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Some progress, sans students but more rain

We are now in what is listed as our sixth and ‘final’ week in trench 6. The main body of students have up-sticks (or at least tent poles) and gone. We now have three students from Birmingham plus a small but faithful band of volunteers, our two supervisors, Lindsay and Nick, plus the directors and chairman, Stuart.

Progress has been made and with the dividing bulks now mainly removed we can finally see the layout of the enclosure ditches which has led to the reinterpretation of the large section in the NE of the trench as a large pit as the enclosure ditch now clearly passes to the south of it. So for two years we have been calling this pit the outer enclosure ditch demonstrating that it was the right decision to revisit this trench again in 2017. It has also called for a rethink in how we excavate this site in the future with much more emphasis on revealing the archaeology in plan before contemplating any sections, although as regular visitors will know this is easier said than seen on the ground.

As always with Bridge Farm as one or two features are resolved three or four new ones pop up to complicate the site and invalidate or at least amend our most recent interpretations. We now seem to have two roads, or flint metaled surfaces, heading off to the southeast  and a shallow ditch running round the gap between the enclosure ditches, none of which was apparent on the geophys or, excepting one of roads, in last year’s excavation. Our eastern roadside ditch, that appeared so clear and solid on the geophys now seems to have been terminated and/or diverted to accommodate these other roads at some point in the post-enclosure phase.

The ‘doughnut’ amidst the flints

Another question hangs over a circular ‘doughnut’ shaped object found on the southern of the two ancillary roads. It had a rusty appearance suggesting iron and is certainly heavy enough yet it does not respond to either a magnet or a metal detector. Initially we had hoped it might be the locking nut for an axle but this seems less likely and the identification of the material is now the paramount question although preliminary cleaning by our finds unit has not provided any answer.

Monday and Tuesday saw the plan of the trench becoming clearer with the cleaning back of the lower surfaces allowing Stuart to start updating the site drawings and photographic record. We pumped the water from over the well and removed the protective plastic sheeting and boarding to reveal a pit full of mud the consistency and colour of runny chocolate mousse. One rash soul, OK it was me, decided to test extricating this  loathsome liquid without slipping into it (no I didn’t despite the anticipated glee of my colleagues). But we worked under the threat of another sustained period of rain from Wednesday lunchtime and through the night which duly came and forced another early halt. As I write this at home on Thursday morning I have yet to see what devastation the rain has wrought and what condition the site is now in. It will certainly have put us back a day or two once again and throw into doubt the final excavation of the well, even if we extend the season into another week which looks almost inevitable.

The well as seen in 2016

In the shallow trenches of some past years we would have been pleased to see some rain to bring out the colours of the various contexts but of all years this was not the one that needed regular rainfall as we attempted to resolve a series of deeper features, most notably the stone-lined well.

To those who have been on site this year and heard about his feature, like the elephant in the room, but never seen it, here is a reminder of what it looked like at the end of last year. Hopefully we will see it again before the inevitable back-filling of the trench this autumn.

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