Thursday, 17 December 2009

Winter update December 2009

Well, we haven't been idle since the weather forced us to stop surveying out in the field. Far from it, we have been busy indoors, gathering our papers, drawings, photographs and thoughts. In a series of Wednesday mornings we have been running workshops where we have been inking up the field plans, drawing and photographing the finds (mostly flints found scattered around the field), cataloguing and filing, and preparing a display for exhibition next spring.

These sessions have been essential for collating the results we have so far, and forming some initial ideas about the project and its findings. It's given us a chance to consider how we approach the next stage of the field survey next year, and also allowed us to develop our hachuring skills!
Jane Lunnon, UWHG Archivist

Thursday, 15 October 2009

14th October 2009

For the past three weeks the field survey team have been feeling the autumn weather closing in as we have continued to plot the details of the increasingly intriguing earthworks at High Close. Still using a combination of GPS, measuring tapes and alidade, we are gradually pulling together the complex of features across the field. And we are constantly surprised by the complexity of the site – how many times have we planned a quick survey of a small area of the field and found that we have had to spend ages walking around a single feature, puzzling over the best way to represent it on our plans.
Struggling to extract a peg from the ground!

However, the plans are coming along very well, and we’ve been very lucky with the weather so far. The thistles haven’t beaten us – we’ve had great fun trampling them down out of the way of our tape measures, and pulling the thistle spines out of our trousers!

Jane Lunnon, UWHG Archivist

Monday, 28 September 2009

Wednesday 23rd September 2009

Another fine and at times sunny day at High Close, although quite windy which caused problems with the tapes from time to time. The cows were however the major problem. Ruth should never have said that they had lost interest.

Roger has more audience than he bargained for

At lunch time they targeted the unguarded GPS system, nudged it out of position and dribbled slime all over the carrying cases. Alan was the next victim when they decided to eat his flags, since they outnumbered him twelve to one they had munched several before Roger went to help. It is a pity no one managed to photograph Roger running after a cow with an orange flag in its mouth.

In spite of the cows the work progressed. Alison continued her lonely perambulation examining the walls and apart from Helen substituting for the missing Janis the survey teams continued from where they left off last week.

The complexity of the different phases and the sheer number of features in this enclosure mean that progress is slower than we had hoped. However a plot of the southern end of the area is now taking shape, although more willing volunteers to help with the work would be very welcome.


Saturday, 19 September 2009

Wednesday 16th September 2009

No blog since 2 September does not mean that nothing has been happening at High Close – just that everybody has been too busy with other things as well!

However we have been back surveying on both Wednesdays - 9th and 16th! We are all making steady progress in our respective areas. Jane, Pat and Ruth continue trying to make sense of their large rectangle of straight (ish) and definitely sinuous banks, with a few mounds thrown in for good measure. David and Phil continue to make progress with the alidade and Alan and Ann are plotting yet more banks with the GPS.
The field looks very pretty with flags of red, orange, green and yellow in strategic places! Alison meanwhile continues to disappear up the hill, to investigate yet more of the walls. Pauline and Janis are also now to be found higher up the field - silhouetted on the skyline!
The extra Saturday planned by Roger seemed to be the day when everyone was busy with other things, so on an absolutely perfect September day Ruth and Roger managed to finish all the bits and pieces at the southern end of the field.
The bullocks appear to have lost interest in us, having decided that the tapes and flags are not really any good to eat, but they are still very curious about Roger’s new vehicle, which they continue to investigate on a regular basis!
The weather now has a definite Autumnal nip – how many more Wednesdays will we be able to continue, before it breaks, I wonder.

Ruth Spencer, UWHG Chairman

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Wednesday 2 September 2009

And so, with a summer of archaeological excavations and holidays behind us, we're back at High Close for the autumn session of field surveys. With the weather suitably autumnal, 11 of us set to work picking up the threads of where we left off, way back in May. A team of three finished the drawings for the corner they had begun in the spring, while two others marched off with the GPS to take a series of readings over the west side of the field. Alison re-acquainted herself with the drystone walls, following up on her interesting investigations of orthostats and possibly mediaeval boundaries. David considered where to start with the alidade and helped Roger set up the fixed reference points, while Ruth, Jane and Pat investigated a new patch for detailed topographical survey. Having selected our area and decided on the logistics of the survey in this new area, we established the base lines. Eventually, the herd of bullocks who had expressed great curiosity throughout the morning in our work, and had followed us around like faithful dogs, had become bored with us, and decided to wander off. By early afternoon it was getting very gloomy overhead and a downpour threatened. So we packed up and headed back for Grassington, just managing to get into our cars as the heavens opened and heavy rain came down. Still, we had made a good start and felt we were certainly back in the swing of things again.

