We’ve set up a dedicated blog for the forthcoming excavations on the longhouses in the Duddon Valley. I will post some more when it is fully up and running. Apologies for the exclamation mark!
I’ve been lucky to be involved over the last week or so with some preliminary survey work that OA North have been undertaking to assist the Duddon Valley Local History Group (DVLHG) with their ongoing investigations of a series of potentially medieval period longhouse and shieling settlement sites in the upper reaches of the Duddon Valley.
The group have been successful in a Heritage Lottery Fund bid for the Duddon Valley Medieval Longhouse Project to further investigate and then selectively excavate at several of these sites to build upon previous surveys and investigation undertaken between 2011 and 2013, and OA North will be providing professional expertise to assist DVLG in this project over the next few years.
We shall initially be concentrating at three probable domestic sites located in the rough upland pasture intakes on the east side of the Duddon Valley, with two separate examples at Tongue House High Close and one larger enclosure/farmstead with two longhouses at Longhouse Close.
As part of the project I am teaching detailed topographic recording along with helping out with various other strands of preliminary investigation, from UAV drone survey of the wider landscape surrounding the sites through to geophysical and palaeoenvironmental investigation. I will post some more detailed findings as we continue through the project.
It’s always nice when I’m back out surveying in the Lake District. I’m out near Cockermouth following a proposed water pipeline route. There’s not too much here but at
least it isn’t raining today.
Today was mostly spent shivering in the icy wind blowing through Bannisdale in the Lake District. I was instructing volunteers from the Lake District Archaeology Volunteer Network in the dark arts of surveying archaeological earthworks. The site in question was an enclosed hut circle settlement at Lamb Pasture that is scooped into the hillside on the north side of this small relatively isolated Lakeland valley. The site is a scheduled monument and as part of ongoing management and conservation works the Lake District National Park Authority require detailed surveys (which the volunteers will in future undertake) of this and other similar vulnerable sites.
The popular publication we produced for the Windermere Reflections project has now come back from the printers. It will shortly be available to purchase directly from the Lake District National Park Authority. Whether you are interested in community archaeology, industrial archaeology or the history of Windermere and the wider Lake District in general it is worth having a look at.
The book concentrates on the surveys and excavation undertaken in the Windermere catchment over the last few years as part of a Heritage Lottery funded project. Themes covered in the publication include metal mines, slate quarries, bloomeries, fulling mills and woodland industries. There is even a picture of me on the back!
At the end of July we were commissioned by the Lake District National Park Authority to undertake topographic survey of the three large spoil tips at the extensive Greenside lead mining complex near Ullswater in the Lake District. Archaeologically the site is of national importance and is protected as a Scheduled Monument. Future management of the property necessitated the present detailed topographic survey in advance of engineering works to maintain the stability and structural integrity of the large spoil tips. The buildings beneath the spoil tips are currently used as hostel accommodation.
Normally such a detailed survey, requiring close contours for the extensive complex would take an inordinate amount of time to survey using traditional survey techniques such as Total Station or even differential GPS. Over the last few years we have been developing more rapid and cost-effective survey capability using various unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to photograph archaeological sites, which is combined with Agisoft software to create 3D models and contours of sites.
Part of the site was surveyed and excavated in 2003-4 in advance to engineering works on Spoil Tip 2 using traditional survey methods, but whilst that took a week or so to undertake the present UAV survey took a day of flying and setting in survey control to cover the entire mine complex.
The site was visualised in Agisoft as a digital terrain model in both solid form and also with the aerial photography draped over the top. The data from this model was used to create detailed contours of the earthworks at various scales which could then be used when drawing up the site.
The complete site was also output as a single flattened scaled composite image which was then annotated in the field to add in the finer detail of archaeological structures and provide hatchures to the topographic survey.
The finalised site drawings, contours and survey detail were then compiled into a single CAD drawing for the entire complex and figures created showing both the entire complex and detailed ones of specific features in the complex.
