

Steve continued cleaning the stones in the widened Trench 3b. It was soon obvious the edge of the stony layer still hadn’t been reached – so Bill asked him to widen it again by another spade’s width in the southeast direction. After trowelling through the usual deep layer of mottled clay and the crust red and burnt layers, the underlying stones began to be revealed. It was now becoming clear where the edge of the stony was but the limit of it had still not been reached.

As Chris was leaving for the day he got permission from Frank (the farmers dad) for us to leave the tent up (this meant Bill could leave his equipment on site).

Thursday 4th July
Day 27 – Weather prediction was for a windy but clear day – it turned out anything but, raining on and off all morning (only clearing after lunch) and, if it wasn’t for the gazebo (with additional side tarp), our volunteers would have been soaked, particularly during their lunch break. Braving the day’s weather with Bill were Andrew, Steve, Francesca and Ashley Brogan with Patrick joining just before lunch.

This was Ashley’s first visit of the year, so Bill gave her an in-depth update on the site developments. She was intrigued by the stratigraphy shown in the sections, particularly the one going through Sondage S5 where there is a cut of some sort in the underlying soft sandy clay (near to were John and Chris found cremated bone under the stones). The cut is filled with some sort of mottled clay and topped by the burnt layer which dips into it. Ashley suggested cutting into the bank to produce a plan view of it and then do a half section.

This would require a bit of effort so Bill asked instead if she would trowel down the section in Trench 3c on the same alignment as the section in Sondage S5 extension. This would give us another chance us to investigate the junction between the overlying stony layer and stony layer embedded in the Sandy Clay Mound (SCM). After removing some of the overlying stones more stones were revealed seemingly embedded in the edge of the SCM (and maybe a separation between the two).

Francesca continued working at the area where Peter had started looking on Tuesday next to Sondage S5 extension – and was very excited to discover more fragments of cremated bone.

Steve continued removing the remnant of the mottled clay layer in Trench 3b to reveal more of the underlying stony layer. Just before reaching the stony layer though, he came across more evidence of the red crusty layer lying on top of the burnt layer. Much of the scattered stones here were making the edge of the stony layer difficult to define. Bill therefore ask him to go back to the area previous revealed in this trench, which needed cleaning and then work back towards the new area exposed. This would hopefully reveal the edge.

Andrew carried on were Marlene left off in Trench 3C, taking the mottled clay layer down to the stony layer. The stones here were again more scattered with no obvious edge.

Patrick when he arrived carried on with his work on the octagonal feature in the Trench 3a. Bill had previously been showing it to Ashley, cleaning around the edge to reveal its shape. He therefore took the opportunity to photograph it so that he could start a detailed drawing of it. Ashley agreed our approached to its excavation was right but suggested a section through the side wall would be needed at some stage to help define the feature.

(Just before lunch Ashley was surprised by a visit from her parents and her sister’s  four year old, who wasn’t impressed with the cold weather.)

Tuesday 2nd July
Day 26 – Another great turnout, eventually eleven volunteers on site today at one time or another. Join Bill and Chris were Peter, Marlene, Steve, John Needle and John Trippier, with Patrick, Martin, Heather and grandson Jenson joining later.

The edge of the stony layer in Trench 3c did not seem to be lining up with the layer showing further down in Trench 3b. Bill therefore asked John Needle to join Steve with his work expanding Trench 3b (started last time out). Bill then gave John Trippier a general update on progress before asking him to continue where Francesca had been working, taking down the Sandy Clay Mound (SCM) on the southwest side of Sondage S5.

Peter and Chris continued their work in Sondage S5 extension, Peter taking the soft sandy clay down below the large stone previously discovered – eventually reaching a harder clay which could be the natural.  He then had a look at widening the southwest side of this sondage starting from the top, though his progress was slowed when he came across more cremated bone.

While Peter worked on Sondage S5 extension, Chris turned his attention to Sondage S5 itself (on the northwest side of our second urn) investigating the area around the cut in the soft sandy clay discovered last time. He recovered more cremated bone from under the stones where John had previously found some.

Meanwhile Bill had another go setting up the newly bought tent which he managed to get fixed after his last attempt ended with a broken pole. The wind wasn’t anything like as bad today so it went up quite easily and proved to be very convivial during our lunch break.

After lunch Chris started work on the section through the rising mound on the southwest side of our second urn. This had originally been created last year to investigate the the relationship between the stony layer and underlying SCM. Unexpectedly another layer stones had been detected lying embedded in the SCM. Hopefully this section, which is part of the section running northeast to southwest through the SCM, will help us to understand the overall sequence of the site’s construction.

Meanwhile in Trench 3c, the stony scatter was not showing a clear edge, so Bill asked Marlene to work on the northwest end of the baulk left in Trench 3c. This was, first to reveal the mottled clay layer so that it could be recorded, then to remove it down to the underlying burnt layer. Marlene, with Bill’s help, was able to remove the remnant of the top soil down to the mottle clay layer which was recorded ready for its removal next time out.

When Marin arrived Bill asked him to take down the southeast end of Sondage S2 in Trench 3c so that he could get a clearer view of the section. Also some whitish banding here was causing some confusion here and then a small unexplained void in the soft sandy clay (too late in the day to investigate).

As we were clearing up for the day, we had a visit from Frank (Nick the farmer’s day) with his wife and another lady. They were absolutely fascinated with our excavations and Frank promised to bring more boards up for us to help protect the site and help with access across the trenches.

Saturday 29th June
Day 25 – This week we managed to squeeze in a Saturday visit giving volunteers (and visitors) a chance who not normally are able to attend during weekdays. Despite the drizzly conditions, we had a decent turnout, with John Needle, Ben and newcomer Dana Gaskell joining Bill and Jen (Dana is a professional archaeologist but spends much time in the office doing research so this is a great opportunity to keep her hand in and offer us her expertise).

Bill started with the requisite site tour for Dana but was soon joined by Jim Meehan who had brought two guests to see the site – Anne Hurst and partner ?Les (Anne contacted Bill nine years ago with information about the lost interiors of Standish Hall, which enabled first Andy Lomax and then Jim to successfully discovery the final whereabouts of them).

After the tour, Dana, joined by Ben, began removing the mottled clay layer and burnt layer from the newly exposed Sondage S1 extension in Trench 3c. Jen meanwhile worked on Sondage S5 in Trench 3a carrying on where Patrick left off and John carried on where Martin left off along the section between Trench 1b and 3a.

The original Sondage S5, where Jen was working, is quite an important area, as the section shows quite clearly the rise of the Sandy Clay Mound (the dull wet day providing a better opportunity to get a good photo of it). Jen worked on the area next to it (on the line of the section cutting across it that Bill had previously created). She working from the top this time carefully removing the sandy clay, hardened by the recent hot dry weather, to reveal some stones (but not many – early days though).

John however was able to get down to some depth in the recently exposed soft sandy clay and was able to reveal something we hadn’t seen before – – i.e. what seemed to be a pit cut into the sandy clay which had then been filled with the mottled clay layer – even burnt and stony layer seemed to follow into it. The pit seemed to coincide with the change from the general layering of stones on top of soft sandy clay and the embedded stones in the central Sandy Clay Mound. John also started to find fragments of bone, not in the pit but in the soft sandy clay to the right of it going under the stones. The sandy clay here was slightly darker in colour but there was no associated charcoal however (just one small piece turned up). As usual the pieces were boxed and retained on site but John thinks there are more pieces lying under the stones.

