They think it’s all over – it is now!


It’s all very well Jamie declaring it’s all over, but today some of us had to go up the valley one more time.

There was another load of OA North kit to fill the truck on its last visit. There was all the History Group clutter, from H&S briefings to plank bridges, to pack into my van. There was the sweeping and mopping with Gail to smarten the rooms up ready for the next booking on Thursday when the Cumbria Vernacular Buildings Group come to visit the sites.

And finally, one last walk up the Damn Road to spread a couple of pounds of grass seed to try to mask our turf deficiency. I’m not sure how the grass will survive against the Return of the Rhizome but it was worth a try. I don’t suppose the Lawn Tennis Association will ever ask to use the site as a venue for a competition though it is fun to imagine the ball boys sweeping through the bracken and boulders to collect overplayed shots.


Grass seed was laid in the backfilled longhouse in an attempt to prevent the return of the dreaded bracken

Two sheep were there to check out what had been happening. I don’t know if they were escapees or if Richard has opened access to the pasture now we have finished but they could have caused us trouble. Did you notice all that red plastic fencing and posts back at base that we didn’t have to carry across the fell?


The sheep once again take over the site

I was able to give a special thank you to those volunteers who did such a fantastic job with the backfilling yesterday. I need to say the same to all of you who helped make this first season such a success. We couldn’t have done it without you. The Heritage Lottery Fund allow us to count every volunteer day as a payment in kind worth £50. With 16 days of ten plus diggers, you can see that you represent a tremendous contribution to the project.

The HLF need us to provide an interim report for how we’ve spent the first lot of their grant. We need to include comments and feedback within that report. We collected comments from our visitors but we need something from you people out there, diggers, visitors, blog readers and all. If you could take a minute to send something to it will be greatly appreciated.

Christine has left Millom today on her way back to Sweden. She hopes to come back again next year as she has had such a great time and worked so hard yesterday that her boots fell apart. I hope we will see all of you again in 2017 when we turn right from the track up to Long House Close.


Christine and her collapsing boots –  we hope to see you again next year

There will be a report coming out once we have information back from the samples taken and we hope to have a gathering in Broughton to pass on the findings directly.

Watch this space.



And here finally is the last model taken with the camera on a pole, just before we started backfilling.



Day 16 – T’is over!

Today was the final day of the excavation, and was a day of much lamenting. In part because of the very considerable effort that was entailed in backfilling the site, but also because this was the last day and the realisation that there are no more days of excavation to look forward to. No more getting up at unsociable hours, no more getting bombarded with torrential rain and gale force winds and no more overwhelming comradeship! Its been a fantastic excavation and I hope all will agree with me that it has been incredibly rewarding, but we have had to say good bye to some recently acquired close friends, whom we may not see again until next years excavation of Long House Close.



We had a great team today all resigned to the fact that today was going to be a day of backfilling. Jeremy was anticipating that the first part of the day would involve much cleaning of the site for a camera on a stick photo, but when we got there we found that the rain had done the work for us, and the site had been comprehensively washed by the precipitation, and we therefore didnt need clean it. We did, though, have a number of swimming pools courtesy of the rain and we needed to bail these out without stepping on the site and mucking up the surfaces – tricky. However, with much ingenuity and perching on boulders it was achieved.

The camera on the stick produced some great photographs, which meant there was no excuse to put off the backfilling. However, every one got stuck in and after a relatively short time we had a beautifully backfilled site, though there was much groaning and creaking of over abused bones.


Backfilling in progress


The hardworking team on top of the backfilled longhouse

I have to say I was amazed at how much was shifted in so short a time, and I offer my heartfelt congratulations to all the team. With the tents collapsed and all the equipment returned back to the truck, we were able to pass one last glance and a heart felt tear and return to the Newfield Inn for a celebratory drink.


Recovering in the local watering hole – I think everyone will sleep well tonight!

Thanks and respect to all that have participated over the course of the excavation; its been a really useful and valuable project and I look forward to seeing you all next year.

This is the last of the regular blog entries but we will continue to add posts as we get results through from the dating and as we continue to process the models, so keep an eye out for more intermittent blog entries.




Day 15 – Charcoal at last

With one day to go, it was time to cut-back on the digging and start backfilling all the peripheral trenches – the main task of backfilling the longhouse starts tomorrow.


