Day 8 – Productive Day

Jeremys Blog

With the completion of Tong House B (Jon and Debbie Waddington finished backfilling this afternoon), all our efforts are now concentrated at Long House Close.

First (and only) find of the day went to June Craghill – an apt name given our location – who’s eagle eye picked out an iron nail from amongst the bracken rhisomes. John, the metal detectorist, managed only to add to his hoard of two pence coins scattered over the site at the end of the dig last year.


June Craghill and her Iron Nail

Now that most of the medieval remains found on the site have been investigated, most of our energies have been put into trying to discover what we can about the Bronze Age deposits and features. We are currently entertain the idea that these, perhaps, comprise some form of ceremonial monument. To this end we extended the dig area to the east, seen in the picture being eagerly troweled by John, Milly and Lesley.

Helen, meanwhile, started to excavate and part of the core of large outer walls, where earlier in Peter Mathieson discoverd a sherd of pottery. Here we hope to recover some charcoal so we can once and for all find out the date of these enigmatic features. She was joined in the same task by Melanie who was undertaking the same job on the opposite side.

Barbara and Chris did sterling work uncovering some last year’s excavation. We need to reexamine parts of the site to aid our understanding of more recent discoveries. Lastly, but by no means least, Bob quietly cleaned and beautified more of the stone surfaces that extend either side of the the areas we excavated last year.

A day of consolidation, rather than a day of discovery.


Bobs Blog

Today our digging team of ten was joined by Chris Shearin from Kendal. She had missed out on the dig in 2017 but she had been with us in year 1 when we had carried out the archaeological excavation at Tongue House A.

Following a full up-date on progress by OAN we were all allotted our various tasks and work stations for the day at Longhouse Close. The weather was set fair and our work was unhindered by the elements.

This was the day when the site was “officially” open to the public. Three organized walking parties – guided up by DVLHG members – toured the site following an introductory presentation by Stephe Cove at the Seathwaite Parish Room. Jeremy  gave a full briefing of the changing perspective of the site following this year’s excavations so far. One clear possibility is that the site may have been a bronze age ring cairn which was used as a base and then “recycled” in the late medieval period into a shieling for the use of a cowherd and possibly a dairymaid in summer months when animals could be grazed higher up in the fells leaving the valley free for arable farming.

In addition to the organized tours we were visited by ten other “random” passers-by who were in the area. They included a Liverpudlian guiding two Spanish ladies engaged on a Duke of Edinburgh award scheme, a Yorkshire family from Hellifield and two Australian holidaymakers. A common theme from them all was that they had learned about the archaeological dig and the open day from the owners of the Newfield Public House.

Our thanks go to Gail & John Batten for inspiring so much interest.

Bob Bell


Stephe’s Blog

Altogether we had 34 visitors through the Open Day presentations. They came from as far away as Sussex, Cambridge, County Durham and Newcastle and as close as High Moss and Beck House, the last two houses between Turner Hall Camp Site and the gate leading to the bottom of the Walna Scar track.

One has succumbed to an invitation to dig and will be with us on Monday before she has a change of mind! I couldn’t convince any of them to come along next Sunday and help put all the rocks and earth back in the trenches with us. There are lots of spaces if any of our readers fancy coming along to help.

It was interesting to have a group from Ennerdale Village who are involved in the Wild Ennerdale project and were following up my talk at the Keswick Archaeological Conference. I have been booked to give a talk about the project to their group in Lamplugh later in the autumn. It is a good chance to spread the word about how local projects can develop into major explorations.



Day 7 – Busy Day


Debbie’s Blog

What a day!  Everyone arrived on site in the glorious sunshine.  There was hardly a cloud in the sky as Jeremy gave his daily briefing to todays volunteers.


Everyone eagerly headed off for their tasks for today of firstly cleaning and readying areas for the Ariel photographs using the drone.  The photos turned out amazing and I have added a copy of one of the high shots of the overall site.

high view

Fantastic overhead of the site at lunch time


Taking off

I had to ready myself for the arrival of the first school of the day.  It was not long before I could hear the chatter of the children announcing their imminent decent upon site.  Again I had the assistance of Hannah who supervised one of the two test pits.  The children always seem to love their visit to site and many of them had been last year.  They took part in several different activities which kept them entertained for an hour before having lunch and departing.


Test pits ready for the eager hands of the children

I had a busy afternoon ahead so I left the second visiting school in Hannah’s capable hands.

One of my main tasks today was to survey the finds in that had been discovered over the last few days.  As you will recall these had all been allocated small finds numbers and a tag and nail placed to record location.  With the assistance of Pete Schofield (who many of you will know from the previous two digs at Long House Close and Tongue House A) all the known find sites were surveyed using the total station so the tags can be removed and excavation continued in these areas.


