A great first day of fieldwork over at Shebster today with six volunteers recording five hut circles! The morning seemed a bit gloomy with our drive to site overwhelmed by rain, a new electric fence for us to battle and a team of midges attacking us. However, by the time we’d bypassed the fence, filled the air with the scent of “skin so soft” and trudged across the landscape to our sites the clouds had lifted and the sky was as bright as our smiles.
AOC’s Jamie started volunteers Carol, Paul and Terry off with their plane table survey of a group of three hut circle sitting on a slight terrace on the hillside. The first of these to be surveyed was the best preserved with a well defined, penannular earth and stone bank around 9m in diameter with a south-west facing entrance. At lunch time an extra pair of hands arrived in the shape of Alan and a second plane table survey was started.
Meanwhile, AOC’s Gemma took her volunteers, Susan and Winnie, off to record a hut circle further downhill, to the west of the other group. The hill was steep, the land was boggy and Gemma was insistent that this was the only way to go. After a a number of slips, slides and impressively squelchy noises they arrived at their site, still alive.
The hut circle was an impressive 15m in diameter and remained in areas to a height of a 0.6m. After a few quick tips on how to identify the top and bottom breaks of slope Winnie and Susan were away with Michelle (AOC’s DGPS) recording a very spread, ring-shaped bank with no discernible entrance. The north-west of the site was covered by gorse so couldn’t be reached, but it sparked off a discussion about the LiDAR data and how useful the bare earth data is compared to the first return data for sites like this. The bare earth data has the vegetation removed so hidden areas (like the north-west side of the hut circle) can be viewed.
Winnie and Susan were very patient with Gemma as she parroted at them “change your code, press enter, put your stylus away, level your pole, take your point.” But the rote learning method worked (!) and they were parroting it back to her as they raced around the site recording the few stones that were visible. Then it was time to go back through the bog to meet the other group for lunch. They survived again. Just.
After lunch Jamie’s group finished recording their second hut circle and moved onto their third. They re-encountered that pesky electric fence that divided the site in half, fortunately Alan charmed the farmer into turning off the power so no shocks. Phewph!
Gemma’s group moved north after lunch to record the location of the remnants of another hut circle which was very spread due to ploughing. A few stones lay around but there were virtually no visible banks and the main feature of the site was the difference in vegetation to the surrounding field. This didn’t stop Winnie and Susan from tracing around the extents of the site using Michelle.
After that Gemma mentioned that she thought she had seen a possible burnt mound in the LiDAR data so they should go take a look. Following her usual Romanist method she took a straight line approach to reaching the site straight through…another area of bog! As the sun was shining Winnie and Susan laughed it off but swiftly began plotting throwing Gemma into the bog. Unfortunately the ground was too wet to reach the possible burnt mound but by the time the group had trekked back up the hill, fighting for their life through the bog for the final time, they found Jamie’s group had finished recording their third hut circle of the day. Susan and Winnie recorded the plane-table survey station nails using Michelle so that they could be located on the Ordnance Survey National Grid, meaning both groups work for the day could be put onto one illustration.
All in all a wonderful day on site with an amazing amount of sites recorded using a number of different methods. Well done everyone! Just remember, never follow Gemma across wet terrain…