Category Archives: Blog

Warren Wood Investigations – June 2014

In June AIM members visited the Warren Wood site on the 1st, 15th and 29th.

Trench 9 was cleaned up and stakes were inserted where archaeology ended and natural geology commenced, along the trench at 1 metre intervals. Measurements were taken at each stake to confirm the exact measurement between the surface of the trench and natural geology.

These reading were combined with previous context measurements to produce two profiles of each side of the trench (see graphics below).

WW12 Profile North 10L

WW12 Profile South 10L

In late June the pottery pieces from Trench 9 were sent off to pottery expert Paul Blinkhorn for identification and analysis. His ‘discussion’ and spreadsheet follow.

Discussion

 Perhaps the most striking feature of this pottery assemblage is that all the sherds are small and most are abraded, included the medieval wares, suggesting that all the pottery other than the post-Roman material is residual, and even this is at least the product of secondary deposition, and may also be residual.  The overall mean sherd weight for the whole group, c 4g, is very low.

 These factors, coupled with the small assemblage size, makes any interpretation of the assemblage somewhat tentative, but the fact that the assemblage from the top of the bank, squares B and C, appear to be Romano-British, does suggest that the feature is of such a date, especially as pottery of that period was entirely absent from the excavated features of the inner enclosure. Given the extremely small and abraded nature of the prehistoric material, it seems most, if not all, is residual, although as the inner enclosure is of such a date, the possibility that some of the material is reliably stratified in an ancient ground-surface cannot be discounted, especially in the case of the material from squares A2 and G. The medieval material therefore probably represents later use of the visible earth-works, although it must be repeated that this interpretation should be regarded as very tentative, and further excavation is needed to clarify the chronology of the monument.

Table 1: Pottery occurrence by number and weight (in g) of sherds per context by fabric type

 

F1 F2 F4 RBF1 RBF2 RBF3 MS3
Tr Sq Cntxt No Wt No Wt No Wt No Wt No Wt No Wt No Wt Date
9 A2 2 4 17 LBA?
9 A 2 3 9 1 4 L11thC
9 B 2 7 27 1 2 3 8 RB?
9 C 2 3 30 1 3 4 12 1 6 2 9 1 1 RB?
9 D 2 4 20 12thC
9 F 1 1 2 RB??
9 G 1 1 5 LBA?
Total 10 57 10 36 4 12 1 6 2 9 3 11 5 24

 

The Trench was photographed (see below) and on the 15th and 29th of June and into July, Trench 9 was gradually backfilled to resemble its original condition.

WW12 T9 W-E 140601 (7)L

Once all the data and other artefacts have been identified and analysed, a report will be written, which will uploaded to this site.

 

 

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Warren Wood Investigations – March & April 2014

We commenced our investigations in 2014 on the 30th of March. A total of 13 AIM members and visiting volunteers visited our trench at Warren Wood on the 30th and the 6th of April. Unfortunately our planned visit on the 20th of April was cancelled due to heavy and persistent rain.  

On the 30th of March, we cleaned up Trench 9 and re-measured and missing marker pegs replaced. Excavations took place in squares A2 and C and all the soil was sieved (see photograph). A possible Flint Flake was located in square C and a fossil was unearthed in square A2 (see September blog for plan of squares). 

ww12140330 (4) revOn the 6th of April we were delighted to welcome Phil Andrews a Professional Archaeologist from Wessex Archaeology again to the site. Phil brought along his auger and a series of insertions were undertaken at 0.5 metres north, parallel to the bank and ditch. Extra insertions were carried out 4M and 8M west of the trench. 

It was established that natural soil consisted of a compressed clay texture with a yellowish hue (see photograph).  Preceding that was the orange sandy/clay type material that we had previously excavated in the trench.  It was also established that natural was reached at the following average depths: 

A/B intersection – 40cm, C/D intersection – 45cm, F/G intersection – 40cm

4m Distance – 35/40cm, 8m Distance – 40/50cm

 WW12 T9 140406 Augered Soil 2 rev

Additionally, work continued to excavate squares A1, A2, F and G.  All soil excavated was sieved.  No finds were identified and no change of context was noted. 

