Just as we thought we’d encountered the worst of the weather in Bramford, we encountered even heavier rain in Garboldisham to round off the wettest April in the UK in 100 years. Whereas the University’s training dig for the second year archaeologists returned from site early on Wednesday due to the torrential rain, the HEFA students valiantly dug on!
Over 50 students from Aylsham High School, Diss High School, Fakenham High School, Springwood High School and Sprowston High School donned their wellies for our second Higher Education Field Academy in Garboldisham, Norfolk. Five sixth-form students from Fakenham High School also took on the added responsibility of supervising test-pit groups of younger students. In total, we had 11 test-pit sites stretching 2 miles along B1111 from the north to the south of the village, including Garboldisham Windmill. We were kindly hosted by Pauline Hinton of the Garboldisham History Society, who also offered her garden to be excavated. The students proved to be very enterprising when it came to finding shelter in the rain. One group were lent a tent by the owners of their site, another tied their gazebo to a nearby tree to keep it up, and another group moved their test pit into a polytunnel! Coming to the rescue of broken gazebos was HEFA stalwart, Gary Marriner. He will be leaving his laboratory soil samples for two days a week for some much appreciated help with van equipment over the next month. The team also welcomed Claire Halley, a PhD candidate from Cambridge University who has recently handed in her thesis and has offered to help on all of the remaining HEFAs.
Close to the core of the village, test-pit 5 was dug in a garden which we visited last year and though it did not produce much pottery, it all dates to the late Saxon or medieval periods. Across the road, test-pit 6 produced a wide range of pottery, including a sherd of Roman. This garden produced a large quantity of iron railings, possibly buried during the Second World War to avoid being removed and smelted during the shortage for the war effort. One other test-pit from the far south of the village also included Roman pottery, but then it seems to have been abandoned until the end of the medieval period. Freelance archaeologist, John Newman, helped identify finds on site, including several Neolithic/Early Bronze Age worked blades and flakes. The pottery report and pottery distribution map are now available on the Garboldisham excavation reports webpage here.
One property owner e-mailed afterwards with the message; “I just wanted to say how really charming and polite they all were – their enthusiasm – despite the dreadful weather conditions on Wednesday! – was great and it was a pleasure to have them here. A credit to all their schools.” Following their visit to Cambridge University on the final day, one student said that she felt she had “gained a valuable knowledge and experience about University life that will help me with my future aspirations”, another described it as “a once in a lifetime experience at my age to say I have worked with Cambridge University” and one very enthusiastic participant said that she had “gained valuable skills and an experience which I can treasure. I can also use this experience to show to Universities that I am different and I am passionate about history.”