Day 15 – Let the Backfilling Commence

Well as the dig at Duddon nears its end the hard task of backfilling begins.  It was great to see so many volunteers today giving up their spare time to help put Long House Close back to bed. It is hard to believe that it was only 2 weeks ago we were de-turfing.  I do not think any of us could have guessed the scale of what we would uncover.

Everyone gathered round in this beautiful setting to hear Jeremy give his morning brief.  For me it was a little sad as this was my last day at Duddon (and no it’s not just to escape the last day of backfilling ;-).


Jeremy has everyone’s attention as he runs through what we know so far

Most of the volunteers today were  involved in the task of preparing site for backfilling and re-turfing. Everyone who has been involved in this on previous years will know that this is no easy task. Many of the outer excavated areas were being filled in with stones in preparation for the soil to be replaced and re-turfed.


Replacing stones ready for re-turfing


Stephen, Millie and Piers filling in the section in the eastern enclosure wall


Melanie looking far to happy in her work.  We must not have worked her hard enough

It was agreed that the latest phase, which gives the site its name Long House Close, would be put back in place for future generations to observe.  The original footprint was marked out and some of the larger stones were returned to form the areas of walls that had been removed.  Well done to all involved in this as it looked brilliant. Great example of how good team work achieves the goal.


Re-intruding the walls of Long House Close


Ken and Bob standing proudly by one of the walls


Backfilling well underway

Most took shelter from the beating sun during the breaks.  Although i do think some may have also had a well-earned snooze as well. Helen put a smile on everyone’s face when she produced the ginger cake she had brought for us all.


Quick cat nap in the shade


Thank you Helen, it was much appreciated

I have to say though not everyone was in-filling, there was still a couple of areas that needed a little attention.  This task was given to Amy, Tom, John and Josh.  Amy and Tom worked on finishing the area on the northern outer edge where the stone surface had been removed previously.  Once done this was recorded through photographs.


I hope you both enjoyed the day

Josh, attending his first ever archaeological dig, and John, who is an archaeologist, were set to work on one of the test pits in the cleared area near the tents.  It was not long before John found an iron object in the bottom.  Not bad for his only day on site.  When they had reached the natural the test pit was cleaned and then recorded.


Well spotted John


Great job Josh and Jon

John worked his way around site to see if he could uncover any last-minute finds before the soil was returned.


I think we are supposed to be putting the turf back on John not taking it off

Me, Jon an Jeremy did not get off easy either as we had to finish off all the recording.  I worked on a section that was placed in the curbed/revetment wall before finished off the final survey of the dig (assisted by the lovely Leslie who has been a great help over the last couple of days taking photographs of you all hard at work).  Jon was also recording before he assisted with the backfilling. Jeremy made a last-minute discovery in the second test pit, within the cleared area next to Josh and John.  In the bottom a dark deposit was visible which appears to be a possible feature.  Of course a picture had to be taken as evidence that Jeremy does still dig every now and then.


Jeremy hard at work

It was quite emotion taking the last shot of site after the days hard work before packing up and carrying the equipment no longer needed back to the vehicle.  It has been a fantastic and memorable few weeks, where I have had the pleasure of working alongside some of the most enthusiastic volunteers I have met.  This is what community archaeology is all about.  Bringing everyone together.


Well I truly hope I see you all again in the near future.


P. S. Keep an eye out for Adams update where he will fill you all in on details of both Long House Close and also Tongue House B.


Bob’s Blog

Day 15 of the dig was going to be another hot one. Fifteen diggers (including our metal detectorist John Nichols) gathered in the Seathwaite Parish Room in the now traditional manner and prepared for the rigours of the day. First task was to load up 2 x five litre bottles with drinking water to ensure there would be plenty of emergency supplies just in case dehydration became a real issue for any of our company. At the gate we signed up Stephen Grindrod. Our sixteenth volunteer had arrived direct there from Ambleside via the passes.  Today our digging team was joined by Amy Ratcliffe and Tom Ferrero from Barrow as well as John Trippier from Bolton. Together with Josh Murray they spent much of the working day being introduced to archaeological excavating activities.

For all the rest of the volunteers this was the day when excavating ceased and back-filling was the order of the day. Under the direction of the professionals Ken Day marked out the cross passage of the longhouse (or is it really a shieling?) and in-filling commenced. Large rocks first, small stones next and then soil. As Alan Bennett said – history is just one thing after another. And so it was for all the volunteers for the rest of the day. As our path smoothed the team was able to introduce more advanced   technology. The bucket chain was replaced by a wheelbarrow system of in-fill delivery which speeded the process no end. As the sun began to take its toll so the volunteers slowed in proportion to the unremitting  rise in temperature. There is not too much shade at Longhouse Close though the shady side of the Tardis toilet has become a place of refuge for some of the Herdwick sheep. The livestock have derived some benefit from the dig then!

There were 3 visitors to the dig including mother and son Christine and William from Millom. They had seen the dig at an earlier stage and this was an opportunity for William to take part. He succeeded in unearthing some quartz rock. He may have a future in geology as well as archaeology. Stephen Grindrod kindly rewarded our youngest visitor for all his efforts.

Because of the dangers of heat exhaustion the team finished at 3pm. For those able to stay on, light refreshment was taken at the Newfield Inn. The professionals were able to assure all present that the job was “half-way there”. Following the sterling recruitment efforts of Ken Day the Treasurer of the History Group was happy to receive the application of OAN archaeologist Debbie Lewis as a new member and her £10 annual subscription. The company observed that this brought a happy smile to the Treasurer’s face.


 With the goodwill and the labour of all the volunteers the back-filling should be completed on schedule despite the continuing “bad weather” forecast of unremitting summer sun. So far this has not been accompanied by a high humidity reading and fingers crossed this will remain the same on the final day.

Bob Bell


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