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I have definitely spent MORE than enough time this week, pretending to be a human being.  MORE than enough.   The illusion is, frankly, wearing thin. 

I did a hedge survey course today.  2 injured out of 18 course attendees during a short walk along a muddy lane, 1 of them needing X-rays seems like some sort of record.   Clumsy sods these human beings. 

There was free food!  Including excellent carrot cake!   And I learned to identify hedge bedstraw, and how to tell a spindle tree when it's not fruiting.   I feel I learned less about landscape archaeology, as mostly that section was strong on  'stuff we can't be sure about'.  But that is a form of learning of a sort. 


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
27th Apr, 2012 17:46 (UTC)
I first read that as two out of eighteen hedges injured.
28th Apr, 2012 08:07 (UTC)
Ah, I think it would be far more than 2/18 hedges injured. Many of our historic hedges are in a parlous state, don'cha know! :-D
28th Apr, 2012 05:45 (UTC)
somebody needed x-rays from a hedge survey party? Good gracious.
28th Apr, 2012 08:06 (UTC)
She tripped, fell on her face, bashed her nose and somehow twisted her shoulder and neck. The other one found an ancient iron spike protruding from a hedge, and trod on it.

I had felt slight mockery at the health and safety briefing (health and safety? I walk this country every day, it's not like it is mountains or bogs, it's just fields and lanes!)

I take it all back! Clearly a malevolent god watches over historic hedges and does NOT want them documented!
30th Apr, 2012 19:12 (UTC)
Gawd, and I thought archaeological field survey was a perilous escapade? This hedge business sounds much more dangerous.

'Stuff we can't be sure about...' Interesting...
30th Apr, 2012 20:13 (UTC)
Well, I may have got it wrong - there was a lot of stuff in one day, what with the botany, and the history and the survey forms and the admin and the cake.

But basically the message seemed to be 'there is no way to date a hedge for certain by looking at it. Also, most of our hedges are ridiculously old and Significant. So go look at old maps.' Which was a more history/documentation focussed approach than I was expecting, really, but also simpler!
30th Apr, 2012 20:25 (UTC)
Anything that involves cake HAS to be good!!!

I always understood that you count the number of species of tree or shrub in a certain length of hedge, and for every species of tree or shrub, the hedge will be a hundred years old.

This always struck me as being a wee bit over simplistic and unlikely... Maps do seem like a much better bet for some hedge detective work.

Most of our hedges are Victorian or Georgian in date, and we don't have any of those massive hedge-banks that you have in profusion in your neck of the woods...
30th Apr, 2012 21:48 (UTC)
Apparently they were struggling for volunteers. Strategic error there, I'm sure if they had advertised the excellent FREE CAKE there would have been a queue. :-D

The 'so many species per 100 years' theory was covered specifically, and we were instructed that on no account were we to pay any attention to it!

Apparently the theory itself is a bit dodgy at the best of times, but if it works anywhere, it's in the sort of newish hedges you mention, not our whopping great stone-faced things.

The stretch of Significant Hedge that has been picked out for survey that is nearest me is thought to be medieval, but I will need to do some rummaging and try to find out why (and for that matter what that means: we were asked to narrow it down to early, middle or late, and so far as I can see, that's probably going to depend on the earliest documentation proving its existence...)

They are a bit 'grandfather's axe' - you know, the head and the handle have both been replaced many times, but it's still my grandfather's axe ... :-D
1st May, 2012 17:32 (UTC)
Okay. Here's my suggestion.

Take one large 21 ton excavator with flat-toothed ditching bucket. Park alongside hedge/bank, hack a big hole in it (say 2m in extent, extending into the middle of the bank, record internal strata and hopefully get some charcoal from underneath the wall/hedge which can be dated and which will hopefully give you a medieval (or earlier!) date.

Oops. I think that'd go down like a lead balloon, since it's definitely in the sledgehammer to crack a nut category of archaeological investigation.

ANYONE would fall for the free cake lark, surely. I mean, I'd even be tempted to jet down from here by the lure of free cake...
1st May, 2012 20:54 (UTC)
LOL. If I come across anyone who happens to be cutting through a hedgebank to make a new gate (requires exactly the ingredients you have suggested) I shall bear this advice in mind!
1st May, 2012 21:02 (UTC)
I'm surprised they haven't tried doing it this way before. And on a regular basis. If you can get RC dates from the core of the wall itself and the old ground surface beneath it, then you're onto a winner. Especially if you repeat the exercise in a variety of locations.

Gosh. I feel another Ph.D. coming on... On second thoughts, perhaps not...
1st May, 2012 21:13 (UTC)
Possibly they have? I only have a 1-day course to go on, I have no idea how much was left out. I'm just going on having observed in my perambulatings that sometimes, big new gate-holes appear!
1st May, 2012 21:21 (UTC)
Sadly, it seems unlikely. It will all depend whether your local council flags up developments on these features as worthy of archaeological mitigation. I'm not that au fait with the archaeological planning regs in Englandshire (they're slightly different, though not alarmingly so), but I would guess that inserting new gates would be seen as permitted development: most agricultural things don't usually need planning permission.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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