Last week I realised what an English summer is supposed to be like (according to everybody here at Leiston Abbey and the perception or rather jokes around the world) – wind, rain, thunder, lightning and a bit of sun thrown in for good measure just to make it bearable….Just joking but – we had it all last week – by the time I write this the weather has calmed significantly and we actually managed to sit outside our tents for the first time and have a after work drink and chat. Last week was just to wet, cold and windy for that.
Speaking of the wet – the soil here is predominantly clay – lovely sticky clay that literally weighs down your feet by a few pounds and sticks to everything. When the trenches are that wet – the first order of the day is sponge it out – then trowel back – basically taking the sticky top layer off to show the features underneath. However – as soon as the sun is out for just a few hours – that same area becomes stone hard and has to be sprayed with water again to make it possible to work with. The joys of archeology I say.
We have some really cool trenches going at the moment – nobody knew what was under those obvious ditches and banks but boy did we find the goods this year. What a contrast to last year where we worked with stains in the ground and hardly any finds.
This year we are finding loads of broken tile and brick, bone (animal – mostly cow it seems), broken pottery, some masonry and some special things like the Jeton and musket ball mentioned earlier. It’s very exciting as every day we know we’ll find something.
This also means that Mandy our finds specialist has her work cut out – so when the heavens opened with a vengeance on Sunday some of us used the lovely dry barn to help her was all those trays of goodies that are coming out of all the trenches.
I am staying in a communal bell tent again this year – they are not really made for wet weather – especially if they are not put up correctly as was the case with mine. On Wednesday night the wind was so strong that it almost lifted of the ground and flew off (no sleep that night) and on Thursday night I came back to it to discover I had a swimming pool inside with my mattress in the middle of it… (photos to follow at some stage).
Luckily here at the Abbey site Pro Corda the music school who runs the place has a couple of buildings that are actually accommodation for their guests – we have use of one of those buildings the Guesten Lodge to have showers and make us a cup of tea. So I just moved into one of the rooms for the night and some lovely people Ben and Ben re-secured the tent the next morning and even sponged out the water – lovely!
We are also very lucky with our evening lectures this year again – we had one by the English Heritage Inspector, one about the Bamburgh Castle project, the Minsmere bird sanctuary and old Abbey site and a really great one on medieval graffiti in churches here in East Anglia and just last night one on WW2 airfields that are mostly forgotten. Saturday brought the yearly quiz night again – our antipodean team came second to last – oh well – we still had a lot of fun.
For everybody who stays the two weeks and the staff as well there is one day off – Monday and with the summer restored to sunshine with a bit of cloud some of us went exploring again. Leiston Abbey is in fact a re-build. The first Abbey was founded not to far from here in Minsmere. As the name suggests the site was prone to flooding and so 150 or so years after founding they moved the Abbey to its present site here at Leiston.
The old site was still in use and had a chapel built there on top of the old foundations as a retreat for one of the old Abbots – and there seems to be some suggestion that the Canons also had a thriving harbour there that may have silted up over the years, thus blocking their main source of income – it’s all a big mystery really.
Anyway – some of us (we called ourselves the oldies – all in their 40’s and 50’s) went to Minsmere to explore the old site. It’s a lovely walk towards the coast (I actually found it dragged on a bit) that gave us great views over the wetland. We could not find the entrance to the chapel ruins straight away but after going past it right up to the North Sea we met a worker who told us how to get into the actual site ( in nesting season they don’t want people just to walk up there and disturb the birds).
By the time we got back to our cars we where sufficiently hungry and so stayed on at our “local” pub the EelsFoot for lunch which was rather nice.
I used the afternoon to catch up on some shopping in nearby Saxmundham and police the frequent new arrivals where to put up there tents (or rather where not to – as instructed by Lisa) before most of us went to Aldeburgh for a fish and chip dinner on the beach. What a lovely little coastal town that is! Very picturesque indeed and worth a second or third visit for sure – just 20 min from here.
That is how quickly a week can go – and so yesterday we started work on week two with plenty of new venturers and great dry weather – so much so that we had to put sunblock on for the first time. We also discovered that one of the new female venturers must not have any idea on how to have a shower and more importantly how to clean up the mess when one does not put the shower curtain into the bath…. unbelievable to just leave a shared bathroom in a state that makes it impossible to use! So today everybody gets the “Raksha talk” – “I am not your mother”:-)
Oh and if you like more up to date news on the dig – you can follow it here: http://digventures.com/leiston-abbey/