The historic garden survey report we completed in 2012 for Allan Bank, a National Trust property (and brief residence of William Wordsworth) located at Grasmere, Cumbria is now available online via the OA Library. This project recorded all the archaeological and historical features within the c 4.6 hectare gardens on the property in order to inform the future management of the estate. The work was completed in advance of remedial works to be undertaken before the gardens were opened to the public.
Deeds record the sale of the land at Allan Bank located above the head of Grasmere by a Mr Sawyer to a Mr Edward Partridge in 1756. In 1804 Mr Partridge, or his descendants, sold the property to John Gregory Crump, an attorney and merchant of Liverpool. Subsequently, a villa was built at Allan Bank between 1805-8 in a simple Classical style, and was positioned on the southern flank of a rocky shoulder dividing Easedale from the main Vale of Grasmere. The house was raised artificially to create the depth for cellars and it was orientated so that the main south front looked straight down the length of Grasmere. A few years later William Wordsworth and his family moved there as soon as it was completed as it’s first occupants between May 1808 and May 1811; and their literary friends Thomas de Quincey and Samuel Taylor Coleridge stayed with them for lengthy visits. He did not like living there, but needed to move to more ample accommodation than their previous dwelling at Dove Cottage. Their occupation of the property was short-lived, in part, due to complaints about smoky chimneys.
The extant remains comprise three separate garden areas: a large wilderness garden; a walled kitchen garden; and formal gardens adjacent to the house. The survey identified, and recorded, a total of 109 archaeological features and/or garden components. Elements in the wilderness garden consist of a series of sinuous pathways with rustic flights of steps constructed of stone slabs. There are four/five garden seats located at strategic spots within the garden which variously had panoramic views looking north-west onto Helm Crag, south-east to Grasmere lake and east towards the house, although many of these vistas are now obscured with mature trees. Water was managed in the garden, with a reservoir that probably served the house and an underground pipe followed the footpath towards the house and ran through an elaborate stone-vaulted tunnel. Streams have been canalised and one stream passes over a craggy waterfall and has a small pool beneath. There is also a small well within rustic stone retaining walls. Features pre-dating the construction of the wilderness garden include charcoal burning platforms and two sections of relict boundary walls.
The kitchen garden has a large slate-topped unheated fruit wall on the northern side, which would have masked the garden from the house. The garden was laid out into quarters by slate-edged pathways and in the centre are the remains of a stone circular structure that may have functioned as a formal focal platform. There is a slate-roofed garden shed, a ruined twentieth century greenhouse, water troughs, a compost heap and a French drain that drained water away from the waterfall in the wilderness garden.
The formal pleasure gardens form a discrete area running around the house and extend to the kitchen garden; its elements consist of driveways, a dwarf-kitchen garden terrace, containing rectangular flowerbeds, and a sundial. The west, south and east sides of the house have stone-lined flowerbeds and stone-hewn flower boxes. On the west side of the house is a small garden lawn with relict beds/pathways evident. It is enclosed on the west side by a sinuous retaining wall constructed of cyclopean boulders and there is a large rockery constructed of quartz stones. Land to the south of the garden has been landscaped/terraced but its function is unclear. The formal gardens are skirted on the west side by a curvilinear gravelled trackway that runs towards the kitchen garden.
To the east of the house is a gravelled drive adjacent to the main house entrance, grass-covered tennis courts and a stone outcrop with rock art motifs. On the north side of the house there are the remains of two external buildings, an elaborately decorated chapel or billiard room and the ruins of a small garage or coach house.
Friday was the final day out on site at the bloomery at Blelham Tarn so we finished backfilling and reinstating the trenches as well as doing the last bit of survey and drawing up of the earthworks. A massive thanks should go to all of the volunteers who have given their time to come out and explore the four bloomeries around Windermere. Thanks should also go to Jamie, Wilm and Andy at OA North, Ian at EAS Ltd, Jamie and the field rangers at the National Trust and John, Eleanor and Holly at the National Park for giving their professional guidance on site.