Surveying in the finds to accurately record their location and the level height they were found in


Pete and Ian having a 5 min break in the lovely sunshine

With being busy today I must apologise for not getting around site much to see how people were getting on.  I did manage to have a catch up with everyone before we finished for the day and have included some of the pictures I took.  I  am pleased to say everyone seems to have had another productive day and all were still smiling at the end. Sue was day leader today and welcomed the passing visitors to site.  It is nice that the passing public are able to come up to site and have a look at what we are doing.


Pierce cleaning his area to the left of the passage way on the outer western wall after taking samples for analysis


Faiqa, giving us a wave and looking very happy.  She had been working today to the south of the passage on the outer western wall


John and Barbara were working on the north-east end of Long House Close at the base of the slope.  They uncovered a bit more of this area and it does appear that there may be evidence of a  curved wall, using earth fast natural stones and boulders, visible.  We may need to see a bit more to be sure though


Alan took samples from the main outer wall that was exposed during boulder removal to see if any dates can be obtained


Len and Alan continued on the eastern side between the sheepfold and the outer wall of Long House Close.  It does appear an edge to the cobble/rubble surface within this area has been located

Well I am having a couple of days off now so will be handing my blog over to the capable hands of Jeremy until Monday.

Dont forget to tell your friends and family about the open day tomorrow as all are welcome.

Have a fantastic weekend of discoveries.



Sue’s Blog

Another beautiful day and we all headed eagerly up to the site for a successful day’s digging.  At Jeremy’s briefing he showed us the piece of pottery that had been found yesterday with hopes we may find more.  We then set to in our allocated areas where more deturfing started and much cleaning of yesterday’s trenches.

It was good to see Pete Schofield this time in his role as volunteer instead of archaeologist and he had a very pleasant day playing with the drone, showing how high it could fly and how gently it could land.

It was also schools and Stephe was kept busy with the first group of children in the morning all keen and enjoying a day “off”.  Little did they know Stephe is a hard taskmaster and kept them working at planning, sketching, digging and examining the site, repeated in the afternoon with the second group.

Several new trenches were started today outside the larger structure as it was noted that the outer walls were more curved than straight suggesting more circular.  So the aim today was to find enough stone to suggest a more circular structure.  Sadly no finds appeared anywhere, typical of a normal day in the life of an archaeologist.


Day 6 – Sunshine!

With the valley basked in sunshine we all headed up to site.  Linda, Debbie and Lesley headed off for the final day of excavation of Tongue House B with Jon. I was hoping to give you a report on the events of the site today but it was not quite finished.  I did manage to fly it with the drone though and I must say it looked great.  Hopefully I can get all the details for tomorrows blog.


Over head view of Tongue House B.  Looks great

At Long House Close we started out the day in the normal way with the site briefing.  Everyone had been to site this year already except Jennifer who was just joining us.


Fantastic blue sky over the Duddon Valley!

As many of the volunteers had been with us over the last few days most carried on in the areas they had been working on previously.


Everyone working hard

Pete, Alan, Mike and Jennifer were working on the area on the east side of the outside wall.  Pete was in the area where the larger stones had been removed to examine the construction and hopefully obtain a date for this wall.  Charcoal flecks were visible within the deposit exposed so fingers crossed.


Hard at work cleaning the exposed area ready for photographs and sampling

All of a sudden there was a lot of excitement when Pete found a very nice piece of pottery from within this deposit.  We did find a few fragments of pottery last year so it is fantastic to have it again this year.  Well spotted Pete.  We do not have an exact date as of yet but will keep you udated.


Pete looking very proud with his find of the day.  Well done


Close up of the ceramic fragment

Frances made a great job of finishing the section of the southern outer boundary/enclosure wall.  After she had finished I recorded both sections.  It appears that it was constructed of large sub-angular stones and boulders which were placed straight onto the natural.


West facing section through southern enclosure\boundary wall

Frances then joined Joyce and Christina to help clean the newly extended surface on the southern side of the western outer wall of Long House Close.  This is the area that Joyce and Stephen previously found three iron nails and a rusty iron object.


This surface looked brilliant by the end of the day.  Will be interesting to see what has been revealed tomorrow


Jennifer spent her day working on the north-east area of the outer wall which Pete had uncovered yesterday.  This is an area that we will have to continue into tomorrow to uncover more.


Jennifer looking very happy in her work

I thought I would take a quick snap of Ian whilst he was up on site today.  Do not worry he got his own back and took one of me as well.


Thought I would put Ian on the other side of the camera for a change

Bob worked on the area to the north of the passage on the west side of site.  This is an area that was left in for recording purpose last year.  Again, this is an area that will need more work before we can hope to understand it.


Thank you Bob for your smile

Although Pete was busy finding pottery today he did still have the task of team leader and looking after the visitors to site which he did wonderfully.


