HLF

Natural England Day of Archaeology 2016

I am an historic environment lead adviser for Natural England. Natural England is an executive non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs . We look after the natural environment including nature conservation (particularly SSSIs) and landscape – including cultural landscapes and the historic environment. We also work closely with the Environment Agency and Forestry Commission. I’m based in Yorkshire where I work with rural archaeological sites, traditional buildings and historic landscapes.

This year has been an interesting one for me as much of my work is involved with agri-environment schemes and this work has been affected by the Brexit vote. Some decisions have been delayed but we are all working hard to make up lost time and help our farmers with this year’s grant applications which are due in for September. Natural England have also moved to a new delivery model where we have categorised our work into ‘business as usual’ and ‘priority focus areas’ – in these focus areas we will allocate added staff time to things like partnership working to achieve common objectives by working together with other organisations in the public and private sector. In Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire we have 9 focus areas and I work within 5 of these; Yorkshire Dales & Nidderdale, Humber, South Pennines, Dearne Valley, and Humberhead Levels while my colleague deals with archaeology in the other areas.

Natural England focus Areas

Today I am working from our head office in York (although I am usually based in Leeds with one day per week of home working and usually another out on various farms or nature reserves). I’ve got paperwork and email to catch up on as this has been a very busy week.

At my desk, with headset ready to dish out some heritage advice

Some of this work relates to the Dearne Valley where there is a Heritage Lottery Funded Landscape Partnership. On Tuesday I went to a meeting at Elsecar Heritage Centre with the Dearne Valley Landscape Partnership and their new archaeological consultants. As part of Natural England’s in-kind contribution to the project I helped to write the brief and assess tenders. This first meeting with the successful consultants, ArcHeritage, was to plan a series of events to involve the community within the Dearne Valley more closely with their heritage and inspire them to protect it. As the Dearne river valley has interesting mosaic habitats of wetland, woodland, farmland and restored coal tips it is an important wildlife refuge. It also has an amazing amount of archaeology, not just industrial – as you can see here in the Dearne Valley Heritage Audit.

Due to its habitat interest Natural England staff work a lot with farmers here, showing them how to manage their land sustainably, while my contribution is to help them manage their archaeological sites. Today I’m checking the sites that the consultants thought would be suitable for access and outreach activities to see if there are any clashes with our grant schemes, or if there are sensitive species which might mean that we need to alter our plans. So far I haven’t found any major clashes! I’m confident that we can work together as a team to make the project work for nature, for the historic environment and for the local people but I can see from my maps that there are a few things which might have to be tweaked. I’ve contributed to a real reduction to heritage at risk in Yorkshire along with the farmers who manage the land and it’s something I really do feel proud about.

The other big event this week was the reopening of Plumpton Rocks parkland. This Grade II* parkland was placed on the heritage at risk register in 2012 then in 2013 it applied for an agri-environment scheme. Along with the owner, Historic England and the Country Houses Foundation, Natural England have helped to grant aid a restoration including lake desilting, planting of new wood pasture (the planting plan being taken from historic OS mapping) and tackling of invasive species such as rhododendron and Himalayan balsam. While Natural England restored the landscape our partners have focused on the structural elements including the dam. It has been one of the trickiest restoration projects of my life (I usually have 6 or 7 medium to large restoration projects per year to deal with but this is a big one!) as there are lots of designations both for the historic structures and for the natural environment, all of which needed to be taken into consideration before we made any changes. I have been on the project steering group for the last 3 years so it was a big privilege for me to attend the reopening after so long making things happen behind the scenes. It’s very unusual for us to be greeted by Betty’s fat rascals and a glass of (non-alcoholic!) bubbly – and it’ll all have to be reported on the central gifts register to ensure that I’m not being inappropriately influenced – but the owner really wanted to show his appreciation despite the rainy weather!

