Our current Prehistoric dig has revealed a surface studded with fragments of abraded and worked chert under 5mm, many under 2mm, suggesting it was where someone sat up to 10.000 years ago making stone tools.

Probable Mesolithic surface detail
All Rights Reserved – Alex Whitlock

If you look at the photo, the material we are interested in is the small black bits of stone. Many of the sharply angled bits are debitage while the more rounded pieces have been abraded or worn by natural processes, like being rolled in the water or soil. Debitage is the stone left over from making stone tools – a sort of lithic sawdust.

Unsurprisingly, these tiny fragments of stone are often missed in excavations. One of the benefits of the dry weather, and not rushing, is that we have been fortunate enough to spot these micro finds and change our approach to the excavation accordingly. End result – we are now mixing it with the Mesolithic.

Alex Whitlock, August 2018


Please note – this is a closed dig and not open to members of the public.

Pendle’s Hidden Valley Field Walk (14 April 2018) Upper Craggs

The Joy Of Flexibility – aka. The Best Laid Plans Of Mice & Men

Alex Whitlock


The intention had been to look at possible prehistoric features between the Nick Of Pendle and Ogden Clough. And for the first few hundred yards we stuck to that resolve. However, half our number were largely unacquainted with the area and there was a degree of curiosity about our earlier digs around Craggs. So….

Beast Of The Day – A lovely lively local scarab
(image – A Whitlock, all rights reserved)

We struck out for the old clamp kilns we dug a couple of years ago. En route we visited the Chartist Well and tried, And not for the first time, to find the track of the original track to Craggs Dole – marked on maps until very recently. Once again it eluded us but it did take us to the site of the kilns. Having sped along at 1 mph (1.6 kph), we decided to have an early picnic in the bowl of the kilns. For some it was an opportunity for a little lie down – the urge probably set in lack of motion by my potted history of our exploration. A local (above) had it heard it all before and tried to leg it (x6).

Rested we continued along the probable line of the medieval highway, passing above the site of Great Craggs. From there we took advantage of low bracken levels to look at previously uninvestigated areas. A series of one thing after anothers led us to the outline of a small building that had not been recorded before. Nearby were some enigmatic scatters of stone.

Water supply for the fold’s sheep wash pool
(image – A Whitlock, all rights reserved)

A short stroll down to look at the old sheep folds and its later system of water management (above) and we reached our point of return. We walked back to Great Craggs at a lower level than our outward journey. As we did so the sun came out and a light bulb appeared over my head. The newly discovered features were above an area that has produced worked chert (below), limestone’s version of flint, in the past. There exists the strong probability that one of these scatters of stone may have been used in prehistory.

Prehistoric chert blade fragment. Find of the day?
(image – A Whitlock, all rights reserved)

So in spite of deviating from the original plan, we did find another piece of the area’s prehistoric puzzle. Replete with new knowledge, we returned to the cars along the Victorian track from Churn Clough Res in bright sun with layers being shed on the way. There was also quite a bit of sago in the puddles….

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

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

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

I’m sure the site’s archaeology is taunting us. Sondage A revealed what looks like the rest of the Doughnut. It’s a feature built of medium sized pebbles and it may well be a pad to go under a wooden post.

Trench 1 Sondage A showing the pebble made feature

After a day of finding mostly worked stone, today continued in much the same way (see Find Of The Day below) until….. near the pebble feature, Steven foung a large piece of late Medieval/early Post Medieval pottery. I had been wondering if the feature related to a Medieval structure and this suggests it was. What is confusing is why we have had so few finds from Anno Domini and so many from BC. I have been having thinks about that…

Find Of The Day is from BC (not Before Chert). It is a piece of worked quartz or quartzite, representing the increasing amount of this that we have been finding.

Find Of The Day – worked quartz

The one that is Find Of The Day is a wedge of quartz or quartzite that has then been retouched along its working edge – bracketed in red. Its a very hard material to work with any degree of control and it may have been more for ritual or show than practical use.

Beast Of The Day is a freshly emerged lacewing that took a shine to Georgina. Lacewings are predators of a number of pests including aphids.

Alex Whitlock

Beast Of The Day – a freshly emerged lacewing

We returned to the past today. In order to make the most of the time we have left we are opening three sondages in the existing trench. A sondage is basically a trench within a trench. We must be getting further back in time as today was aceramic. Our finds trays were all devoid of pottery but contained many pieces of worked chert.

Trench 1 Context 3 and Sondage C being excavated

Find Of The Day is…….Finds Of The Day….again. Well, you may be shocked to find out, it’s worked chert. The two examples pictured were found by in Sondages B and C.

Finds Of The Day - worked chert
Finds Of The Day – worked chert

Beast Of The Day was a furry friend saved from a watery doom. The Tegenaria was then reluctant to leave me until I placed it somewhere secluded.
For the rest of the week will be excavating by sondage. Hopefully we will manage to get back to the time before humans first stood upon this bit of Great Britain.

Alex Whitlock

Beast Of The Day – a furry friend saved from a watery doom

Just another Manic Monday.