Not to sure though that all visitors were welcome

Well I thought I would leave you with a picture of this beautiful site as it speaks for its self.



See you all tomorrow



Peter’s Blog

After saying yesterday that there was a consensus about all our excavated structures being shielings rather than longhouses, I was given a firm slap on the wrist this morning by Jennifer Gallagher, who begs to differ. She feels that some of these structures may have changed use over the years, sometimes being permanently occupied and sometimes just used for summer pasturing. I don’t suppose we will ever get a definitive interpretation.
Anyway, we had an excellent day on the dig in glorious summer weather. My builder’s
bum got sunburnt! We arrived on site to discover that a herd of cows had invaded overnight, kicking over signs, trampling our neat turf piles and depositing unwanted offerings on our beautiful trenches. Jeremy was motivated to fence off the area with stakes and ropes, but only time will tell if that’s enough.

The cows invade!


The aftermath of the Cow Invasion

Your faithful blogger is slightly embarrassed to reveal that the highlight of the day (for him anyway) was his discovery of a probably medieval pot sherd beneath the big boulders of the northern wall at Longhouse Close. This looks as though it will provide a definitive date for the wall, which is a useful step forward.
Work concluded at Tonguehouse High Close B without further discoveries, but the excavations there were photographed from the air to provide a record of our activities. Attention will now turn full time to Longhouse Close, where a novel theory about the Bronze Age floor surface began to swirl around today. This blogger is a bit sceptical about it, but it was being suggested that the whole structure began life as a Bronze Age ring cairn. All I can say is – go ahead and prove it!

Day 5 – Another Day in Paradise!

Debbie’s Blog

Well the rain delayed start a little this morning but it was not long before we were able to head off up to site.

Jon headed off for another days excavation with 3 volunteers. Our team on Long House Close today consisted of Christina (this was her fist time volunteering on the Duddon Dig), Liz, Frances, Peter (team leader for the day), Mike and Alan.  As always the first event of the day was Jeremy’s briefing of the site.


Jeremy doing the daily briefing before allocating tasks for the day. The rain had stopped although the cloud was still very low

The plan of action was to carry on cleaning back the areas that were uncovered yesterday.  It was not long before the cloud lifted. It always takes my breath away at how the Valley seems to come life after the rain.


Everyone working hard after being allocated their areas for the day.  Could not resist climbing a little to capture the valley coming to life after the rain!

Christina was working on one of the areas of the western outer wall.  Her aim was to gently clean the area where some of the large boulders had been removed yesterday.  The deposit within the wall (the dark deposit visible around the smaller stones of the wall in the picture below) appears to contain charcoal, so the aim is to record the wall as it is before taking soils samples for dating.


Christina carefully cleaning around the stones.

I worked in the area with Christina and cleaned back the surface on the west side of the wall.  Interestingly an area containing a charcoal rich deposit was visible within this surface.  Jeremy decided it would be best to gain a sample from one of these areas so I half sectioned one of the visible areas.  We decided to leave the rest in-situ until we have flown the site in the morning.  Will be interesting to see  what dates we get and if this is a feature or just a spread containing charcoal.


I created a half section by using nails and string to take a sample of the deposit

Peter continued to reveal the surface that he uncovered yesterday between the eastern outer wall and the sheepfold.  The stones do appear to be forming some sort of surface possibly leading from the passage of Long House Close to the sheepfold.  Peter did manage to get more of this area uncovered so hopefully we will have more of an idea tomorrow once cleaned.


Peter uncovering more of the stoned surface he found yesterday.  Looking forward to seeing the end result of this area

Just to the south of Peter, Mike opened up a new area.  After de-turfing he made a start on cleaning back his area.


Mike working his way back and cleaning the freshly exposed area

Also in this area on the eastern side on Long House Close Alan was also working on some of the area uncovered yesterday.  Sadly, even with all three men working hard, we do not have the answers as to what is happening in this area yet but hopefully it will soon reveal its secrets.



Mike posing nicely for a picture in the area he has cleaned today

Frances was working away on the outer southern enclosure wall.  This was another area where the National Trust gentlemen had kindly removed the upper large boulders.  Her task for the day was to look at how the wall was constructed and if there was any dating evidence.


Frances working on the enclosure wall

Sam, who works for the Nation Trust, had spent the morning volunteering on Tongue House B with Jon.  He joined us at Long House Close for the afternoon and showed us his trowelling skills where he discovered some charcoal within the deposit.  This was sampled and labelled and will be continued tomorrow.


Sam looking very happy in his work

Well another day done.  Thanks to all the volunteers for your hard work today and see you all tomorrow.

Steady progress was made at Tongue House B today and Jon will give us a full report tomorrow on the outcome of this site.  Looking forward to it.



