Geography of the United Kingdom

A Slightly Less Archaeological Day Than Usual

Last weekend my left knee decided to stop working. So I had the day off today.  This means doing work for the course I am undertaking alongside my full-time job.

I work as the archaeology officer for Southwark Council. Other than staff in the Heritage team who work in the Borough’s museum, I am the only archaeologist at the Council. I work within the Development Management department (we no longer control development, we manage it!). I advise planning officers on whether proposals comply with the requirements of the Borough’s archaeology policy, wider heritage policies and the relevant paragraphs of the National Planning Policy Framework. I issue briefs for archaeological work, check WSIs, monitor site work, check reports, make recommendations for the discharge of archaeological conditions and manage much of the digital data for the department. Along side the archaeological work I also undertake some conservation work where an archaeological input is necessary or valuable or if it is a GIS heavy project.

I work in a team with conservation officers, urban design officers and a tree officer. As part of my employer’s commitment to staff training I am currently undertaking a postgraduate diploma in Historic Environment Conservation at the Ironbridge Institute. This is part of the Institute of Antiquity and Archaeology at Birmingham that is currently threatened with closure. Ironbridge is an immensely valuable training organisation that provides recognised degrees and qualifications that are organised in a way whereby those in full-time work can easily undertake the qualification with a minimal level of interference with their full-time jobs.

I have nearly finished by essay on concrete conservation (far more interesting than it sounds) and would urge anyone reading this to visit this web page for more information on the potential closure If you wish to support the effort to preserve the IAA please sign the petition

Hengistbury Head Survey Project 2012

The Hengistbury Head Survey Project will begin it’s second season on Monday (2-20 July 2012) by members of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Southampton. The projects main aim is to assess the impact of cliff erosion on the multi-period archaeology of the headland through a detail topographic survey. Feel free to follow us  and check out our research aims below.



The lock-keeper’s cottage

Today I’m working on creating an album of photographs  I took on a “canal camp”  for which I volunteered a couple of weeks ago, and I’ll upload it to my my web site in the next couple of days . The aim of the Waterway Recovery Group project is to help to restore the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal as it wriggles through South Wales towards Newport.

I go on these camps because they offer a great mix of the outdoors, exercise, team-building, learning, fun and industrial archaeology. I learn a lot about how the canals were constructed, and a little about who constructed them and operated them. This year,as we worked on Drapers Lock, near Cwmbran, Monmouthshire, we discovered the foundations of the lock-keeper’s cottage. Since the canal has been decaying for a century or so (the last boats travelled along it over 70 years ago), not much remains of the small stone-built cottage.

But by the end of the week I’d hacked away at enough jungle to discover the cottage fireplace and chimney-base, together with a scatter of sherds of transfer-printed ceramics (see below). These appear to underline our growing understanding that even the most “humble” working people, in this case a lock-keeper, often owned and discarded quite “fine”  wares. I especially like the design that includes an Oriental man (a musician?) with his long moustache. These tiny sherds give me a glimpse of the tastes of the long-gone cottage occupants, and I like to imagine these ceramics standing on a dresser bright with blue-and-white pottery  as, outside, barges full of coal worked their way through the adjacent lock on their way from the mines up the valleys down to the docks at Newport.

And here I am, sitting proudly on “my” cottage!


Historic Environment Action Plans for the Cranborne Chase

My name is Emma and I am the Historic Environment Action Plan Project Officer for the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. What a mouthful! Basically what this is about is a gorgeous piece of protected landscape on the Wiltshire Dorset border which incorporates the amazing prehistoric archaeology of the Cranborne Chase, a host of Medieval hunting landscapes, the Vale of Wardour and the chalk landscape of the West Wiltshire Downs. Since 2009  we have been prodocuing a landscape scale vision for the conservation and enhancement of the historic environment of this landscape, and have developed a series of 20 actions to achieve this. We were lucky to secure English Heritage funding for this project as a best practice exemplar for other protected areas.

