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Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary an introduction

First a little background.....

The site I am involved with is the Groundwell Ridge Roman Complex in Swindon.

This was the site where Time Team’s Big Dig weekend came from last year. I was lucky to be a
“featured garden” on the Friday Big Dig program as I live 100 metres from the site.
This year (2004) English Heritage are doing a 7 week excavation of this scheduled site to try to
make sense out of it.
Dr Pete Wilson (site director) knowing of my interest in the site, asked me if I could some
favours for EH, like use my water to replenish drinking bottles, use my internet connection, to
upload web updates and use my address for post to the site. In return I get to dig on a scheduled
site at the best time - mid excavation and for TWO weeks, so having contact with the site every
day (almost) for 7 weeks I thought I’d start a diary. If you are expecting a dry, academic
commentary on the Groundwell site – I am afraid this is not the thread for you. Anyway, enough
of the preamble.

So this year it all started................

by Chris Walker

The team
Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 1
Wednesday 9th June – Day 1

Trench Plan
Plans of this years Trenches overlaying Mark Corney's earthwork survey of 1997

Conditions for Day 1, heavy rain overnight, cloud cover, very humid.
Hectic early morning start for all on site, first batch of volunteers tip up at 08:30 and are given an
induction and initial training, issued with safety equipment i.e. boots and hard hats and are
teamed up with their mentors.

Dr Pete Wilson (EH Project Director) and Robert Dickinson (Swindon Borough Council) do the
usual media interviews, and finally the Big Yellow Trowel starts de-turfing. Usually this part of
a dig can be a little boring, but in the case of the Groundwell site the archaeology is, in places,
just under the surface.

I have not spent much time on site today (I’ve been booked for 1 week at the mid-excavation
point and the penultimate week!!!). BT can’t put in the EH broadband link to my house until
June 14th !!!! So the EH web updates from the site will probably start after then.

So that was the first day, and features can be seen already (there is a raised observation platform
where the great unwashed can watch each stage of the dig unfold all day if they want). Outreach
tours of the site by EH are at 11am and 3pm.

The Dig gets started

Starting to get the wall
Possible pier in double entrance. Or is it just stand alone masonry?

Tea break. A wall emerges
Finds tray lunchtime first day.

Official EH update for Week 1 Day 1. (Last Wednesday 9th June 2004)

Technical Note:- the 20m x 25m trench is Trench 6 This is sequentially the 6th trench opened on
the scheduled site. Sorry I should have explained that earlier.


Week 1 Day 1

Trench 6 was started using a JCB to strip the topsoil and remove the modern material that had
been used to infill the area of the road stripped in 1996 when the Roman buildings were
The bulk of the Centre for Archaeology Team is on site, along with our first eight local
volunteers and three members of the Wyvern Historical and Detector Society, although our four
trainees don’t start until Week 2. Although the team had to be patient while we waited for the
JCB to move back far enough to allow them on site safely, we still managed to locate our first
Roman walls and the trial trench excavated by Bryn Walters and Bernard Phillips in 1997.

We have had lots of press interest, indeed before the excavation started the Swindon Evening
Advertiser sent a photographer to take pictures of portakabins being craned on to site last week.
As well as the Advertiser returning we had Great Western Radio (GWR), BBC Radio Swindon
(twice!), BBC Radio Wiltshire, ITV Local News and Swindon Link magazine. BBC Radio
Swindon are intending to do weekly updates.

Although our education programme is still to start we had a group of 12 teachers come to site as
part of an INSET day in advance of them bringing their children to be ‘Archaeologists for the
day’ during the project. As a group the teachers had an opportunity to work on our ‘mock-
excavation’ which has been specially built for the education programme to allow the
‘archaeologists for a day’ to experience excavating, planning a ‘site’ and finding objects – just
like the team in Trench 6!
Our viewing platform is open and we had our first visitors, some of whom spent much of the
afternoon watching the JCB, mattocks, shovels and trowels extend what we know about Building
2 – our main target for this year.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 2
Thursday 10th June – Day 2

Quote: From yesterdays post

Dr Pete Wilson (EH Project Director) and Robert Dickinson (Swindon Borough Council) do the
usual media interviews........

From the Swindon Evening Advertiser :- date published: Thursday 10th June 2004

Mysteries of Roman lives unearthed

ARCHAEOLOGISTS and volunteers have begun their quest to unveil the mysteries of what lies
beneath at the Groundwell Ridge Roman Site.
Yesterday the topsoil had already been uncovered, allowing a team from English Heritage to
begin the slow process of digging down to where Roman remains were first uncovered by
construction workers back in 1996.
The excavation is the largest ever carried out at the Roman site and is part of a community
project run by English Heritage and Swindon Council.
Pete Wilson, project manager at English Heritage said: "Everyone has been eager to get on with
the work, but they have had to wait until the digger has completed removing the topsoil and
"We are already seeing signs of what we believe may be a Roman wall just six inches down."
Robert Dickinson, Swindon Borough Council heritage manager, added: "Groundwell Ridge is
one of our great community assets and we have worked hard to develop its potential, protecting
the buried remains while adding cycle paths.
"The excavations this year should reveal even more about the daily lives of people in Roman
Britain and how we can protect the site for the future."
Previous digs have unearthed evidence of well-preserved Roman buildings, pottery and coins
dating from the 2nd to 4th century AD.
This year's activities will focus on one of the building's damaged when the site was discovered.
Visitors can see the team at work Wednesdays to Sundays with tours from 11am to 3pm.

Conditions for Day 2 - Hot and Muggy.

Big Yellow Trowel didn’t turn up (sub-contractor @#%$-up) but as it happens it didn’t matter.
The wall that was 15cm under the surface is getting the small trowel treatment, the initial 1996
road cut is getting cleaned, and the 1997 Evaluation trench dug by Bryn Walters and Bernard
Phillips is being cleared of backfill (I thought Bryn might have been here today to see how his
work was assessed, it was textbook stuff.).

“So, Pete” (Chris does his TR impression) “it’s the end of day 2 and WHAT exactly do we have”
“Well Chris, the wall that was exposed yesterday has been cleaned up a bit and it looks like a
double entrance, facing south, with a central pier.”

“Thanks Pete, that is impressive, the second day and an interpretation already. So, this
magnificently facaded, multi-entrance, Roman Palace, was obviously the seat of a very high
ranking Roman, probably the civic leader for the whole of the South West”

“Um, No, that’s not what I said!”

Anyway, the update was sent to the EH web site (using my ordinary BT line) and should be on
line soon. I’ll post the link when I have it.

Other progress:-

With the absence of the JCB, Pete decided to get some of the pro’s on opening the second trench.
This is across an earthwork and corresponding geophysical result and has been interpreted as a
Roman road into the site. We won’t know till we dig.

You can see the extent of the wall, central pier and the 1996 road cut

SE part of Trench, showing entrance and wall.
Some of day 2, pottery finds. Wheelbarrow in picture for scale :)

Official EH update for Week 1 - Day 2

Having lost our JCB for the day we started to deturf Trench 7. In the end we did more than start
and between them about half of the team and volunteers managed to take strip the whole of the
20m by 3m trench!
In Trench 6 we continued to clean-up revealing more of the Roman walls that we saw on day 1.
We are finding reasonable quantities of Roman material and one of the metal detectorists from
the Wyvern Historical and Detector Society found a ring in the topsoil from Trench 7, which
unfortunately appears to be relatively modern. (not the star and crescent ring Ed.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 3
Friday 11th June – Day 3

08:00 Dr Pete Wilson turns up at my house to fill up the water containers for the morning.

