After yesterday afternoon’s colossal effort, this morning was sedate. Georgina & I spent the morning cleaning the worst off some of the finds so that they could be stored until it was time for proper cleaning and analysis. We also had a look at the trench & put a few sods back in place. The rest need to go down. Weather permitting, I will probably do that on my lonesome on Friday (unless anyone is fool enough to come & help). Rain is forecast tomorrow which should mean it won’t be as hot as it was when we refilled the trench yesterday.

T1 – turfs up but they need to go down

Georgina managed to get a Find Of The Day! She spotted a small piece of pottery among the sods and it turned out to be a rim sherd from a late Medieval/early Post Medieval vessel – quite a fancy one too. It is quite finely potted with glaze both inside & outside, possibly from something like a drinking bowl.

Find Of The Day – rim sherd of a late Medieval/early Post Medieval vessel
Beasts Of The Day were a colony of pond skaters making the most of the available water, cute little things & very soothing to watch them.
That is pretty much it for these daily write ups. There will be updates as and when new developments emerge – particularly as we start the post excavation process. Keep your eyes open for sessions you can join in with on the Future Events page.
My thanks are extended to all those who have helped or come to visit us – especially Catherine, Gayle & Steven who put in many hours of hard work, also Georgina, Idris & Peter – and to our hosts who gave us such luxurious quarters as our site hut.
It has been an odd fortnight or so – we arrived on site expecting to find remnants of the Medieval occupation site and have ended up with what looks like a prehistoric knapping site. That’s Pendle’s Hidden Valley and archaeology for you – ask them questions and you are always going to be surprised by the answers.
Alex Whitlock
Beasts Of The Day – a whole bunch of them there critters

Yesterday we finished digging, so today we had a few things to do before we could start throwing all the stuff we had taken out over the last fortnight back in again. Sooooooooooo in the morning we photographed and recorded all the sections (the sides) of the trench. Only then did an elite task force of three put over seven tonnes of stone, soil, & etc, back into the trench and tamp it down ready for the turf – in under 4 hours mind you. Just goes to show how tough rice pudding skins can be. I was amazed and have to say a huge thank you to Idris​ and Peter for their superhuman efforts. Hope they can move in the morning.

2 out of 3 of the back filling team – pyramid to the fore

Find Of The Day was among the stones removed from the feature. It will need confirmation but we seem to have at least one hammer stone from Feature 1.

Find Of The Day – a possible hammer stone

Beast Of The Day was a gorgeous ground beetle that spent time running over us ensuring we were free from slugs.

All that remains to be done on site is putting the sods (that huge Mesoamerican pyramid in the pic) back where they came from & putting the site hut back as it was before we invaded.
Then it’s the post ex, starting with washing the finds we have found since the last rainy day – anyone up for a bit of scrubbing?

Alex Whitlock

ps You can now make comments on posts (see below)

Beast Of The Day – this gorgeous ground beetle

Last day of digging today. Even hotter than yesterday so regular retreats to the shade with bottles of water were necessary. A bit more Context 3 was peeled back & Features 1 and 2 were recorded and excavated. The trench photo was taken at close of play today.

Trench 1 still in the sun

Find Of The Day made up part of the structure of Feature 1. It has slumped onto its side but the original packing and bedding is visible in the section photo with a 10 cm scale leaning against it. It is almost certainly an anvil stone used by the prehistoric inhabitants to knap stone tools. A lot of worked chert debitage (waste) has been found in the feature & this should help give us a date when analysed.

Find Of The Day – anvil stone at an angle

Beast Of The Day was a site hut hoverfly. It was being quite territorial & attacked any nasty flies (greenbottles mainly) that came into the hut.

Tomorrow morning the sections will be recorded and then in the afternoon we have over six tonnes of material to encourage back into our excavation.