Ben and Dana’s work on the S1 extension in Trench 3c was revealing the edge of the stony layer showing quite a remarked change in direction (almost 90o ) enabling it to line up with the gap revealed last time at the entrance to S2. Dana was then asked to carry on where Steve had left off cleaning the newly revealed stony layer at the entrance to Trench 3b. The showed, as expected, the edge of the stony layer changing direction again, to perhaps line up with the edge exposed at the other end of Trench 3b.

Finally Dana cleaned up the far (southeast) end of S2 (where Steve had previously dug down). It’s not clear yet what is happening here as, although below the burning layer, we still seem to be in the mottled clay layer containing the whitish clay banding seen in S1 (more work to be done).

Wednesday 26th June
Day 24 – Great turnout today with eventually nine volunteers on site. Joining Bill and Chris were Andrew, Peter and Steve with Dan, Martin, Ben and Patrick joining after lunch.

Much stonework has been revealed in the extension of Sondage S1 in Trench 3c but it was still unclear why there was a big difference between the edge of this stony layer and the scatter Sondage S2. Steve was therefore asked to clean up the area in Trench 3a at the entrance to S2 just to locate exactly where the edge of the consolidated stony layer was. This revealed a gap at the entrance showing the edge heading towards Trench 3b. This didn’t seem right as, at the far end of Trench 3b, where the trench opened up, the stony layer stretched all across the width of the trench. It was therefore decided to take the corner off the entrance to Trench 3b to see if the trend continued. Meanwhile Andrew (helped by Ben when he arrived) was tasked with widening S1 extension by another 75cm so that the edge of the stony layer could be understood.

Bill carried on recording the section through Sondage S5 in Trench 3a and Sondage S1 in Trench 3c using a probe to ‘feel’ for the original ground surface. It was noticeable in S1 that there were patches of whitish clay in the mottled layer.

Chris and Peter continued with their work in the Sondage S5 extension. Chris carefully excavated the area next to the second urn where he had detected burn bone amongst the charcoal deposits. This did not produce another pot but Chris though it might be the contents of our second urn which had spilled out. An exciting discovery though was a large stone deep in the sondage lying horizontal which looked perhaps structural instead of the usual tumble of stones (as Chris has been removing the stones from this area he has been recording them on his iPhone in 3D so that he can digitally rebuild this important area of the Sandy Clay Mound).

When Dan arrived he was asked to look at the area on the northwest edge of S5 to see how deep the large stones went. When Martin arrived he was asked to look at the pocket of soft sandy clay lying further to the northwest of where Dan was working to check if there were no underlying stones. When Patrick arrived, as a change from his usual work on the octagonal feature, he did some work on the area immediately to the northwest of our second urn continuing where Bill had left off the previous week. In contrast to the area where Chris was working, this area of Sandy Clay Mound was completely devoid of stones. Before finishing for the day Peter made a start on widening the S5 extension so the the structure of this area could be better understood.

Tuesday 25th June
Day 23 – Joining Chris and Bill today were Andrew, Peter, Steve and John Needle.

Steve helped by John worked on the Sondage S2 in Trench 3c. Stones had appeared on the northwest side lying underneath the burning layer for about 1.3m in but further trowelling revealed them to be just a scatter. There were no stones after that so Bill asked for the the soft sandy clay to be taken down in this area to check there were no stones lower down and also reveal the depth of the mottled clay layer in the section. Later Steve worked on Sondage S1 (on the other side of Trench 3c) digging a 1m section on the southeast side down through the soft sandy clay. He reached a depth of about 1m below the surface without revealing any change, except perhaps the soft sandy clay appearing to become more stonier.

Meanwhile Andrew work on cleaning up the stony layer revealed in the extension to S1. The stones seemed to be heading away from the centre and not matching up with the stone scatter in S2. It was therefore decided to widen the extension by another couple of spade widths. After revealing the mottled clay layer (which as before was showing no signs of horizontal banding) the surface was taken down through the crusty red and black layer to reveal the stony layer below. This showed the stony layer levelling off but also getting less pronounced, getting more like a scatter. Further cleaning of the stones in this area was making it more difficult to determine the edge of the consolidated stones and stony scatter (although the stones in general were larger than the ones revealed in Trenches 1a and 1b).

Chris continued his work on the Sondage S5 extension widening it so that he could go deeper. He was still getting stones all the way across on the northeast side of the section but they seemed to be disappearing on the other side of the section. Peter therefore extended a section from this section along the southeast wall of Trench 3a to check if this trend continued (which it did). This area is now presenting a clear distinction between the stony layer underlying the burnt layer, and the stones embedded in the Sandy Clay Mound.

Bill meanwhile worked on Trench 1d (later helped by John) finishing the ditch wall on the inside edge down to the bedrock floor. This has enabled him to get a better idea of the ditches trajectory and thus the shape it in this area.

Thursday 20th June
Day 22 – On the team to day were Chris, Bill, Peter, Steve and Miles with Patrick joining as usual just before lunch.

Steve joined Chris in Sondage S1 while young Miles joined Peter in Sondage S2. In both trenches, the dark red-coloured layer, overlying the burnt layer, was showing quite prominently, presenting a hard crusty texture (similar to an iron pan). After having been recorded it, trowel commenced to reveal the underlying stony layer. In both trenches the sections became quite clear revealing the line of the red and black burning layer (although not so much in the photography with the intense bright sunlight).

In Sondage S1 the blackish line could be seen quite clearly rising towards the edge of the trench as it climbed up onto the sand clay mound (then truncated by plough soil). This is another important area that may help to explain the development of the site as it’s the point where the general stony layer seems to give way to a stones embedded in the Sandy Clay Mound. S1 was also now showing a clear edge to the stony layer, stopping well short of the edge of the burnt layer. In this area the burning layer was getting confusing as it seemed to be integrating itself into the mottled clay layer (this layer continuing right up to the end of the trench)

Bill spent some time using a line level recording the section he had revealed across the Sandy Clay Mound a couple of days before. Probing this area was showing the Sandy Clay Mound to be as much as 1.25m below the current surface. Later he was helped by Miles to set up the dumpy level and record of the section at 90o to this section (just the ground profile at that stage – a survey using a line level would follow).

Meanwhile Chris started work on the part of this 90o section continuing where Francesca had left off (Sondage S5 extension). As he worked his way into remove small stones and soft sandy clay, more large stones began to appear in some cases revealing cavities between the stones.

Patrick continued with his work on the octagonal feature removing more cremated bone and charcoal material to be bagged and labelled (more bags and bigger boxes having arrived for the purpose).

In the afternoon Chris did another general drone survey of the site. Before starting, Bill decided another peg would be useful on the east side of Trench 3C (9 metres southeast of Profile 1 and 12 metres northeast of Profile 2). He struggled though to get the peg in as he was hitting stone with the auger. He persevered though and breaking through the stone, the auger seem to plunge another half metre with out any effort. In his optimistic mind Bill was thinking maybe it was a stone capped void of some kind. He therefore decided to do a quick test pit to satisfy his curiosity. Disappointingly his promised feature did not materialise – there being just a small collection of stones (similar to the ones embedded in the subsoil on the northwest end of Trench 1b) and the void was just the soft sandy clay we have been finding all over the site’s interior (ah well, worth a try – the new peg was put in at 11 metres from Profile 2).

