On 31st July this year, as part of the Festival of British Archaeology, Tom Sunley (Historic Environment Records Data Manager) and I led a tour of a section of the Wansdyke in Wiltshire. Our focus of the walk was looking at the most impressive part of the Wansdyke which runs from Morgan’s Hill to the western edge of Savernake Forest (known as the eastern Wansdyke), across the stunning landscape of the Marlborough Downs, see map below.
We had a great turn out of people and were blessed with a pleasant summer's day. We started the walk from Knapp Hill car park, SU 11570 63822, just over a mile north of Alton Barnes and walked up to Tan Hill which affords the best views of this section of the East Wansdyke.
From Tan Hill we headed east back along the Wansdyke path to Red Shore then headed south down the byway back to the car park. In total this circular walk is approximately 5 miles long.
The Wansdyke is a long linear defensive earthwork consisting of a substantial bank and ditch. At its most impressive on Bishop’s Cannings Down it is over 45 m wide, with a bank of over 5 m, producing a scarp slope of 12.5 m. Whilst there is still some debate over the exact western terminal, it is generally considered to be the hillfort of Maes Knoll in north Somerset and at its eastern end Savernake Forest near Marlborough.
Archaeologists are often thought only to be interested in very old remains – and those are very important to us – but we are also interested in more modern finds and features too. Too often we think we already know everything about events that have happened within living memory, but it’s surprising how often things turn up that have been forgotten, at least within the public record.
Longehedge is an area of land to the north of the Old Sarum Airfield. Old Sarum airfield has a long and illustrious military history. Our original interest in Longhedge was sparked by an Iron Age settlement that appears on aerial photographs. Initial geophysical survey showed the enclosed Iron Age settlement, but also lots of other interesting and unusual features that appeared to be military in origin.
So, in order to get some more information about all of these interesting features, a trenched evaluation was undertaken. The results from the geophysical surveys and trial trenches were mapped (below) and show the iron age and modern features.
Some readers will be aware of the new series on BBC Radio 4 called Disability: A New History. It is a ten-part series where “Across the country, historians are discovering the voices of disabled people from the past.” You can hear recordings of the series, which are posted for only limited time, and view an image gallery on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/
This opens up a hidden history. As the programme’s presenter Peter White said, it is as if people with disabilities didn’t exist in the past or what they did was worth recording, yet for thousands of years disabled people have been getting on with their lives.