Alex Whitlock

Beast Of The Day – hut hoverfly
We had more fathers than mothers on site today and it was scorchio. Sondage D has been taken down to ‘the natural’, Feature 1 has been cleaned up and recorded, ditto Feature 2, and elsewhere more of Context 3 is being peeled back. Judging from the pottery found in it, Context 3 looks like it is probably Medieval and will hopefully give a clearer picture of how people lived on the site in that period.
1 in the sun
The Finds Of The Day are chert tools. Peter found a late Bronze Age/early Iron Age end scraper/gouge & Steven unearthed a D shaped scraper, probably Bronze Age, in Feature 2.
Finds Of The Day – worked chert – Peter’s end scraper/gouge & Steven’s D shaped scraper
As we picnicked in the shade we were joined by a rather cute money spider – probably a Linyphiidae species. It was quite happy to have its picture taken and is our Beast Of The Day.
One full day of digging left then its recording and backfilling on Tuesday. Many hands make light work and all that – nudge nudge wink wink….
Alex Whitlock
Beast Of The Day – the money spider who came to lunch

Today I started recording some of the sections and to help me do this I used some high tech – to wit a camera & some cotton buds . Well I do like the sections to be kept nice & clean. We make a record of the sections so that we have some idea of the layers of history (& different types of dirt) we have cut through. For our special guest diggers, the next generation of archaeologists, it was also a useful demonstration of the story archaeology can tell about a place.

East facing section of the Trench 1 extension

Gayle bagged yet another Find Of The Day – a lovely piece of a Medieval green glazed ware. Its a sherd from the top of a ‘strap’ handle off a large vessel, possibly a pitcher or flagon. They are called strap handles because they are made by attaching a strap like, rather than tube like, piece of clay to the vessel.

Find Of The Day – Medieval yellow/green glazed ‘strap’ handle pot sherd

There were lots of candidates for Beast Of The Day but as the weather was so much warmer they were much harder to photograph. My choice was a horsefly with amazing psychedelic eyes, but this was vetoed as I had rearranged it a bit. The actual Beast Of The Day was a somewhat worse for wear Green Veined White that alighted on the dig diary.

Beast Of The Day – a somewhat worse for wear Green Veined White

The weather bodes poorly for trench photography but fine for those digging for the rest of the dig. We have two more full days of digging then we will backfill on Tuesday arvo.

Alex Whitlock

My choice for Beast Of The Day (vetoed) – its all there, not necessarily in the right order though

We have been concentrating on the feature previously known as Idris’s Doughnut and trying to find ‘the natural’. The Doughnut continues to grow and now seems to be a made cobble platform of some sort & probably pre-dating the existing buildings in the area. The surface a short distance below it certainly pre-dates them – it was probably there when humans returned to the area as the ice retreated at the end of the last ice-age (not the film fyi). In different parts of the trench, Steven & Catherine dug through this grey silt and clay strata to expose a layer of stones dropped by the glacier as it traveled through the valley. These layers are ‘the natural’ so mission partially accomplished. In another sondage, in another part of the trench, Gayle had started to expose the top of what looks like the the silty layer by the end of the day.

Trench 1’s extension’s sondage’s sondage – so there

Steven’s journey into the deep past involved the pictured sondage within a sondage. The stoney layer is so closely packed that we were unable to get the point of the ranging rod into the ground. The white section (NOT including the point) is 50cm which gives some idea of the thickness of this layer. The silt and clay was probably deposited when the area was covered by a lake or slow moving body of water.

Find Of The Day – glacier poo aka a glacial erratic

Find Of The Day comes from the layer of stones below the silt. It’s a decent sized lump of sandstone that the glacier has carried from where it was formed and then dropped in our trench. There it sat patiently for about 15000 years or more, waiting for Catherine to come along and wrest it from it’s resting place. These bits of stone that drop from the bottom of the glacier are known as glacial erratics.

The Beast Of The Day has two rather splendid names – Pseudargyrotoza conwagana for formal occasions but Yellow Spot Twist to its friends.