Gerry and Jeff start the backfilling


Establishing levels across the longhouse in anticipation of the backfilling tomorrow

Surprisingly, given a fairly negative weather forecast, we managed to complete a full day on site. In the mid afternoon there was one particularly heavy rain shower, with hailstones and gale force winds, but after emerging from the tents we returned to a naturally washed excavation.


Ricky and Suzanne finish off excavating the northern part of the site. 

Typically the best finds come in the final days, and today was no exception..!!  Charcoal was discovered in the sondage below where the cross wall had been removed, and within a cut  beneath the wall. Jamie, normally very calm and placid, became very excited, as we at last had some possible dating evidence.


Duane and Jeremy investigate the charcoal beneath the crosswall

Today was also Press Day, the only participant being Andrew Gallon of Cumbria Magazine, who will be preparing a feature on the dig.


Day 14 – Schools Day

Although we headed out to site on  another great day, it obviously hadn’t been quite so dry over night as we arrived  to find a veritable swimming pool in the middle of the longhouse. So our first task of the day was to bail out the site using buckets and mugs.


Peter bails out the sondage


The chain gang passes the buckets away

The end of the excavation is nearing, and what a great project it has been, but todays work has mainly involved finishing trenches and sondages and completing the recording.


Peter found himself digging towards the centre of the earth as he tried to explore the natural deposits


Excavating the drain

We took the opportunity to create the final record of the whole site using a drone, and apart from running out of space on the cameras memory card, the survey went very smoothly and quickly.



A drone was used to record the wider site

Today also saw the last of the schools visiting the site and this means that the educational outreach programme is nearing the end for this year. This was the visit for this year’s two key schools who were going to get a chance to do some digging in a series of one metre square trenches that had been prepared for them by removing the turf and the top layer of bracken roots.

Each of the trenches was centred over an anomaly that had been picked up by the geophysics survey or the metal detector. Unfortunately, we have come to learn that many of the positives have been caused by mineral deposits in some of the rocks on site. That didn’t discourage Jamie from demonstrating how to trowel a level surface and keep the edges crisp and vertical. Jamie was also able to demonstrate how the drone could be used for taking the images to be used for making the 3D images. It was impressive to see the way the drone adjusted to the gusts of wind to maintain its position without the pilot touching any of the controls, and the children were as much enthused by the drone as they were about the opportunity to excavate.


Jamie surrounded by pink shows the children how to excavate the trenches


Stephe gives a general tour of the site to the children

It was at this point that the first of a series of showers could be seen racing up the valley and we could be seen racing to the tent. The rain on the tent and the bucking of the material in the wind was quite impressive. After a few minutes, I realized that my wife, Mur, who had brought the children up, was on her way back. I could see no sign of her on the track and realised she had been perfectly positioned to shelter in the portaloo.

More showers came through but eventually there seemed to a break and we joined the diggers heading back to the valley. By the time we reached the campsite, it was a lovely afternoon again and I left the teacher watching her class using up their excess energies racing round the field.

We have two more school visits to do to finish off the project and will have worked with over 120 children from seven schools plus their teachers, classroom assistants and caretakers. It has been a lot of work and I must thank Mur and the other volunteers who have helped. All the stuff will go up to the garage now ready for Duddon Dig 2017.

Stephe and Jamie



Day 13 – The final sprint towards the finishing line

With only three more days of excavation before the close, today was one of making sure that we had examined everything that we could and that everything was recorded and sampled. Fortunately we were blessed with a good day today – Goldilocks weather, that is not too hot and not too cold, and we were able to get a lot done. No great discoveries were made, but we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Despite looking under several large boulders and excavating sondages through the lower floor, no charcoal or other dating evidence was found, but we took lots of soil samples from between the cobbles, and then dug down below them into layers which we think represent the original land surface.


Hannah processes the large number of samples taken today



Digging the sondages to the north and south of the longhouse

We had several casual visits from people who happened to walk past, as well as one from Rob, the chap from the Stone Walling Association, who took lots of photographs. Everyone had a good time, and levels of enthusiasm remained high.


The excavations towards the close of the day

Peter Matthieson was the team leader today; it was Peter who inspired and initiated the Duddon Valley Longhouse project, but he moved out of the region before it finally came to fruition. So we were delighted to see him back today and he was able to see the results of all his inspirational efforts.


Peter gets stuck in digging through the lower cobble floor

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow, weather permitting, and will be a busy day as we have two schools participating in the excavation.