ACA’s second Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA) of 2015 was held in North Warnborough, Hampshire. 48 Year 9 pupils from Fort Hill Community School, The Costello School, Cranbourne Business and Enterprise College, Robert May’s School and The Connaught School excavated 12 test-pits spread throughout North Warnborough. The pits were organised by Liz Good and other members of The Odiham Society. The Mill House Restaurant served as the base for the two days of excavation. This is the third consecutive year ACA have held a HEFA in North Warnborough. Reports from previous years can be found here.
The 12 x 1m square test pits were spread throughout the small village in North East Hampshire, located in private properties on Hook Road, King John’s Road, Dunley’s Hill, Castle Rise, Mill Lane, and Chapel Pond Drive. Two pits each were also located on the recreation ground and in the grounds of The Mill House Restaurant.
The students worked in mixed-school teams of 4 and were supervised by teachers from the 5 schools. After receiving a briefing on Day 1 by Dr Carenza Lewis, Director of ACA, about how to excavate and record the test pits, the students went on to make excellent progress throughout the two days of digging. Spirits remained high even though some pits had particularly muddy or chalky conditions layers to get through. We were also pleased that the Basingstoke Gazette sent a reporter out on Wednesday 25th March to cover the event. That news article will be available here once it has been published online.
Cat Ranson, ACA archaeological supervisor, and Paul Blinkhorn, post-Roman pottery specialist, toured the North Warnborough test pits providing guidance on excavating and recording techniques as well as identifying finds and pottery sherds. This information is recorded by the students in their individual Test Pit Excavation Record Booklet which is an invaluable asset in producing their written assignment. On pupil remarked, “I enjoyed being able to find out a little bit about what we found as soon as we found it because it gave us an idea of how it was changing as we got deeper.” (PL) Paul’s finalised pottery report can be read here.
Test pit 8 was sited at a known 20th century coal yard and as such came down on a heavily compacted chalk floor surface at approximately 20cm. Chalk is incredibly difficult to dig, but their perseverance paid off as finds were still coming out of this exceptionally hard layer.
No Early, Middle or late Anglo-Saxon finds have been found in the 3 years of test-pitting in North Warnborough, but further High Medieval pottery has been found along Bridge Road and Hook Road, again comparable with previous years.
On the third day of the HEFA, the students (after a rather long coach journey) arrived to a beautifully sunny day in Cambridge. Carenza’s morning lecture on medieval settlement studies and the Currently Occupied Rural Settlement (CORS) project was really well received with many pupils commenting that they really enjoyed “learning more about what we discovered, the lecture on medieval settlements and the archaeological information from Dr Lewis.” (MG,LT)
The students then split into groups for lunch and a tour at one of Christ’s, Newnham and Sidney Sussex Colleges.
The two-hour afternoon session was comprised of a talk from Andy Avery, Schools Liaison Officer from Christ’s College, about life as a university student followed by a presentation from Dr Jenni French on how to structure and present a written account of the excavation.
In feedback after the HEFA, 92% of the participants rated the field academy as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’. The students enjoyed visiting the University of Cambridge, learning how to do something new and working as part of a team with new people from different schools. Students commented “I just really enjoyed everything.” (AM), “This was a great experience overall; all the lectures were very informative and I gained new skills.” (JLR) and “It was really enjoyable and a good learning experience.” (EL) One staff member said “The students enjoyed seeing the university campus and they have gained the belief that they can come to a top university and it is not out of their reach.” (AH)
ACA would like to thank all the students and staff of the 5 schools involved. Special thanks to Karen Jones, beacon school coordinator, and Liz Good, local coordinator.