In addition preliminary auger tests were also conducted on the bank and ditch at the South West corner of the inner enclosure.  The soil here consisted of dark sand with a progressively greater proportion of clay, to a depth of 1.1m.  Further tests will be needed to establish whether this constitutes the natural soil. 

Following sight of the Lidar Surveys of the area, conducted by the Environment agency, Phil showed us on the ground that there was probably a much larger enclosure, containing the inner and outer enclosures, previously identified. 

Phil returned our large animal bone (see photograph in June blog) following identification as a cattle bone, the right tibia, thought to be a bit large to be Iron Age, and, therefore, medieval. 

Trench 9 will now be cleaned up ready for profile recording (drawing and photographic), using AIM’s laser level and staff. The trench will then be filled in. 

Future augering, landscape investigations and excavations will take place during future visits.

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Warren Wood Investigations – October & November 2013

Since September, a total of 12 AIM members and visiting volunteers visited our trench at Warren Wood on the 27th of October and the 10th of November to help with excavations (our planned visit on the 13th of October was cancelled due to heavy and persistent rain).

We were delighted to welcome Phil Andrews a Professional Archaeologist from Wessex Archaeology to the site on 27th of October. Phil took a good look at our activities and practices and seemed pleased at what he saw. He also familiarised himself with the site by making a tour of the general area.

Phil suggested that we might try some auguring close to Trench nine, in the outer enclosure, to ascertain where the natural geology begins. Auguring across the bank of the inner enclosure may also prove to be useful.

Phil also scrutinised our finds/artefacts and said that the 106 stones with black deposits from Square ‘B’, (see photo’ in September blog), were, in fact, naturally occurring stones. These stones were deposited onto the relevant spoil heap on the 10th of November.

Phil took away our large animal bone (see photo’ in June blog) for identification. The experts at Wessex Archaeology think it is a cattle bone, the right tibia. They think it may be a bit large to be Iron Age, so it may be medieval.

During the two visits we excavated in the two new squares, A1 and A2, (see graphic below) and in square G. We were excavating at both ends of the trench to try to identify natural geology.

WW12 T9 Extension plan rev

Some burnt flint, and worked flints were found, mostly in Square A2.   Although we are gradually creating a good trench profile across our bank and ditch, it is taking time, as large amounts of earth have to be removed from the trench. We are not certain whether we have reached natural geology yet, but, no doubt, in 2014 we will locate it.

Phil Andrews has offered to bring along an auger to the site, which should give us much quicker stratigraphy of our banks. The site is now closed and protected until Spring 2014 (see photograph of trench and volunteers).

WW12 131110 (7)rev

Many thanks for all the help everyone has given during 2013, it has been greatly appreciated. Also, many thanks to Richard, Jan and the Mash family for allowing us onto their land and for their generous and helpful support.

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Warren Wood Investigations – September 2013

In September, 16 AIM members and visiting volunteers visited the trench at Warren Wood on the 1st, 15th and 29th to help with the continuing excavations.

During these visits, a total of 7 pieces of pottery were uncovered, along with 4 pieces of burnt and worked flints from Squares ‘B’ and ‘E’. Intriguingly, 106 stones with black deposits on them have been located in Square ‘B’, weighing in at 1.571kgs (see photograph of examples below).

WW12Finds T9 B 2 130901 Burnt Stones (0) rev

On the 15th of September, we held an all-day session and decided to extend the trench two metres east into the inner enclosure. The two new squares are numbered ‘A1’ and ‘A2’ (see graphic below for location of squares). We made this decision in the hope that ‘natural geology’ will be encountered within 10/15cms in these new squares. If this is the case, we should be able to follow a line descending down to natural geology in the adjacent squares.WW12 T9 Extension plan rev

The top soil (context one  -  7/10cm) was removed from both Squares A1 and A2. No artefacts were located in either context one. However, context two in Square A1  revealed 1 piece of worked flint and context two in Square A2 revealed 4 pieces of pot (see photograph of three pieces below), 6 pieces of Burnt and worked flint and, intriguingly, 7 pieces of red tile (see photograph below). The tile appears to be Medieval, but, if so, it seems to be out of place!

