While browsing through the Google Earth imagery, tcablogmaster was amused to discover that the latest satellite image of our area of excavations in Little Millhams at Christchurch clearly shows the evidence of our working. The satellite imagery is dated to 26 May 2017 (a Friday). In the top left hand corner of the Google Earth image reproduced to the left you can clearly see the blue plastic sheeting which we use to pile up the spoil from the excavated pits. There are two sites visible in the image – from the site log, these would be Pits 51 and 52. In the centre of the image the scatter of white rectangular shapes are the beehives, whose aggressive occupants kept us well away from starting any work in their vicinity.
The idea to auger a series of test pits proved successful but we soon realised that the little sampling auger we had been using was too short the reach the levels at which we had discovered medieval traces. In order to sample these layers, Mike Tizzard constructed our new monster auger, known as ‘Big T’, from a piece of irrigation pipe attached to a sharpened piece of angle iron. Well over 2m tall, Big T requires us to remove the shallow layer of topsoil found at Millhams, before being used to auger through the relatively softer layers of silt. Although we cannot extract cores, we can bring up soil samples from depth and classify them.
Using Big T, we hope to be able to obtain a view of the stratigraphy in the garden without the labour of excavating test pits and thus adopt a more targeted approach in our excavation strategy.
Encouraged by the spell of warm and dry weather, a small group of TCA members embarked on the first session of the 2018 season at Little Millhams on the May Day Bank Holiday weekend. Readers of this blog will perhaps recall that we have had several skirmishes with the bees which patrol and defend vigorously the area in the vicinity of the beehives in the Millhams garden. It now appears that the bees are on holiday while their hives are in the process of being transported to another area of the garden, so this seemed an ideal opportunity to investigate an East-West line of the garden in an area just North of the previously occupied by the beehives.
In order to clarify and perhaps bring some order to the confusing results of the various layers in adjacent pits, it was decided to investigate systematically the layers along the East-West line selected by first removing the topsoil and then auguring downwards from the topsoil interface. Steve Fox reports that out of 13 points laid out across the site, the first 5 were studied in this first session and while too soon to claim any success, there are definite differences in the profile of each pit that will hopefully combine to make a cross-section of the whole site. (Photograph and report courtesy of member Steve Fox)
We have published the latest issue of our occasional newsletter, dated March 2018. We apologise for it being so long overdue and we hope you will find something of interest in it, to make it worth the wait. Copies are being posted or delivered to all our registered members and should arrive within the next week or so. If you haven’t received your copy after say two weeks please contact the Secretary.
Those of us who regretted the closure of Christchurch’s Electricity Museum will welcome SSE’s initiative in providing a Doors Open Day on 21 February 2018. Entry was free but required prior booking which was arranged for a small group of us by our chairman, Mike Tizzard.
Previous visitors to the Museum will notice the absence from the Main Hall of the ‘jewel in the crown’ exhibit, the tram, which has been returned to its owner, the Science Museum. We were told that every remaining item in the museum has been catalogued and much of the collection of portable items now stands on shelves without any display or explanation. Thus in some ways the building is a store, with items possibly available for loan to other museums for temporary display. However the main items of heavy machinery are still in place in their previous positions.
It is to be hoped that further Open Days can be arranged so that visitors can enjoy this excellent collection housed in Christchurch’s original Edwardian electricity generating station, now a Grade II listed building.
On Sunday 24 September 2017, we set up our usual stall at the biennial History Day organised by the Friends of St. Catherine’s Hill and this year benefiting from the Lottery funding to celebrate the role of the Hill as a training ground for ANZAC troops in World War I. Luckily the weather was kind to us and we experienced only a single shower, albeit rather heavy, which occurred in the morning.
We were pleased to welcome many interested visitors to our display in the archaeology shelter which we shared with representatives from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, Bournemouth University and a display of photographs from early archaeological aerial surveys of the Hill which happened to show the First World War trenching exercises. The photo above shows the shelter and our stall to the right, unusually quiet just before the opening of the event. Altogether it was a very enjoyable day and the organisers are to be congratulated on the smooth running of the event.
TCA members will probably be aware that we will be setting up a TCA information stall at the biennial History Day on St. Catherine’s Hill which takes place this year on Sunday 24 September. This year there is a First World War theme to illustrate the service of the ANZAC engineers who practised their trenching techniques on the Hill. With the help of HLF funding a cinema has also been arranged showing the programme advertised on the Facebook page copied below. Robin Harley, Countryside Warden of the Christchurch and East Dorset Countryside Service, will no doubt also be presenting his mock-up of a First World War tank which was such a hit two years ago. Our own chairman will be taking part in leading walks around the historical features of the Hill. See you there!