A Forgotten Landscape

A Forgotten Landscape is a large-scale natural and cultural heritage project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund Landscape Partnership Scheme.

The project seeks to conserve and enhance the Lower Severn Vale Levels, while improving community access to and engagement with the area’s unique natural and cultural heritage.

The following is an extract from their current newsletter.


A Forgotten Landscape – September 2017 Edition

September!  The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness is hard upon us.  Back to school, back to work, back to sense, back to routine – or back to the festival!

Our Severnside Food Festival will run throughout October, with a wide range of mouth-watering, exploratory, creative events celebrating the food and food producers of the Lower Severn Vale Levels.  Learn how to forage for edible mushrooms, taste the past by re-creating historic recipes, try out a local menu in a pub or café or celebrate apples at our two apple days and cider making workshops!

Autumn also sees the re-opening of our great grants program for farmers and landowners.  Help is available for laying hedges, pollarding willows, and restoring or creating ponds.  Interested?  Read on!

We have a delightful from-the-trenches view of the summer’s archaeological dig from one of our volunteer participants, and a summary of the first Tuesday Talk of the autumn for those of you who may have missed it!

Toiling on the Toot
Sean Rinaldi, local person and AFL volunteer, took part in our archaeological excavation at the Toot (the Scheduled Ancient Monument at the heart of Oldbury-on-Severn) in June.

The Toot is a man-made earthwork around which part of Oldbury has grown up over the years.  It is not known exactly what it is, or how old it is, only that it is very similar to an Iron Age hill fort, although it is on the flat.

A Forgotten Landscape included an archaeological exploration of the Toot as one of its projects and I got involved at an early stage, helping to produce detailed mapping of the slopes that are still present in the North-East corner.  Some ground radar and resistance measurement had already been done, which led last November to the digging of some test pits over a two-day period.  I helped with this and dug a pit on the top of the inner bank.  Test pits are about a meter square, with the intention of going down a meter or more to see if there is anything of interest (usually location is decided because of something appearing in the resistivity testing).  However, the clay was so solid we only got down 25–30 cms and saw nothing!  In fact, all the test pits revealed very little, apart from a few small pieces of Roman pottery – what field in England doesn’t have a few pieces of Roman pottery in it?

It was then decided to do a “proper” dig on the banks, run by a professional archaeology company, DigVentures, from 19th June until 2nd July.  I managed to get a holiday from work, so planned to dig for 5 days, commencing on the 19th.

We all (about 6 volunteers on the first day, rising to about 20 at peak, and 6 people from DigVentures) met outside the community shop at about 9 a.m. and headed round to the banks, where Chris, the dig manager, was directing a large yellow JCB to scrape the turf and topsoil off a trench on the inside of the outer bank and on the outside of the inner bank.  Another was dug in an adjoining field in the middle of the Toot in line with these two. Each trench had a slope at one end which we were told was to let any badgers or other wildlife escape should they fall into the trench, although, in reality, I think they were there to let us get wheelbarrows in and out.

Our job then was to make these trenches tidy, which involved taking all the loose soil off with tiny trowels, straightening the walls and piling the turf tidily so that it could eventually be put back.  This was no fun as the temperatures soared that day to mid-30 degrees C, but we were allowed to spend a lot of time sitting in our tea tent in the middle of the Toot talking to the archaeologists, who were fascinating.  Days 2 and 3 were much the same, preparing the site to dig – such detailed records need to be taken which is not something that seems to concern Time Team at all.  We weren’t too upset that we hadn’t really started digging, as the temperatures stayed too high to do anything comfortably.  I had, however, by this stage had enough of people telling me that things were cool, as they certainly were not!

Day 3 also saw visits from Oldbury School, where the children came along to ask us questions, including “Why are the toilets so far away from the tea tent?” – I didn’t like to say because of they tend to smell in these temperatures!

The morning of Day 4 saw us measuring the size of the holes and their exact locations using GPS at each corner, then being trained in the use of a theodolite to measure relative heights.

We also took about 300 photographs of each trench which Chris used to construct a 3D model which was then put up on their website, alongside many photos of us, including one of me looking very hot and bothered with my measuring pole.

In the afternoon, it was decided to open up some test pits in some obliging resident’s gardens, and I got involved in the pit on the front lawn of the Old Forge.  We dug off the turf in a square and found a mass of tree roots – it took us the rest of the afternoon to clear them out, to a depth of about 10 cm.