Peter’s Blog

The weather was nasty and wet first thing today, but it soon dried up and we put in a solid day’s digging. Most of the work has focused on extending the dig outside the confines of the excavated structure at Longhouse Close, but we have also pressed on with a short investigation of the structure at Tongue House B. We are now tentatively concluding that all three structures excavated to date are in fact late medieval shielings used for temporary summer occupation as part of transhumance practices, and not permanently occupied longhouses, but that does not make them any less interesting. Perhaps the most exciting work has been excavating underneath some of the very large boulders  making up the wall of the outer structure at Longhouse Close that we think is middle Bronze Age. Today, we managed to get soil samples containing charcoal from a secure context underneath that wall, so we should get some more dating evidence in due course. Now all we have to do is work out what the putative Bronze Age structure was actually used for… this space for more hot news.

taking the sample

Debbie Taking a sample beneath the wall


Jamie’s Blog or Perambulations in Duddon

A stalwart crew (Jamie, Linda, Lesley, Hannah, Debbie and Ken) undertook to look at some of the other houses around the Seathwaite area for comparative purposes and to set the ones we are excavating in context. That all seemed great in theory, but we didn’t half struggle with our first at Banking How.  The coordinates we were provided with led to one site which the group hadn’t previously recorded but not the house site. After much general wandering Ken eventually came across the house site – hurrah and much jubilation. It was a small shieling site fairly well obscured by bracken  and had some quite high walls and was associated with an enclosure.


The well obscured Banking How house

Next on the list to visit was the Newfield house complex, which actually looked as though it was probably housing for a nearby mine.  Large houses, beside a beck and predating the surrounding field walls.  The one thing we definitely were finding was variety.  Ken then took us across every beck and boundary he could before we eventually got us back to the road – I feel I know those woods intimately now having seen every bit of them two more three times.

The best site was undoubtedly Dobby Shaw, just above the hall, and we were sent off with the instructions ringing in our ears – Its obvious you cant miss it!  Well guess what we missed it. Most of the team walked within metres of it and didnt spot it and the only reason we did eventually find it was because of the GPS coordinates. It was so overgrown with bracken that it just literally could not be seen from the adjacent path.

We had fortuitously brought slashers with us and the team enthusiastically set about clearing two houses including the main one which was 13m long.


Debbie enthusiastically clearing the bracken with a slasher


The house proved to be very narrow, with substantial dwarf walls and a small partition wall, and a single entrance. It was I think an early shieling site, but there was no indication of a farmstead or field system in association. Its setting was though seriously spectacular on the sides of the fell overlooking the valley.


The team, complete with slashers, having successfully cleared the shieling site of its bracken

It was a brilliant day, enjoyed by all. Not least because of the beautiful landscape, the magnificent archaeology but also the wonderful company. Thanks guys .



Day 4 – What a day!


Debbie’s Blog

Well another fantastic day in the Duddon Valley was had by all.  The weather decided to be kind to us and stayed dry.

Again the volunteers split into two groups with Jeremy, Philip, June and Alistair heading off to Tonguehouse B with Jon and Allison, Pete, Keith, Jackie, Joyce and Hannah at Longhouse Close with me and Jeremy.

The Days Events at LongHouse Close

We arrived on site and met the three gentlemen from the National Trust who were going to assist in removing some of the bigger boulders.  All listened to Jeremy as he gave his run down on the site before heading off to their allocated areas for today.


All the volunteers having the morning briefing from Jeremy.  Even the guys from the National Trust joined in

Today was the first day that children from local schools would be joining us on site.  I was in charge of getting everything ready for them which required opening a couple of test pits prior to their arrival.  Hannah very kindly offered to help me with this task.


Hannah working hard to de-turf one of the test pits for the children

Luckily we managed to get these open just as we heard the chatter and giggles of the children on the approach to site.   It is great to see a site where the children get to learn and interact with their local archaeology.  With me and Hannah, the different groups got to excavate the upper layers of the test pits we had just opened. Stephe had also arranged for them to plan using grids and also have a site tour.  I think it is safe to say they had a great time.  Thank you Hannah for your help.


The children trowelling down the upper layer of their test pits

When all was quiet and the children had departed it was back to the main site. Keith and Pete had started work on the eastern side of the outer wall of LongHouse close.  Their first task after de-turfing was to clean back the upper layer which revealed a possible rubble layer.


Keith and Pete working hard on the eastern side of LongHouse Close

Also on the eastern side was Alison who possibly may have come down onto a cobbled surface, although more cleaning will be required to know for definite. Allison was also in charge today of welcoming and looking after the passing by visitors.


Alison working her way backwards from the main eastern outer wall

As mentioned earlier we did have the gentlemen from the National Trust on site with us today.  They used their combined skills to remove some of the large boulders that make up the main walls around LongHouse Close.  We did not look at the areas revealed today from this removal but I am sure we will know more when we investigate further.