Tomorrow we are hoping to unearth some more clues about our pebble made feature.

Alex Whitlock

Beast Of The Day – Pseudargyrotoza conwagana, what a name for a day flying micro moth
Piddling down today so a few of us mainline archaeo junkies did some finds cleaning and on-the-hop site analysis. The top of context 3 has had a nice wash and cool down ready for a good doing over on Sunday.
Trench 1 Context 3 with special cooling areas for tomorrow’s heat
As is becoming usual with finds’ laundry days, Find Of The Day became obvious only after cleaning. Today’s little treasure was only in the finds tray as a bit of fun. One of our newer diggers had thought it was something like a scraper so I decided it could stay in the tray as an example of an ‘eolith’. A century or so ago these were stones originally thought to be artefacts of Britain’s earliest inhabitants but turned out to be of natural origin – the resemblance to actual tools being natural happenstance. People actually collect these lookalikes. Anyhooo once cleaned up our pet eolith bit us on the bum. With t’muck removed its true use was immedietely apparent. Covered in cut marks, smoothed grains, and the characteristic wide shallow U profile of an old fashioned sharpening or honing stone. If you have an old well used whetstone look at it side on and you will see that classic profile. A surprise find.
Find Of The Day – sharpening stone
Beast Of The Day is Empis tessellata, a fly on stilts with a taste for flowers jeweled with rain. It seemed to be supping the nectar from the bloom.
Beast Of The Day – a fly on stilts with a taste for flowers

One final note – while we will be digging next week, the site will be closed on Tuesday. We will be digging again on Wednesday though.

Alex Whitlock

Yay – it was digging weather again today and we worked our way down to our third context in the main part of the trench and played catch up in the extension. We are getting quite a bit of microlithic (ie tiny) flint mixed up with pottery from about 300 to about 700 years ago.
Trench 1 Context 2 (in the extension) and Context 3
Find Of The Day was made somewhere in the middle. Gayle found a ‘Marles’ chert side scraper or knife. The working edge is the top edge and you can see where it has been retouched (a way of sharpening the stone) at the skinny end. There is a series of removals on the other side to make it more comfortable to use.
Find Of The Day – ‘Marles’ chert tool. The working edge is the top edge.
The beast with two backs is our Beast Of The Day. It is actually two beasts of the same Chloropidae species doing their best to ensure that species survival.
Beast Of The Day – the beast with two backs aka a pair of very amorous Chloropidae
In an attempt to resolve various prehistoric questions raised by the dig, and compensate for days lost to rain, the dig will remain open into next week, except for Tuesday when the site will be closed. We are very grateful to the landowners for giving us the opportunity to bring the dig to a satisfactory conclusion.
Alex Whitlock
The rain returned today and it seemed to be enjoying itself. We cleaned about a third of yesterdays finds and theorised about what the artifacts we have found so far may tell us about the site’s history. We also looked at our soggy trench and saw a few things that have been exposed by the rain – see if you can spot a couple below.
Trench 1 Context 2 – There is at least one piece of ceramic and one piece of worked flint hiding in the picture.

Today we had a visit from Stuart Noon, the author of the recently published ’50 Finds From Lancashire’ (available in the Pendle Heritage Centre bookshop), who threw in a few theories of his own. It was he who spotted impressions on our daub fragment.

Find Of The Day – a fragment of daub with impressions left by the wattle

Find Of The Day is said fragment of daub with impressions left by the wattle. This may be from the existing 16th century building or from an earlier structure. Daub is notoriously hard to date and was used widely from prehistory until fairly recently.
Beast Of The Day was a cute little Garden Spider (& the remains of its last meal – possibly an earlier Beast) who kept us company in our site accommodation.

Alex Whitlock

Miserable Monday indeed. Yeh verily it did piddle down all day. But lo, we were not daunted, for we were fortified with hot drinks and comfortable seats.