The following day we were back, still not having found anything apart from a few shards of very recent pottery, so it was decided to go for it and dig a quarter of the square and sieve the soil for finds.  This is when it got really exciting, with lots of bits and pieces coming out – I spotted a bowl from a clay pipe, which actually had a maker’s mark on it (very rare) that was dated to between 1630 and 1636.  Then, about a meter down, I hit a layer of random stones. While I was trying to clean it up (not easy when lying on your stomach, half way into the hole, with only your feet in the air stopping you from going in completely), I found a lump of green glazed pottery, later dated to about the 14th or 15th century, from the handle of a jug. It was then that I started getting really bad chest pains – was I having a heart attack due to the heat, or the excitement, or the exercise?  No, I found I’d been lying on one of our shovels – what a relief!

We had great fun trying to convince the archaeologists that we had found a Roman road, but they are a skeptical bunch.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t dig any more, but the following day, the test pit was widened to reveal that the Roman road was in fact the cobbled floor, with a wonderfully defined straight edge. This was probably the original forge from the 12th century.  Absolutely brilliant!
I couldn’t do any more on site, but my interest and enthusiasm did entice my family to attend several of the meetings run by DigVentures to update people on what was being found, and to go on the site tours they organised.  On one occasion, one of the visitors took exception to how deep we had got and offered to bring in his massive JCB and really get down into the soil.  I think archaeology was wasted on him.

DigVentures will be reporting back in November on their findings at a public meeting and I for one will be there to see what they have identified.  I had a wonderful experience and may well get involved in another dig in the future.

Read More on the Forgotten Landscape project website

To read the rest of the September 2017 edition or to read previous editions of the A Forgotten Landscape Project please visit their website by clicking here.


A Forgotten Landscape – August 2017 Edition

Digging the Toot: results from the community excavation at Oldbury-on-Severn Tuesday 7 November 2017.
How old is Oldbury Camp? It’s a question that’s been hanging over the ancient monument in Oldbury-on-Severn  (locally know as ‘The Toot’) for decades. And trying to answer this question has been the main driver behind A Forgotten Landscape’s archaeology projects. Over two weeks of excavation in June, a team of volunteers recovered archaeological finds, recorded archaeological features and took scientific samples. More than 60 people took part, ranging from residents of Thornbury and Oldbury, to Bristol, London and even New Zealand, helping archaeologists to excavate three trenches across the hillfort, and a number of smaller test pits around the edges.

In this talk, Manda Forster of DigVentures, the company that led the excavation, will look through the evidence we recovered during the archaeological dig and talk about how the hillfort was built, how old we think it is and what we found out about Oldbury-on-Severn along the way.  Book here.

Read More on the Forgotten Landscape project website

To read the rest of the August 2017 edition or to read previous editions of the A Forgotten Landscape Project please visit their website by clicking here.


A Forgotten Landscape – July 2017 Edition

Long evenings, mild mornings, gentle breezes – the summer is a wonderful time to be outside.  From your back yard to the back of beyond, there’s loads to explore in A Forgotten Landscape.

Come join us at our first annual Severn Festival on Sat 8th July!  Walks, music, food, crafts – heaps of stalls – and much more await you at Severn Beach Village Hall and Grounds from 11-4.

If crowds aren’t your thing, we’ve got loads of small group activities – just see our events section below!

The Toot, the Scheduled Ancient Monument, is slowly giving up its secrets.  Our dig is now over but analysis is only just beginning.  We bring you an update here.

Also in the news are the latest updates on proposed changes to the flood defences in Avonmouth and Severnside, a new special designation area in Aust, and a chance to take part in a very special local tradition!

Finally there’s a few new delights to be found on our website – check out our new links!

In this edition:

* Our amazing volunteer opportunities
* Our fabulous free activities
* Festival!
* Latest on new flood defence plans
* View from the trenches – our dig concludes but new work begins
* St Arilda’s traditional pilgrimage
* New fascinating fun on-line
* RIGS – what is it and why is there a new one in Aust?

Happy reading!

Read More on the Forgotten Landscape project website

To read the rest of the July 2017 edition or to read previous editions of the A Forgotten Landscape Project please visit their website by clicking here.