Wednesday 19th June
Day 21 – Joining Bill and Chris today were Peter, Phil Livesey, Francesca and newcomers Heather Pyke and grandson Jensen, with Patrick joining just before lunch.

Bill gave Heather and Jensen the requisite site tour, while Phil joined Chris with his work on Sondage S1 (i.e. the southeast extension in Trench 3c). Peter meanwhile continued with his work in Sondage S2 on the opposite side of this area. By afternoon he had got down to the red and burnt layer and was experiencing the same crusty texture to the red layer as in Sondage S1.

After their tour, Heather and Jensen were given the task of trowelling the southeast edge of Trench 3a in preparation of the excavation of the adjacent trench. Meanwhile Francesca was asked to continue cleaning the stones revealed in the section (Sondage S5 extension) created by Chris immediately southeast of our second urn (this section would enable Bill to record a full section through the presumed centre of the mound).

Phil and Chris (and later joined by Peter) were making some headway in Sondage S1 removing the red and black burnt layer revealing the underlying stony layer and also preparing the section for recording. At each sage of the last few sessions Chris had been diligently recoding the findings with his drone and LiDAR system on his iPhone.

Bill continued were Marlene left off on the southwest side of Trench 3b digging down into the underlying soft sandy clay. He also extended the cut towards the Sandy Clay Mound (SCM) until he hit the stones embedded in it. He was trying to reveal the difference between the stony layer lying directly under the burning layer and the stones embedded in the SCM but he was not sure that he had achieved this with this section (will need to extend it further into the SCM).

Before leaving for the day, Heather and Jensen were shown the progress of the excavation of the octagonal feature. Patrick explained that the pieces of cremated bone were getting large the further down into it he went, one of his latest pieces being what seemed to be a fragment of a skull. The burnt wood at the bottom was also getting more distinct revealing layers at 90o to each other.

Tuesday 18th June
Day 20 – Great turnout today with 10 site. Joining Bill and Chris were Andrew, Peter, Dan, Francesca, Steve, Marlene and new starter Miles Flanagan (studying Bioarchaeology at York Uni) with Patrick joining just before lunch.

While Bill gave Miles a site tour, Chris and Dan continued with their work on the southeast extension to Trench 3a (i.e. Trench 3c Sondage S1) – Peter opened up a new trench (Sondage S2) on the opposite side of this area removing the rest of the topsoil down to the mottled clay layer. After his tour Miles joined Peter with his task.

In Sondage S1, with the mottled clay layer removed, Chris and Dan were able to reveal the red and black layers. This wasn’t straight forward however as the section revealed convoluted lines of this burnt layer. Also particularly noticeable was the texture of the red layer which was like a hard crust covering the black burnt layer. Also the limit of the burnt layer seemed to have been reached about two thirds way along the trench, although the mottled clay clay continued to the end of it. As Chris delicately removed the red and black layer, the underlying stony layer began to emerge. It was early days but it seemed to suggest that the limit of the stony layer wasn’t far in from the northwest end of the trench (there were more stones further down but these seemed to be just a general scatter). It was therefore decided to widen the trench in this area by a further 80cm to see if the trend continued. The mottled clay layer soon appeared, recorded and then taken down to the crusty red and black layer.

Meanwhile Marlene and Francesca were tasked with cleaning up the stony layer on the southwest side of Trench 3b in preparation for the stones removal so that the section could be understood and recorded. This area is of particular interest as it’s where the burning and mottled clay layers rise up onto the Sandy Clay Mound (SCM) only to be truncated by the plough. The underlying stony layer seems to disappear at this point but then a new layer of stones appear embedded in the SCM (this is proving to be a particularly difficult sequence to record but it doesn’t seem like the underlying stony layer has been truncated and the embedded stones appear at a lower level in the SCM). After Chris had recorded the cleaned up stones with the LiDAR system on his iPhone, Marlene removed the stones to reveal the underlying soft sandy clay.

Steve and Andrew worked on Trench 1d extending it to include the last test pit and taking it down in search of the inner edge of the ditch. By lunch time they had discovered the unmistakable side wall of the rock cut ditch and by mid afternoon the shape of the upper edge had been revealed. Gratifyingly it appeared to be in the expected projection.

Bill meanwhile worked on the Sandy Clay Mound making a cut between Sondages S5 and S6. This was so that he could complete the his section drawing across it. He found that the sandy clay of the mound was quite clean except on the northeast side where a clump of cobbles emerged at the bottom of the cut.

Patrick continued with his work on the octagonal feature removing more cremated bone and charcoal (it seems the further down he goes, the larger the pieces of bone he is retrieving).

Wednesday 12th June
Day 19 – Joining Bill, Chris and Patrick today were Andrew, Peter Cooke and Dan Taylor – with Martin joining at lunch time.

With the topsoil having been removed from the area on the southeast side of Trench 3a the day before, Chris was able to mark out a 60cm wide strip on the southwest side of it. He was then helped by Dan to remove the remaining topsoil down to the mottled clay layer. This revealed ruts in the underlying clay, most likely caused by modern ploughing (Chris was hoping to find horizontal directional banding on the surface which would indicate the focus the mounds construction but disappointingly none could be seen). The next step will be to remove the mottled clay thus giving an extension to the section cut through the Sandy Clay Mound (SCM).

Peter continued working on the area devoid of stones on the southwest side of the SCM. At a depth of about a metre, he eventually reached an undulating layer of harder clay. However the soft sandy did seem to be going under the stones on the edge of the SCM which seemed to disproving the theory that the SCM represented an earlier phase of construction.

Andrew continued his work in Trench 1d expanding it to expose more of the base of the ditch. Bill meanwhile took some time recording the newly exposed base of the ditch in Trench 1. As mentioned previously, its direction seemed at odds with the general shape expected. It was decided therefore to expand Trench 1d to include the next test pit along and take it down to see if the base of the ditch could be found. When Martin arrived, he joined Andrew and Bill in tackling this task.

Patrick continued his work on the octagonal feature extracting more pieces of cremated bone and charcoal (bagging and labelling everything as he went). Interestingly, in the section produced, there seemed to be some layering of the charcoal and clay. There was some thought about removing the whole feature so that it could be investigated in doors. These side walls are so fragile though, it is unlikely we would be able to remove the whole thing intact.

Tuesday 11th June
Day 18 – Another good turnout today – Joining Bill, Chris and Patrick were Andrew, Peter Cooke, Jen, John Needle and Steve Parry.

Bill asked Peter to work on the area devoid of stones on the southwest side of the Sandy Clay Mound to see how deep the this section went (it would also help to complete the section Bill was drawing along this line). Patrick continued his work on the octagonal feature extracting more pieces of cremated bone and charcoal .

Chris continued working on the the area where he found the stake hole producing a section through it. Meanwhile Steve continued the work in Trench 3b where it seems the edge of the stony layer has been reached. Bill asked Steve to cut a section through the end of the trench (Sondage S9) so that he could record the layers. Although the well defined mottled clay layer could be seen all the way to the edge of the trench, the burnt layer seem to disappear about a metre before it. However a small section of it appeared in the end of the trench suggesting patches of burning beyond the general edge of it.

Jen continued her work in Sondage S2 S3 where Bill had asked her to see how far down she could get in the underlying soft sandy clay. She concentrated on the S3 side of the trench which, after removing the clump of small stones, she was able to take it down to almost a metre below the surface. Although the sandy clay seemed to be getting more compact, there was no obvious underlying natural surface.

