As part of the English Heritage Open Days weekend activities, the Chiltern Woodlands Special Trees & Woods project team suggested a walk round Happy Valley and the WW1 training trenches in Pullingshill wood to be led by AIM.
So, on Sunday 13th September Gerry Platten and I waited at the entrance to Happy Valley. 5 interested people arrived, including a trainee arborist (specialist in trees) from Sandhurst and a couple from near Twyford who were interested in WW1 history and local flora and fauna.
As we travelled, we explained the work which AIM has done in Happy Valley with its alleged history of a Roman vineyard, possible crop marks and other interesting finds. On entering the wooded area some quite old trees were seen, including an infected chestnut tree, a magnificent old oak tree and a splendidly tall cherry tree.
Several lines of trees beside the footpath suggest that this may have be ancient track and part of a boundary feature between farmland, a common or woodland. (The diameter of the oak tree was measured and its age estimated at about 160 years. The calculation is: – circumference of tree measured about 2m above ground in inches is its age in years, roughly!). Other boundary banks and possible sawpits were noticed.
We travelled though the trenches demonstrating all the various features and discussing the events surrounding their construction. Travelling back along the path to Bovingdon Green, where the soldiers’ camp was built, we noticed several very old concrete fence posts showing where the boundary of the camp could have been.
Several circular earthworks in Davenport Wood were seen – these may be stock enclosures relating to the original Marlow Common.
It was a fascinating day even though I cannot remember the number of different species which we saw! Thanks to all for making it well worthwhile.
As part of an ongoing investigation into activity in Happy Valley, Marlow, we conducted an exploratory excavation. Volunteers and AiM members worked hard for two Sundays and it was envisaged that the dig would take at least two more Sundays.
Part of AiM’s purpose is to educate and train, so we welcomed even novice diggers to come along and assist.
Happy Valley is near Beechwood Drive (off the Henley Road and at the junction between the Henley Road and Pound Lane).
For more information on future investigations, contact John Laker, our Fieldwork Co-Ordinator, on 01628 481792
Although we were promised a sunny day with a few fluffy clouds, Sunday the 2nd of November proved to be heavily overcast all day. However, it was not bitterly cold and the four happy volunteers spent just over three hours surveying the valley so that AIM has a definitive plan of the area to which features detected can be easily added.
AIM’s Total Station (clever optical measuring device) recorded 111 readings. We spent some time looking for two Temporary Bench Marks (TBM) that had been inserted in 2002, but we could only find one; although one is better than none at all!
We needed to record the corners of both fields and the start and finish of the footpath fairly accurately; we then filled in some measurements between these sometimes lengthy distances by taking readings every 20 or 30 paces. Despite this time saving short-cut, we still took over three hours completing the task.
Now we have a good and accurate map of the valley, we can plot any features on it, such as those dowsed on the 5th of October. If we investigate these findings in the future, we can record them directly and accurately onto our survey map.
It does not often rain on AIM events, but on Sunday the 5th of October it rained and rained and rained.
Despite the inclement conditions, nine hardy AIM members turned out for a morning of Dowsing. Members Sue Brown and Jeff Griffiths instructed us in the art of dowsing and kindly brought along sets of rods so that all could experience dowsing first hand.
Our first task was to locate the ‘Roman Vineyard’ so often mentioned by local people. A vineyard was not located, but whilst trying to find a Roman presence, on the west side of the valley, a rectangular feature became apparent, but it was evidently not used by people (a barn?).
Peter Ricketts, AIM member and owner of Happy Valley, had asked us if we could try to locate a long lost water main. A few members concentrated on finding water and a line running very close to the footpath was duplicated by most. After 60 or 70 metres, the direction changed by 90 degrees turning away from the footpath for about 10 metres. However the footpath line also continued on for another 20 metres, or so, where it made a 90 degree turn in the opposite direction across the footpath. Peter subsequently said that a main electrical cable runs along the same route, so, were we right? Time and more investigations will tell.
Further along the west side of the valley most dowsers, who trained their thoughts on Iron Age features, traced out the same circle of about 9 metres in diameter. Amazingly, this circle was within a few feet of our September 2004 excavation across the old footpath! Other smaller circles were also traced out, but the persistent downpour was beginning to dampen even the most enthusiastic dowsers.
We left in good spirits to return to our respective homes to dry off, warm up and hope for better weather next time.