Monday, 4 May 2009

29 March 2009

We arrived at High Close again today as a party of 12.

We gathered around to hear Roger explain the use the total station – a theodolite with added distance measurement capabilities. The complexities of the trigonometry associated with its operation however, failed to impress us as we slowly began to feel the cold creeping up on us.

Setting out maker flags © Jane Lunnon

We were glad to get moving again and warm up, working on the plans we had started at the last field session. The sun even came out for awhile although it clouded over again later in the afternoon. Eager to complete our drawings, two teams worked hard to make some sense of the complex earthworks in our allocated parts of the field. Marking out the main features with flags we happily measured and drew and hachured all day. Working in a sea of coloured flags we made good progress although it wasn’t always easy working out which linear earthwork was built earlier or later than the next, and defining the breaks of slope was not always clear either.

Lower down the field, Roger used the total station with Ian as helper, and David J. worked on the alidade with Phil’s help.

Roger working with the total station © Jane Lunnon

Alison went off on another long ramble along the enclosure wall, and on to neighbouring walls, examining them in detail for clues to their history. She returned in the afternoon quite excited about some fine examples of walls she’d found nearby.

Despite the good progress the drawings weren’t quite completed – we simply ran out of time. Some of us will just have to turn up at the Saturday session due to take place in a couple of weeks, and finish it then!

Apart from that we can now look forward to the next phase of the project – with some indoor sessions involving oral history, and the resumption of field surveying in the autumn. In the meantime, several of us will be busy enough over the summer working on excavations elsewhere.

Roger explaining the mysteries of the Total Station by Helen

And the Yorkshire Dales Landscape Research Trust website at

Jane Lunnon

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

High Close Workshops

Two survey workshops will be held in High Close pasture, Grassington, on Wednesday April 29 and Saturday May 9. While both are open to anyone, the Wednesday will be of particular interest to those who already have some experience

The Saturday will cover basic techniques for anyone new to earthwork surveying, or wishing to improve their skills (please let me know via if you would like to join this workshop). Meet at 10am at High Close (along Intake Lane from Chapel St.).

Oral history
A preliminary meeting on Oral History recording will be held on Wednesday June 3, 10am – 1pm (venue to be confirmed).
Autumn Surveying Season
The autumn survey programme in High Close will begin on Wednesday September 2, and will continue (weather permitting) to Wednesday October 21. There will be two Saturday sessions on September 12 and October 3.

Wednesday morning meetings from October 28 to December 16 will be held indoors, with the option of fieldwork if any survey days have been cancelled due to bad weather. Field surveys will be processed and drawn up for publication, and oral history recording will take place. Reserve dates in January and February will be available to tie up any loose ends.

Evening meetings
These will be held on alternate Tuesdays from October 13 to December 8, starting again on January 12. The final date in March will depend on the number of sessions built into a day-school to mark the conclusion of the project.
These sessions, with occasional guest speakers, will cover Iron Age and Roman archaeology in the North, providing a general context for the work in High Close pasture and linking the survey to the landscape project at Chapel House Wood, Kilnsey.

Further details of the autumn programme will be circulated nearer the time. You are very welcome to join any or all of the above events!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Wednesday 1st April

Roger's fan club © Jane Lunnon

A beautiful, warm and sunny day for April Fool’s Day. As we approached High Close we were highly entertained by watching a flock of sheep literally running rings round Roger and his vehicle, which needless to say, caused us all great amusement!

Roger & the 2 Davids, Alan attempting to hide from Pat © Jane Lunnon

When the sheep decided that they were wasting their time, we settled down to the work of the day – good old surveying. The two David’s got together over the alidade; Alison wandered off to do a final check on the 1.9kms of wall, and Alan proceeded to make life difficult for the rest of us, by stationing the GPS just where we wanted to put our flags for the surveying!

