Boxford 2017 Part I: The adventure begins

2017, the final year of the Heritage Lottery Funded Roman Boxford project was suddenly upon us. A few days before the community excavation was due to start we were busy in the field trying to relocate permanent ground markers which we’d hammered in a few years back to allow us to re-establish the grid. After much thrashing about with sticks and machete, pacing out (using a few good ol’ Anglo Saxon turns of phrase) and holding the handheld GPS up to the sky, we eventually found what we were looking for. From there it was a case of using the hired Total Station to position a forest of poles in 20m x 20m grids over where we wanted to open our trenches.

Establishing the grid for excavations
Establishing the grid for excavations

The following day was interesting. That was when we understood fully why Mud Hole was called Mud Hole! Thank goodness we had the ‘Party Tent’ to retire to when it got too much. The plan was to continue with some geophysics to fill in the gaps from 2014 and trial another resistance meter but it was a slow start. Our idea of sheltering from the worst of the elements was approved and adopted by a family of ducks just to underline how ‘damp’ it was.

Hiding from the rain
Hiding from the rain

Stalwarts that we are, we persevered and got all the geophysics done over the trench areas by day 3, confirming that we had indeed captured the main area of occupation. Further surveys were done over the following 2 weeks to build a bigger picture. This couldn’t have been done without the sterling efforts of Mike Green and Richard Miller and their brilliant bands of helpers.

The day before the official start of the excavation we were introduced to the JCB (digger) driver Scud, who under the ever-watchful eye of our project leader Matt Nichol expertly removed the topsoil over our planned 9 trenches. It’s amazing to watch the dexterity and skill involved just skimming a few inches of soil at a time. It turned out to be a 2-day job as one of the trenches was very large and the ones over the villa quite delicate.
So, the big day was on us…

Mud hole
Mud hole