The covers stayed on the playing fields today

We spent to day cleaning finds to date and starting the assessment of the bulk finds. Find Of The Day goes to something that looked like nothing until cleaned – a small sherd of a Medieval splash glazed gritty ware (12th to 13th Century).

Find Of The Day – Medieval splash glazed gritty ware (12th to 13th Century)

Beast Of The Day is the extravagantly named Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus.

Beast Of The Day – revels in the epithet Dryophilocoris flavoquadrimaculatus

Please note that even if the weather is misbehaving, as it was today, we will still be working at the dig site. Our wonderful facilities meant we were able start cleaning the finds and assessing the site based on what we have found.

Alex Whitlock

Today we started on our first ‘proper’ context (image below). In other words the first undisturbed archaeological layer. We were still finding Victorian material and prehistoric chert but we have also unearthed some Medieval pottery.

Tench 1 Context 2

The first & best sherd of Medieval pot was found by Steve and is our Find Of The Day. It probably comes from the house that preceded the current one. This would almost certainly have been a timber framed building.

Find Of The Day – yellow/green glazed Medieval pot sherd

Beast Of The Day went to lawn grub that greeted us in the morning.

Please note that even if the weather is misbehaving we will still be working at the dig site. Our wonderful facilities mean we can start cleaning the finds and assessing the site based on what we have found.

Alex Whitlock

Pendle from Hays Lane

Today’s field walk explored the valley that connects Barley and the Ogden Valley with Thorney Holme, Roughlee, and the main Hidden Valley. Starting at Barley we walked up Hay’s Lane and followed that to Thorney Holme. Running down the south side of the valley, this rather rough public highway affords famous views of Pendle (above) at one end and out to the border with Yorkshire (below) at the eastern end.
View East from Hays Lane

Walking along it we were able to look across to the other side of the valley and spot what appeared to be the remnants of an older system of fields. Dropping down into Thorney Holme we peeked over a wall to look at the former gunpowder store (below) that once supplied some of the local quarries. After crossing White Hough Water we picnic-ed in full sun near what may well have been the original site of Roughlee Hall.
Gunpowder Store, Thorney Holme

After lunch we commenced our return leg, ascending the north side of the valley before dropping down briefly to the valley floor through White Hough. On the western side of the small cluster of buildings, some a good number of centuries old, we climbed up through Bollard Wood to have a look at some of the features we had seen from Hays Lane. We found a number of artificial platforms but were unable to determine their original purposes. We also found evidence of an old road or track that predates the first OS maps of the area. It may relate to the platforms, but the again, it might not. This track runs through the features we had seen from Hays Lane. These were indeed the remnants of an older more haphazard field system. This is likely to be Medieval or earlier in date and the fields were probably stocked more than cropped.

From this field system we dropped back down to Barley to complete our circuit of the valley, some of us realising that a hat might have been a good idea after all. Before we did so we took a moment to take in the view over Barley toward the high ground hiding Newchurch to the south west (below) and Spence Moor & Ogden Clough to the west. During our walk a few pieces of worked chert were found – the oldest dating to between c.7000 and c.3500 BC. We had walked a long way back in time.

View over Barley from above Slank Laith (aka Stang Laith)

Pendle’s Hidden Valley Project – 18th February 2017 – Portfield

Alex Whitlock

This month’s fieldwalk was centred on the key feature of the western end of the Sabden Valley – Portfield. The site is private property and not open to the public so we are most thankful to the owners for their kind permission to visit. Portfield is a nationally important monument. Historic Englands record of it (List entry Number: 1013608 – accessed 18 Feb 2017) states;

“Portfield hillfort is a rare example in north west England of a slight univallate hillfort which was subsequently modified at a later date into a small multivallate hillfort. Limited excavations undertaken between the 1950s and 1970s found artefactual evidence which demonstrates that the area occupied by the monument was used from Neolithic times to medieval times, and further evidence of the nature of the settlement at the hillfort will exist.”