WW12Finds T9 A2 2 130929 pottery (1) rev
Pottery Sherds
WW12Finds T9 A2 2 130929 Roof Tile rev
Medieval Roof Tile (?)

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Warren Wood Investigations – August 2013

We visited the site twice in August, on Sundays the 4th and 18th. On the 4th it was sunny, warm and dry. Conditions for excavations were good. Six members attended on the 4th and three on the 18th.

Note – For plan of site, see blog for November 2012 and the graphic below, specifically showing the seven 1m x 1m squares marked G (ditch) to A (top of bank).

On the 4th excavations took place in Squares ‘B’, ‘F’ and ‘G’.

A few cms of light orangey sandy material was excavated from all three Squares (all contexts two) and then sieved.

Three pieces of charcoal (1gm) were found in square ‘B’. One sherd of pottery (2gm), one burnt stone (18gm) and one possible worked flint (8gms) were found in square ‘G’. No artefacts were found in square ‘F’

A selection of photographs were taken of those conducting the excavation work and some of the trench looking west to east (see photographs).

WW12 130804 (1) rez
‘The workers’
WW12 T9 W-E 130811 (3) res
Trench 9 Looking east to west

On the 18th, excavations took place in Square ‘B’ and Square ‘C. More sandy material was extracted from contexts two from Squares ‘B’ and ‘C’ and sieved. Up to 37 cm in square ‘B and 12 cm in square ‘C’. As we descend more pebbles are unearthed. These measure about 3cm, up to more than 5cm, in diameter. Squares ‘B’ and ‘C’ were then photographed.

Two pottery sherds (23gm) were found in square ‘B’ and 3 sherds of pottery (23g) were located in square ‘C’ (see photograph). These sherds look suspiciously like Iron, or Bronze, Age pottery! The spoil heaps and the seven squares were metal detected, but no metal artefacts were found.

WW12Finds T9 C 2 130818 Pot b rev
Pottery Sherds – Square ‘C’ Context two

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Warren Wood Investigations – July 2013

We visited the site twice in July, on Sundays the 14th and 28th. On the 14th it was hot and dry and difficult to excavate, After rain, on the 28th, excavations were much easier. Seven members attended on the 14th and three on the 28th.

Note – For plan of site, see blog for November 2012.

On the 14th excavations took place in Squares ‘A’ and ‘C’.

Light orangey sandy material was excavated from Square C (context two) and then sieved. We have now excavated over half a metre of materials from this square. One possibly worked flint was found in this square.

6cms of hard baked sandy material, containing a few small pebbles, was removed from Square A, context two. No artefacts were unearthed from this Square.

A selection of photographs were taken of the excavation work and the laser level recording (see examples below), as well as some video film.

WW12 130714 (7)rev2

WW12 130714 (16)rev

On the 28th, excavations took place in Square ‘A’ and Square ‘G’ was cleaned up for drawing and photographing.

More sandy material was extracted from context two from Square ‘A’ and sieved. 3 sherds of pottery (10g) and one burnt stones (2g) were located and the largest pottery sherd (see photograph) and burnt stone were photographed.

WW12Finds T9 (A) 2 130728 Pot Sherd  (4)

Square G (context two) was drawn and then photographed.

On both days, AIM’s ‘laser level and staff’ were used to good effect to record the profile of both sides of the trench. These recordings will be transferred to graph paper, so that the context depths can be clearly seen.

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Warren Wood Investigations – June 2013

The site was visited three times in June, on Sundays the 2nd, 16th and 30th. On all three days the weather was cool and dry, but mostly overcast. Three members attended on the 2nd, five on the 16th and five on the 30th.