“Morning Chris, I got some good news and some bad news” he says as he’s filling up the plastic
jerry cans.
“What’s the good news” I ask.
“The JCB’s returned”
“The bad news?” I enquire tentatively.
“Well the lorry that empties the portaloos has run over the access ramp for the observation
platform” He explains.
“Oh @#%$!” I exclaim.
“Nah, he hadn’t even started pumping that out. You haven’t got a cordless power drill” Pete says
“Well I have, but only if you’re using it for fixing the ramp!!!”

I like Pete. He has the air of a man constantly harassed. Mind you though :-

Tuesday – he was travelling down to the site on the A419 when he ripped the back trim off of the
EH Mondeo going over some roadworks.

Wednesday – Volunteers on site. No delivery of hard hats or safety shoes till later.

Thursday – No JCB

Friday – Access ramp trashed by @#%$ lorry driver (that’s a job description not a criticism)

Hmm............. I can see why he always looks harassed. Poor man.

Conditions Hot, Cloud with periodic sun.

Good progress made today on the main trench (20m x 25m) and I spent a little time up on the
section through the possible roman road/trackway (25m x 3m) nothing spectacular yet and no
archaeology to back up the theory at this time - but you know what you get along roman roads?
Speculation about that was rife.

One thing I haven’t mentioned is the mock excavation on-site. This is for KS2 children from
local schools. “Be an Archaeologist for a Day” is the idea that Dawn,the Outreach Officer, will
be promoting.
The mock excavation looks like a raised bed (in gardening) it has a couple of “Roman walls”
built into it and all this is filled with topsoil and pieces of pottery and other finds are spread
within the fill. Each kiddy will be given their own little trowel and pointed in the direction of the
pit. (someone suggested they should be given mattocks as well but he was sent off to help with
portaloo emptying).
The teachers and TA’s then swan off to the pub while Dawn and a volunteer or two “supervise”.
(I’ve got at least 2 classes that I’ll be with !!!)
Anyway - end of day 3.

S.W. corner of Trench

Day 3
S.W. corner of trench. Think that might be a wall :)
Official EH update forWeek 1 - Day 3

Today we were again able to have a JCB which has meant that most of the topsoil has been
removed from Trench 6. With luck we should be able to get rid of the rest of the modern material
used to infill the road created in 1996 tomorrow. As we have moved across the area the pieces of
Roman tile that we have found have increased in size. We are getting readily recognisable pieces
of box-flue tile that would have been used to take hot air up the walls of heated rooms – possibly
rooms in a bath-house, or bath-suite or a larger building, or domestic rooms with underfloor
heating. In the south-eastern and south-western parts of Trench 6 we have been using tools a
little more subtle than a JCB and, working with trowels, mattocks and shovels, have defined the
walls we first saw on day 1. However we are now less certain that we have the backfill of the
trial trench excavated by Bernard Phillips and Bryn Walters in 1997.
In Trench 7 our team have been looking enviously at the JCB operating in Trench 6 as they have
been removing the topsoil that underlay the turf. However the size of the trench has meant that
machine stripping was not really a viable option. Despite this we may have already got the top of
a ditch running parallel with the earthwork that may represent the Roman road. Roman roads
normally have a drainage ditch either side, so currently things are looking good.
Tonight is our ‘Residents Evening’ when we give those people most directly affected by the
project an opportunity to see what we are doing and ask questions about the project. Last year it
proved popular and we were able to put people’s minds at rest with regard to concerns that we
might be building a visitor centre outside their front windows! When we have finished this year
we will know much more about the site, but again we will be reinstating the site as a green field.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 4
Saturday 12th June – Day 4

It appeared that not a lot happened yesterday but cleaning of a possible mortared floor and a
possible “decorated” floor surface seemingly slowed down the spectacular progress. Small finds
are turning up and the first coin of this years dig is still waiting to be identified.

David Hunter, site supervisor, collared me. Needs to transfer some money to his wife for nursery
fees and book a flight to Edinburgh for an interview (and they say there is no money in
Archaeology ) So he needs to use the internet and can he pop over. Well I ain’t going to say no,
am I?

But I started thinking (yes, I know it’s dangerous ) it’s is getting scary how reliant we, as a
whole, are on technology. When your working base is a portacabin – and there are no BT land
lines because we all use mobile phones now, and in these temporary structures the “bean
counters” have decided that there is no need for internet connections to be easily (or relatively
cheaply) available – you seem to be divorced from “civilization”.

Ask yourself the question how did we cope 10 years ago. Without internet access, “portable”
mobile phones, online banking, online booking, online everything. Well, the truth is very well
actually. But it seems - as technology evolves we humans forget how we ever did without it.

But then again, not every establishment is consumed by the white heat of technological

Today I think I'll investigate Trench 7.

Kat reveals nicely shaped bowl
bowl 2

bowl 3

Official EH update for Week 1 - Day 4

Although we have made good progress today, yesterday I was perhaps a little optimistic
regarding the completion of machining in Trench 6. We have got most of the infill of the 1996
road-scrape out, but we will need a machine for a little longer to finish clearing the road, tidy up
the eastern edge of the trench and spoil heap. Dave Hunter has volunteered to work on Monday
(part of our ‘site-weekend’) to complete the machining – Thank you Dave!
In Trench 6 we have started to clean back by hand from the Roman wall we have exposed in the
south-western corner of the trench, but it is already obvious that we are going to be faced with
the same problems that we had last year with the site drying out and all soil-colours turning to
grey! Large sheets of polythene may be the answer. In the south-eastern corner we again
speculating that we may have the western part of Bernard and Bryn’s trial trench from 1997.
Trench 7 is looking good, small patches of gravel on the surface of the mound that we think may
represent the road suggest that the interpretation may be correct. Interestingly in the road mound,
or agger, we can see quantities of burnt clay, or possibly daub from the walls of demolished
timber buildings, although we have no evidence of structures in the trench

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 5
Sunday 13th June – Day 5

I was on my way up to trench 7 (over a possible road) when I was warned off by an EH guy. “I’d
wait a couple of days, Chris”.

So nothing like trench 6 then with archaeology appearing after a few minutes. Still if it ain’t
there, you can’t find it. There is optimism about the trench but the main aim is to interpret the
building in the Southern part of the site.

It is sadly the last day for the first batch of volunteers. Another lot start next Wednesday. A lot of
the finds have been made by these volunteers, which must really be the icing on the cake for
them. One of the female volunteers (no previous experience) found, a single hobnail (this was by
trowel alone), a large lumpy nail with the head turned over (again just by excavating) and today,
quite late in the day, started to find tiny blue glass beads!!!. She was chuffed.

I’ll get the info on this latest find tomorrow. Another bit of good news is that we’ve got the “non-
roman” drain just where the geophys said it would be.