Planes Wood platform edge
Planes Wood platform edge

We commenced our exploration in Planes Wood which lies below Portfield and alongside the A671. The trees in the wood are comparatively young but it contains plant species regarded as ancient woodland indicators. It also contains a series of platforms (see picture above) that may be artificial and could relate to the enclosed area higher up. From the wood we worked our way onto the prehistoric site that comprises Portfield. Once there we took advantage of the lack of leaves to take in the vistas that would have been afforded to the ancient occupants. For such a low elevation the views are surprisingly distant and the site’s strategic importance becomes more apparent.

View back to Portfield (arrow) showing the ridge & furrow (pink line) in the pit
View back to Portfield (arrow) showing the ridge & furrow (pink line) in the pit

Leaving Portfield we followed a public footpath toward Read Old Bridge in order to look more closely at some features we had spotted on one of the early survey fieldwalks in January 2014. There is evidence of ancient track ways and older field patterns in the area. A solitary oak (see below) stands in a large field, marking one of a series of field boundaries that were gone by the time Victoria was crowned. There is also evidence of much earlier, possibly pre-monastic, activity. One feature left us a little gob smacked. On the summit of the hill north of Easterly farm is a huge crater. It doesn’t look right for a quarry but it could be a sand or marl pit. Whatever it is, it has some age to it as there is old ridge and furrow running through it (see above). This landscape lies in within an area whose early inhabitants must have had a connection with Portfield.

If you would like to connect with the area’s past, please come and join us. Information on membership of the Friends and about forthcoming activities can be found at

from above Easterly looking North Easterly up the valley
from above Easterly looking North Easterly up the valley

(All images by permission of A.Whitlock – All Rights Reserved)

univallate hillfort – A prehistoric enclosure surrounded by one rampart
multivallate hillfort – A prehistoric enclosure surrounded by two or more ramparts

The expression ‘give the man a medal’ has never seemed more apt. The audience at the talk on Friday evening benefitted from the vast store of knowledge and experience that Mike has garnered and developed by ‘messing about ‘ in boats and navigation canals for over 50 years. By doing so he has been heavily involved in preserving our local and national heritage and indeed northern heritage!
mike-clarke-1400He uncovered some surprising facts, surprising that is if you knew very little about canals! Canal development happened in a much more ad hoc and complex way than might have been thought. Vital groundwork and technology preceded the efforts of the Duke of Bridgewater. Although canals were used for transporting people initially in the 1600’s in the Trekvaart system in the Netherlands., early cargoes on the very successful Aire and Calder were corn and lime. The use of lime is in itself fascinating. Lime led to improvements in mortar and thus houses were able to rise to two stories, enabling the home weaving industry to develop. The purification process involved in the production of iron ore also needed lime
Finance was provided initially by private not public money by a rising merchant class in particular by Quakers in Bradford , an instance of early ethical banking. Transportation of lime ceased as the industrial revolution took hold and the transportation of coal became a major factor in driving industrialisation. Whilst mills were situated by the canal to facilitate easy transport of goods, the water in the canal was important in the cooling of the engines. llc-in-action-1400Thus, the local landscape and working lives were closely intertwined on many levels with the Leeds and Liverpool canal. Although it took seventy five years to complete, the canal was tremendously successful in financial terms. Profit made by the canal company also enabled shares to be bought in the railways making the canals more successful as a business, this led to people being laid off work on the railway in Burnley.
Apparently their demise as an industrial transport system, was due to the decline in coal sales after WW1 this also affected the textile markets which were also partly affected by overseas trade.
Thus, we now have a system whose primary function is to aid the enjoyment of local populations in travelling on water and using the tow paths for exercise and pleasure. People like Mike make one realise how proud we can be of our local heritage and without the hard work of Mike and other volunteers our waterways might not be as salubrious as they are today in this green and pleasant land.