Note – For plan of site, see blog for November 2012; and the graphic below, specifically showing the seven 1m x 1m squares marked G (ditch) to A (top of bank).

WW12 T9 Plan2rev

On the 2nd, excavations took place in Squares ‘C’ and ‘E’.

Light orangey clay like material was excavated from Square E (context two) (see photograph) and then sieved.

WW12 T9 Sq E Cont2 130602a

We may be nearing the end of this context. No artefacts were located in this square.

A large quantity of compacted sand was extracted from context two in Square C. Excavations here proved beyond doubt that this bank is man-made and not natural geology, as a 38cm animal bone (probably a femur from a cow) was unearthed 45cm down inside the bank (see photograph). A Flint flakes was also found in Square C (1g), along with 5 pieces of charcoal (total 2g) (see photograph).

WW12Finds T9 C 2 130602 Animal Bone (8)rev
Animal Bone
WW12Finds T9 C 2 130602 Charcoal (4)rev
Charcoal Pieces

Squares C and E were photographed, along with the animal bone.

On the 16th, excavations took place in Squares ‘B’ and ‘G’.

A great deal of sand (10cm) was extracted from context two from Square B, but more is still to be removed. 4 burnt stones (41g), 1 piece of metal (2g) and 2 pieces of charcoal (1g) were found in Square B. The burnt stones and the metal artefact were photographed (see photographs).

WW12Finds T9 B 2 130616 Burnt Stonejrev
Burnt stones
WW12Finds T9 B 2 130616 Metaldrev
Metal artefact

In Square G (context two) a quantity of light orangey clay material was removed and sieved. A burnt stone was found in Square E (2g).

In addition to excavating, a training event was conducted, using AIM’s Optical Square to record the profile of the trench. Ranging poles were positioned at the corner of each square on the north side of the trench and the optical square was positioned on top of another ranging pole. Readings were taken, but as a degree of inaccuracy was likely to be present, due to uncertainty of the ranging pole holding the optical square being always exactly vertical, it was decided to repeat this operation at a future date using AIM’s Laser Level and Staff.

On the 30th, excavations took place in Squares ‘B’ and ‘F’.

In Square B, context two, orangey coloured sandy soil, with a few small pebbles, was excavated to a depth of 30/32cm on north side of the trench and 24/27cm on the south side. One pottery sherd (2g), a piece of metal (1g) and a possibly worked flint (1g) were located in this square.

12cm of compressed dark orange soil with stones and small pebbles was removed from and sieved from Square F.

Both squares B and F were photographed on the day.

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Warren Wood Investigations – May 2013

The site was visited twice in May, on Sundays the 5th and 19th. On both days the weather was dry, but a little cold. Five members attended on the 5th (see photo’ below), and four on the 19th. See ‘November 2012 Investigations’ for graphic of site layout and trench position.

WW12 130505 (3)rev

On the 5th, excavations took place in Squares ‘C’, ‘D’ and ‘E’.

A good quantity of the dark earth from Square E (context one) was gradually removed and sieved, but the next context is still to be revealed. Two pot boilers/burnt stones were found in Square E (21g in total). More compacted sand was extracted from context two from both Squares C and D. 3 Flint flakes were found in Square C (20g in total), along with 6 Pottery sherds (total 7g).

A drawing was made of Square C, context two. The excavators and the Pottery sherds were photographed.

On the 19th, excavations took place in Squares ‘C’ and ‘E’.

The dark earth from Square E (context one) was removed and sieved, revealing context two; a light orangey clay material. Two worked flints were found in Square E (3g in total).

A great deal of sand was extracted from context two from Square C, but more is still to be removed. 3 Flint flakes (41g in total), 5 Pottery sherds (17g), 2 burnt stones (21g), 1 flat stone (3g) and 1 broken (possible) Hammer stone (233g), were found in Square C.

