Coring, Volunteers and Wooler First School

Over the weekend the Bradford Kaims Wetland Heritage Research Project was in full swing coring at the site, plus local volunteers and Wooler First School helped out with some post-ex finds washing.

We also have more volunteering opportunities, so read on to find out.

Graeme’s Report

Last Friday we were back on the Hoppenwood bank site at the Bradford Kaims, having had something of a rain induced break in our programme, to do some more coring with Richard Tipping (To see the previous outing with Richard click here) . This time we were investigating the peat deposits immediately to the west of our ‘hearth’ site. We had been doing a little coring of our own, in Richard’s absence, in this area and had identified a thin marl layer within the peat, in some of the cores that appeared to slope!

The sloping marl layer found in the core

By putting in a new transect of cores with Richard, from the trench edge outwards, we have mapped the subsurface contours of the ground surface as it existed before the lake deposits and peat layers developed. In doing this we profiled the sloping edge of the lake as it shelved down beneath the peat. What came as a surprise was that we soon picked up the rise of the opposite bank, well before we reached the Winlaw Burn, only a few tens of metres away. This shows us that the lake areas to the south drain northwards through a very narrow channel that passes right by the ‘hearth’, before quickly opening out again to the north. It is hard not to see the positioning of our unusual site being in no small part driven by this topographic feature.

The channel as suggested by the coring

This is a very intriguing new discovery, the full implications of which will take time to properly understand.  Looking at the first edition Ordnance Survey map it is clear that the Winlaw Burn has been canalised and back in the mid-19th century meandered a little further to the west. This raises that possibility that there could be more than one channel to the stream, though whether they were ever contemporary we do not yet know.

Later that day we also ran a small workshop in Bamburgh village pavilion, having invited anyone interested in the community to come along and help out. We did some finds washing, starting the process of cleaning the finds recovered during our field walking late last year.

Local volunteers working their way through the field-walking finds

On Tuesday we were at Wooler First School to do a brief introduction to our work and to introduce the children to the joys of washing more of the field walking finds. This proved to be hugely popular, in fact even the quite large quantity of finds that we had brought along only just managed to keep them busy till lunch. The children are coming out to see the site in June. Let’s hope they enjoy that just as much.

Volunteering – Gerry updates us on the field work opportunities for May.

The next fieldworking days will be Thursday 10th May.  Richard Tippingwill also be out again with us on May 17th to 20th along withGSB’s Graeme Atwood who will be doing some geophysics on the Saturday and Sunday. We are also planning to be on site on Wednesday 23rd May.

Please come along if you can, dressed for weather, and wellies are recommended. As usual no experience is necessary, and it should be fun as we will be digging. If you would like to volunteer please send an email to Graeme Young at graemeyoung@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk or call him on 07711187651 as we will be limited to around 20 volunteer places per day.  We very much hope to see you there!

Getting There
The site is located at Hoppen Hall Farm – to get there you will need to take the B1341 between the A1 and Bamburgh.
Heading towards Bamburgh, you pass over the main rail line level crossing just past Lucker, then take the first right hand turn along a rough track heading up hill towards Hoppen Hall farm and cottages. The site is accessible only by prior arrangement, and there are holiday lets near the area we will be parking as well as the main farm house so we ask that all participants show due care and respect the privacy of the residents and guests. We will park and gather together by the main farm buildings, then walk through the fields for around ten minutes to access the wetland site.
Video Editing 
I’m hoping some of you will take an interest in doing some video editing of the footage we’ve been taking of the site. It’s a good way to re-familiarise yourself with the progress so far and help me decide what to put in the video reports. If anyone is interested please email me as I don’t think this is something everybody will want to do, but you’re more than welcome!

New Dates for Volunteering

We continue to conduct excavation and coring out at Hoppen Hall, near the Bradford Kaims. This work explores a prehistoric lake edge with archaeological features dated to at least 4500 BC. We welcome volunteers on this project. If you would like to learn more about this project click here. To see the blog reports to date click on the bradford kaims in the tag cloud to the right of the screen.