Team work to remove some of the large boulders

Of course they did also lend a hand on site and de-turfed the area on the east of the main passage way.  Thanks guys.


showing us their de-turfing skills.  Have to say they made easy work of it. Shame they were not with us on Sunday when there was lots of it to be removed

Jackie and Joyce were working on the west side, on the outside of main wall , to the south of the main passage.  Again this area appears to be coming down on the cobbled surface that is evident within the main structure. Joyce found not one but three separate iron nails within this area.  They were all allocated find numbers which were written on tags and placed in the ground with a nail.  The finds seem to just keep coming this year.


Joyce showing us one of the three nails she found


The area that Jackie and Joyce finished cleaning.  Looks amazing.  Well done both

The Days Events at Tonguehouse B

Thinks are coming along nicely.  A possible floor surface has been exposed in the area where Stephe and Bob had cleared yesterday.  June cleaned the surface back within the exposed section in preparation for todays drone flight.


Looks fantastic June.  Well done you

 Alistair, Jeremy and Phillip worked on the area that Marlene and Imagen had exposed.  this took in a section through the doorway all the way down to the gable end.  There still does not appear to be any floor surface within this area at present.


June, Alistair, Phillip, Jeremy and Jon.  Great shot

Jeremy mentioned an interesting fact to me that he learned from Jane and Alistair today which i though was fantastic. Their Surname is Craghill, a local name and also Alistair’s ancestors used to live in LongHouse farm in the 17th century!  Must make it that bit more special for them both to be involved something that may have been around at that time.

After all the area had been cleared of loose and all kit removed I proceeded to fly over the site to record the process so far through aerial photography which can be used to create the 3D models.  This is a fantastic way of recording as it give you a birds eye view of the site.


I used the drone to take a photographic record of TongueHouse B.

Of course whilst we had the drone in the air we had to take the opportunity to grab a quick site selfie!!


Say cheese everyone

See you all tomorrow for another day of discoveries.



Alison’s Blog

Lucky day with weather, just a bit of light rain as we descended the track. Also lucky to have the skilled help of three  National Trust lads, complete heroes who shifted boulders with skill, ease and great good humour.

The high spots were Joyce finding not 1, not 2 but 3 chunky iron nails and Peter, father -of -the- project, Matthiessen unearthing impressive paving in new trench outside the inner wall.


Stephe’s Blog

First school visit this morning did really well. No treasure found in their test pits but they were digging really well. Great level of interest and observation of everything that was going on. One of the girl’s remarked on Peter Matthieson’s builder’s cleavage as he was unearthing the paving!


Todays School children on route to the site looking at the time line


Day 3 – Tranquillity!

Longhouse Close – Debbie’s Blog

I think the title of the blog sums up today perfectly as it just seemed so peaceful in the Duddon Valley.

The first task of the day was to split everyone in to two groups. Some of the volunteers, plus Stephe, headed off to start excavations on Tongue House Close B.  I look forward to reading Stephes  blog to see how they all got on.

The first job  on Longhouse Close was to lift the tarpaulin that was exposed by the hard work yesterday.


Great team work everyone

The freshly exposed area was cleaned back to prepare for further excavation.  The southern end had been sampled and taken down to the natural last year (the orangey brown layer visible where Bob is knelt).


Middle area after being cleaned, using trowels.  The objective today in this are was to just remove a thin layer ready for further works over the next two weeks

Another area on the western outer wall was de-turfed and cleaned to examine if the cobbled surface discovered last year continued outside


Area opened and cleaning underway

We did get a lovely surprise visit from Hannah (many of you may know Hannah from the first year at Duddon when she worked for Oxford Archaeology  North), who will be coming this year to join in as a volunteer.


Jeremy deliberates about the site

Well there is not much more to say about today, so will finish with a picture of this fantastic site in a beautiful location!duddon22

Who knows what surprises tomorrow will bring?



TongueHouse Close B – Stephe’s Blog

No rain at al today – Yippee and the forecast is looking OK all week if no-one rushes off to quickly on Wednesday.

We got up to Longhouse Close and collected equipment for a split group going to our highest site at Tongue House B. It was John the archaeologist’ s first look at the sites and Jeremy was sending him up to TongueHouse Close B  via TongueHouse Close A to get the full picture. Bob led him off with a plank to cross the bog while Marlene, Imogen, John the metal detectorist, and me plus four of everything and a wheelbarrow piled into the 4×4 to a high point on the track. The theory was that taking the gear downhill was a better bet.

Everything was held in the barrow with bungee cords, apart from the precious detector, and off we went with a squeal of wheels that could be heard all the way to Eskdale. Pause while I go and find some WD40 to take up tomorrow…

…back again. It was a relatively easy trip apart from the rocks and the tussock grass and the beck and the wire fence and the dead sheep and the bracken but pretty soon we were on site.