Started off trying to make sure the small finds (individually numbered and measured in because they may be important) & bulk finds (recorded in bulk by context) were bagged and labeled properly and that all the paperwork matched up while the others started attacking context 3 in earnest.

Trench 1, Contexts 3 and 4 at close of play

Its been an odd context so far – some rather late looking glass & 2 bits of metal work, no pottery to speak of, and lots of lovely chert.
Find Of The Day is more Finds Of The Day. The Finds being the 2 bits of metal work. One was from Context 3 and the other from 4 (the Doughnut context). I’ve chosen them because they pose us a rather unwelcome puzzle. They need to be examined more before any thoughts can be formulated.

Find Of The Day – our 2 metal miscreants.

Beast Of The Day was a racing ground beetle larva, probably looking for some tasty slug snacks.
Rest day tomorrow then back into the pit on Wednesday.

Beast Of The Day – super fast ground beetle larva

We were at it again today, delving underground, lifting up rocks to peer into Pendle’s past. It’s getting more complex and older. The largest amount of pottery today was Medieval & there was precious little of that though Gayle did find a beauty. By far the most prolific material found today was stone, and chert in particular. The contexts we are working through have more stone in them than the upper two strata. Our finds are suggesting that the locals had been working lithics (making stone tools) in prehistory.

Trench 1 Context 4 or Feature 1 aka Idris’s Doughnut

The archaeology is getting more complex as well as older. The prime example of this is Idris’s Doughnut – picture above. Idris was tasked with excavating a potential feature in the north west of the trench. It turned out to be quarter of a shallow pit with a raised centre – a bit like a fossil ring doughnut. The fill had quite a lot of good quality silver grey chert in it.

Find Of The Day – the first charcoal of the dig

Also in the fill was the Find Of The Day, the first charcoal we have found on the dig. Charcoal is important to archaeologists because it has the potential to provide dating evidence through Carbon 14 testing. C14 is a radioactive isotope that decays at a steady rate so it is possible to tell from the amount left how long an organism has been dead. Charcoal from quick growing trees like hazel & willow produces more accurate dates than from trees like oak or ash. The testings not cheap though.

Beast Of The Day – a highly mobile cybermat

Beast Of The Day was found scooting around at high speed on the edge of the doughnut. It looks like a tiny little (less than 10mm) cybermat – and for certain garden pests it is just as deadly. The miniature terror is a rove beetle, probably Tachinus rufipes.

We will be digging tomorrow, day off Tuesday, then back to the trenches on Wednesday etc – and hopefully further back in time.

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
Wonderful Wednesday indeed after the deluge of the previous two days. No rain and the stream was running clear. Today we continued lowering context 2 and are playing catch up in the small uphill extension.
Trench 1 + extension

We are having to go frustratingly carefully at the moment. Usually we would be at least twice as far down but there has been a significant amount of material pre dating the Georgians that requires a degree of delicacy and care so we can’t be too bullish.

Find Of The Day was by Catherine in the extension and is pre Georgian but not particularly delicate. It is a sherd from what was probably a Stuart platter or charger.
Find Of The Day – pottery sherd, probably from a Stuart platter or charger

There was a bit of competition for Beast Of The Day. Cuteness won and the decision went to a miniature myriapod, probably a baby centipede.

Alex Whitlock

The rain continued over night and into today which had left the nearby stream looking a bit excitable.
To accommodate the weather we had a late start and finished off some of the finds work in the morning.

Tuesday’s turbid torrent

After lunch we deturfed an extension to the trench. Gayle spotted the Find Of The Day on the newly exposed surface. It was tiny heat crazed microlithic flint chipping.

Find Of The Day – heat crazed microlithic flint chipping

The prevailing conditions meant the indigenous wildlife was a little reticent about showing itself. Beast Of The Day ended up being a damaged Diptera sharing our site accommodation.
Forecast for tomorrow is good and the turfs up so its time to trowel ten.

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

First day of our closed dig in hidden fold of the Hidden Valley. Well second day really – yesterday we de-turfed trench one (T1) and it was a case of many hands make light work.

Anyway back to today. We spent the whole day removing the top and sub soil – basically this meant the top 200 mm or so. We are now on the top of our first context which is probably only a century or so old. That said the finds from today spanned about 8000 years. The newest things were Victorian, the oldest Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age), and in between a tiny fragment that is probably from a nearby Tudor building.

Trench 1 – clearing the sub soil

Find of the day was a suprise. We found quite a bit of worked chert, used for making stone tools in prehistory, but that is not unexpected in the Hidden Valley. What we haven’t found before is what most people see as the staple for prehistoric toolmakers – flint. Today that changed when Catherine found our Find Of The Day. It’s a tiny Late Mesolithic/Early Neolithic microlith with a burin (a sort of gouge) knapped onto it. The burin is the pointy bit.

Day 1 – Find Of The Day – Mesolithic flint microlith

Beast Of The Day at the top of the page is the odd tiny Eriosomatinae or Woolly Aphid to it’s chums. Strange little thing isn’t it? Is minute is Word Of The Day?

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’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