The next fieldworking days will be Tuesday 10th (with possible further days this week depending on demand)Wednesday 18th, Saturday 21st (a possible seminar day TBC), Monday 23rd and Friday 27th of April. There will also be a specialist weekend – 17th to 20th of May – with Palaeo-environmentalist Richard Tipping and Geophysics team GSB.

Please come along if you can, dressed for weather and wellies are recommended. As usual no experience is necessary, and it should be fun as we will be undertaking a number of activities including, excavation, recording and coring. If you would like to volunteer please send an email to Graeme Young at graemeyoung@bamburghresearchproject.co.uk or call him on 07711187651 as we will be limited to around 20 volunteer places per day.  We very much hope to see you there!

Getting There

The site is located at Hoppen Hall Farm – to get there you will need to take the B1341 between the A1 and Bamburgh.  Heading towards Bamburgh, you pass over the main rail line level crossing just past Lucker, then take the first right hand turn along a rough track heading up hill towards Hoppen Hall farm and cottages.  The site is accessible only by prior arrangement, and there are holiday lets near the area we will be parking as well as the main farm house so we ask that all participants show due care and respect the privacy of the residents and guests.  We will park and gather together by the main farm buildings, then walk through the fields for around ten minutes to access the wetland site.

Below are a number of photographs taken recently by one of our volunteers, Ruth Brewis.

Coring in the trench extension

New test trenches

Planning features for the site record

Gerry filming volunteers cleaning the trench

Cleaning the trench

Bradford Kaims Update and Video Overview of the Project

Project Director, Graeme Young, brings us up to date on the work and the involvement of volunteers at our prehistoric wetland site out at the Bradford Kaims, west of Bamburgh Castle.

Graeme’s Report

In the last couple of visits to the site at Hopenwood Bank, near the Bradford Kaims, we have been trying to improve our understanding of the sequence of events that go together to make-up this rather enigmatic site. At the moment, having cleaned and examined the old sections, I now think that we have two layers sealing the fired stone feature. These are in turn covered over by the soil profile that extends up to the present turf line.

Of the two layers that cover the stone ‘hearth’ the most interesting is the dark layer that contains huge amounts of charcoal and fractured stone and that directly overlies the hearth.

The ‘hearth’ feature freshly unearthed in 2010

It is tempting to assume that it represents, at least in part, the charcoal and ash from fires that once burned on the hearth, but the truth is we have no evidence for the date of this layer and indeed the way in which it buries the hearth, putting it beyond any effective use, could well indicate that it is a later event. All we can really say is that it is very unlikely to be modern, as we would have expected to have found some trace of pottery or clay pipe by now if it was. I suspect we will have to wait till we have a carbon 14 date to resolve this.

The pit feature, located close to the east side of the hearth, which we cleaned last time has been half sectioned and recorded in the last two visits.

The pit being excavated and recorded

The section of the excavated pit, facing north. The feature may represent a double post-hole.

It is quite a substantial feature surviving to a depth of 0.25m, but is likely to have been somewhat eroded so was likely deeper. It has a rather dumbbell shape, which makes me wonder if we could have a double post-hole, or a post that was re-set. We will have to keep our eyes open and see if we can find more of these features. Could we for instance, have a structure of some kind around the hearth?

As well as working on the main site we have been cleaning and investigating the narrow trench excavated as an extension to the west, into the area of the lake margin. We had previously identified the top of the peat horizon, and this has made it clear just how close the main site lay to the lake edge. We have now started to use coring to further explore the relationship of the wetland deposits to the dry land to its east.

Coring within the trench extension, the main excavation area in the background.

The first two cores were located at the western end of the narrow trench working from the deeper deposits back to the dry land. We are using a 2m interval between the cores. This has already been informative as we have seen a substantial shallowing of the layers of peat and sediment we encountered in the two cores, even over this short difference.

A detail of the second core, showing something of a slope in the sediment and peat layer. This might be indicative of rather steeply sided lake edge.

This suggests the edge of the lake is quite a steep bank! More coring next Saturday should help us confirm this.

Below is video taken from our Winter Lecture Series, which briefly outlines the volunteering opportunities with this project.

More volunteering dates to follow and a sample of the photographs taken by volunteers.