John and Andrew continued were Ben had left off in Trench 1d where we were looking to expose the outer edge of the ditch. With a bit of teamwork (alternating digging and bucket duties) the bottom was eventually reached which seem to confirm the change in direction we were expecting. Meanwhile Bill spent some time on the inside edge of the ditch in Trench 1 itself exposed by Ben a few weeks before to see if its direction of travel could be established (as with the outer edge it seemed to be going away from the expected line). Andrew took over after finishing in Trench 1d eventually reaching the bottom. This however did not resolve the issue as there was no perceived change of direction – but it did reveal a sudden (unexplained) widening of the base.

Chris meanwhile turned his attention the the section running southeast from our second urn (in fact an extension to Sondage S5 in Trench 3a). This was the section Bill had asked for, to complement the section running at 90o to it. He had already uncovered more stones embedded in the Sandy Clay Mound but was struggling to go further as cremated bone fragments were turning up as well as charcoal quite near to our second urn. One especially large piece of burnt wood appeared lying underneath one of the stones.

Later in the afternoon Nick the farmer arrived to remove the spoil heap on the southeast side of Trench 3a. Once cleared, we also asked him to remove the topsoil so that we could investigate this area, to see how far the stony layer extended in this direction (and also check if any more pots could be found).

Thursday 6th June
Day 17 – Better weather today, an early shower soon passed – slightly warmer but still windy. Joining Bill, Chris and Patrick today were Jen, Peter Cooke and Peter Kitts with Ben and John Trippier joining just before lunch.

Peter C continued to work on the extension to the area between Trenches 3a and 1b going below the stony layer to see what lay underneath and cleaning up the section. This revealed more of the test pit dug into the mottled clay layer at the end of the 2022 season. The material below the stony layer turned out to be just the usual soft sandy clay. When Bill took over in the afternoon, he used a probe to discover the depth of soft sandy clay to be over a metre. Before leaving he was able to record the section which was showing clear signs of banding in the mottled clay layer.

When John arrived he worked on the area immediately next to this section in Trench 3a where previously the stony layer had appeared to be just a scattering of stones. He revealed that an area next to the edge of the trench had a layer of consolidated stones (as had been revealed in the adjacent section). He also reveal a clump of consolidated stones seemingly isolated from the rest.

Peter K continued work on the stony layer in Trench 3b where Steve had left off the previous day. Having to leave early, Peter C took over and by the end of the day had produced (at last) a well defined edge to the stony layer.

Jen continued to work on the Sondages S2 and S3 taking them down further into the soft sandy clay below the whitish band of soft sandy clay. In Sondage S3 a clump of small stones emerged but seemed to be isolated with no obvious reason for them. After cleaning up the section Bill was able to record the section.

When Ben arrived, Bill asked him to work on the test pits next to Trench 1. Using a probe Bill had detected the possible outer edge of the ditch in the second on the test pits. He therefore asked Ben to join it up to the third test pit to give him enough room for him to take the trench down to look for the edge. At the end of the day Ben had been able to reach the edge in this new trench (now referred to as Trench 1d).

Patrick continued working on the octagonal feature (Feature 4) in Trench 3a removing more charcoal and cremated bone. Chris continued working the section he started on the previous day on the Sandy Clay Mound. He concentrated on the area next to the southeast edge of the trench where there were no embedded stones. Here he found what appeared to be a possible small stake hole. Whilst working on this section Chris noticed another small stone with grooves on it (this makes four in all).
During lunch Chris was able to carry out another drone survey.

Wednesday 5th June
Day 16 – Bill and Chris were back from their hols and joining them today were Patrick, Peter Cooke, John Needle, Steve Parry, Jen and Marlene.

Jen and Marlene were asked to work in the joined up Sondages of S2 and S3 in Trench 3a, taking them down below the whitish sandy clay so that Bill could record the section. In the Sondage S2 area, this produced a clear band of whitish sandy clay with the thin line of burning evident. However in the Sondage S3 area the whitish sandy clay seemed to merge into a mottled darker sandy clay (lying under a thin layer of mottled clay with no sign of the burning layer).

John was asked to continue working on the 70cm extension to Trench 3a which Martin had started the week before. Before starting though, Bill asked him for his help in recording the newly exposed areas in Trench 1 and the adjacent 5 test pits.

Peter meanwhile continued working on his extension on the northwest side of the area between Trench 3a and Trench 1b. By the end of the day both had reached the stony layer below the mottled and burnt layers.

Steve meanwhile was tasked with cleaning up the stony layer in Trench 3b to see if we really did have the edge of it. When he’d finished, it was clear that the stony layer in this area was certainly well defined but there were gaps emerging which could suggest we had reached the edge (more work next time).

Bill and Chris were still pondering the nature of the Sandy Clay Mound in Trench 3a and the extent of the stones embedded in it. Bill had already seen something of it with a section cutting a cross it from southwest to northeast (yet to be completed). It was therefore decided to attempt a section at 90o through it, following the section exposed in Sondage S5 on the northwest side of it, with a section on the southeast side of it. Once marked out, Chris soon uncovered more stones embedded in the sandy clay but the area closest to the edge of the trench seemed to be clear of stones.

Patrick continued his work on the octagonal feature (Feature 4) in Trench 3a. As well as more cremated bone (with the consistency of cheese) a second wall seemed to be developing on the east side (as he works though the interior, Patrick is careful to bag and label all the material he removes so that it can be analysis at a later date).

Bill, thinking about the cold and wet conditions currently being experienced on site, had bought a tent to provide shelter from the occasional shower and wind during our lunch breaks. The tent needed to be tall enough and big enough to accommodate all diggers on site. It also had to be light enough to carry on site and easy enough to erect. With this in mind Bill had bought a 6 man pop up stile tent using flexible carbon fibre poles and he had practiced erecting and dismantling it which showed it could be done in 10 minutes. He hadn’t however allowed for the wind – battling against 30 mph gusts on the day meant it took a lot longer to erect. It did though provide good shelter from the wind during the lunch break – that is, however until a sudden gust caused one of the poles to fail (unfortunately it seems this type of tent is only meant for well sheltered camp sites).

Thursday 30th May
Day 15 – With Chris and Bill being away, another site visit this week didn’t seem to be possible. However Patrick stepped in at short notice and was able to muster enough volunteers to join him. The helpful diggers were Peter Cooke, John Needle, Steve, Ben, Martin & Ian Trumble.

Peter continued to investigate the area between Trenches 3a and 1b, by expanding it by half a metre in the southwest direction. This was initially dug down to the mottled layer, which revealed a suspiciously straight junction between the mottling and a darker soil. Check our records, this turns out to be our test pit dug (and back filled) at the end of our 2022 season (advantage of keeping good records). Further digging revealed the tops of small stones, similar to the ones seen immediately to the northeast of the new cut.

Stephen continued the work on the test pits alongside the ditch in Trench 1. These were expanded and now the central pits show much more clearly the presence of ditch fill.

John and, later, Ben, worked the ditch in Trench 1 removing the rest of the collapsed material. Their excavations showed an interesting cross-section to the ditch fill, where a dark layer could be seen about halfway between the bottom of the ditch and the surface. Close examination showed charcoal in this layer. This seemed to confirm a secondary fill (or maybe a re-cut) detected when this trench was excavated.