Square E, context two, was drawn and it was then photographed, along with the excavators, a selection of bluebells, plus the Pottery sherds and Burnt stones from Square C, context 2 (see photo’s below).

WW12Finds T9 C2 130519 Burnt Stone (3rev)
Burnt Stones
WW12Finds T9 C2 130519 Pot Sherd (5rev)
Pottery sherds with inclsions
WW12 130519gRev
Bluebell (Warren) Wood

 

 

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Warren Wood Investigations – April 2013

The site was visited twice in April, on Sundays the 7th and 21st. On both days the weather was bright and sunny, but a little cold. Four members attended on the 7th and twelve on the 21st.

On the 7th, this being the first visit of the year, we took some time brushing away all the leaves that had accumulated within Trench 9.

Square D was excavated through much yellow sandy material, but this excavation was not completed. Squares F and G were excavated until context two had been removed. Both squares were then photographed from the south. The participants were also photographed.

Four pieces of pottery and four pot boilers were located in the squares excavated. These were photographed.

On the 21st, twelve AIM members attended Hugo Anderson-Whymark’s flint workshop. As Hugo had been delayed by car trouble, the workshop took place later than planned. So, those gathered were either, given a tour of the site, or helped with excavations in Trench 9.

WW12 Hugo 130421 (18)rev
Hugo Anderson-Whymark flint knapping

Hugo arrived and began by showing us what man-made flint tools and waste flakes look like and the changes that flint undergoes when heated. Hugo then demonstrated how some of these flint tools were made (see photograph), culminating in him creating a hand

WW12 Hugo hand Axe (9)
Hand Axe made by Hugo on 21/4/13

axe from a large piece of flint which he had brought along (see photograph); he then showed us an amazing collection of ancient and modern manufactured flints; from arrow heads, to scrapers, to hand axes.

 

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Warren Wood Investigations – December 2012

In order to evaluate other local sites, which may be similar to the Warren Wood enclosures, our Chairman, Andy Ford, arranged a visit to Naphill Common and Park Wood, Bradenham, on Sunday 2nd of December 2012. Andy’s report follows.

There are certain winter mornings when you feel impelled to put the walking boots on and venture forth – the sky is clear and blue, the air clean and fresh, the ground a blanket of early morning frost and the Chiltern hills are at their most inviting.  Thankfully, Sunday 2 December was just such a day as a small but select group of AIM members gathered at the church in Bradenham village to explore two of the local archaeological sites.

Our purpose was to visit Naphill Common and Park Wood to explore sites that have, at least on paper, some similarities with the enclosures at Warren Wood that we have been investigating and excavating over the last few years.  By so doing, we hoped to be able to better understand Warren Wood as possibly part of a pattern of similar settlements across the Chiltern hills.

The site at Naphill Common (grid reference SU 8365 9687) consists of a simple rectangular enclosure approximately one kilometre east of the Bradenham church.  It is reached quite easily via footpaths up a relatively steep incline from Bradenham village and is on open access land.

While it lacks the complexity of the double-enclosure structure of Warren Wood, the site at Naphill Common does have a number of similarities with the former – it is at a similar height above sea level, is of a similar size and is in dense, most likely old, woodland.  It consists of a ditch with some remains of a slight rampart and, in places, both inner and outer banks.  The archaeological finds there have included a portion of a broad swordblade, iron slag suggesting industrial activity at the site and Romano-British pottery sherds.  There is a very helpful interpretation board near the site covering the whole of Naphill Common that suggests the enclosure is Romano-British in origin, but other schools of thought argue it is more likely medieval given its rectangular form.  One of the more interesting features at the site – and notably lacking in our interpretation to date of Warren Wood – is a large dewpond next to one side of the enclosure.

