Fieldwork - Recent Fieldwork

Summary for 2016

Several members now have the skills to access the Environment Agency LiDAR data and this is fundamentally changing our approach to fieldwork and desk based research. Also we now have the skills to make use of GIS mapping techniques to record results.

A combination of wet weather and poor conditions underfoot meant that we did not get out until June. However, Coastal monitoring can and does keep going regardless of the weather.

Coastal monitoring – Peter Murphy

Coastal monitoring and fieldwork was, again, focused on the Medmerry area, where coastal erosion is most rapid. However, fieldwork also included the eastern and western shores of Thorney Island with limited investigations on the shoreline at Tournerbury. The west side of Thorney produced several new sites, including an undated gravel causeway, perhaps part of a haven similar to the one at Stanbury Point, and several scatters of later prehistoric ceramics and lithics. It was, however, at Medmerry that the most impressive results were obtained. Gales in early 2016 exposed, and then quickly destroyed flint and brick walls of Thorney Farm. A pacey intervention by CDAS members enabled us to plan and photograph the remains, whilst Hugh Fiske was able to capture data for a 3D rotatable model viewable on the Medmerry page.

The farm was certainly there by around 1810, on map evidence, but had been lost beneath the shingle bank by 1914. Only now is it gradually reappearing as the bank shifts shorewards. Other features included two wells – one lined with chalk blocks, the other with planks and brick – which probably still survive, though are now buried under sand. Surprisingly, two wooden post, brace and wattle structures have proved to be very recalcitrant to erosion. They have been progressively recorded as new elements become visible; two radiocarbon dates in the overall range 1450-1670 Cal AD, most probably around 1600 have been received. Other finds include the base of a 19th century sluice gate, drainage ditches and structures and munitions associated with the coastal crust defences of 1940 and the air-to-ground gunnery range

Our work in 2015-16 has produced results which have been published in the Environment Agency’s report on ‘Monitoring at Medmerry’, in CITiZAN’s ‘Chichester Harbour Salt Working Project’ and the guided walk leaflet covering the area around Prinsted. A presentation on Medmerry was given a Bristol in October at the CITiZAN ‘Turn the Tide’ conference. A full archaeological report for publication on our results from Medmerry is currently in preparation.

Condition Assessment – Anne de Potier

10 years ago this project was established in partnership with Chichester Harbour Conservancy. It involves the annual condition assessment of a variety of heritage features within the Harbour AONB. Regular monitoring over this period provides a valuable record. Thorney Island is particularly rich in WWII features. It is very rewarding to see that the sites having become increasingly overgrown are now being regularly cleared thanks to the Friends of Chichester Harbour and other volunteers.

Milland – Trevor Davies

In August we had the opportunity to geophys a field that borders the roman road running through Milland. The results taken alongside other archaeological investigations in the same area indicate that there might have been occupation in the area prior to the construction of the Roman road and the mansio because the line of the road appears to have been diverted round the existing feature.

Priory Park - Trevor Davies

- see the Priory Park 2016 page

Warblington Excavation - Trevor Davies

- see the Warblington Excavation 2016 page.

Summary for 2015

CDAS members continued to be involved in the Secrets of the High Woods (South Downs National Park) and the Petworth (National Trust) projects.

Historic England undertook a Ground Penetrating Radar survey of the Warblington field in order to test some prototype equipment. The results were fascinating and raise yet more questions about this site that we will need to investigate.

In terms of CDAS projects site updates are given below:

Coastal Monitoring: The newly established Coastal Monitoring team got into its stride with regular visits to east & west of the breach at Medmerry as well as preliminary visits to areas in Chichester Harbour and on West Hayling. See our website for a 3D image of one of the features found at Medmerry. HUGH CAN WE MAKE REFERENCE TO THE PAGE ON THE WEB SITE HERE. CDAS is working with the recently established CiTIZAN project, whose staff ran a memorable (exceptionally wet) training course for CDAS members in August.

Ratham Mill: The Geophys team undertook a resistivity survey across areas both sides of the stream and a mag survey for one field. Only a limited number of possible features were identified. However, our results slot into those from an earlier survey a bit further to the west and provide further context for the Romano British Temple. A large piece of Dressel 20 (amphora from Spain that would probably have held olive oil) was found on the stream bed.

Graffham Common: The Topographical team continued surveying the earthworks which range from Prehistoric to WWII. The drawing-up takes much longer than the fieldwork so it will be sometime before the results will be available.

Chichester Harbour AONB: The annual condition assessment of WWII features was undertaken at Thorney; it is very rewarding to see that the sites are now being regularly cleared thanks to the Friends of Chichester Harbour and other volunteers.

Prebendal Playing Fields: There was a small excavation with the aim of investigating a grey shadow that was thrown up by the earlier geophys. Sadly this turned out to be no more than a relatively modern trackway rather than the Roman ditch for which we had been hoping. A side benefit was that the school saw it as a PR opportunity and a press release, which made reference to CDAS, appeared in various media.

