Friday, 11 August 2017

Kent Weekend part 2 and other things

As promised here is the second part of my Kent weekend even if it was weeks ago, plus a few other items.

The weather was glorious whilst I was in Kent and on Saturday we went to Rye in the morning, and after a coffee we went on another tour of this lovely, and historic hilltop town, with its cobbled streets.  Well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.
No enhancements, this was the colour of the sky!! 

What we were doing at the same time was 'geocaching' which is a brilliant way of getting children out walking and keeping their interest.  You require a GPS phone and an app and then find the cache nearest to you.  I think we found two in Rye.

Our next stop for geocaching was in Biddenden and we found one near the village and then walked into their Millennium Field where the children raced on ahead looking for the first cache
 When we found the second in the field we also discovered this wonderful sundial -
Each square on the plinth is a month, which you stand on
Yes, it was 4.00 in the afternoon, standing on July!
"Walk in the sun now and always" for December/January
On Sunday we took a picnic and headed to Fairlight church.  We had our picnic on the Downs with the church on one side and the lifeboat lookout on the other

and in the distance Camber Sands
and then climbed the tower.

What I was not expecting was this -
The Carillon
but I did have a go and played a reasonable rendition of Amazing Grace using the music that you can see behind the wires.  The children also had a go and we did feel sorry for people living nearby who had to put up with the awful noise of the church bells, badly played, at weekends. We were actually playing the church bells because we passed them on our way to the top of the tower.
Looking North

Looking South with the English Channel in the background
What a wonderful and hot weekend.

A few days later I went by train to York with three friends.  We spent the morning walking round the wonderful streets. 
Love the overhanging upper floors
Georgian facades

We walked the old city walls
York Minster in the background

The front fa├žade
After a short tour of the Minster, the Chapter House and Crypt we headed for Betty's where we had to queue for delicious 'Afternoon Tea' and fell into conversation with two Chinese girls who had no idea what to do with the tea strainer!!  We advised them how to cope with the jam and cream on a scone and discovered that the Chinese think that the English only talk about the weather and always carry an umbrella.  We didn't have an umbrella between the four of us!!  We had a great outing and lots of talking, but not about the weather.
I must go back to York for a longer visit - too much to see and do in a day.
Craft has rather been on the back burner during these summer months as I have been working on the vegetable garden in Cambridge. I am not sure whether I mentioned that during the Spring my son decided to turn the 'veg patch' into raised beds
In the foreground bed, potatoes mounded up, with carrots and beetroot covered
He has planted sunflowers around the edges of the beds

and this one is about 7 foot high with an enormous head.  We have been harvesting lots of vegetables, with more to come.

I did manage to complete the July Mini Mania, 'New York Beauty', but it was hard work.  It even had hand sewing in it, that I loathe doing in my patchwork.  I quite openly admit that I am cheating for August's mini but no more on that until the end of the month!
July - New York Beauty's nod to the Hungry Caterpillar!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Chester Farm

In theory, I should be writing part 2 of my Kent trip, but I haven't had time because for the last two weeks I have been at Chester Farm from 8.30am - 4.00pm and have been too tired to do anything when I got home.  Needless to say I did have an evening social life but that just compounded my tiredness.  Why a full two weeks; well here goes.

For the last years Chester Farm have invited the public to "Come and archaeologically dig for a day" during the last two weeks in July and that is how I first got involved.  This year I was asked, with another volunteer J, to be responsible for 'Finds Processing' because there was a backlog.  I love doing this as I am no longer able to crawl on the floor trowelling the ground and would prefer to be upright.

The area being 'dug' was the site of the Victorian tennis court and the archaeologist was not expecting to find much!  How wrong he was.

'Finds Processing' is actually a posh word for, amongst other things - Pot Washing and we have seen some lovely pieces of Roman pottery and some that were everyday pieces -

This rough bowl would have been cut down from a larger storage vessel perhaps because it got damaged at the top.
A triple vase ...

... from the bottom which was missing
The triple vase would have had three vases at the neck.
Three pieces make up this vessel
An almost complete storage vessel that probably broke when it came out of the ground.

The two photographs above show the full extent of the dig.  In the bottom picture on the extreme right you can see a number of people standing talking.  Well they have discovered a human skull and since the photo was taken another one has been discovered and a baby.  I have taken photos but they are not allowed to be shown on the Internet.  Skeletons are treated with great respect.

The two photos above were taken at the beginning of the week and it was hot and the skies were blue; what they do not show is the wind and by Thursday we had a gale blowing making it very difficult for us washing pots.  Our egg trays where we dry items, blew away, everything had to be weighted down and we were beginning to get irritable.  Some artefacts are in small finds bags and very light so we couldn't allow the wind to blow them away and we moved indoors to a big barn.  So much easier.  However the next day we moved out again under our tent and carried on washing, but this time I was responsible for 'Doris'!