Apse and floor

Starting to be revealed

after initial cleaning
Length of lead piping
Official EH update for Week 1 Day 5

Being a Sunday we didn’t have the JCB, despite this we have made major progress in Trench 6
cleaning back over the western third and revealing what may be additional surfaces or walls. On
the eastern side of the trench we have finally confirmed that we have the 1997 Trial Trench and
in emptying it have exposed at least fours courses of Roman masonry. In the over cleaned part of
the trench it looks fairly certain that we have got Roman surfaces, possible plaster, more
probably mortar and likely to be floors.
In Trench 7 we have spent much of the day cleaning-up for our first set-piece photographs.
However we have started a trench down the western side of the area north of the possible road to
establish if the soil deposits are going directly down on to Coral Ragstone bed rock.

Finds Bulletin 1
Despite being so early in the excavation quite a number of finds have been produced this week.
Finds from Trench 6 have included a number of fragments of box flue tile. These square tubular
tiles formed part of the heating system of Roman Buildings. After hot air had heated the raised
floors of the more luxurious Roman rooms it was funnelled up through box flue tiles set in the
walls so that both floor and walls were warmed.
Other finds include several types of pottery; locally made Wiltshire wares, colour-coated pottery
and the higher quality Samian ware imported from Gaul.
A number of Roman hand-made nails have also been found. Many would have been used to hold
roof tiles in place, and stone tiles with nail holes have been found on site this week. In addition,
one smaller hobnail was found from the sole of a Roman shoe

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 6
Wednesday 16th June – Week 2 Day 1 [Day 6]

A new lot of volunteers turn up at 08:30, EH have their full compliment of professionals and this
week they have their “trainees” starting. The local schools don’t start on the mock excavation
until next week – but the more I think about it the more I am impressed with English Heritage’s
and Swindon Borough Council’s vision and ambition for this site.

1) It’s a 7 week dig on a scheduled monument.

2) They have actively encouraged “non-archaeologists” to volunteer and dig (on a scheduled site
3) “Time shifted” the weekend to accommodate volunteers committed to Monday-Friday work
4) They are training and mentoring these volunteers, and believe me, this is not just using the
members of the public to pot wash and make tea. These people are digging and being treated as
part of the team.
5) They have an onsite education program for their trainees with guest experts in archaeological
techniques turning up to teach on site.
6) The local primary schools are going to “be archaeologists for the day” and are going to “get
down and get dirty” in this superb exercise in hands on archaeology.
7) The public are allowed on site and mingle with archaeologists and volunteers.
8) There is a “hands on” finds office that gives you info on the site and encourages you to handle
pot, tile and other finds. And opportunities to use the microscopes to view finds coming off the
9) There are expert guided walks/talks of the site twice daily.
10) All of this is FREE of charge.

Conditions:- Hot, Sunny and Humid.

Steady progress today and tentative talk of a multi-phased site.
Op. Sig. is coming out in lumps and wall plaster is being found. I keep on having to remind
myself that it is only the start of week 2 and had to have a word with David Hunter (dig director)
to make sure that he keeps me something special to work on in two weeks (else I won’t let him
use my internet connection again )

Bryn Walters (he, with Bernard Philips, did the original evaluation after the developer found the
complex) is going to spend some time on site tomorrow as he’s got a meeting with Dr. Pete
Wilson. I haven’t seen Bryn for a month or so and it will be great to catch up on gossip (Bryn is
a great gossip and a wonderful character) I expect he’ll pop in for a cuppa or a Guinness,
depending on what time it is.

The finds specialist bottled it today and will now be turning up a week this Friday. I want to talk
to him about the ring with the star and crescent design.
Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 7
Thursday 17th June – Week 2 Day 2 [Day 7]

Pete turns up to finally get the BT Broadband set up (we thought). So he gets out the laptop,
connects the CD-ROM, fine. Plugs in the BT supplied Broadband modem.......”new hardware do not have sufficient privileges to add this hardware”. I stay out of the way. He
contacts the IT support group (who are outsourced) he doesn’t seem very happy when he
explains that although EH want to use my line to access their servers the IT outsource people
haven’t approved it and technically my house isn’t an EH site so they are not happy to provide
support and won’t give Pete privileges to add the modem. All very political but I’m sure it’ll all
sort itself out.

Chatting on site to Dawn Irving, the Community Education Officer, and she passed on the
information that at 01:00 this morning the site was nighthawked - the security guard chased them
off the site but this morning it was found that a complete hypocaust box-flue tile that was being
painstakingly excavated had been ripped out and was gone. So first off there had to be an
assessment of the trench to see what else had been disturbed.

Bryn and Bernard are on site today, it’s good to see them both again and catch up with Bryn.

P.S. IT specialist is coming up to Swindon from Portsmouth to type in the password for the
privileges to install the broadband modem. They couldn’t tell Pete the password, else they’d have
to shoot him.

Neil and Kat

At work in the "deep room"
EH's "latest" update -Week 2 Day 2

We continued to clean Trench 6, working towards our first overall trench photographs. The
weather was kind and they were taken in early afternoon. What we thought yesterday might be
an east-west wall on the northern side of the trench is looking increasing like it might be a path
across the open area between Buildings 1 and 2 – on further cleaning the surface of the stone
looks as if it has been worn by the passage of feet over a considerable period of time. To the
south of it we are beginning to define what may be a later building overlying Building 2, or
possibly a room that was added to it late on in the Roman occupation of the site and served to
extend the structure out into the area between the buildings. To the south-east of the road scrape
Bernard Phillips’ and Bryn Walters’ possible cold plunge bath appears to have the remnants of
plaster on three walls, but is looking less like a cold plunge as it is probably too large, approx 4m
x 4m with a 2m square extension to the north-west. We were fortunate to have the benefit of
having Bernard and Bryn visit today and their comments on the site as now revealed, and their
commentary on their excavations have been extremely helpful.
We returned to Trench 7 and have started to plan and record what we can see prior to excavation.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 8
Friday 18th June – Week 2 Day 3 [Day 8]

Conditions:- Early short shower of rain was just enough to dampen the soil. Otherwise
warm and humid.

More of the same today gently trowelling the surfaces trying to reveal and define the structure of
the building. What was thought to be a plunge pool seems to be a bit too large, but painted
plaster is still on the wall. And one of the inside walls of the building seem massive for an
internal, so that is also causing interpretative headaches. But all in all everyone is happy with the
way the site is coming on, it is very interesting how revealed features are posing more questions
that they are answering, but everyone agrees that they prefer it that way.

.....on the political front :- IT support don’t send any one to install the modem (remember,
administration privileges required) because it has been decided “it is outside their contractual
remit” or some such rubbish.
Pete continues to use my dial-up to send the update for the web pages. He reckons the way it is
going EH will have paid for 12 months broadband (minimum contract), he won’t get to use it,
and I’ll get to have it for 10 months without paying for it. Ho Hum.