Martin extended Trench 3b towards the northeast by a further 70cm and got down to the mottled layer, while Ian carried on the work done last week by Susan in Trench 3a, carefully removing fragments of cremated bone. Many small pieces were found and one large but very fragile piece.

Patrick worked again on the octagonal feature (Feature 4) in Trench 3a. This is now showing signs that the wall is curving inwards, indicating that it is likely bowl-shaped (though the wall is very thick). There is a great deal of burnt wood inside the pot (if that’s what it is), and more bone found and placed in a plastic pot. One larger piece of bone (visible as a white spot in the bottom left of the excavation in the picture) was very carefully removed.
Close examination of this bone by Patrick and Ian led to the conclusion that this was likely a section of rib from a neonate.

Tuesday 28th May
Day 14 – It’s amazing that today went ahead as the weather forecast was grime. However with Bill on is hols again and Chris only available the one day, it had to be today or perhaps not at all this week. Despite the short notice Ben, Steve and Patrick were able to join Chris for a late start (11.00 due to the rain).

After deciding that it was not practical to work in the trenches for safety and damage to the archaeology, Ben and Steve conducted a coring survey 2m on the northwest side of Trench 1 to see if we could get any indication of the course of the ditch. Not surprisingly the results were not at all clear, but the core nearest the spoil heap on the northeast side suggested that the bedrock had been reached. To confirm this, a test pit (15cmx15c) was opened to remove the top soil and get a view of the top layer. This revealed compacted clay with a few pebbles in it, but clearly outside the course of the ditch. A further 5 small pits were opened to show what was immediately under the top soil. This was ditch fill, apart from the 2nd pit which looked a slightly different colour to the ditch fill. Further work required.

Chris briefed Patrick on all the activity that had taken place over the last few weeks, then carried out a drone survey of the Trench 1 area. Patrick then worked on the octagonal feature (Feature 4) in Trench 3b. As well as the small piece of cremated bone previously detected, Patrick was able to identify a ‘clay’ feature which seemed to be surround by a dark material.

Saturday 25th May
Day 13 – The weather this week has been bad (apart from Tuesday it’s been a washout). We therefore decided to do a Saturday. Despite the short notice, the turnout was quite good – joining Chris were John Needle, Ben, Marlene, Christine, Jen and Susan.

Ben and John continued the investigate the course of the ditch in Trench 1 which seems to be heading in the wrong direction i.e. North instead of North-west. We did think about doing a coring survey but with the extra resource today. it was decided to extend the trench in the area of the inner ditch wall by 1m.

Initial thoughts were that the natural pinkish stony material of the natural was being to show in the corner of the trench and, as yet, no sign of the ditch turning.

In the morning, Jen, Marlene and Christine worked on cleaned up the southeast edge of Trench 3a. This was to see if the large jumble of stones seen on the northwest side of the the central Sandy Clay Mound could be replicated on this side. Susan was tasked with collecting and respectfully storing the fragments of cremated bone that are showing in this area. By afternoon no new larger stones had been uncovered. It was therefore assumed that the edge of the mound (if there is one) was probably under the spoil heap (Bill has already spoken to Nick the farmer about moving the spoil heap further to the southeast).

Meanwhile Chris spent some more time cleaning up the area on the northwest side of the Sandy Clay Mound where he was finding more vertically stacked stones approaching the centre. At this stage it still isn’t clear if the stones closer to the centre (i.e. the ones embedded in the Sandy Clay Mound) are resting on stones beneath, but seems possible.

In the afternoon Jen joined Chris clearing more small stones from the area to expose more possible features.

Tuesday 21st May
Day 12 – Great turnout today with 10 volunteers on site. Joining Chris and Bill were Andrew Wilcock, Peter Cooke, John Needle, Christine Morton, Linda Harvey, Peter Kitts and new starter Steve Parry, with Dan Taylor joining in the afternoon.

Bill first gave Steve a tour of the site, then set him to work in Trench 3a trowelling the area between Sondages S2 and S3 in the southeast end of it. An unusual whitish soft sandy clay had been detected underneath the mottled clay and burnt layer in Sondage S2 but not in S3 (grey or whitish clay has been detected in other trenches but not as intense has here and not below the mottled and burnt layers). In the afternoon, when Dan arrived, he took over from Steve. Underneath the whitish clay, Dan could detect a darker sandy clay which contain fecks of charcoal (a section here might gives us a clue about what is going on).

Andrew worked on the southwest area of Trench 1b (between Sondages S3 and S4) -continuing where Bill had left off, uncovering more of the stony layer. This revealed more large stone but no more larger flat ones. It did show however that the edge of the stony layer on the southwest side runs diagonally across the trench heading towards the west entrance of the Ring Ditch.

Peter Cooke, Christine and Linda helped Chris working on the area between Trench 1b and 3a where Chris was seeing a circular feature developing centring on the Sandy Clay Mound. Chris and Christine worked on the area around Sondage S5 (the sondage which leads to our second urn). This revealed more of the large stone jumble, which seemed to go quite deep into the sandy clay.

Peter and Linda worked on removing the upper layer of small stones around the small circular feature devoid of stone to see if it could be developed. At the end of the day Chris seemed to be vindicated as the circular feature could be seen to link up with the larger area devoid of stone on the southwest side of the Sandy Clay Mound. The feature also seemed to continue on the northwest side of the mound skirting around the jumble of large stones. Later Chris worked on the area on the east side of the mound to see if he could replicate the same thing on that side.
Chris also carried on investigating the strange octagonal feature in Trench 3a (F4) trying to expose more of the cremated bone he’d detected last time out. While doing this he did notice a layer of burnt wood and amongst it he found another small piece of worked flint (possibly a tool but more likely a flake).

Meanwhile John and Peter Kitts worked on the Trench 3b (carrying on where Dan left off the week before) extending it another spade’s length in the northeast direction. A thick layer of mottled clay was quickly revealed and recorded before it was removed to reveal more stones below (noticing no sign of the burnt layer). Later in the afternoon Steve joined to help clean the up the stones and then Andrew when John left. Previously Bill thought the edge of the stony layer had been reached running diagonally across the trench. Looking at the cleaned up trench, Bill thought he still might be right as the new stones revealed are more random than the other side of the diagonal line running across the trench (something to investigate more next time).

Thursday 16th May
Day 11 – As Tuesday had been called due to the weather at short notice, it was decided to do today instead. Again the weather was playing tricks and it was decided to abandon this day as well – however not before Francesca had embarked on her bus journey. Chris therefore agreed to meet up with her on site to see if they could at least get the morning in. Rain stopped play soon after lunch but they did manage to get some interesting results.

First job was to address a Health and Safety issue – all the stones were collected up that had been placed by the sides of trenches, as they were becoming a hazard being hidden by the long grass.

After cleaning up some more stonework in Trench 3a, Francesca turned her attention to the new octagonal feature in that trench. She was able to remove more of the soil from the inside edge on the northeast side revealing more of the orange sandy clay wall of the feature. Later Chris took the section down another centimetre and the first glimpse of possible cremated bone began to appear (Chris has always thought this was another cremation burial).