Country Houses Foundation cutting the ribbon at Plumpton Rocks parkland while the owner looks on
The work there will help local people see the parkland in its former glory, and I was simply busting with excitement to see how the press and local people would feel at the transformation. It was a little disappointing to have rain on such as special day although we braved the weather to walk around the lake and point out the transformation wrought by desilting, tree planting and felling and structural restoration. There are a few bits of restoration work still to complete but to see a neglected site transformed and teach owners how to care for their land long term is one of the best parts of my job. Today I’m writing up the experiences from this project so that other colleagues can learn from it as a case study and other sites will be able to benefit from my experiences. I’m also sending information about the press articles that are being written on the site to our communications officer and highlighting any tweets that we might want to retweet. Soon I will move on to another project but I do always feel a special connection to the places that I’ve been able to help.

Kat Hopwood-Lewis, BSc (Hons), MA, MCIfA
29/7/16

Clemency Cooper: Joining the Community at Oxford Archaeology

Oxford Archaeology is a registered educational charity with a long history of instigating and participating in public archaeology, and I have a new role at the company as their Community Archaeology Manager – today marks the end of my seventh week! I’m based at OA’s East office in Bar Hill, just outside Cambridge. I’ve been liaising with my colleagues, and fellow communications ‘champions’, Ed in our South office and Adam in our North office, to coax and coerce our colleagues to join in with the Day of Archaeology. I think this is a great opportunity to capture the work that we do and share it online to give people a snapshot of what goes on behind-the-scenes at a national commercial archaeological unit like Oxford Archaeology. Charlotte, one of our illustrators at OAE, designed some very fetching posters to advertise the campaign in-house and you can read her Day of Archaeology blog post here. If you’re interested in learning more about archaeological illustration, make sure to check out the live tweets from the graphics department in our Oxford office today on our Twitter account here using the hastags #graphix #dayofarch

Close up of posters, mug and keyboard

Posters advertising the Day of Archaeology at Oxford Archaeology

In between the steady stream of emails today, I’ve been kept busy uploading the text and photos from the blog submissions I’ve received from my colleagues. I first started blogging five years ago and I think it’s a good medium for quick site updates and event promotion, interacting with readers and sharing content across different platforms.

Besides the blogging, I’ve also been making arrangements to loan out survey equipment to community groups in Cambridgeshire as part of the Heritage Lottery Funded project, Jigsaw. The Fen Edge Archaeology Group recently finished their geophysical survey, and the Covington History Group and the Warboys Archaeology Project are also conducting magnetometry and resistivity surveys during the next couple of weeks – harvesting permitting!

I’ve also been working on the deployment schedule for our volunteers for next few weeks. It’s really gratifying to be able to offer people the chance to take part in excavations alongside our field staff. We have some very enthusiastic and experienced volunteers who return year after year, as well as a steady of new volunteers interested in fulfilling a life-long ambition to take part in an archaeological dig, or looking to develop the skills and experience for a career in the field. In fact, one of our volunteers has just been accepted onto the Oxford Archaeology graduate trainee scheme and she came into the office for her induction today.

I hope you enjoy exploring the posts from Oxford Archaeology this year, and that they give you a taster of the different work going on across our offices. You can read them all here.

Clemency Cooper is the Community Archaeology Manager for Oxford Archaeology, based at their East office in Cambridge. For more information about Oxford Archaeology and our work with community groups and schools, visit our website: http://oxfordarchaeology.com/community

Skills Collections Trainee: A Variety of Learning

Name: Gillian Rodger

What do you do?
I am a Heritage Lottery Funded Skills for the Future Collections Trainees at RCAHMS.

How did you get here?
As a creative youngster I’ve had a fascination with visiting and photographing historic places and objects as long as I can remember. Though I grew up near Chester, my family are all Scottish and having enjoyed many childhood summers exploring the Scottish countryside and going to various Historic sites, I’ve long since wanted to move to Scotland, to promote and get involved with maintaining Scottish Heritage.