EH's "latest" update -Week 2 Day 3

After photographing Trench 6 we began to trowel down the area around our new room or
building very hard and take-out the fill of the 20th-century field drain trenches as a way of
getting an insight into the layers into which they were cut. It seems clear that we have areas of
collapsed building material, including what may be stone roof tiles. As we clean and re-clean
areas we are beginning to see that the area of Building 2 is very complicated – in addition to the
later building, or room we are also seeing a number of what may be other walls and we know
that there are features within the area stripped for the road that are on a completely different
alignment to the stone-built buildings.
On the west side of the site we returned to Trench 7 and have started to plan and record what we
can see prior to excavation.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 9
Saturday 19th June – Week 2 Day 4 [Day 9]

From the Swindon Evening Advertiser :- date published: Saturday 19th June 2004

A wealth of history is found just six inches underground

ROMAN coins and blue glass beads have been found among the remains of buildings at the
Groundwell Ridge historic site.
Just over a week after the team from English Heritage moved to the Roman site archaeologists
have already uncovered the extensive walls of a Roman building.
All the finds have been found just six inches beneath the surface.
Dr Pete Wilson, project manager at the site, said: "We have found a large expanse of previously
unknown walls of what is clearly a very complex Roman building.
"We have found examples of items found in domestic Roman life blue glass beads and around 15
to 20 Roman coins dating from the third and fourth century."
The experts have also uncovered a wealth of building materials and pieces of pottery, while
metal detectors have been used to sift through spoil heaps to make sure no finds have been
The fine weather Swindon is currently experiencing has proved to be a mixed blessing. Although
ideal as it allows working the open air, the hot sun can dry out the layers of soil which have
preserved remains for hundreds of years.
Dr Wilson said: "The hot sun can turn the soil to almost like concrete. Ideally what we are
looking for is a mix of warm days then gentle rain, but we will never get it perfect."
The excavations started on June 9 and will be the most extensive ever carried out at the site.
The dig is expected to last seven weeks during which time volunteers will have the chance to
team up with professional archaeologists and work on the site.

Much of the same today, conditions cooler, two light showers, ideal.
Lots of scratching of heads
Dave Hunter, site manager, has taken loads of photos

David Hunter photographing site
EH's "latest" update - Week 2 Day 4

In Trench 6 cleaning of the area of the new room or building and the area around continued and,
if anything, the site began to look even more complicated than we had thought it to be. A wall
running north-south from the ‘new room’ suggests that it if it not part of a remodelling of
Building 2 we actually do have another building overlying the one found in 1996/7. Looking at
the trench from our photographic tower has proved rather daunting – we keep seeing new
features and what we thought was going to be a relatively straight-forward, if interesting and
important piece of archaeology, gets more challenging by the moment!
In Trench 7 we started to excavate the soil of the hill-wash that occupies the northern part of the
trench, as well as testing soil areas in the southern part that may obscure archaeological features,
or represent part of the build-up we saw along the terrace edge at the northern end of Trench 5
last year.

Finds Bulletin 2
Finds this week have included Roman building material and pottery. Building 2 may have
collapsed when it went out of use. As a result we are excavating through the remains of roofs and
walls and finding many fragments of Roman roof tiles. These come in two types; flat Tegula
with upturned edges and curved Imbrex which covered the edges between two Tegulae. We have
also found stone roof tile, some of which were made from the local Coral Ragstone.
One of the rooms of the building has unpainted plaster surviving on three of the walls. There
have also been a number of loose plaster fragments and some of these were painted either red or
Smaller finds have included a few fragments of glass, probably from a window pane, and some
blue glass beads. These were tubular in shape with the remains of copper alloy wire running
through the middle. They probably formed part of a bracelet or necklace.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 11
Wednesday 23rd June – Week 3 Day 1 [Day 11]

Conditions – Wet!!!!

The 3rd set of volunteers turn up at 08:30, looking slightly less enthusiastic (and rather more
damp) than the previous two lots. There is a delay in the Health and Safety instructions while
Dave Hunter (site supervisor) waits for the delivery of snorkels, masks and flippers to arrive on

To be truthful the site needed this rain. The geology is an underlying bedrock of Upper Corallian
Coral Rag capped with Red Down and Oxford Clays. And these clays have been drying and
shrinking in the previous couple of weeks of extremely fine weather - making the excavation
hard going.

On site, Dave is discussing with me the presumed layout of the building, which again he admits
is speculative at the moment, but evidence is emerging of many alterations and additions, exactly
the way it is taught in the lecture rooms -- a farmstead/homestead improved and added to as the
owners get more wealthy/gain status.

As well as walls and rooms as additions, he says that there is evidence of a deliberately removed
wall, a sort of “robber trench” that isn’t really a robber trench - but a wall taken out to make a
room bigger or make two rooms into one. He says he might keep this feature back for me to
excavate next week depending on how the dig progresses and what more features are uncovered.
(Ohhh, Go on, Go on, go on!!).

Dawn Irving (EH Community Outreach and Education Officer) has had to cancel and rearrange
the first of the primary school mock excavations, she was a bit wary of finding the limp, lifeless
body of Little Jimmy Smith lying face down in a puddle of mud, his stubby, little fingers locked
around the handle of his “safety” trowel, with the rest of his class asking if they can do “a
practical” and bury him in the mock trench to see how long it takes for his flesh to rot from his
bones. Got to be careful these days with litigation.

In addition today, there were lots of EH brass about, basically seeing if this sort of community
archaeology is something they want to pursue in the future. Let’s hope they see it as a
worthwhile project and utilise this, and other initiatives, to raise both their profile and the profile
of all our local, historic environments.
One thing is for sure, after being taken round by Pete , somebody high up is going to make sure
that another somebody lower down - someone in the IT department - is going to need a rather
soft cushion to sit on tomorrow.

P.S. no news on the ring, I'm going to be away when the finds guy who thinks it is a Plantagenet
motif is around but Pete Wilson will see him on my behalf, I'll keep you posted.
Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 12
Thursday 24th June – Week 3 Day 2 [Day 12]

Conditions: Cloudy, sustained periodic sunshine, few small showers, very windy.

After yesterdays postponement due to Wimbledonesque weather today is the first of the primary
school mock excavations.

The day of truth for Dawn and the Outreach crew.

Is the first school going to resemble St. Recidivist’s School for Persistent Offenders with pupils
"refreshingly unhindered by conventional education". Have you got to keep your eye on the
Landy to make sure it doesn’t get TWOC’ed? (Taken without owners consent, I am reliably
Do we have to worry about the electronic tags, being worn by a miniature version of the Kray
twins, throwing out the GPS readings, or the ropes of 9ct gold “bling” round the 10 year old
homeboys neck skewing the magnetometry results in the demonstration being given to the

Nah, no such problems. In fact these kids are loving it. They are split into groups and one lot go
off walking the wider site as part of their landscape survey, looking at the terracing and
platforms and the “lumps ‘n’ bumps”. One group are taught how to recognise finds (specifically
roman :- box flue, tegula, rim sherds etc). One group excavate in the mock-up and another group
record the finds on a grid. Many comments are heard from the kiddywinks along the lines of :-
“I’ve seen this done on Time-Team” and “Oi, get outta my trench, Tony”

I really can’t praise English Heritage enough for this initiative although I can’t help but feel that
they are not fully exploiting the positive publicity they could be getting out of this. Publicity that
could be used to attract business sponsors for future initiatives.

Anyway this is the last update from me for a couple of days. When I return Monday evening I
will update you with anything I can. (If I have survived ) and by Wednesday evening I’ll be able
to give you a full report from within trench 6 and hopefully will be utilising the latest technology
exploited in the shape of trench cam. OK, it’s my Fujifilm digital, but used at an alluring angle.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 16
Wednesday 30th June – Week 4 Day 1 [Day 16]

Conditions – warm, cloudy, scattered showers.