While Francesca worked on the octagonal feature, Chris worked on the a small feature he had detected a while ago in Trench 3a (which he is calling Feature 5). It consists of a half- metre long, 15cm wide strip of dark material running across the Sandy Clay Mound in an easterly direction, starting from Sondage S6. The previous day’s rain had enhanced the feature and a green mould (which we had seen ton our first urn) was now growing along it, making its course much more visible. Although its section shows up in Sondage S6 (where the large grooved stone is) Chris wanted to put a cut in it half way along to try to determine its profile at that point (this seemed to reveal a V shape). The dark brown sandy clay fill is quite like the ditch fill but has a lot of flecks of cremated bone and burnt wood in it. This is in contrast to the surrounding clean sandy clay material of the centre of the mound. All the cremated bone was carefully collected and the removed fill material, bagged ready for sieving. It seems that this feature could be the bottom section of a larger feature that has mostly been lost to the plough, and an indication of what the upper levels of the Sandy Clay Mound may have contained.

Wednesday 15th May
Day 10 – Joining Bill and Chris today were Andrew, Susan and Dan with Ben joining just before lunch.

Chris was keen to develop the area exposed between Trenches 1b and 3a where he thought he could visualise a circular feature in the arrangement of the large stones centring on the Sandy Clay Mound. Having not come across any more larger stone in the area selected for small stone removal, he asked Susan to look at the small area devoid of stones which seemed to be part of the Chris’s circular feature. Before that though, Bill ask if she would straighten a corner extended from Trench 1b and remove any mottled clay from the stones so that he could record it.

Andrew was tasked with carrying on where Bill had left off in Trench 1b where, while exposing the stony layer, had come across a large flat stone. After carefully removing the rest of the mottled clay layer, Andrew was able to expose all the stones in the stony layer from Sondage S3 to Sondage S4. He came across some large stones but no more larger flat stones.

Meanwhile Dan continued his work in Trench 3b removing the mottled clay layer down the the stony layer below. We were hoping that we had reached the end of the stony layer but his worked revealed this not to be the case – looks like we will have to extend the trench once again. A curious thing though was that the burnt layer seem to finish abruptly before reaching the east corner of the trench (is this the limit of the burnt layer?).

Bill was keen to understand what was going on in Trench 1. Last week’s work seemed to suggest a sharp turn of the inner ditch wall towards the west (to line up with the ditch exposed in Trench 8) but that was not matched by the ditch outer wall. The stone in the inner ditch wall in this area however is very fragile and may explain the sharp corner in the bedrock. Cutting further into the northwest section wall seemed to confirm this as it revealed the inner ditch wall more in line with general direction of the ditch (but has to turn at some point to line up with the the ditch discovered in Trench 8). When Ben arrived, he worked on the outer ditch wall. This revealed more of the ditch wall continuing in the same general direction. It was noticeable however that there was a layer of pinkish clay near the bottom of the ditch, not seen in our first excavations of this trench. It’s going to be difficult to resolve this issue without a lot of work extending the trench in the northwest direct – perhaps a coring survey could help shed more light on the situation.

Wednesday 8th May
Day 9 – Bill back on duty today. Joining him and Chris were Ben, Peter, Jen, Dan, Susan and Christine.

Peter and Jen continued working on the area between Trenches 1b and 3a, joined by Christine and Susan. By the afternoon all the mottled clay and burnt layer had been removed revealing the stony layer covering the whole area. What is notable in this area is the size of the stones in the stony layer are generally getting larger than the general scatter as we approach the Sandy Clay Mound (SCM). Chris also seemed to think (supported by others) that a circular feature was developing in this area centring on the SCM. He could see an area devoid of stone that seemed to be heading towards the area on the west side of the SCM also devoid of stone. Before continuing therefore he recorded the area with his drone. Once done, a section of the area was selected for stone removal to see if there were any larger flat stones underneath and see if more of the circular feature could be detected . By the end of the day no larger stones appeared, just more sandy clay but how this relates to the Sandy Clay Mound has yet to be seen.

Dan was asked to extend Trench 3b another spade-width in the northeast direction to see if we could confirm the edge to the stony layer previously detected. As he cut through the mottled clay layer to the underlying burnt layer, he noticed the burnt layer seemed to disappear in the east corner.

Bill, meanwhile, worked in Trench 1b on the southwest side, taking it down below the stony layer so that a full section could be draw. This revealed some large stones and one larger flat stone (which was away from the other larger flat stones in that trench). He therefore extended the area around the flat stone to reveal its full extent (more investigation needed here as well).

In the afternoon Christine joined Ben who had been continuing his work in the ditch in Trench 1. She worked on the outer ditch wall while Ben worked on the inner ditch wall. This time Ben worked on the northwest side where the section wall had partially collapsed. It’s early days but something is looking particularly odd about this side of the ditch as there seem to be a lot of stone in the section (are we looking at another terminus? which would explain a barely perceived gap in the crop mark). Ben though was able to reveal sharp turn of the ditch wall (a turn to the west is expected but perhaps not so sharp).

Tuesday 7th May
Day 8 – Chris in charge today. Joining him were Ben, Peter, Jen and Marlene. We also had three ne starters – Christine Morton, Dan Taylor and Peter Kitts (who joined in the afternoon).

Chris started by giving Christine and Dan a tour of the site (Christine is an experienced digger having worked on sites in York). After the tour, she worked with Marlene in Trench 3a joining the two Sondages S2 and S3 so that Bill could draw the section. Peter and Jen continued to extend the area between Trench 1b and Trench 3a, removing more of the topsoil down to the mottled clay layer (the idea being to expose even more stones to see if more of the large flat stones extended beyond Trench 1b). Chris meanwhile cleaned up an area of stonework near the centre of the Sandy Clay Mound in Sondage S5. This was to expose more of the larger stones there, some of which are vertical or near vertical. He then spent some more time cleaning the new octagonal feature in Trench 3a which revealed a large area of burnt wood 3cm down.

Ben and Dan worked on the ditch in Trench 1 investigating the rock-cut wall on the southwest side, exposing more of it in a southeast direction. The ditch wall on this side is turning out to be more mysterious than we first thought as it is not parallel with the northeast wall (further investigation needed). When Peter Kitts arrived Chris gave him the obligatory tour of the site.

Thursday 2nd May
Day 7 – Another good turnout with Peter, Phil Livesey, Francesca and Linda Harvey joining Bill, Chris and Patrick. John Trippier arrived later, bringing Steve King with him (just visiting) from the Lytham U3A.

With it being Linda’s first time trowelling, she joined Francesca removing more of the topsoil in Trench 3a, extending the exposed mottled clay down as far as Sondage S3. This produced no more surprises but prepared the ground for further excavation i.e. joining Sondages S2 to S3 to expose the section for drawing.

Patrick continued exploring our strange octagonal feature. Chris, having brought his small hand-held metal detector, had been able to detect a weak signal from small areas inside the feature. However Patrick’s careful examination of these areas failed to produce anything metal. Chris’s detector wasn’t reaching more than 3cm into the feature so at lunch time he went home to fetch his normal metal detector (taking Francesca to the bus stop in Aspull as she was unfortunately working in the afternoon) . Chris’s newly charged detector was able to get more signals but these were still a bit vague and again Patrick was unable to find the source, just more charcoal and flecks of orange sandy clay.

Meanwhile Chris and Peter worked on the joining trench between Trenches 3a and 1b extending its width to one metre. This was to try to understand the connection between the large stones in Trench 3a and the even larger stone in Trench 1b. This didn’t seem to produce any more large stones but Peter had just got down to the burnt layer with stony layer still to be exposed.

