I must admit to approaching today with some apprehension we had no way of knowing if we would get 6, 60 or 600 people turning up for the Open Day. Eternally optimistic, we had booked a whole field behind the pub for car parking and arranged with Anthony and Hilary at the campsite to have an advanced base for car-sharing groups ready to start the walk up to the site. Jean and Ken had brought an equally optimistic number of biscuits to go with the tea.
The chairs were out, the screen down, the curtains were pulled over blocking out the sun and the presentation was ready to go. I’ve been working on versions of it over the last few months tweaking bits and adding as the project has progressed. It seems a long time ago that we were asking for tenders and applying for Heritage Lottery Funding.
Stephe gives his presentation
Would anyone come? Yes! 18 for the first go with two watching the pictures but deciding to forgo the walk with Mervyn. The second group had the same number for Sue and the final group had just eight for Mervyn’s second ascent of the day. There was one extra when Joyce turned up after everyone else had left. She made a new party of one and set off up the hill on her own.
In the calm between the groups, the three base camp staff sat in the sun musing on the news of yesterday’s referendum and checking that the biscuits weren’t going stale. After the last group, and Joyce, had gone, we cleared the room of everything apart from the provisions for the returning parties. I decided to walk up to the site and see how the diggers had got in the full glare of visitors.
Climbing the track, I first heard Jamie’s laugh round about 1450 on the time line, a full four hundred and fifty years away from his lecture to the visitors. More cleaning and boulder shifting had happened. At sixteen, our youngest volunteer so far, George of Penrith, was quietly pleased with digging even though no finds had been made.
George our youngest recruit helps dig the drain
Another twenty people had visited following the signposting from the track so we are well satisfied with our day.
From the site end of the open day it was, I think, enormously successful. We had a constant stream of groups coming through to inspect the site, and overall I think there were at least 60 visitors to the site. There was an enormous amount of interest and enthusiasm to judge by all the questions from the visitors, some of which were extremely perceptive and reflect a lot of understanding.
Introducing the site to one of the many groups
I also took the opportunity to show them the 3d model of the site in the tent, which was entertaining if only because of the difficulty of trying to cram 16 odd people into a smallish tent to see a very small computer screen – I hope it was worth the discomfort. My most embarrassing moment of the day was when in bold, and perhaps too emphatic, words I enthusiastically described the rectangular arrangement of stones forming the central hearth, and pointed to its location, only to realise with a sort of dazed and shocked expression that it was gone – it transpired that Jeremy had surreptitiously removed the stones 10 minutes previously !
Where’s my hearth??
Otherwise the excavation was proceeding fantastically; I hadn’t been up for a few days and it was incredible to see how much had been done in that time, with a new hearth appearing (and one disappearing!!). I was delighted by the cobbled floor, which was looking fantastic by the end of the day when we did the survey of the site with the photographic mast.
Hannah and Brian survey the site with a photographic mast at the end of the day
The results of the end of day survey is presented below and shows the condition of the cobbled flooring in the northern part of the house
Clearly the team have done a fantastic job, and I take my hat off to them, and I can’t wait to get back there on Tuesday.
Once again the volunteer diggers were blessed with clement weather as they headed up the hill from Seathwaite Village Hall to the dig at Tongue House A longhouse. we were joined by 16 year old George Dobson from Penrith who was (by a very long margin!) our youngest volunteer archaeological digger today.
Lesley Steele and Hannah excavate the trench by the outer wall
At the end of the day our volunteer diggers left the site in buoyant mood. When we stand back and see the amount of work that has been undertaken over the last 8 days, it can only be described as a magnificent effort on the part of all those who have contributed to the dig.