Today I’m doing a watching brief on the footprint of a new build house plot. Having read the spec I’m surprised to find there was a medieval village on the site of the modern village. I did not know the modern village even existed despite it being not a million miles from where I live and grew up. The village today is on one side of a road going nowhere in particular and consists of some houses and a single pub. The new build adds another house to the line. Although surprised by the village’s existence I am more surprised to see that this forgotten moor was once a hive of mining activity with the surrounding area riddled with mines and ventilation shafts.
The topsoil scrape is taking forever as the plant hire company has sent a JCB to do the job of a rubber duck or three-sixty. The driver is also not up to much, it is disconcerting to see him twitching and talking to himself in the cab when I am standing right in front of the blade. Still, the previous year I was machine-watching a driver from the same company who complained that the falling snow was giving him trails and flashbacks. However, there is absolutely nothing on the site and before long I am fighting to keep my concentration as the driver moves the spoil from the site to the spoil heap to the truck. The developer is an amateur building a spec house, and once he hands over his notes to the truck driver and plant operator they mention “the other job”, the truck disappears never to return and the machine has to leave early. As Blackadder says “the abused always kick downwards”, the next morning the developer is on the phone apologising having got hold of another machine and forgotten to tell us. Luckily, we have foreseen this eventuality and someone is on call ready and will be there to watch the machine in ten minutes, the developer is thankful but seems unenthusiastic.
All I can really think of to say is that there must have to be days like this to balance the days when you actually find something good. The attack doesn’t come on every watch. I hate the feeling when you think that everyone has got a better site, trench or area that is better than yours. The van arrives to take me and the gear back and as usual we find some little peculiarity of the site to laugh about, even if we never want to set foot in the place again. I suppose it’s these tiny little peculiarities that give places their individual character and are what we try to preserve as archaeologists.