Turned up 08:30. It was like a reunion.One volunteer worked with me on the North Wilts
Military Archaeological Survey, another one, Sam, she was with me in the University of Bath
team for the Big Dig weekend and 1 guy I used to work with years ago. The other 5 seem OK
Dave Hunter (site supervisor) came through for me. He placed me in the richest part of Trench 6.
The South East corner, the one with that great big wall that was supposed to be the plunge pool
but isn't.
Well, I’m digging with Neil and Kat, who basically have made this part of the trench theirs.

WHAT A ROOM. Plaster on the walls, soil kept on to protect it till we’ve emptied it out
completely, red painted lumps of plaster in the debris. Massive amount of pot, last week half a
figured Samian vessel decorated with acanthus leaves and a hippocamp – a kind of sea monster,
half horse half fish – not quite a dragon , but hey I’m easily impressed. This was Kat’s star find
and we are currently looking for the other half of what Kat calls her “My Little Pony” pot. Bless
Last week, in this room Kat and Neil found what was the remains of roman footware, probably a
sandal. All the leather was gone but the hobnails remained and traced out the shape of the sole.
This week building nails seem to be the order of the day. Today out of 34 small finds (that does
not include pot, tile, plaster etc) 29 have been nails. It makes for boring reading on the small
finds bags.

Site Code – 3641 2004

Site Name – Groundwell
SSD- Trench 6
Context Number – 5021
SF Number – 7808
Material – Fe
Object – Another $%&&*! Nail

Still, why are we complaining this is a rich room indeed. Apart from the nails, two trays of
various pot, I’d say about 30 significantly large pieces just today. And testament to my
mattocking technique -- my star find of today was a very fine piece of roman glass, the rim of a
delicate vessel, about 3cm x 1cm, mattocked out by my own fair hands with no further breakage.
Although praised for the find and delicate mattock work I think they were being over generous --
more luck than judgement I’d say, but I did feel good. Roman glass.

A great first day, excellent finds and the whole site seems to be coming together although still
very hard to interpret. Close up photos taken
Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 17
Thursday 1st July – Week 4 Day 2 [Day 17]

Up bright and early, not too stiff, just a little writers cramp from recording all those small finds.

As I have said previously Sam and I worked together last year on the Big Dig, and while I’ve got
the suggested plunge pool with a myriad of finds, Sam has been digging, down and down and
down, into what has been suggested is a drain. And I think it’s safe to say that this area “hasn’t
really troubled the small finds experts”

I let slip that I was writing this diary (on the Other Place) and Sam will be looking in again
tonight . What I can say is that her “feature” was cleaned and tidied up immaculately for drawing
and recording.
It does always worry me when the female archaeologist is asked to tidy a trench or a feature. I
have visions of stones and pot and bits of wall being placed in drawers never to be seen again.
(ducks and runs ). I always fear the dreaded words from my wife “I’ve tidied up your study”
which is roughly translated as “all the stuff you knew you could put your hand on immediately,
you will never, ever see again”
Still I don’t suppose it helps when I shout across to Sam, “another bit of glass”, “hey Sam, you
seen this huge Black Burnished ware rim”

A beautiful tiled, floor surface was uncovered today with what looks to be a semi-circular
alcove. I got some shots but will take more when it is fully cleaned up.

Various post holes keep appearing and seem to have been cut into many features. These have
been suggested as being evidence of a Saxon building over the top of the roman. A bit early for
interpretation yet, but I’ll keep all you Anglo-Saxon experts “posted” (Ooooh!!)

Anyway to really hack Sam off :p - my star find today in Trench six was a piece of wall plaster
with what looks like a deliberate attempt to decorate with an impressed sea shell. Interesting
because of the plunge pool theory. Bryn Walters was on site and reckons we still have a metre to
go before we reach the floor but it is slow going because of the wealth of finds (Sorry Sam)
More tomorrow.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 18
Friday 2nd July – Week 4 Day 3 [Day 18] _

Conditions:- warm, occasions showers, windy.

Day three already

Sam’s feature has been nicely cleaned and recorded. Just a matter of removing the stones from it.
I stupidly volunteer to help remove one of the stones before setting eyes on it. Well, it is slightly
larger than the planet Mercury and I was rather pleased to hear that it would probably be better
left where it was.

As if I didn’t have enough to do anyway.

Unfortunately the Total Station, used for 3D recording of small finds was on the blink, or rather
the battery charger for it was. So instead of recording all small finds immediatly, we had to white
tag the finds in the area until we could get the Total Station batteries charged.

As I’ve hinted :D the area I’m working in has produced proportionally more small finds and the
white finds tags are making it increasingly difficult to work the area. Because we are 3D’ing
we’ve got white tags on little pillars of soil while we try to work around them. Still it didn’t stop
me finding more glass, loads of pot – including part of the Hippocamp (“My Little Pony”)
figured imitation Samian ware, fine plain real Samian, loads of nails (now over 100 out of our
small area), possible fine silver metalwork, “run-off” sprue from lead casting, and copper alloy
pin “thing” possibly attached to leather or wood (the context [5021] is very damp and ideal for
preserving organic matter) This find caused Jörn (small finds specialist) to rush it back to
Portsmouth to the labs for analysis.

So all in all a very rewarding day – apart from my “trouser moment”.

Advice to anyone on a dig – always pack a spare pair of trousers or like I do live only 50 metres
from the site. I would not have liked to carry on the way they were split. The girls would have
been frightened and the boys would have felt inadequate, and not to mention the health and
safety aspect of the danger of tripping over things in the trench

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 19
Saturday 3rd July – Week 4 Day 4 [Day 19]

Conditions:- warm, sunny, gusts of wind.

Ok.. I am digging the SE corner of Trench 6 with Kat and Neil, a very rich trench in terms of
finds and in terms of interpretations too.

Let’s start with Bryn and Bernard’s interpretation:-

A plunge pool of a bathhouse – later thought to be too big.

Then described as “deep room” – well, yes, I can vouch it is deep. But doesn’t really tell us any
more :confused:

I find a piece of wall plaster with a sea shell impressed into it – we find 5 large pieces of a
hippocamp decorated bowl (half horse half sea monster)

Is it a large plunge pool.

Don’t know – OK, now we call it “room 1”

Me, Neil and Kat find the base of a glass unguentarium (look it up, I had to )
Ooooh, back to plunge pool or another component of a bath suite. I wonder what it will be

The base of the unguentarium was a wonderful find but later on, was almost rivalled by a single
large green glass bead out of the same context.

It is terrible really as all the lovely pot bases and rims that usually you would rave about really
are a secondary consideration. That how good this “plunge pool”, “deep room”, “room one”,
“my, Kat’s and Neil’s SE corner” is. Last day of the week, tomorrow, I’ll take some more piccys
of the finds and post them Monday.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 20
Sunday 4th July – Week 4 Day 5 [Day 20 ]

The last day of this week and time for an appraisal of our small area.

