Helium Wednesday: high jinx on site

Another beautiful day…what IS going on here??? This is Britain, remember? Endless, bright blue sunny days with high clouds and a hint of a breeze just don’t usually happen to us! But it is happening….3 weeks in and the sun is still shining…and no hint of rain as yet. The archaeology is crying out for some rain….it is dry and parched, and troweling is becoming a superhuman effort. But – we are loving it! Everyone is berry brown  and we are becoming used to wearing shorts and strap vests, and sitting outside in the evening glow as a red hot sun goes down behind the spoil heap. Perfect summer days.

As I drove on to site this morning, the first thing I saw was Mark with his helium balloon, gently inflating it into the air. All day long we watched as Mark lifted first his kite – and then his balloon – and then his kite – and then both of them together into the air, into an airborne dance above the trench. And the photographs he is producing are wonderful – clear, sharp overhead views of the entire town and our trenches within them. You can zoom in and out of these images and capture every single layer of soil in pristine detail.


Balloon on a beautiful Silchester morning

Busy Wednesday morning, making announcements about our forthcoming Open Day – it’s on Saturday and the forecast is GOOD. I haven’t been able to say that for many years! I also met with Jen Wilson my Database Manager to catch up with progress and use of the iPad minis on site. Progress IS being made…slow but sure…and even Matt was spotted today with one…..

IPad Mini, maximum concentration

IPad Mini, maximum concentration

We had 2 booked in tours today – both groups are old favourites of ours. First up was Petersfield Archaeology Group, organised by Lyn Pease, longtime Silchester digger, friend and Saga Lout. I enjoyed giving this tour – I had about 20 people on the tour and we used the headsets so that I could stand some distance away on the site and talk to them whilst gesticulating wildly at the archaeology. They were so interested and enthusiastic and I loved the interaction. The site looked beautiful, and Basingstoke gently wavered in the distance below a heat haze.

In the afternoon we entertained Judith Broadgate and her U3A Group – they have been visiting Silchester for the last 6 years – and Mike took them on tour. It was hot and dusty but the story of the archaeology is enough to keep everyone on tenterhooks – and I have just received a lovely e-mail from Judith saying what an exceptional time they had. Immediate feedback – and much valued!

I took some family time out today! My sister Emma visited us with my nieces Eliza and Josie – Silchester veterans all 3. Emma was my very first site manager in 1997 when we first began, so it was fitting that she should be back in this the final season. Sadly I couldn’t persuade her to don an apron and start washing up…but I did coax Eliza and Josie into the trench where Josie showed a definite talent for troweling…..

photo-4 photo-1 011Meanwhile on site everyone coped admirably with the hot hot weather,and the fact that our generator had died. This meant we had no power for our computers and printers – and, most importantly, no internet. So, poor Jen, my normally desk bound Project Assistant had to find other ways to pass her time……


Lesson 1: using a pickaxe


Lesson 2: leaning on a shovel

The hot weather did not deter the Saga Louts in the slightest…and Steve, Kevin, Lyn and Peter laid waste to Nick’s cultivation soil horizon……never have I seen 4 people more in need of a refreshing glass or two at the end of a day.

Peter in action

Peter in superb action

As the very hot day drew to a close Mike and I took stock…we walked around both trenches looking at the archaeology and planning strategy for the week ahead…..

Let’s end with a Happy Birthday to Ceri….21 today! Ceri celebrated by getting to the very bottom of an early Roman rubbish pit she and Bradley have been excavating. Nice work team!


21 today


Bradley, Ceri, and one beautifully excavated early Roman rubbish pit!

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