Today I went digging with Dawn in West Sussex. We spent the day in a field near a place called Eartham. It’s not far from where we spent some time digging at Selhurst Park.
George was our dig director though it was all organised a little bit differently to normal. Given the problems associated with funding archaeological digs, George decided to try a pay-as-you-go dig. If someone wanted to dig, then they would pay an agreed amount per day. I thought this was an excellent idea so signed up.
The dig is to find out more about an enclosure that is quite visible in a wood but disappears beneath the field (obviously). George hired a small digger to remove the topsoil and opened up three trenches.
We arrived after the first pair so George took us through the woods, showing us the visible bits of the enclosure before showing us where to start digging. He was looking for some dating evidence and said the first person to find any would have the dig named after them. I knew, at this point, that it wouldn’t be called the Gazweasel Enclosure Dig.
The field has the usual layer of topsoil, covering at least a metre of clay, excessively filled with flint. This makes very unpleasant digging – if digging is even the word to apply.
George said the natural would either be chalk or gravel. We didn’t really care which as long as it wasn’t too far down…sadly it never appeared.
Halfway through the morning, there were excited noises from the other trench. They had found a bit of Iron Age pottery. Just the sort of dating evidence George was looking for. A couple of nice bits of rim and a sherd. Lucky diggers!
We ploughed on till lunchtime then all settled into a small circle to eat and swap stories of horror digs. It’s quite nice having a group of six people as no-one ends up left on the fringes. It was a lovely group all round and great fun to chat with.
After lunch, George jumped up and said he was going to show us a mysterious hole in the ground. It took a while but he eventually found it, covered in branches.
All very mysterious but, George told us, apparently some crazy person had this brainwave to station people down there during WWII in order to attack any Germans who arrived. They were supposed to jump out with guns and frighten them away.
George went down for a look see and took some photos which showed it was a complete underground room with steel walls and roof.
It was then back into our rapidly increasing hole…to make it even deeper. Still no natural but at least we seemed to have found the edge of the enclosure ditch by the end of the day. We’re back tomorrow for our final sortee in the clay. Fingers crossed we find something, even if it’s gravel.