Finds from our area this week:- Bags of red painted plaster, plaster with impressed sea-shell,
broken roof tile - tegula and imbrex, broken box flue tile some with plaster adhering to combed
surfaces, Cu alloy pin attached to organic material, Cu alloy and Fe - possible decorative nail
bosses, various Fe blades , fine silver (?) metalwork , substantial fine plain samian sherds, more
pieces of decorated imitation samian bowl with hippocamp and acanthus figuring, “run-off”
sprue from lead casting, various pieces of glass – both flat and shaped one a lovely aqua colour,
huge great chunks of Dorset black burnished ware (we were averaging 1 ½ trays full of tile/pot a
day), over 125 nails from the room and our 2 star finds - the beautiful glass base of an
unguentarium and a lovely large green glass bead. I have a picture of the ungentarium but
unfortunately not the bead. With glass you have to be quick to bag it up because it tends to
deteriate and laminate. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough with the bead to get a photo but I
hope to get lots of post-excavation photos.

I hope I’ve remembered everything, if not Kat and Neil will give me a good kicking on

Wednesday there will be a slight change of strategy in “room one”. Because of a suspected
feature elsewhere (about which I can say little more) It has been decided that we stop digging out
the “find mine” and take a vertical strip down the soil adhering to the walls just to see what we
have and how far it goes. Decisions based on the result of that investigation will determine what
we do then.

Other things to mention about the trench as a whole is that there is one area which is being
interpretated as a praefurnium (furnace room) from the extent of burning and proximity of the
hypocaust fabric. But there is also another area with similar features adjacent and is either a
second praefurnium, servicing the bathhouse at the same time, or one of a different period
showing a change of use of one or more of the rooms. So we are acheiving the aim of the
excavation and answering questions about the building. More from Wednesday

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 21
Wednesday 7th July – Week 5 Day 1 [Day 21]

Back on site and in the “deep room” to take two 15cm vertical strips down the soil adhering to
adjacent walls to see how far the plaster goes down. The east wall gives us the answer - the
plaster continues down to where we have dug to. The decision is taken to half section the floor
and continue through our gravelly context. Finds have dwindled but I still manage to “small
find” process 8 nails whilst cleaning up the walls.

Recorded after 1st reduction of digging area

Shot showing tarp. covering investigative vertical cut and showing depth of room.
This afternoon we had two very special visitors turn up to poke around and keep an eye on us.

Professor Mick Aston and assistant Teresa Hall. It was really good to see them again and we
breifly chatted about being in my back garden last year. Mick joked with Pete Wilson about not
using the locals as they are “noithing but troible”, and Pete was warning Mick not to say
anything as it all gets published on this thread. Which, as you can see Professor Aston, it does

I’m not digging tomorrow, I am on site with a party of local 10 year old school children - helping
out with "crowd control" :eek but Neil and Kat will let me know if anything spectacular happens.
That’s all for now I’ll let you know how I get on with the children tomorrow.

Pete, Mick and Teresa

Wednesday afternoon
Pete, Mick and Teresa
Being shown the "Deep room"

Pete saying "And that's where Chris split his trousers"
Generally musing on the site.

EH's "latest" update - Week 5 Day 1

Today we were working under the threat and rain and wind – unfortunately neither came with
any force until the last hour or so of the day. Now both have arrived with a vengeance and
tomorrow is looking like a good day for finds processing!
In Trench 6 we cleaned-up and photographed the cold plunge bath (Room 3). We have continued
to take down the infilling of Room 4, but are yet to find the floor – do we have a second cold
bath? In Room 6 it has been suggested that we might have a channelled hypocaust, although it is
equally possible that the one channel that we can see may be the water-supply for the cold range
of the bath house. If it is the water supply what we had thought was a stone base for a lead pipe
carrying the water in will in fact be one of the sides of the water channel. Elsewhere in Trench 6
we are investigating the wall that connects Building 2 with Building 1 to the west – as it was
damaged by the road construction work in 1996 we are taking out about 1.5m of its foundation to
allow us to examine deposits that we know to predate the stone buildings – given the protected
status of the site it may well be the only walling that we remove.
In Trench 7 we are continuing to draw the section,
Professor Mick Aston of Time Team fame visited today. Mick was here when Time Team did
their ‘Big Dig’ last year and so has an interest in the site and also a long-established interest in
Community Archaeology. After the limited discoveries last year, by both Time Team and
ourselves, we were glad to be able to show him our bath house in its gradually increasing glory!

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 22
Thursday 8th July – Week 5 Day 2 [Day 22]

Forget about school kids and mock excavations, forget about imitation samian ware hippocamp
decorated bowls, forget about glass unguentarium bases, forget even about Mick Aston (forgive
me Mick) but today about 2 metres down in the very, very, very “deep room” Neil and Kat
not an Orpheus mosaic but
a large beautifully preserved timber, approximately 30cm wide by 8cm deep and of unknown
length except to say larger than 90cms. This looks like a definite candidate for dendro dating and
we have a conservation expert on site tomorrow to see it in situ and to give her opinion.

A medium size piece of samian was found along side the timber and intriguingly some wood that
looks like a sort of roman ply wood i.e. made from laminates of wood grains at 90° to each other.

An expert will be looking at this and it is being speculated that this is showing us the floor
construction of an early, possible first phase flooring with strong construction, crossply surface
over timber floor members, but I must stress this is a first stab interpretation but I have to admit I
am very excited by this find as it will give us a lot more information than we really could have
wished for. Loads of photos taken.
Right I’m going for a lie down

The timber

The timber
Cleaning up the timber with a small leaf trowel

Further cleaning
shot with scale

Larger shot with scale
Keeping it damp
Whilst the profile of the Roman god of the wood, Faunus, appears from the right side of the
Sample taken for dendrochronology

Going into macro mode
Bark is visible.
Rings and bark can be seen

X-section macro.
The rings and the medullary rays can be clearly seen
4 reference points recorded so that a photo can be slotted into a plan of the site.

Official EH update for - Week 5 Day 2

Life gets even more interesting. Having got to the point where we are getting are thinking about
how much we can hope to do before we finish digging – effectively on Sunday 18th July as the
final week will largely be recording and backfilling we can perhaps see light at the end of the
In Trench 6 we have had to reduce the area of Room 1 that we are digging for safety, but in what
was going to be the final piece of excavation in the room we have come across an in situ piece of
wood. It is apparently part of a wooden beam set parallel with the south wall of the room and
seems to be fairly well-preserved. The heated part of the bath house (Room 2) is being taken
down and we have again found what might a later floor inserted into it after the heating system
went out of use. We thought that Room 4 was part of the cold range of the bath house, but the
presence of a possible in situ hypocaust tile and a box flue tile from near the wall may indicate
that it was in fact a hot or warm room! In Room 6 we have excavated our late post hole and it has
gone down nearly a metre.
In Trench 7 we have completed the section and until next week will be doing no more in the
trench until next week.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 23
Friday 9th July – Week 5 Day 3 [Day 23]

Last night my family took a vote. I am now officially “sad” and the word “wood” is now banned
from use for a 7 day period. After I tried to cheat, another vote was taken and the word “would”
has also been banned. . This is making for some interesting conversations and is making the kids
think a bit more about vocabulary. I think I might ban some other words in the future just to get
them to think of synoyms. Anyway back to the action......

I have another class from the local primary school today and I concentrate on landscape
surveying the roman road with them. Or as me and the schoolkids call it the “uppy-downy


Yer basic roman road ditch----agger---ditch agreed?