David and the dreaded alidade! © Jane Lunnon

The six remaining members divided into 2 teams, one team being allocated the oval shaped area at the southern end of High Close, and the other, the adjoining rectangular area with adjacent fields just to the north-west.

It was good to be back to surveying ground structures again, but as we proceeded, we realised just how complicated these areas are! Having worked consistently all day, with only a short break for lunch, both teams had only managed to do just over half their area. We all agreed that this project is going to take a long time to complete and will certainly last more than a lifetime for a number of us!

Ruth in deep concentration mode © Alan Williams

Pauline with Helen & Sue © Alan Williams

Sadly we missed our customary ‘cream tea’ at the end of the day, but all agreed it had been a good day.


The UWHG line dancing team © Jane Lunnon

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Wednesday 18th March 2009

It was a beautiful day for being out in the Dales. Ten of us arrived at the car park in Grassington and we began by discussing our strategy for the day. A couple of people were new to the wall profiling procedures, so work teams were rearranged before we set off with our equipment up Church Lane and the fields north of the village.

Alison - fast becoming our resident drystone wall history expert - went on ahead, inspecting the exterior side of the enclosure wall on the west side around the High Close field. With David’s aid, as he wandered along the interior side, she picked out a few choice spots, which she marked with flags indicating to us where today’s wall profiles should be taken.

She took particular note of wall heads, where one waller’s work ended and was continued by another waller. Orthostats were also a feature to note – unfortunately there were no sheep creeps on this part of the wall, as there were on the eastern side.

Meanwhile, Alan went happily off to continue the GPS survey across the huge complex of earthworks within the High Close enclosure.

As we were working alongside the Dales Way on this side of High Close, we enjoyed talking to a few interested ramblers, curious as to what we were up to.

The weather helped us all along and by the end of the day we had all completed our wall profiles, including one of the neighbouring parliamentary enclosure walls to the north of High Close. This proved to make a very interesting contrast to the earlier, private, enclosure wall around High Close – while the latter varies significantly in character every few metres, and is full of bulges, and repairs using gritstone flagstones, the parliamentary walls are much more uniform, following the original rules laid down for their construction. Built entirely of limestone, they are built to standard height, with through stones at designated heights.

We were hoping to get in two more sessions this spring to start a topographical survey of the earthworks – but the following Wednesday the weather forecast was against us and so we look forward to making the most of our last spring session next week.

Jane Lunnon

Monday, 16 March 2009

Wednesday 11 March 2009

Having missed another week due to inclement weather, last Wednesday saw us back at High Close on a cloudy day, with a cool breeze, but no rain.

After discussing the plan for the day, Roger and Alan disappeared with the GPS, occasionally to be seen throughout the day, striding purposefully over various parts of the field. Two members of the remaining group led the inspection of the enclosure wall, noting the interesting parts to be recorded. The rest of the party re-organised into the two teams and followed in their wake, hopefully recording the correct spot!

Having improved the measuring devices, and revised the recording sheets, we decided that the use of flags to mark appropriate areas and field radios would be more than helpful next week! We continue to improve each week – eventually we will have the perfect system!

However, we succeeded in recording four areas of interest on the east wall, and two on the north – there is still the long west wall to do next time. We all agreed that there are many more interesting bits of wall still to be recorded.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Wall Survey Team


Having modified the wall measuring devices in the light of last week's trial run, the wall survey team
drew profiles of selected sections of wall.
This week they were experimenting with a standardised form for recording, in preparation for the start of full survey next week. With 1.9km of wall just around High Close - not to mention comparison with other walls in the area, this could take some time.

The photograph shows team members at the end of the session discussing modifications to the record sheet.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

18 February 2008

After two weeks of snow we were finally able to get back into High Close on a misty Wednesday morning. Numbers were down today due to half-term, illness, and some people going off to sunnier climes for their holidays - but they certainly missed out on a grand day out in the Yorkshire Dales. The gentle grey mist created a lovely moody atmosphere which lasted until mid-afternoon - and you can't beat that. Some large patches of snow still lay around the edges of the field which added to the atmosphere.

