Monday, 18 July 2011

Hen Caerwys: Archaeology Dig Last Day

The archaeology digs at Hen Caerwys Woods today finished and as both sites were covered up I felt a little sad to see all of what we uncovered closed up like a book to be opened to read again some other day.

The first site which comprised of a huge embankment of loose limestone, possibly once face with dressed blocks in places, enclosed a large rectangular clearing in the woods. Not a lot was found except for a possible shin bone of an animal discovered in some fallen inner wall and a early (likely)  medieval horseshoe. The archaeologists on site though it to be from the 1200s or thereabouts. Also in the box of finds was a flint and a whet stone found by the landowner a few years ago. The limestone pavement that the embankment sits on is beautiful and has smooth curvy hollows and pits carved out by weathering and reminds me of the Burren in Ireland. The experts on site thought it quite a positive thing that not many finds turned up as it suggests the site is indeed very old and makes it likely to be early medieval or older...who's nice just to wonder about it.

The second site where I spent most of my time was on the site of a long disappeared late medieval house which is though to be one of four close by each other sitting on a limestone bank overlooking pastureland with a stream on the lowest part of the landscape. We kept digging down in waterlogged root infested soil trying to find floor but just came across layer on layer of fallen stone and it was hard to make sense of why the stone wall had fallen in every direction. Subsidence was one theory, an earlier botched dig by amateurs in the 60s was another ( apparently the two men involved did not get on and were thought to have hidden finds from each other..indeed the one big collection of pot and domestic bits and pieces found around that time  has been 'missing' for many years..intriguing stuff!
While we were digging we chatted and pondered over how these people lived. We thought them to be poor families, the kind that work hard for not a lot and prop the richer layers of society up. We wondered if the stream which is quite a walk down and up a hill was there only water supply or whether it came from a limestone spring , one of the many that come and go without warning leaving people without a water supply. Someone suggested that these people were not farmers but were a small mining community possibly mining limestone for an unknown nearby kiln......we were left with more questions than answers but then again that is what makes the past so magnetic as it appeals to our instinctive curious nature.
Butterfly Orchid I found at Hen Caerwys a couple of years ago

Needless to say I am achy this evening from digging, trowelling, carrying bucket after bucket of soil and stones to waste heaps. Everything I wore is caked in muck. On day two I have never seen so much rain fall in one place while people carried on happily working away. No one seemed to mind the horrible weather but buzzed all day about what an amazing place Hen Caerwys is. The devotion and determination of the family who own the land to discovering more about the history of the place and their generosity to making the space available to the community is remarkable.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Archaeological Dig at Caerwys

This weekend I have volunteered to help out with a dig organised by the landowner and Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust to explore some extensive earthworks, lumps, bumps and mysterious embankments in woodland around Caerwys  where I live. I walk through these woods a lot and love to wonder about the strange unnatural shapes that I walk over and who built them and how they lived.

The woods are simply beautiful and the man who owns them has spent years clearing out much of the trees and overgrowth to uncover the archaeology and after years managed to persuade the archaeologists to pay attention to what is there to discover.
The clearing has  allowed light to get to the wood floor and all sorts of wild flowers have grabbed the chance to do their thing and fill the place with colour.

we removed top layer of vegetation using mattocks ( a heavy pic), shovels and hands-hard work! This is thought to be a medieval house and there are 3 or 4 houses in a row overlooking fields

section of trench with limestone rain sculpted paving (though to be natural surface) Cleared this using trowels and brushes

higher manmade huge embankment made of limestone enclosing a massive rectangular area- may be roman or iron age
 Nothing has been found on this dig apart from a piece of flint and a bit of red brick or pot but the uncovering is amazing to be part of and it's fascinating to listen to all these experts surmise about what is the story of  this huge area of human habitation.

I'm back for a full day of digging tomorrow and day after...I'll have muscles on my muscles after!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

a refreshing run in the rain

I found myself caught out in a downpour at the bottom of Maes Mynan Woods this morning. I had run down to the bottom of the gorge  and was throwing Pippin's ball in the river for him. Before it really got going it had been spitting away and the river that had felt stagnant and dead a few days ago was coming alive and the smell of earth and sweet pine sap and garlic was becoming intense. The air was full of sound with birdsong and tingly rain on leaves.
The water showed no mercy and as I ran up again I could hardly see but it felt so good as all the smells became liquid in the air..passing the meadow full of clover was just delicious. All sound was drowned out by the deafening rain. The path became more liquid too and I slithered along and envied Pippin's in built paw grips. The 'dado rail' path at the top was lethal as it is criss crossed with roots. I have learnt a knack to run down here- use jig like steps-small, fast with pointed toes.
What a way to start the day..aromatherapy and a shower in rain infused with pine sap essence.