Right -- line up 5 kids abreast as if they were going to cross the road. Tell them to take small
steps, shuffles almost, and say out loud what they feel the ground is doing under their feet i.e. up,
up, down, down

So for our roman road you should get


Simple but effective. . Then you get them to look at what they’ve just walked and - hey presto -
they can “see” it. Next get them to mark out the ditches with bright yellow bean bags (colour
optional ) , and the same with the top of the agger, and there it is. A section of roman road
planned and marked out by 9 year-old total amateurs. And they love the “uppy-downy game”

Give me thirty kids who know the uppy-downy game, a medieval ridge and furrow field, and a
pub in close proximity and I guarantee a peaceful afternoon for myself

Anyway that’s enough of Chris’s ABC of Archaeology for Kids back to the w**d, the experts
are on site and it is decided that this is a good candidate for dating and a section is cut and sent to
Sheffield (I think) for dendrochonology. All we can do now is wait for the result. Decisions on
what to do next with “room 1” will be taken overnight and tomorrow. I am back in the action
tomorrow while the Living History weekend takes place around us.
Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 24
Saturday 10th July – Week 5 Day 4 [Day 24]

Planning and recording the wooden feature until lunchtime. Then pack the timber with the clay
that was excavated from around it and backfilled to protect it for future excavations. In a way
heartbreaking after 5 ½ weeks, but then again secure for the future.

I was really touched that Kat and Neil put a label in the clay with their initials AND mine, even
though I was away with school kids at the time when the timber was found. Thanks guys, that
meant a lot.

Neil Holbrook (Cotswold Archaeology, and site director for last years Time Team Big Dig) was
onsite today and I think was more impressed with the site than he was last year.

Just goes to show.

Other news on the site. The cold plunge pool with the semi-circular apse and tiled floor has....
Another tiled floor about 30cm below . Making the lowest floor an earlier phase.

Plunge pool
showing tiled floor

Plunge pool
Showing earlier floor surface
Plunge pool
another angle
This bathhouse is proving, all ends up, to be a multi-phased site, the timber floor member that we
preserved and backfilled, probably providing the date for the earliest phase. This has been really
rewarding site.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 25
Sunday 11th July – Week 5 Day 5 [Day 25]

The end of another great week.

Today more features were being discovered, and causing Pete more headaches and there is really
only next week left to dig, for the final week is reserved for backfilling. The building speaks for
itself, it needs a lot more work done on it and hopefully EH can come up with the funding, but
with like everything – money is tight and this seven weeks at Groundwell has taken a rather large
slice of the Centre for Archaeology’s budget. And as I say this is only one building of a complex
of several on this site.

Today I carefully exposed, cleaned and recorded a concretion of nails and other iron artefacts
hard against a wall, possibly the contents of a bag of some sort of which parts could remain. So
after cleaning and photographing in situ, it was block lifted to be excavated in the lab looking for
fabric, fibres or organic matter. I was quite pleased with that delicate job.

Then me, Kat and Neil took the soil covering the walls of our room back to about 2cm away
from the inside faces so that on Wednesday when we expose the plaster we can work quickly to
strip the remaining soil and record the exposed room before the plaster deteriorates and maybe

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 26
Wednesday 14th July – Week 6 Day 1 [Day 26]

Last week of digging

Ok - suitably refreshed from the “weekend” and raring to go on the final week digging.

Today myself, Kat and Neil will be concentrating on “deep room” (it all sounds vaguely “Black
Ops” or early 1970’s Watergate ), peeling back the soil to expose the plaster in situ. The places
on the walls where we expose the wall covering shows that we have a fine, thin skim of plaster
underneath a thicker and seemingly more robust covering. Unfortunately I complicate things
somewhat by discovering that the plaster on my wall dives back into a splay of a jamb, looking
like either a blocked up door or some other recess of the wall such as a niche. This is the last
week so it is decided by Pete (quite rightly, even though I’m slightly disappointed - not with Pete
but with the time constraint NOT to do too much with this feature, except clean, define, photo
record and describe for future excavations.
So as it stands it is possible that this “deep room” had two doors probably showing different
phases or change of use/access for it.
Find of the day was not from where we were (for once) but from another part of trench 6. It was
a lead bust. Possibly of a goddess but I’m no expert, probably best to wait for an expert to cast
his/her eye over it. It is about 8cm high by 5cm wide, photos duly taken.
P.S. Laura Bullivant, the EH Community Education and Outreach Officer for Groundwell, asked
me to show a group of 14-16 year olds around the site, I decided not to show them the uppy-
downy game

From the EH website...Week 6 Day 1

We have removed most of the capping stones from our early drain and it is clear that it is stone-
lined, very narrow and fully silted-up.
In Room 1 we are removing the soil that we left against the walls to protect the plaster that we
know to survive on walls of the cellar. Whilst doing this we received not one, but two surprises.
There are two layers of plaster on the west wall and there is an infilled opening in the western
wall and possibly one in the south wall –are they doors, windows or niches? – given that we have
only four days digging left we may well not find out. However as with the rest of the site they
will be safe for future researchers.

We are again carefully excavating and planning the area of Room 2 – the remains are so complex
that we need to ensure that the drawings and site records are adequate to the task of
reconstructing them on paper and the computer screen back in the office.

It is clear that we are dealing with a bath-suite – a bathing range within a larger building. In the
cold range we have removed some of the fill from both the inlet and outlet water channels – the
northern one a stone-lined channel, the southern one a gap in the wall of Room 3 which
presumably links with either the early stone-lined drain or later ditch. Both channels may have
originally contained lead pipes, which like leadwork on many Roman sites would have been
removed for reuse.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 27
Thursday 15th July – Week 6 Day 2 [Day 27]

Last week of digging

Well it’s the National Archaeology Days this Saturday and Sunday, and Friday there are some
VIPs and massed ranks of the press (so that’ll be the Swindon Evening Advertiser and the free
paper, that comes through the door with all those glossy pizza, burger, kebab, double glazing,
hairdressing and nail bar, lose weight, golf sale, pine warehouse leaflets, then) and we are
cleaning up the site – not that it needs it. Pete has even borrowed my strimmer and got poor old
Geoff (site management) , cutting back all that nasty grass

I couldn’t believe the tool store when I saw it at lunchtime :eek , it was sparkling, Liz, one of the
archaeologists, had performed a miracle and tidied it - with little labels telling you where to line
up the mattocks, shovels, spades, buckets etc., in fact it was so different that I spent 10 minutes
looking around for the old tool store. Well done Liz

So in “deep room” we are still peeling back the soil to expose our two or three layers of plaster
for the big wigs to admire. I can only keep my fingers crossed that we impress so much that next
year funding is available to open up the site again.

West wall of "Deep Room"

showing 2 layers of plaster and plastered chamfered edge of door or niche with infill
Pilae and masonry
floor supports (the pilae have a tegula for a base!!)
Hot air channel is visable behind stacks, to the left.

Another room
being cleaned
Post hole
and post pad and flue and everything!!!

So on the off chance of someone high up in English Heritage is reading this, here is an example
of some letters that some 9 year old school children sent me about their “Archaeologist for a
Day” experience last week.

Spelling mistakes theirs, explanatory parentheses mine.

Dear Chris (that’s me),

Thankyou for teaching us to do the uppy
downy game (earthwork surveying) that was one of my
favourite things. I am going to ask my mum If we can go
there agian.

From Chloe.