We will now try to get some interim descriptions of what we found in each of the trenches on this site, and then as the analysis of the results takes place we will keep you informed of what we have learned, in particular what dates come back from any radiocarbon samples.
Jamie returned to Blelham Tarn last weekend to undertake aerial survey on the site of the bloomery as no excavation was taking place. He used his octocopter, one of two UAV we have at the company, to take multiple vertical images across the site. The north-western half of the site was covered in trees but the main area of the bloomery mound/platform where the four trenches were opened up was surveyed in full. From the photographs taken we were able to process them in Agisoft to create three outputs which will be really useful in trying to get an understanding of the subtle topography and earthworks for this site. First we have a flattened aerial plan view of the visible parts of the site which can be overlain on the survey data I took last week.
Then we have the 3D contour model of the detailed topography of the site which we can spin around, zoom in and out of, and pick up fine detail from. The screenshot above shows the model with the photo layer draped on, the one below shows it as the solid 3D generated model. Again from these we can pick up subtle details of the site and surrounding topography, and also see the trenches, spoil heaps and turf stacks!
Finally we can create close contours from the 3D model (these here are at 10cm intervals) which are overlain on the rough survey data we took last week – open the image below and zoom it to have a look. We found that the contours were very detailed for this particular site and were (obviously) better than ones generated from LiDAR data for the region, which at 1m accuracy really didn’t show much of the earthworks themselves, and were also offset slightly from the survey data. We have found that the Agisoft contours are better at depicting earthworks of discrete complex sites, whereas the LiDAR contours at 1m resolution are fine for broader areas and showing the surrounding natural topography.
I will use all of this information tomorrow when we go back out to site with the volunteers to finish off and do annotated hatchure drawings of the bloomery.
As the excavations have got underway and continued in earnest this week at Blelham Tarn, I have been there for several days in both sunshine and occasional heavy downpours undertaking detailed topographic survey of the site. When the survey is eventually drawn up it will complement both the excavations and geophysical survey results and will give us a really detailed picture of this complicated site.
Two days were spent investigating the field containing the bloomery mound(s), using survey flags to differentiate the edges of breaks of slope to each earthwork, and then recording them using either theodolite or total station. The rough survey data has been overlain onto contour data at 10cm intervals that was created using LiDAR data, in order to give the general natural topography surrounding the site. One day was spent recording a large dammed pond and water channel located on the hillside above the bloomery and a further day was spent doing basic walkover survey to identify sites in the wider landscape surrounding the bloomery field.
The rough survey results still need to be drawn up in the field to create detailed hatchured plans of the archaeological features. Initial results have revealed that the core of the site consists of a small sub-rectangular building platform with a flattened slag mound to the west. The gap between these mounds is a relatively flat platform and would have been used as a working area, and it contains the two furnaces identified during the geophysical survey (location of magnetometry grid shown in orange). The first excavation trench (open trenches shown in pink) is located on the inner edge of this building platform and is set across a wheel pit that would have once held at least one water wheel to be used to power the bellows on one of the two furnaces.
There is a flat triangular working area located south of the bloomery which extends out into a bog. There is slight earthwork evidence for small dumps of slag/spoil on the area, and possibly the eastern edge of some type of building foundation (shown in the geophysics results). Two trenches will be opened in this area to investigate these features, as well as another trench which has been opened to record the tailrace running away from the wheel pit. There is no surface evidence for the tailrace as it was infilled with slag, although this is picked out beautifully on the geophysics results.
Upslope to the north of the bloomery there is a slight gully or remnants of a field boundary (not a headrace to the wheelpit) which has a further small slag heap set against it. On the steep slope above the site there is a large dammed pond with an overflow channel on the west side. It is probable that the pond was once used to power the waterwheel at the bloomery site but there is no direct evidence for this. The pond was heavily modified with a new dam in the Victorian era when it was used for hunting purposes.