Bill in the meantime helped Phil to extend Trench 3b more in the southeast direction. Previously John Needle had detected the possible edge to the stony layer and the new extension seemed to confirm that. When Phil left early in the afternoon, John took over and, by the end of the day, helped by Bill, managed to establish a well defined edge to the stones running diagonally across the extension. The burning layer however, lying under a thick layer of mottled clay, continued beyond the stones but seem to dip down in the furthest corner of the trench.

Chris finished the day with another drone survey.

Tuesday 30th April
Day 6 – Today’s team consisted of Chris, Bill, Jen, Ben, John Needle and Marlene Nolan (on only her second visit) – with Patrick joining just before lunch.

Chris explained to Bill what had been discovered the previous week in the joining trench between Trenches 1b and 3a, while Jen and Marlene got stuck into Sondage S2 in Trench 3a. Chris had asked them to extend it and trowel down to expose the soft whitish sandy clay that had been puzzling him in this sondage. By late afternoon, after removing the mottled clay and burnt layers, they had opened up a metre square area revealing the soft whitish sandy clay covering the whole area. John was keen to return to Trench 3b to continue extending in both the northeast and southeast directions to see if, once again, he could find the end of the stony layer – and, once again, he thought he might have it in the last extension to the southeast (hope so as we’re getting ever closer to the ring ditch itself). Chris wanted to find out more about the connection between the large stones in Trench 3a and the even larger stone in Trench 1b. To do this he began incrementally widening the new joining trench. Ben meantime, spent some time cleaning off the rest of the loose material from the stones along the northwest edge of Trench 3a (which Jen complete by doing a bit of gardening to remove the weeds developed over winter). Patrick was keen to try to understand what our octagonal feature in Trench 3a was all about. He spent some time therefore delicately teasing out shaped from the interior and exterior areas. The interior was revealing blackish material with flecks of clay and small pieces of charcoal (but no cremated bone). One current theory is that it was a clay-lined basket , the blackish outer lining representing the decade material of the basket (the clay lining is too soft to have been a fired pot). Why clay-lined though – to hold some liquid perhaps? (Chris meanwhile still holds to the thought that it maybe a cremation with the bones located further down).

Bill spent his time cleaning the section in Trench 1b previously exposed by Ben so that he could record it.

Wednesday 24th April
Day 5 – Joining Chris today were Patrick, Peter and Martin.

The day was spent concentrating on the newly exposed stones in the joining trench between Trenches 1b and 3a. Chris cleaned out the trench staring in Trench 1b working towards Trench 3b. This initially revealed an edge to the small stone layer, leaving a small gap before the smaller stone layer reappeared again. Peter worked in Trench 3a removing the mottled clay and burnt layers from the stones along the northwest edge up to the sondage (S5). He also cleaned and defined the extent of the larger stones previously exposed in the sondage. There appeared to be a gap or pocket between the jumble of large stones and the stone previously exposed near the second urn. Working in this gap he managed to get down to the same depth as the bottom of the nearby large grooved stone sondage (S6).
Just to be clear, there is a distinction between the small stones we are generally finding lying underneath the layer of burning, and the larger stones in the sondage (which are still not as big as the large flat stones in Trench 1b). Also these larger stones seem to be embedded in the sandy clay rather than lying on top of it.

Patrick also cleaned out the sondage S6 to show a layer of larger stones that seem to match up with the layer Peter had found earlier. As with the day before, no stones were lifted.

The large grooved stone in sondage S6, having been left exposed to the elements for a few weeks, is showing more detail, especially in the sunlight. Some marks above the grooves are now showing ‘fossil like’ features adding to the conviction that the grooves are also from a fossil.
When Martin arrived after lunch he continued to extend Trench 3b to the northeast looking for the extent of the stone layer. He found more stones.

The day was completed with Chris doing another drone survey of the area we had excavated. Drone videos were also taken for presentations.

Tuesday 23rd April
Day 4 – With Bill away this week Chris was in charge. Joining him were Patrick, Peter, Jen, and John Needle.

John and Chris continued removing the thin layer of top soil (to reveal the mottled clay layer) in Trench 3a, southeast of sondage S8 for a further 3m (up to the end of sondage s2). John cleaned out sondage S8 to expose the white material below the red/black line. Nothing obvious showed up on the newly exposed mottled clay layer. Patrick carefully worked on the area around the new feature discovered a few weeks ago in the mottled clay layer and exposed more of the interior. It is still not clear what this feature is, but we now know that the orange profile drops vertically down at least 2cms.

Meanwhile Peter and Jen worked on opening up a trench to link the edge of the large stone area in Trench 1b to the stones in Trench 3a. This was to produce a continuous section between the two trenches to see how the large flat stones relate to the Sandy Clay Mound in Trench 3a. The previous sondage (S5) in Trench 3a (where the new joining trench enters the trench) was cleaned to reveal the collection of large stones in it, some of which were vertical, or near vertical.
The smaller stones, lying under the burnt layer in the new trench, seemed to be rising to overlay the larger stones in Trench 3a. The red/black line showing in the new section reflected this.

In the afternoon John continued to extend Trench 3b to the northeast in an attempt to find the extent of the stones.

Thursday 17th April
Day 3 – The wind had dropped but it was still quite chilly. Joining Bill and Chris today were Peter, John Needle and newcomer Francesca Usher (who has a degree in Palaeontology) , with Ben join slightly later in the morning.

Peter continued the work in Trench 1b removing the stony layer to reveal the extent of the large stones below. To do this he found he need to increase the extension in the northeast and southeast direction by 15cm (and then further 15cm on the southeast side). This seemed to produce a narrowing of the area covered by the large stones. Ben meanwhile had been asked to reduce the baulk left in the middle of the trench next to the large stony area – taking it down to the stony layer. This was to confirm (which it did) that the large stones did not continue in that direction. This extension is moving towards Trench 3a and Chris suggested we take it further so that a full section across the Sandy Clay Mound could be recorded.

John was asked to continue his work from last year expanding the northeast extension of Trench 3a (where now calling it Trench 3b). This was to see if we could establish the extent of the stony layer. He was able to extend a 1.2m wide section at the end of the trench by about another half metre. This was still producing a stony layer albeit getting less pronounced. Taking another 15cm of the northeast end of the trench seemed to confirm he may have found the end of the stony layer.

Meanwhile Francesca was given a lesson in trowelling by Chris who asked her to remove the topsoil in Trench 3a beyond the sondage (S8) he had made across this trench (next to our first urn find). This produced more banding in the mottled clay layer pointing northwards. Bill hadn’t warned Francesca about the cold conditions on site and having not wrapped up was beginning to freeze. Bill therefore asked her to continue the work on the ditch in Trench 1 where she would be out of the wind (Bill had put a small ladder in it to enable better access). She did a great job cleaning the bedrock floor and the southwest edge of the ditch which seemed to be turning inwards – more than we’d seen previously. With the collapse of the northwest wall, it would be a good idea perhaps to extend the trench in that direction to see if the trend continued).

Wednesday 17th April
Day 2 – Better day weather-wise but still a chill wind. Joining Bill and Chris were Andrew, Ben and newcomer Linda Harvey.

The previous day Ben had been able to remove the stony layer from the northeast area of Trench 1b to reveal the soft sandy clay below. Bill asked Ben to continue this work taking the level down so that a clear view of the stony layer could be seen in the section.