Having decided last time that we should create profiles of the enclosure wall, two home-made contraptions were brought along this week, and we spent most of the morning setting them up and trying them out to see if they worked, and to determine how best to record the profiles. We were all very pleased with the results - it's surprising what you can do with a few bits of wood, a couple of ranging poles, some sticky tape, string and spirit levels!

We had two visits by the farmer of High Close, and his neighbouring farmer, both of whom are very interested in our archaeological survey. By lunch-time we were getting rather cold, and our fingers and toes were a bit numb, so after our sandwiches, we set off as a group to walk the perimeter of the field. Taking the kinematic GPS with us to survey the wall as we went, we assessed the wall's features and construction as we walked the mile or so along its whole length. We came across some interesting variations in the use of stone and the methods of construction, and noted the continuation of some of the earthworks in the field as they continued under the enclosure wall into neighbouring fields. We also noted where some detailed surveying of parts of the wall would be needed, in particular one corner which was created from a huge stone buttress, blocking off the end of a walled track which could only have led into High Close. Other features such as the dew ponds (or whatever these muddy circular patches may turn out to be) which are cut through the middle by the wall, and the remains of an older wall which closely followed the line of the present wall were also noted as worthy of attention.

By the time we were back at our starting point the mist had lifted and we had plenty to think about - Next week we shall start profiling the wall properly, and hopefully also start a GPS survey of the earthworks.

Jane Lunnon

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Photographs of High Close

Here are a couple of panoramic photos of the High Close field under study (click on the photo for a larger version)

Sunday, 1 February 2009

28 January 2009

On our second visit to High Close our survey team discussed at great length the strategy for our project, before we split into small teams and, armed with a basic plan based on aerial photographs of the field, we set out to create a simple gazeteer of features.

It was glorious weather, and we all enjoyed a very successful day. Each team was allocated a section to walk-over, in order to identify all those features which could potentially be archaeological. Each of these was given a unique number, noted on the plan, and notes made, describing the nature of each feature. A few more small pieces of worked flint were found, and even a few "features" that hadn't shown up on the aerial photos.

At the end of a very satisfying day, we talked over the best method for collating our work and debated the huge potential of the project. "Homework" was given out - got to get those spreadsheets typed up with our notes and make neat copies of our plans with all those numbered features ready for next week.

Jane Lunnon

On 21 January 2009, a group of about 16 or so members of Upper Wharfedale Heritage Group met at Grassington to begin work on an exciting new archaeological project led by Dr Roger Martlew. He had led us to expect to see something quite remarkable on the site - and I think I can speak for everyone in the group when I say that High Close really is quite extraordinary. Our past experience on a range of survey projects across Upper Wharfedale has taught us that the Dales are full of curious and interesting "lumps and bumps" almost everywhere you look. But High Close surprised even the most experienced of us.

On the ground the site (situated on private farm land) appears to be neatly defined by an early 18th century (pre-Parliamentary) drystone enclosure wall, although viewing the site online usng Google Earth quickly reveals that the archaeological features continue into neighbouring fields, and even beyond, into neighbouring parishes. Almost immediately upon entering High Close field, we were all astounded by the scale and complexity of the earthworks. Everywhere we turned there were clearly defined linear banks interspersed with a variety of other "features" (such a useful word to describe lumps and bumps in the ground when we don't yet know what they are!).


Kick a molehill and sometimes you find a worked flint!

Roger guided us around the large field, and there was much discussion about the site and its potential. The curious line of large boulders and stones set around the top edge of a steep slope which curves round to meet the field boundary was the topic of quite heated discussion! Why was it built? When was it built? What is its relationship to the field boundary wall?

The numerous mounds also created some debate - are they clearance cairns? burial mounds?

Certainly the huge mound on the west side of the field is a burial mound, unfortunately badly damaged by nineteenth century antiquarians and stone robbers. But at least that means we do know it contained an early Beaker vessel.
So, at the end of our extremely interesting walk around High Close, the question was how to proceed with the project. The site has long been interpreted as Iron Age or Romano-British field systems, but the complexity of the earthworks and features suggests it might not be so clear cut. And so, over the next 15 months or so we shall be surveying High Close in the hope of going some way towards untangling it all.

Jane Lunnon