Dear Chris
I hope you find more roman remaines. I really liked playing the
up and down game. I really enjoyed the day,
From Bryonie-Jade
PS Thank you for helping us

Dear Chris,

Thank you for the fun day at groundwell

ridge. I thought it was funny when you told us that Mikey
(my 5 year old at the same school) called earthworks the
uppy downy game. On the other hand. Thank you for the
great day

From Andrew.

Dear Chris,

Thank you for inviting us to Groundwell

and I really hope you find some intresting things.
From Tash.

So, EH and Swindon Borough Council give yourselves a pat on the back - and those letters and
the other ones received prove that this is a worthwhile exercise.

My hope is that if you can get “little Freddy” interested in archaeology at 9 years old - and he
later becomes a town planner or developer - he may remember the “uppy-downy” game before
he sanctions the destruction of another important site.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 28
Friday 16th July – Week 6 Day 3 [Day 28]

Last week of digging

Typical, site polished to a high gleam yesterday, heaving it down with rain today . Even after a
few minutes work the site was resembling The Somme.
“Dr Wilson will blow the whistle and we go over the top for the big push, lads” quipped Dave
Hunter in a clipped accent.

The clay around the site sticks like a News of the World innuendo and although we have taken
the “deep room” back and beautifully exposed and cleaned the plaster no-one can see it because
it is under thick plastic sheet to protect it from the rain.
English Heritage chief archaeologist David Miles is doing the press interviews and the site is
being celebrated as "one of the most important Roman sites in England".

Anyway the press have departed and the councillors, dignitaries and VIP’s are gone (why doesn't
somebody say that high heels are not the ideal footwear for a soggy archaeological site, and that
was just the male members of Swindon Borough Council and we get down to cleaning up for
recording the room when....
we find ANOTHER floor joist.....
while chasing down the plaster on the walls.
Pete Wilson, when told, shakes his head, shakes me by the throat and tells us the only thing we
know he is going to tell us. Leave it, shoot an EDM co-ord, note it on the plan and forget it.

First National Arch. Day tomorrow, we will be recording and planning “deep room”. If anyone is
going – just shout “Chris” across the site and I’ll point to where the joist is.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 29
Saturday 17th July – Week 6 Day 4 [Day 29]

Last week of digging

National Archaeology Day 1.

Thankfully the weather was a bit kinder today and there seemed to be a constant stream of
people wanting to see the site.

The mock excavation was open for younger punters to “have a go” and, as the “deep room” - that
we are recording today - is near the observation platform, I must have heard the words “In 1996,
whilst putting in roads for a new housing estate........” 10 or more times from poor old Pete as he
started another site tour off.

If it were me, and thank God it wasn’t, I would have been tempted to vary the repertoire
somewhat and slipped in:-

“This site is an early example of one of the Zogon fleet’s intergalactic refuelling stations, one of
the best preserved we have from the period....”

You see, that is why I get on better with children.

I don’t mind explaining to a 7 year old that ”No, we are not actually building here, but digging
up something built a long time ago by the Romans”, rather than answer the question from
somebody who has had the benefit of a full state education and really should know better :-

“How do you know that this isn’t a hoax placed here by the developers because they ran out of
money, my friends girlfriends cousin worked on this site and that’s what he said”

Well there were a couple of things I found difficult to believe: First, that he had a friend: Second,
that if he did have a friend, this friend had a girlfriend. Thirdly if the friend did have a girlfriend
– why wasn’t she going out with her cousin?

Anyway I brought home a little light reading tonight EH - Centre for Archaeology’s Recording
Manual special attention to module 3 “Recording Deposits and Cuts” and within that, getting
to grips with controlled vocabulary a bit different from the MoLAS recording stuff.

Deep Room" Polished to a high gleam East Wall

Beautifully cleaned for recording
East wall, 2 metre and 1 metre scales
South wall
with evidence of another blocked up feature (check out the line running down through the

Cleaned for recording

NE shot
Further back

West wall
all cuts, steps etc are all ours for access and safety you can see there is still a lot of infill to
remove another year
West Wall
Recording the blocked up doorway/window/niche

Wish me luck
Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 30
Sunday 18th July – Week 6 Day 5 [Day 30] LAST DAY OF EXCAVATION

National Archaeology Day 2.

Weather again excellent.

Again streams of people turning up for tours of the site, mock excavations, view the finds etc.
Bryn Walters and around 60-70 member of the Association for Roman Archaeology (Association
for Roman Archaeology, 75 York Road, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN1 2JU, for membership ) turned
up for the second site tour of the day.
Neil, who was discussing soil particle size analysis, and not being able to choose the colour of a
soil type from the Munsell colour charts he quipped he was having a “Munsell moment” that was
when .... “In 1996, whilst putting in roads for a new housing estate........” boomed out from Pete.
Well, after yesterday’s relentless repetition of the above words, Neil’s eyes clouded over and he
went quietly insane.
“I don’t want to do this anymore”, he said, with a slight madness flickering in his eyes
“I don’t want to be an archaeologist anymore. I want to be the King of Confectionery and create
the best sweets in the world. No longer will people queue to buy Quality Street and Roses for
Christmas. They will be drawn inexorably toward the pinnacle of the confectionery world -
......and these delicious morsels will be known as “Munsell Moments” ........and each sweet will
be wrapped in a colour chart with which you have to match with the coating of the sweet.”

Well, that gave us a laugh and helped us through the 8 other site tours.

A late find on our last day of recording!!
The two National Archaeology Days seemed a great success and a fitting culmination to the six
weeks excavation and recording - to the highest standards - of part of a scheduled monument, the
volunteer program, the schools education program, the trainee archaeologist program, the
community program, the visitors able to ask from the viewing platform the working
archaeologists what it was all about. It all worked. And again I would like to thank EH and SBC
for their innovative use of this rich and rewarding resource (which I’m sure will have raised a
few eyebrows in the archaeological world),Kat and Neil for being in “deep room” with me, the
rest of the bunch for being great fun and Dr. Pete Wilson for all thoses site tours that we had to

And for those of you who are, quite rightly, interested in the reports for excavations can I pass on
that although the schedule for Post-excavation still being finalised, it is hoped that Assessment
be completed by March 2005, and Analysis by March 2006.

Anyway that’s the dig over with, and I am released from the curse of the Dig Diary
I hope you enjoyed the reports as much as I enjoyed working on the site.

Groundwell Ridge Dig Diary - day 31
As a condition of Scheduled Monument Consent, the Groundwell Site must be returned to the
condition it was in. I can say it was. Although I can't say the same for the bodies at the "end of
dig" party.

I'm going to miss those lovely people who took my water, used my internet connection, parked
on my drive, made me laugh, taught me a lot - so here are the pictures for the last week.

Anna, taking levels

Anna, I did 30 levels for you not 2 days ago?? What are you surveying or am I crap??

Cat surveying
different person, different spelling. In collusion with Anna
Depressed by section. Or should it be Sectioned by depression. :)
Big Yellow Putter Backer

Big Yellow Putter Backer II

Big Yellow Putter Backer III
The Mysterious Swindinivm Stone

Precision stuff
"Deep room" being back filled.
Deep Room
YES. I watched this room being back filled - all the way.
Geoff and Neil
Site supervisor says last rights over Neil, one of the Heroes of "Deep Room"

An honour to serve with you, Neil
Where's it gone ???