Andrew was asked to carry on where Peter had left of in the southeast extension in Trench 1b to expose the burning layer all away across this newly exposed area. This didn’t completely go to plan as there was little evidence of the blackish burning layer on the southwest side (but plenty of evidence of burning however with the reddish decolouration of the stony layer).

Chris meanwhile continued investigating the strange octagonal feature in Trench 3a. He was able to enhance the shape but this was proving difficult with the delicate nature of the structure. It was reminiscent of our first urn which lay nearby but seemed too large to be a pot and there were no signs of a cremation inside. Having cleaned off all the topsoil around the feature, he did however notice banding in the mottled clay layer (upper left side in the photo below). It seemed to match the diagonal banding we had seen in the section which suggest a focus of its build up facing towards the central sandy clay mould (where our second urn is).

In the afternoon, back from his hols, Patrick arrived on site to catch up on developments and to discuss the removal of the spoil heap on the south side of Trench 3a (we don’t want to move it to somewhere where we might want to later dig). He will speak to Nick the farmer next week. The day finished slightly early as both Chris and Bill we scheduled to give a talk to the Wyre Group that evening.

Tuesday 16th April
Day 1 – Good turn out for this our first day proper on site this season. Joining Bill and Chris were Andrew Wilcock, Peter Cooke, Jen Harrison and newcomer Ben Goodman. We also had Bob Sanders and Andy Lomax joining at lunchtime.

Despite the wet weather experienced of the winter months, the trenches seemed to have survived quite well (even cleaning the stonework for us to some extent). It was decided to work on expanding Trenches 1b and 3a to reveal more of the stony layer.

Andrew and Jen worked on removing the baulk on the northeast side of Trench 3a while Peter was tasked with expanding the southeast edge of Trench 1b with a 0.5m by 2m wide extension. This was to investigate the extent of the large stones discovered towards the end of last year. After removing the topsoil he was able to cut through the mottled clay layer to start revealing the blackish burning layer below.

Bill asked Ben to remove the stony layer on the northeast side of Trench 1b and some of the underlying soft sandy clay, so that he could draw the exposed section.

Meanwhile Chris busied himself cleaning and exposing more of the area exposed in our preseason visit in February earlier this year, where the strange octagonal feature had been discovered. While doing this Chris found a couple of flints, one natural but the other was obviously worked. It looked like a very small awl or perhaps a burin (these date to the Neolithic).

When Bob and Andy Lomax arrived at lunchtime, Bill set Bob to work cleaning out the ditch in Trench 1 while he showed Andy around the site. Andy then volunteered himself emptying buckets and wheel barrows. Trench 1 had suffered some collapse of the northwest side wall while the opposite wall had remained intact. By mid afternoon Bob, with Bill’s help, had more or less cleared the bottom and re-established the steep sides of the ditch. This however presented a problem for Bob getting out of the ditch. Bill decided to put some steps in the side wall but, as this was in the soft fill of the ditch, they proved ineffective which left Bob having to scramble on all fours with the help of Andy to get out.

Around 3.00pm, after experiencing our third bout of hailstone, it was decided to abandon proceedings for the day.

Saturday 24th February
A combination of good weather and the availability of Chris Drabble’s Border Heritage Archaeology Group (BHAG) from Cheshire, provided an opportunity for a preseason site visit to do some coring. The team included Don and Gill Wilson, Penny Jones, Cath Harris, Phil Cox and Chris’s partner Denise German, joining Chris, Bill and Patrick to carry out the work.

Following on from our coring exercise in the South Quadrant, we had always planned to do the same on the East Quadrant. Coring, although not definitive, has been able to give us a good idea where we have the ditch and where we haven’t. Last time it showed that the ditch seemed to be continues in the South Quadrant although there may be one or two areas where there are interruptions similar to the one in Trench 5 / 5a. Our approach on the East Quadrant was slightly different in that, instead of traversing the ditch at 1m intervals, which was very time consuming, we did one long scan south to north along a line that theoretically would dip in and out of the ditch. This, in theory, would reveal our main aim i.e. was there an entrance on the east side similar to the one on the west (which is often the case with henge monuments). Core readings were taken every metre starting 7m north from Peg 7a for 26m on a line 1.5m east of the a baseline joining Peg 7a with Peg 1. As before the material in the core wasn’t recorded, just the depth at which the corer bottomed out on the bedrock or hard natural (or not, as the case maybe if no bottom could be detected). The result seem to show that, as in the South Quadrant, the the ditch was continuous (i.e. no sign of an entrance) and more or less where we had predicted it to be. Although also as before, there were a couple of areas were there may be an interruption in the ditch similar to Trench 5 / 5a (only excavation would prove this which we will do if we get chance). We also took the opportunity to do a couple of perpendicular traverses in the middle of the scan to see if the ditch profile could be detected but the results were a little inconclusive.

It was a lovely day and, as there were so many on site, Chris thought we had the resource to look at an area in Trench 3a which he had previously identified has may provided more evidence of burials. This was at the northwest end of the area stripped of its plough soil which had not subsequently been excavated. The area is close to our first urn which was found lying just under the plough soil embedded in the mottled sandy clay layer. It was thought therefore that others could be revealed without much effort (if the existed), by removing the remnant of the topsoil. Two members of the BHAG were tasked with this and before long an area of the mottled sandy clay was uncovered stretching almost as far as the previous urn. They didn’t find another urn but they thought they might have when a strange pattern in the soil emerged. Its octagonal shape was defined by a thin band of bright orange clay and lined on the outside by an even thinner band of organic or burnt material. There was nothing in the interior to suggest it was a container of any sort and, as it was too late in the day, the feature was covered up to be investigated at a later date.

Bill, meantime, had been having a closer look at the stones with the inscribed parallel lines on them. There had been a suggestion that they could have been produced by Sigillaria a fossilised plant from the Carboniferous period. Both Chris and John Smalley had made the suggestion and John had enhanced the image of the one of the small stones to show the possibility of tell-tale ‘leaf scars’ on the ridges. Bill first looked at the large stone but couldn’t identify any further clues to its origin.
However the small stone that John had looked at certainly seems to have fossil traits, i.e. a thick surface ‘skin’ –

and in the the low sun light, nodules know as leaf scars could be seen on the ridges.
This, we discover, is similar to a tree-like fossil occurring in the Carboniferous period known a Sigillaria.

Another stone with grooves, which had previously been dismissed as natural, on reflection also looked to be a fossil.
This seemed to suggest that even the large stone, despite its manmade appearance, would also be a fossil (it certainly seems a plausibly explanation for these unique and otherwise unexplained carvings). If this is what we have, it has quite some significance i.e. having a collection of fossils in and around our burial mound. We know fossils do occur on prehistoric sites, which suggests they were perhaps venerated by the ancient peoples (who wouldn’t have known how they were created).

Towards the end of last year Phil Cox took home a stone he found on the spoil heap which he though looked a bit unusual. Once cleaned of the clay and dirt he realised it was an almost perfectly formed stone ball. Although not found in context Chris has been able to determine through his drone images that it must have come from archaeological layers around our Sandy Clay Mound.

It can be dismissed as a cannon ball as it isn’t round enough, shaped more like a tangerine and anyway the amount of work to produce it wouldn’t warrant it to be a single use throw away item. Elaborately carved stone balls are found in their hundreds, but they almost entirely found in Scotland. There a couple of dozen plain stone balls recorded but the suggestion is that these are the in the preliminary stage for future carved balls.