The group located the site with relative ease, notwithstanding the prodigious quantities of mud on the footpath that presented something of a hurdle, and bravely fought their way through the undergrowth to follow the line of the bank and the ditch around the full extent of the enclosure.  In truth, the outwardly mundane nature of the site means that it is unlikely ever to make it into anyone’s list of “top 10 places to visit in Buckinghamshire”. But for those who do venture off the path into the wood, it does pay dividends – at times the line of the bank is as clear as that at Warren Wood and the ditch occasionally surprisingly wide.  All in all, the site serves as a useful reminder that such ancient enclosures are a common feature of this part of the Chilterns and that Warren Wood is far from being unique.  Indeed, previous research in the 1990s by Andrew Pike identified potentially more than a dozen similar sites in the south Chilterns.

As an aside, Naphill Common is well worth a visit for other reasons – there are intriguing “clumps” of trees whose purpose remains a mystery and a wealth of flora around the common.  Of particular mention must be the rare juniper tree near the enclosure site, joyfully identified by one of our more observant group members.

The site at Park Wood (SU 8265 9815) is an altogether different proposition.  It is approximately one kilometre north of Bradenham and can again be reached with relative ease by footpaths from the village, although the final 100 metres or so involves a steep climb through dense and sometimes unforgiving woodland.  Extensive archaeological investigations were undertaken here during the 1970s and are well-described in an article in Records of Bucks, 1979.

There are a large number of small archaeological sites spread across a wide area towards the top of the slope in Park Wood.  These can be located with relative ease in the woodland with the aid of a GPS system – however, on this occasion, the Chairman had unfortunately failed to charge the battery on his and the group had to resort to older forms of amateur orienteering in an attempt to interpret the site!  While this was initially somewhat frustrating (and embarrassing for the Chairman), it did eventually bear fruit, but whether by luck or judgement must remain a matter for some debate.

 

The site has been identified as the remains of a medieval homestead, probably dating from the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries.  Amidst a complex series of banks, a number of buildings have been identified, most notably a raised rectangular house, approximately 5m wide and 10m long and with seemingly substantial flint walls (see photo).

Also recorded on the site are possible dewponds and potentially even a dovecote.  The existence of the latter, alongside the nature of the pottery finds at the site, suggest some refinement, possibly even touches of luxury, in the lives of the occupants of the settlement.  Other finds at the site have included tiles, iron objects, iron nails, copper alloy pan, slag and animal bones, all pointing to medieval occupation, as does the find of coin from 1205 or soon after.

There are strong similarities between the dating of the finds at Park Wood and the dating of some of the finds at Warren Wood which also point to medieval occupation at a very similar time.  If nothing else, the clear existence of a medieval flint-walled dwelling at Park Wood should give us further hope that we may have found a similar building in our work to date at Warren Wood – and help to focus further our investigations next year and beyond.

It is also worth noting that there it is possible that the dwelling at Park Wood was associated with hunting in the area.  The name alone suggests the existence of a deer park in the vicinity and there are certainly records of the existence of one in Bradenham, albeit nothing that definitively predates the Tudor period.  The investigations in the 1970s did also identify the potential boundary of a possible deer park surrounding Park Wood and much of the nearby area to the north and west of Bradenham village.  All of which does leave open the possibility that the house at Park Wood was the dwelling of the local park-keeper, a theory that has also been put forward to explain the purpose of Warren Wood.

After much wandering through the wood, the group took great solace in finding many of the sites identified in the 1970s’ investigations – although there remained much confusion about whether they had found them all in anything like the right order!  A further visit at some point in the future with the aid of a GPS might assist – but at least we know for sure now where the key medieval dwelling is located.

The journey back to Bradenham village was further enhanced by our resident flora expert (aka Gerry Platten) identifying what was undeniably an impressive fungal circle around a beech tree near the path – later identified as a collection of trooping funnels.  In short, an educational and rewarding expedition on many levels!

So in summary, these two sites provide strong evidence that Warren Wood is far from unique as well as helping us with more clues as to its purpose(s). There are other sites in the vicinity that warrant similar investigations and we will therefore look into arranging further visits for some time in 2013.

 

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