Working on John Marshall Material at my Desk

Working on John Marshall Material at my Desk

Unsurprisingly then during my Art History undergrad I turned towards researching Medieval Art and objects and on returning to Edinburgh for my masters I became focused particularly on aspects of Global Material Culture and Collection Histories, whilst also collaborating with the NMS and interned on the Carved Stones Project with RCAHMS. Getting to apply and earning the chance to work as a skills trainee at RCAHMS felt like the perfect opportunity to combine my personal and academic interests whilst enabling me to gain greater experience in the Heritage Sector and in Collections.

What are you working on today?
Today, as is usual for skills trainees, I have been involved with a variety of different activities! I have been on the search room desk this morning, answering enquiries, aiding visitors with their research and hearing some brilliant family stories.

In between enquiries I’ve also started researching the sculptor John Marshall (1888-1952) in order to catalogue a fascinating box of his material for public access.

John Marshall box of material

John Marshall box of material

So far within the box I have discovered his sketchbook of sculpture from 1911, a worldwide picture postcard album and many photographs of himself and colleagues dressed for an ECA Revel Party, including Sir Robert Lorimer. This afternoon I have also been finishing organising and re-housing many excellent Threatened Buildings Survey Drawings completed by RCAHMS survey staff .

Favourite part of your job?
I would say the favourite aspect of my job is in fact the variety of activities we do during the placement. For example, so far outwit our varied ongoing collections work programme; I have been on placement at the National Galleries, attended heritage/medieval conferences, visited the outreach trainees on placement, worked with conservation on re-housing collections and done digital accessioning [see pictures]. In the next month I will also be invigilating at the RCAHMS Commonwealth pavilion for the Sightlines film, working with the NCAP team and beginning work with the other trainees on our big showcase project at Stirling Castle!

As such our job gives us the opportunity to learn lots of different skills, figure out my own strengths and interests, meet a variety of fascinating people and contribute to the work of the commission and Heritage in Scotland in various ways! So yes, getting the chance to have constant variety and new challenges in my work is fantastic.

What did university not teach you?
Despite Art History being a visual degree primarily focused on specific objects or artworks, there is a surprising lack of requirement to actually see and handle the tangible material one is researching, and for much of my art historic research I only utilised photographs, drawings or witnessed objects in their museum setting.

When I began to handle historical objects and material collections and research their collection histories for my work here, I was shocked at how little I had previously appreciated the benefit of having a tangible experience with collections. Not only this, but also just how important that form of first-hand experience can be for producing the best personal and academic research. For example, the scale, exceptional detail or even makers marks on collection material are rarely comprehensible from a photograph alone!

After this realisation I have and will certainly continue to be, an advocate for the promotion of access to original collection material and collections histories where possible, and hope I can continue working and promoting such values within Scottish Heritage beyond this traineeship!

To see a vine of my day, click here

Culver Archaeological Project: kilns and cremations

AOC Archaeology Group has been working with Culver Archaeological Project (CAP) on their excavation of a newly discovered Roman site at Bridge Farm near Barcombe, East Sussex. This post is a joint post from AOC and CAP!

team photo

Just part of the brilliant CAP 2013 team: members of CAP, Cat and Chris of AOC, and of course many wonderful volunteers (the team changes every day – sorry to those not in this photo!)