Calling Jeremy - can you hear me

Calling Jeremy can you hear me?  – experimenting with two way radios between the sites.

Clearing tumble was the first task and then two sections were chosen for deturfing. Bob and I found a floor surface at our end but Marlene and Imogen toiled with nothing much showing until the last half hour. We’ve left it ready for tomorrow’s crew to continue the good work.

clearing the tumble thb

The initial clearing of the turf

the floor surface thb

A floor surface ?

Note for Jeremy’s briefing tomorrow – use secateurs to cut bracken going under the wall rather than pulling which can unleash an avalanche of post med walling!



The initial Overview

Somewhat belatedly here is a view of the site from the drone prior to the excavation at Longhouse Close.

top xy preexcavation 2018 - truncated



Day 2 – Great Things Achieved!

Debbie’s blog for the day.

Well firstly I just want to say well done to all the volunteers today.  They worked a miracle and managed to uncover the main area of LongHouse Close, down to the level reached last year, as well as open a couple of new areas.

After heading up to site, Jeremy gave his briefing which was a re-cap on last years excavations. Most of the volunteers with us today took part last year with the exception of Charlotte and Stephen, who were our Long House Close virgins.

duddon 1

Jeremy giving a re-cap from last year and running through the plan of action for this year

The main objective of the day was to remove the turf that had been relayed last year.  As most of you will know we put down a breathable layer over the main area of the excavation before re-turfing last year.  The purpose of this was to allow us all to promptly re-excavate back down to the level of the known so we can proceed into the unknown. The main focus was on the central area of Long House Close.  It was great to see the passing walkers coming up to site and having a tour and history of the dig from Ken.

duddon 2

Have to say amazing team work guys.  Also Ken working his magic with passing by site visitors

duddon 3

Even the fury visitors seem to enjoy their visit to site.  Although I am sorry to say Ken, I think Charlotte and her tickles stole the show with fury friends

As the main area inside was going really well, Jeremy decided to open up a couple of areas outside the walls. These were on the west side, against the outside of the main wall, on either side of the main passage.  Well done to Mike and Helen for your relentless digging which definitely paid off. Mike unearthed a rusted iron object which is the fist find of this season.

duddon 6

Mike and Helen re-excavating last years sondage.  I think they were getting a little worried that they would never reach the bottom.

duddon 7

All their hard work paid off when Mike found a metal object, possibly a very rusted blade, around some of the stones in the area he was working.  We wont know for definite until the experts get their hands on it but will keep you all updated

Small finds play a vital role in dating a site and also understanding its purpose and use.  Jeremy gave the small find its own record number which allows us to identify it in any future processes.  Another important step is to record the exact location  where the find  was discovered. A white waterproof tag is nailed into place, with the small find number written on in marker pen,  as a visual record so the GPS cab be used to survey the exact grid reference and height above sea Level.  The purpose of this is to accurately pin point this find in a 3D form on plans and models in post-excavation analysis (I could go into more detail but hopefully you all get the general gist of why accurate recording is vital).

duddon 8

Jeremy talking through how and why we record small finds

Other areas within the site were also starting to take shape.  Charlotte came down on to the cobbled surface that was observed last year.  She worked hard and successfully exposed the cobbles ready for further investigation over the next few days.

duddon 10

Charlotte looking very pleased with her hard work and so she should.  Nice job!

Of course I didn’t just stand around taking photos all day, I did actually do some real work.  Lesley and I de-turfed the area left of the passage on the outside wall then worked our way away from the wall, creating a level layer.  Jeremy decided this area would be best excavated in spits (a layer at a time) as this area was not fully investigated last year.

duddon 9

The area that Lesley and I excavated (I promise I did help and did not leave Lesley to do it all on her own)

Finally the middle area was revealed and I am pretty sure the volunteers were glad to get this finished.  It was blinking hard work but they were not deterred.  Tomorrow the cover will be removed and work will begin where we left off.

duddon 11

This is one of my favourite pictures from today.  Look at them smiles on Kate, Ricky and Stephens face!!

With no more work needed within the central area for today everybody moved out to the several other areas now open.  Stephen made the second find of the day, another metal object.  Again this could possibly be another very rusty blade, but in its current state it is very hard to be sure.  The metal objects may give up their secrets when they are X-rayed.  This find too was allocated a small find number and a tag placed in the ground.


Stephen showing the second find of the day.  Lets hope this is the start of things to come

Well with the site tidied up and the tools packed away it was time to conclude the fantastic events of today with a massive thank you to everyone and, of course, a site selfie.


Suppose I had to appear in at least one of the photos!  End of the day selfie before we all head home for the day

See you all tomorrow!




Duddon Dig -DAY 2

19 JUNE 2018

By Ken

Overcast with occasional drizzle – perfect weather for all the hard work that was to come. And a day that produced the unexpected in more ways than one.

