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