Two days in the Park…

… Page’s Park, Leighton Buzzard, this time! CAGG teamed up with members of the Leighton Buzzard and District Archaeological and Historical Society to undertake a survey in Page’s Park which is next to the light railway.  Why here?  There is an early reference to the find of a “Roman well” in the Park which is marked on the OS maps.  Here is the description from the Bedfordshire HER:

A supposed Roman well was found at Stonhill (Page’s Park) in the mid 19th century. The structure was lined with sandstone. Red deer antlers were found in the well, but no datable finds. Other depressions visible on air photos of Page’s Park are likely to be the results of quarrying.

We spent two days in the Park and managed to survey nine grid squares on the first day and twelve on the second.  Quite a feat to cover so much ground.  It was a challenge for me too as I was trying to lay out the 40m grid using  UCL’s nice new shiny dGPS but not aligned on the OS grid this time. The layout of the park made it more sensible to rotate the grid about 30 degrees anticlockwise.  I’m glad to say it worked, but I am painfully aware I need to learn how to use QGIS for the data processing.  It helped that there was a good ‘phone signal for a change, but the nice mature trees were a problem around the edges.  The Park also has a surprising amount of topography. The NE side where the cricket pitch lies is quite flat but the SW side is surprisingly hilly.  Even the football pitch lies in a hollow.

Pauline Hey heads for the goal.

Pauline Hey heads for the goal.

As one might expect, there was considerable modern interference: two goal mouths, a mast for a CCTV camera, manhole covers indicating the presence of utilities…

Page's Park magnetometry survey.

Page’s Park magnetometry survey.

A first glance at the results of the survey shows these features quite clearly. The vast majority of strong readings, shown as black or white in the plot, are modern features: the gas pipe which runs along the northern edge of the park, the utilities for the cricket pavilion, as well as some other unknown ferrous items.  I have plotted some of these in the next figure.

Some of the modern features in the Park.

Some of the modern features in the Park.

Two of the questions which arose from looking at the plot of the first day’s work (the area to the left of the line of trees) were: what are the two curving lines in the top-left corner and more centrally (both marked as ‘edge of slope’ above); and why does the depression near the approximate location of the well have such a strange mixed but strong signal?

To answer the first question I decided to use the new dGPS to undertake a rapid topographic survey of the area to the west of the trees (another first for me!).  The next three images show the results: firstly the topo survey, secondly the mag survey of that area and lastly the two overlain but with the topo survey made moderately transparent.

Topographic survey of the Park. Green is low, white is high.

Topographic survey of the Park. Green is low, white is high.

The western half of the mag survey.

The western half of the mag survey.

The topographic survey overlain on the magnetic survey.

The topographic survey overlain on the magnetic survey.

As you can clearly see, some of the curving features are clearly the result of the topography.  Most probably they are the result of the magnetically enhanced topsoil accumulating at the bottom of the slopes.

What about the funny “depression”?  This could be clearly seen on the surface.  I have boosted the colour and contrast in the next image to make it clearer on the photograph.

The depression in the park. The colours and contrast have been boosted.

The depression in the park. The colours and contrast have been boosted.

The depression can be clearly seen in the topo data, and on the ground.  It is near the approximate site of the well as far as we can tell from the 19th century records.  This could be the well, but why does the survey show such a busy strong pattern?  Towards the end of the first day some of the workmen stopped to chat.  One told us they had dumped two foot or so of material from the old car park in the hole!  This could still be the well, but the results from the mag are more modern noise.

Having discounted slopes, pipes, rubble and goal posts, did we find anything?  There are a number of features which merit more attention.  I have marked some of them in the next image.

Possible archaeological features in the survey data.

Possible archaeological features in the survey data.

These are only a few of the possible features.  There are also a number of potential pits.  Sorting this out in detail will require much more time to go through the data carefully.  Of course, we cannot date these features and further interpretation will require a careful look at any historical or map data that might be available, or even the excavation of some carefully targeted test trenches.  The value of a survey such as this is that any test trenches can be placed precisely in order to examine the potential archaeology, rather than being placed randomly with the hope of hitting something interesting!

Many thanks to all that helped including Pauline Hey, Bernard Jones, Richard Gleave; Trudi Ball, Miranda McGarry and Jeff Langdown.

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