CAP began in 2005 with a simple programme of field-walking, survey and trial trenching in the hope of identifying further archaeological sites in the landscape around Barcombe Villa. Fieldwalking finds included Roman pottery and coins dating to the 1st and 5th centuries AD, and a comprehensive geophysical survey revealed impressive archaeological remains, just waiting to be investigated. CAP were successful in their application for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and with their support are conducting six weeks of excavation this year. The project is community-focussed at its very core, and volunteers are participating (for free) in every stage of the on-site work, which runs from 1st July to 10th August: excavation, wet sieving, finds processing and geophysics – and a brilliant job they are

robin excavates kiln

Volunteer Robyn came all the way from Ireland – only to be landed with the gloopiest feature imaginable!

doing too. Volunteers range from school pupils to octogenarians, and everything in between. Five local primary and secondary schools have also participated in classroom-based workshops, and then come out and visited the site before the end of term, taking part in the excavations, wet sieving, metal detecting, finds washing and so on, and we’ve also had a visit from the local YAC. There are also weekly workshops on various specialist areas of archaeology. Sounds busy, doesn’t it? It is! There is lots going on every day but everyone involved is showing boundless enthusiasm. The sunshine has helped!

Anyway,  moving on to what’s been going on in the run-up to the Day of Archaeology 2013! We are almost four weeks in to the six week programme of fieldwork, and things are getting really interesting. Our trenches were located to target specific features that had appeared through geophysical survey. This week, we have excavated an almost complete urn, which may contain cremated remains. The urn was removed intact, and will be excavated in the lab at a later date.

urn_montage

The urn is carefully excavated to reveal its true size, then wrapped in bandages for support. Note the smiles of relief as it comes out intact!

 

tile-lined feature

Tile-lined feature with opus signinum in situ

We also have an interesting tile-lined feature, which contained a large chunk of opus signinum (a type of Roman cement). The current thinking is that the cement might have been prepared to line the feature, however for some reason the job was never completed and it solidified to the tiles below. A bit of research has found a similar feature excavated in Tuscany, which the archaeologists there interpreted as a basin. Still speculation however.

Nearby is a possible kiln, which has a hard-baked clay lining. The fill of this feature was particularly sludgy, and Robyn and Clara had a very enjoyable day removing it! The look on their faces amidst the slop and squelching was something to behold! However the hard clay lining gives us more certainly that it may be a kiln, but it’s exact use is still uncertain. Postholes nearby may represent the traces of associated structures.

Today Dr. Mike Allen attended site and at tea break gave our students and volunteers a talk from the point of a geoarchaeologist, a very interesting point indeed, we now understand post depositional gleying, which explains the difficulties we are having identifying some features on site.

With two more weeks of digging to go, we are excited to learn more about the site. We couldn’t possibly explain it all in one post –  this is just a snapshot of life at CAP 2013 – so please come on over to CAP’s website to catch up on the rest.

Culver Archaeological Project is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Follow the project! www.culverproject.co.uk www.facebook.com/culverarchaeology @culverproject

To find out more about AOC, go to www.aocarchaeology.com or follow us on social media @aocarchaeology www.facebook.com/aocarchaeology 

RCAHMS – Susan Dibdin IfA Bursary in Building Recording

My name is Susan Dibdin and I am on the IfA bursary in Building Recording at RCAHMS for 12 months. I’m actually about 9 months through my placement now.

For the first 6 months of my placement I was working on the Threatened Building programme and through that I visited a lot of different threatened buildings throughout Scotland. We do desk-based research before visiting a site, and during field work make a decision on what should be recorded and which way if best to do to – whether it’s by photographic survey or a graphical survey.

I’ve moved onto the Urban Survey program, and I’m currently working on an urban characterisation study of Bo’ness. This involves sorting the town into different character areas based on historical development and topography as well as current day characteristics.

As part of the Urban Survey we’ll also update the Canmore record with new photography of Bo’ness – streetscapes as well as individual buildings. That’s actually what I’ve been doing today – I’ve put through 25 requisitions for individual building photography and I’ve also requisitioned general street views of the 18 character areas. That means that our professional photographers will know where to take the photographs!

Once the photographs have been taken and processed they’ll go into Canmore and I’ll work on captioning these. Today I also received a batch of aerial photographs from the photographers, which help to illustrate the street patterns etc. These will also form part of the characterisation study report to explain the character of the different areas of Bo’ness and how the towns developed over the centuries.