We arrived on site before 10.00 and Jeremy quickly set us to our tasks. It was a case of de-turfing and removing all the stones and soil from the western end of the longhouse down to the tarpaulin. On the face of it, it didn’t seem that it was going to be much of a problem. But my goodness it was difficult to come to terms with just how much we had replaced.



Work underway to de-turf western end of longhouse

By lunch-time we could see large areas of the tarp exposed. Sue, Barbara and Kate concentrated on the end section where it turned out, the deepest spoil and heaviest stones needed to be removed. Ricky, John and Stephen had it all to do in the section below the crosswall. Charlotte did a brilliant job in clearing the patch between the inner structure and the outer wall, revealing the cobbled floor. Immediately outside the eastern outer wall Mike and Helen opened up a new trench which went down about half a metre before the original base layer was found. It looks as though their efforts have revealed the base of a wall. It was here that Mike had his moment of glory, for he unearthed two pieces of metal which had probably been once joined giving the appearance of a knife. Meanwhile Debbie and Leslie in a trench outside the lower end of the outer wall and opposite to where Mike and Helen were working, have exposed the base of the large boulder wall.


John, Ricky and Stephen are making progress.  Nearly there!

By mid-afternoon the tarp was fully exposed. In considering where to tackle next, nature lent a hand for in the northern wall a meadow pipet had nested and was feeding its young. To keep away from area Jeremy set the task of de-turfing the section to the east of the crosswall. John, Barbara, Sue and Ricky, even with energy levels flagging, quickly made large inroads into this job. At the same time Stephen and Kate opened up a new trench just above that in which Helen and Mike were working. And eureka, Stephen found another piece of metal resembling a knife blade. Is this an omen to come? With two good finds on the first day of digging, what other secrets will our site disclose?

 There were seven visitors to the excavation from Halifax, Leeds, London and a Benedictine nun from Worcester – Sister Sally OSB. Originally from Ruislip and a former British Airways employee, some fifteen years ago she was sitting on a rock in Duddon Valley, taking in the peace, tranquillity and sheer majesty of the scenery when she realised her life needed a complete change of direction. The Valley can have that effect on many of us.

At the end of the day, the size of soil, turf and stone heaps, showed what a vast amount had been achieved. And what of Ken, the team leader, you may ask? Well he did a brilliant job supervising!

Day 1 – Wet Wet Wet

Debbie’s Take on the Day

Well we arrived at the village hall, Seathwaite, at 8.30.  All I can say is WET WET WET, although this did not stop the group of eager volunteers showing up.  By 9.30, all huddled in the village hall, brew in hand and dry from the rain, a health and safety talk was given by Jeremy, whose advice on the pincer movement to go past cows and calves, was invaluable.


Jeremy giving his health and Safety talk

The decision was made to hold off heading up to site till the rain lightened.  Jamie suggested retreating to the pub for coffee (so he says) which sadly did not open till 11 so more coffee was consumed whilst we all kept dry.

A circle of chairs was formed, which did make me wonder if we were about to break into song, but no, Jamie stepped in and did what he does best, giving a talk (although Stephe did break into a verse of Black Combe). It was great to see all the volunteers so enthralled in what Jamie he had to say, which highlighted the previous years and dates uncovered. It highlighted on the areas that many volunteers do not normally get to see.  I was part of the post-ex of season 2 and worked on the samples that we took from Long House Close.  From taking the sample, to the sieving, sorting and assessment  the story of this site went back in to pre-history.  Jamie recalls how when he first saw the dates he scanned through and saw only 12th/13th century and thought ‘yes!! just what we thought’.  On closer examination he noticed the BC after the dates – He said his words were OMG.  After a second and third sample submission, in which we processed further samples these dates were confirmed as Bronze Age along with a piece of Bronze Age pottery.  It just shows that what we think we understand on the surface does not always tell us the whole story.


Jamie giving his talk on the results of excavations from last year.  Stephe is just waiting for his opportunity to break into song

Sadly the weather did not pick up and some of the volunteers decided to called it a day.  The staff from Oxford Archaeology North headed up to do the surveying required for the following 2 weeks, assisted by some volunteers that had decided to brave the weather.  The tent that had been put up on Wednesday had sadly fallen victim to storm Hector and had to be put away.  All was not lost as another one was erected to save the volunteers from the unpredictable Cumbrian weather over the next 2 weeks.


The poor tent after the winds and rain of Hector

The survey point were placed at Tongue House B, using the Base Station and GPS, ready for excavations starting on Monday. A fly over survey, by myself and Jamie, using the drone, was conducted over Long House Close. By this time the sun had put his hat on and the valley was basked in glorious sunshine.  I am sure anyone involve with this project will agree with me at what a magical place this is.