Warblington: The excavation was enthusiastically supported and members seemed to enjoy themselves. Forty nine members were involved - about a third of our membership; it was particularly pleasing that many volunteers were new and some very new to the society. We clocked up around 220 man-days, which were up by about a 1/3 on the previous year.

The heavy rain at the start of the second week meant that we were unable to take any vehicle other than Hugh Fiske’s 4x4 onto the site. The problem that faced us was the transportation of all the equipment, finds, event-centres and personal possessions across two quite large fields at the start and end of each day. Without Hugh things would have been extremely difficult even with all the additional wheelbarrows brought in by volunteers. A big thank you to Hugh.

In the past, when identifying locations for our trenches we have selected areas where the features are fairly clear even if we don’t know what they are. This time we included a fuzzy dark patch alongside the western end of the rectangular building we dug last year. It turned out that the geophys results were fuzzy because there were significant volumes of Roman Ceramic Building Material (CBM) and stone spread across the underlying archaeology.

A lot of people enthusiastically digging an area containing a large amount of building material resulted in us processing over a 1/3 of a ton (386 Kg) of CBM – we have not yet weighed the stone. To process this volume we had to borrow extra tables, trays, bowls, scrubbing brushes and crates as well as buying more cable ties (for labelling the crates). Additional volunteers had to be recruited from the trenches to assist with the processing and with their help we managed to keep up.

There were some interesting results both in terms of features, such as post holes and a possible hypocaust and finds that included painted wall plaster, painted glass and coins. Follow this link for more information on the 2015 dig complete with interactive 3D models of the site.

A more formal update will be provided once we have had a chance to assess what was found.

Saltmarsh Lane, Hayling: A Hayling resident was keen that CDAS undertook a resistivity survey. It was not far from the location of a Roman Finds spot so looked promising. Sadly nothing was revealed.

Medmerry: Unfortunately, a Geophys resistivity survey had to be abandoned halfway through due to the heavy rain (the kit does not do rain). We have agreed with the farmer that we can return; hopefully next summer after his crop has been harvested.

Summary for 2014

Over the last 12 months CDAS has undertaken in the order of 350 “person-days” of fieldwork including geophys surveys, our excavation at Warblington and, new ventures for CDAS, coastal monitoring & auguring. Site updates are given below. Changes in farming practice mean it is unlikely that we will undertake any field walking in the foreseeable future but we are always on the lookout for opportunities.

Chichester Harbour AONB – East: Annual Condition Assessment monitoring visit.

Graffham: Not much opportunity for topographical surveying at Graffham in 2014, apart from checking a few of the drawings from the 2013 surveys. We are waiting for the contractors to clear the northwest part of the site, and we will then get in and continue the survey – probably in March 2015.

Medmerry: Visits to the area of the breach last winter identified quite how much archaeology was being revealed by major changes in the profile of the beach. Though notes were taken this was in an ad hoc fashion. The Coastal Monitoring team is now established and 2 processes agreed. The first formal visits have been completed at Medmerry east and west of the breach. Burnt flint mounds, shrimp/eel baskets, and a line of posts & wattle are some of the objects recorded. One visit included some auguring. The plan is to slot in special trips during periods of stormy weather as well as routine visits. There are plans to extend the monitoring to the western shore of Hayling Island.

Petworth: Tom Dommett first presented his ambitious plans to the CDAS AGM two years ago. This April CDAS undertook a resistivity survey of the area to the south of the 6th Duke’s stables. We found more of the stables, and evidence of an enormous formal garden feature which was not shown on any records or plans. Since then CDAS members have helped with other resistivity surveys and an excavation on a significant post medieval structure.

Prebendal School Playing Fields: We undertook a resistivity survey of the playing fields in search of the ditch believed to be outside the Chichester City Walls. Good trace found, but it is not clear if it is a ditch or a track. We have to dig to find out and we are negotiating permission for the excavation of a trial trench.

Thorney Island: The wetness of the ground prevented the annual condition assessment; one will be scheduled for early spring. It is hoped to undertake further geophys if appropriate targets can be identified.

Warblington: This was highly successful two week excavation supported by the Chichester Harbour Conservancy and with the approval of Havant Borough Council. We are very grateful to James Kenny for taking holiday from his day job to direct these excavations as a member of CDAS. This year we looked at a rectangular building and found evidence that although plough damaged, it was of much higher status than we expected – voussoir flue tiles; bessales to construct pilae (for underfloor heating); nails and tiles with holes for the roof; careful flint masonry and some flints that had been faced. The plan to undertake some auguring to the east of the site had to be abandoned as the ground proved unsuitable. We are hoping to go back to Warblington next year.

West Wittering: As a first for the society we prepared a teaching pack for the local school making use of the finds from our excavation in June 2013. This was formally handed over in October and completes the West Wittering project.

Westerlands Farm: Aerial photos indicated the possible presence of an enclosure at the top of the South Downs. We surveyed with both resistivity and magnetometry equipment as well as taking the opportunity offered by a small area of ploughing to undertake an informal field walk. The survey results were very successful and the pottery finds from the field walking indicated that the site had been occupied over at least 650 and possibly 1000 years.