We are now at the stage of implementing these actions, which leads to a snapshot of my day which has been as is typical very varied…

… first thing I had a meeting with a AONB volunteer who is leading on an action to help our parishes and communities to analyse record the historic landscape character of their villages and the surrounding landscape to inform Village Design Statements and the like. We had a trial workshop at Pimperne on Monday evening and we went through the results and looked at what worked and what didnt

… I drafted a proposal for South Wiltshire CPRE outlining how they might potentially help with the implementation of the Historic Environment Action plans

…I  sat down with my manager Linda and discussed the arrangements for a guided walk we have organised in conjunction with Martin Green on Down Farm on the Cranborne Chase. This is the second event which we have organised as part of the  festival of archaeology. The first was an archaeology seminar last Saturday on the history and archaeology of the area which 85 people came to and which was a fantastic day

…I then coordinated with Laura the eductaion officer at Salisbury Museum over a meeting she is hosting next week focusing on interprepation, education and access to the historic environment of the AONB, and how the various museums, organisations etc can work together better

…next up I responded to a proposal for a Higher Level Stewardship scheme from Natural England on one of the designed landscapes in the AONB and gave some feedback

… I sent some details on a historic farmstead i visited yesterday to one of our local councillors

… finally I got some GIS files and maps ready for next week. I have scanned some slides for Martin Green and amgiving him the .jpegs tomorow. On Tuesday am visiting the Wiltshire Archaeology Service to hand over the AONB Historic Landscape Characterisation and some other GIS files, popping into the Wiltshire Building Record and then going to see our collegues at North Wessex Downs to chat through some Historic Landscape Characterisation data with them.

…the last thing I am doing today is completing this for the Day of Archaeology and will probably post it to my own blog too. See

Thats all for me if you want to know more about our project visit



Coastal archaeology and community engagement

I’m Ellie, a project archaeologist with GGAT, and I’m currently working on a community project, Arfordir (‘coastline’ in Welsh) which involves working with volunteers to monitor and record the vulerable archaeology in the coastal zone of south east Wales.  The study area encompasses the coast of the Gower peninsula and Swansea Bay as far as the mouth of the River Ogmore.  This includes fascinating archaeology of all periods, much of which is at risk from coastal erosion, sea level change, visitor damage and other threats.

A view of the ruined Candleston Castle in the sand dunes of Merthyr Mawr

Candleston Castle, Merthyr Mawr, in the new eastern part of the project study area

A large part of the workload of the project involves general admin, I spend the first part of every morning checking and answering emails from volunteers working on the project and liasing with colleagues.  The project study area has just been expanded to the east and a lot of new volunteers have been recruited in this area, so I’ve been organising a meeting and training session, and inviting interested people to come along.

We’ve also just started working in partnership with a similar project in Swansea, and I’ve been creating a leaflet advertising the opportunity to volunteer and get involved in this.  I’m also planning a series of guided walks around the study area so I can show volunteers some interesting archaeological sites and they can get some experience in recording and surveying.  In preparation for this, I’ve been creating maps showing the sites in the area and lists detailing what they are.  Finally, I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon writing a proposal for a spin-off from the Arfordir project, a small excavation on the foreshore of Swansea, investigating a series of wooden posts embedded in the Brynmill peat shelf.  In the past features in this peat shelf have been found to be of prehistoric date, so these wooden posts could be thousands of years old.  I’m hoping to spend part of the autumn excavating them with a team of volunteers so that we can find out.

Contracts Department

My name is Jon Burton, I work in the contracts department of GGAT. I normally spend a fair amount of time out in the field, dealing directly with clients, carrying out watching briefs, evaluations, and on occassions full scale excavations.

Most of this week I’ve been working on post excavation reports, related to watching briefs carried out in the Glamorgan and Gwent area.  These include watching briefs carried out in the Caerleon area, related to the line of a former roman road, and another watching brief in the Port Talbot area along the line of a new road scheme which, has uncovered a number of features related to former industrial activity.

Today I had hoped to continue with the writing up of a small watching brief, carried out this week in Cowbridge.  However, another fieldwork project has come up in Merthyr which, requires cover next week, and so now I’ll have to produce a risk assessment, and gather some background information in preparation for this new work.