Jamie, Jeremy and Stephe going through the plans for tomorrow.  Unbelievable how the weather changed and the sun came out to play

Excited to see what will be revealed this year, on our final season in this beautiful part of the word!!!

Look forward to seeing you all!



Stephe’s Take on a very damp day

The forecast said it was going to be wet and it was wet.

We spent some time drinking coffee and Jeremy dawdled through the H&S info and it was still wet. So, Jamie talked about the project and showed the photos and we had some more coffee and it was still wet. Most people went to the pub and came back wet and when it got to one o’clock, the forecast end of the rain, guess what? Yes. Wet.

At this point most of the volunteers chose to do other things leaving a hard core of five to ferry kit up to site, erect the OAN tent and see how the duddon tent had fared. John, Barbara and Charlotte hadn’t gone home but had walked up to the site and were on hand to help with the carry.

the wet parade low res

The Wet Parade

Our tent was still there, well quite close to where we had erected it but inside out and the poles trashed. The good news was that all the survey pegs from last year were still in place so we repainted them. Quite suddenly, it wasn’t wet so, with spirits raised, party one took the GPS survey kit to Tongue House A and B and left Jeremy and the walkers to put up the OA North tent.

a sorry looking ten lrt

The sorry looking tent after Storm Hector

We found a 2016 peg at Tongue House A with a sight line up to Tongue House B, allowing Jamie and Debbie to set up the base station. Tongue House B was a clearly marked track away thanks to Wednesday’s bracken bashers. Jamie and I set up markers pegs around the site while Debbie and Lesley plotted them on the mobile gps. By this time the tent party had arrived, so I slipped away to use the blue paint on the grass to mark out a path up to a higher point on the track to give us a chance to bring kit downhill on Monday.

The walkers went down while the rest of us went back to Longhouse Close where JQ and Debbie did a drone survey while Jeremy planned what to do when the sun shines on tomorrow’s volunteers.

more than enough blue sky to mend a sailors trousers lr

More than enough blue sky to mend a sailors trousers  – the drone survey in glorious weather at last



Stephe expansively deliberates on the strategy for the excavation programme

So the excitement is yet to come…






One Day to Go

We are all running around getting everything organised for tomorrow, which we hope as a result will go off perfectly. The only blight on the horizon is the prospect of rain, but as Stephe pointed out we only had one day of rain last year and that was on day one.  So lets keep our fingers crossed that it will be the same this year;  certainly looking at the forecast for the week ahead it looks to be overcast but dry during the days.  Tomorrow we will try to work around the weather, which will probably be a couple of hours of heavy stuff in the middle of the day, so we may take shelter back at the hall while Cumbria weather inflicts its worst.  Otherwise, we will be bright eyed and bushy tailed tomorrow morning at the hall for a 9.00 start and hope you will be also.








Bracken Bashing

The start of the duddon dig is getting ever closer. Saturday 16th is looming very close to our horizon and I am sure it will be glorious weather (he says with fingers crossed).

Today we had a great day bracken bashing to prepare for the great day. A wonderful opportunity to take out all your anger on the poor bracken who have done no one any harm apart from being there.

Eleven volunteers met up this morning ready for bracken bashing, tent erecting, time line setting out and portaloo positioning. It wasn’t too hot after the temperatures of last week and certainly not as windy as the forecast is for tomorrow.

We had an unexpected bonus when Phil agreed to take the strimmers up the waterboard track so all the tents, groundsheets, posts and rucksacks were quickly added to the trailer and the team set off.

They were soon far ahead of me as I was pushing the wheelbarrow and pacing out the fifty metre gaps between the time line boards. By the time I got to the top, Mervyn was organising getting the kit up the longhouse. I set off down immediately with a barrow load of posts – isn’t gravity a big help to pushers of wheelbarrows! – dropping off posts for the boards and setting up the lower ones, all the time watching for Dave and the portaloo. The timing was perfect and I was able to open the gates for him, throw the wheelbarrow on the trailer and sail back up the track.


The start of the Timeline

Mervyn’s team had set off to strim Tongue House B, and the strimmers were going full belt at Longhouse Close. Putting up the tent was a real effort again this year as getting the poles in the sleeves has to be really precise. I hope it has enough pegs in to survive tomorrow’s wind.


Strimming underway at Longhouse Close


Tonguehouse B before the bracken bash


Bracken bash in progress


Mervyn and his proud team having completed the clearance – Well done guys!

The photos speak a thousand words. The team has now set the scene for everyone to start excavating the now cleared sites.  Look forward to seeing you all soon.

Both groups came back together  ready for Phil’s return. I set off down to knock in the rest of the posts. As the others caught up, they were able to offer useful suggestions but no actual help. The cows had already knocked down two of the morning posts so I think the time line is going to need constant maintenance.