You are currently browsing the daily archive for 23/04/2013.

Another installment in Sue Brooke’s story of her experiences at Caerau Hillfort in Wales.  New readers should start at Part 1 or see here for all previous installments and get right up to date.

It was a while before anything more was heard. Meetings were being held quietly at the school and things were being kept beautifully secret. I worried that these kids who had worked so hard up at the church site would just be pushed to one side when the ‘big-guns’ arrived. This was not the case as the programme incident room was to be based at the school, the helicopter would be taking off from there for the famous aerial views and the strategic meetings would be based there at lunch times.

Then the text came through to tell me the date and time that the whole thing would start. OK, here we go. It was April, it was cold and, guess what, it was wet! I arrived at the school the day before the filming was due to start for the briefing and to be issued with my access-all-areas blue TT wristband. Goodo – that’s me most definitely in. OK, yes, I admit I took some covert photos of the Time Team vehicles. Well, you do, don’t you? These are as much stars of the show as the famous names.

TTLandie

I know, but I couldn’t resist. And yes, I leant on the bonnet.

Now, remember that this is a hillfort. There is now a lane there that helps access when the gate is unlocked. However, in the rain it gets full of mud and becomes dangerous. It was the intention of those who built this to keep uninvited visitors out. Perhaps I had a lot more in common with my Caerau ancestors than anyone had previously considered!   But here I am – waterproofs, boots and blue wristband. There is a security guard on the gate. I kind of saunter up, acting all cool with my arm extended to show my wristband when the security guard asks me to move to one side to allow a vehicle to pass. It was Tony Robinson.

I walked up the hill. It takes a good few minutes, depending on how fit you are. It’s steep and it bends. As I walked around the final corner towards the church there it was. A mess. A huge mess. The rain had continued overnight. The vehicles had accessed the field through the gate where the security men now stood. The access to this rarely opened gate was now one large churned up, heavy, thick, muddy puddle. I really could have wept.

There was a white marquee over near the old church. There were people all over the place. Geophysics people were wandering around, people with cameras were walking about and a small crowd had gathered. Then more vehicles started to arrive regularly, depositing even more people on to the site. It was hard to understand what on earth was going on. My first words were along the lines of – ‘oh, what have you done to my field’. Perhaps they were a little more colourful than that. No, let’s be honest, a LOT more colourful, so probably best not repeated here.

TTDigger

There are TT rules that participants in the programme must agree to. You may only enter the site if you have the appropriate wristband. You must not wander around the field.  You must not get in the way of filming. You must always keep an eye out for cameras, just in case you inadvertently get in the way.  You must be prepared to wait. And wait. And then probably wait some more.

The really nice thing, for me, is that CADW have rules too. One of them is seemingly ‘though shalt not churn up Sue’s field.’  Two lady CADW Inspectors appeared – in hi-vis jackets and welly’s, wearing beautifully official ID badges. They made them sort it all out. They kept the closest eye on what was going on. They had to be consulted at all stages. I loved these two – they were absolutely bloody marvellous!

The whole thing was the oddest thing to be a part of. Being a long term fan of the programmes meant I had invited these people into my living room and listened to what they had to say on most Sundays. I’d watched them and re-watched them. I’d met one of them and I’d read most of the books they had written. Yes, yes, I even have the Mick Aston look-alike scarf. It was therefore quite a shock to see Paul Blinkhorn drive his BMW bike up the hill (very carefully and only once, I have to say). He wandered over to the gate and was immediately stopped by security officers who had no idea who he was. What? It was actually far more entertaining to stay near the gate than it was to be ducking out of camera line on the field itself. And, I have to say these security guys were very kind to the two ladies (I was one) who they nicknamed the Ninja Nanna’s. It’s a long story so don’t ask.

Now, if you were on the field you may have a microphone thrust in front of your face. On this was attached a small screen. If you were really alert you realised that this was actually filming you. Oh, oh!  Come on now, you probably all have HD large screen tellies. Can you actually say, hand on heart that you would want your image appearing in this way, particularly us ladies – without the benefit of hair, make-up and costume stylists? Of course not – well not unless you are a glamorous BGT finalist.  I’m not. I kept my hood up and my head down.

Matt Williams, hard at it!

Matt Williams, hard at it!

As the days went on it kind of became excitable celebrity spotting. Well, for me anyway. The young people from the local schools were brought up to the hill. Activities were being run via the CAER Heritage Project and, I have to say, these kids behaved impeccably. They were patient, they were polite and they were very well behaved, as were, Francis Pryor, John Gater, Paul Blinkhorn and the lovely Matt Williams.  I investigated a shovel throwing earth out of a ditch to find Matt on the end of it. That lovely bloke talked to me for an hour about the area and listened to my ramblings.

Me and Matt

Me and Matt

But of course, I knew that Phil Harding was in my field somewhere. My Time Team  hero.

Phil Harding reminds me of someone who I would describe as a man of the soil. He knows how to dig, he does the digging himself and he generally knows what he’s on about. He has learnt this by getting his boots dirty – no short cuts – just gets in the dirt and works away. A bit like I myself had to learn in understanding how to interpret the site really. Then word was coming through that Phil had found evidence of houses. Well, of course he has! Oddly enough this was just over my garden fence. I got very excited at this but didn’t want to pop up on camera or worse, get in his way.

The security guy on the gate said I was to go with him. So I did. As I approached I could see the hat, the jacket, the hair and, of course, the legendary tool box. There was Phil, in a trench with what looked to me like post holes. I stood there nodding and mute. I had so many questions to ask, so much input to give on MY field and MY thoughts on how life developed here. I could not think of one single intelligent comment to make. Not a single word. Oh dear.

But he had found evidence of roundhouses. I was right. People had lived up on that hill behind my garden fence, at least during the Iron Age, probably before.

Thank you Phil, you just confirmed what I knew already.

Thank you Phil, you just confirmed what I knew already.

Of course, even TT heroes have to eat. So off we went to the school for lunch. Teresa Condick had arranged for food for our group to be brought in each day. We sat there eating whilst all around us, in my old school gym, were all the people I recognised from TT. It was completely bizarre. They talked about grown up things such as geophysics, glaciers, finds, post holes and round houses. I could not believe it. I went to make some tea and was stood alongside telly people, such as Tim Taylor, in his soaking wet, muddy socks. The school had insisted that these muddy boots had been left outside. Good for the school – rules is rules!

Of course, I have a life. I have to work. So off the hill I came and, after a quick change into my uniform off to work I went. During the course of my work I met Katharine.  I told her about the hill and the TT filming such was my excitement.  I issued her with a very stern ‘I shall HAVE to kill you if you tell’ threat. Then she said ’oh, I’ll just have a look at my maps’. Katharine Harry loves cartography. She understands topography. I told her about the area and she went away and she came back with historic maps I had not previously seen. She sat with me and she explained. She gave me copies. She changed the focus of my work. Katharine – you are a real star, thank you.

They came for three days. They dug holes, they made a real mess and then they went away. Oh, did I mention the helicopter?

To be concluded…

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