'Doris' was uncovered in February and named after our hurricane of the same name.   She is a human skeleton and when found the contractors stopped working.  After reassurances to the police that it was NOT a murder but a Roman skeleton work continued. The archaeologist advised us that she was a teenager, because a broken bracelet was found with her.

So I had to clean 'Doris' up by washing the soil off her and the first bag was the skull.  Immediately the archaeologist realised that she was not a young girl but probably an older woman as her lower mandible had no teeth and no sockets where the teeth should have been which indicated that the holes had grown over.  Her upper jaw did have sockets and I cleaned two teeth.  It was very delicate and painstaking work as the bones were in a poor condition after so long in the ground, but it was a very satisfying task and I treated her gently.

After this I had to wash a far weightier item that had a slight hollow in its top.
A 'Saddle Quern' sitting in a wheelbarrow after washing, made of gritstone

The grain would have been put in the centre and then rubbed with another stone to make flour.  If limestone had been used large pieces of the stone would have broken off and gone into the flour.  With gritstone they are finer, but regardless of the stone used Roman flour was quite adulterated and hence their teeth became quite ground down.  One of 'Doris's' teeth was.

There were other interesting items found.  This was about 0.5 inches wide slightly curved and made of bone and quite delicate -
Could it be part of a Roman comb?

Barbotine  pottery
Barbotine decoration was made using a 'piping' method.

This is a tray of Late Pre Roman Iron Age (LPRIA) pottery washed and drying and a great deal of this has been found this year.

Straight edge is the foundations of a house bordering a Roman road that runs North/South, but a Roman road running East/West had already been uncovered on the site, with houses beside it.

This final photo could be a Roman Kiln.

Notice the dark red splotches - these are ironstones (our local stone) that have been burnt by something very hot, placed in the pit.

It has been a very exciting two weeks and our archaeologist has now revised the size of the town from 600 people to 1,000 because of the area of the suburbs that were uncovered this year.

The 'pot washers' were always one step ahead of those digging but now we have a lot more artefacts still to wash.  A worthwhile two week dig.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Kent weekend Part 1

Wow, what a busy weekend I have had.  My eldest son lives in Kent and so I made a long weekend of it and as the weather has been so sunny and as I am a member of the National Trust I decided to use my membership to go visiting a place I have long wanted to visit - Chartwell, the home of Sir Winston Churchill.

What a wonderful place it was and so interesting.  I wandered up to the gardens surrounding the house
Lady Churchill's rose garden
The East wing
The rose garden
Black swans on the lake
and joined a group to go round the house.  All entries are timed, but I did spend quite a long time in there, but unfortunately no photography allowed.  The views from the house of the Kent High Weald were stunning and far reaching and have hardly changed since Churchill's time.  I spent sometime in Churchill's studio because he painted well over 500 pictures which now fetch huge sums of money.

In the afternoon  a volunteer showed us round the garden which was extremely informative.  He took us  to the wall round the vegetable garden that Churchill built himself at 100 bricks per hour -
He was an expert bricklayer

Unfortunately he was not so good at the foundations and the walls have had to be buttressed or they would fall down!!   However he did build this all by himself and roofed it -
The 'Marycot'

a small house with an adult size door for his little daughter, Mary.

In the vegetable garden I spotted these with lots of fruit on it - a Physalis that I didn't know we could grow in this country.
A view of the Kent Weald from the garden

The front of the house
Our tour finished at the front of the house and the flag flying was Churchill's as he was a Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and this can be flown by his family in perpetuity.  However one very interesting plaque was pointed out to us -

Churchill was very short of money and in debt in 1947, but a group of his wealthy friends and admirers clubbed together and bought Chartwell from him with the proviso that his family could live there until his death and then it was to be presented to the National Trust.  The great man spent his very final years sitting beside his pond feeding his Golden Orfe and his chair is still there though you can't walk over the bridge now.

The following day was another trip to a National Trust property - Batemans at Burwash.  I loved this house which was bought by Rudyard Kipling after he and his wife returned from the USA in 1902.  I was brought up on his books which my mother used to read to us.

This was a much more intimate house and garden and I knew I would like it when I saw the kitchen garden as I walked in,  full of vegetables growing well.
The kitchen garden

 The house

 that you could wander around at your leisure and there were copies of letters to his children and extracts from the life of the domestic staff dictated after his death and photography was allowed indoors!!  I spent ages inside.
Kipling's study

Then outside into the gardens that were lovely at this time of the year with roses etc.

The rose garden and pond where Kipling kept a small craft like a pedalo for his guests entertainment.

Finally I walked through the woods to the Mill and came on this plaque below.  I hadn't realised that Rudyard Kipling wrote the famous words as part of a poem, which makes them seem particularly poignant following the death of his son John in 1915.
'Lest We Forget' by Rudyard Kipling
Two homes owned by completely different people but I found both so moving to visit.