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It was wet, it was cold, it was windy. But that didn’t stop a loyal band of Heritage Action members from congregating at Avebury, twelve years to the very day since a group of megaraks met at the Uffington White Horse to plan what they could do to help combat damage to prehistoric sites. Many of the same people and a whole bunch of others came together at the weekend for the umpteenth (we’ve lost track) ‘Megameet’.

Admittedly, several Founder members couldn’t make it this year but they were replaced by a number of new attendees, some very young, which bodes well for the future. But considering we’re in July, I’ve never seen the circle so devoid of people generally on a summer weekend!

Red Lion

Those who did turn up met with old friends, had an enjoyable lunch in the Red Lion and discussed all things megalithic until the weather cleared enough for some to attempt a brief circumambulation of the henge, including the obligatory ‘selfie’, courtesy of artist and founder member, Jane Tomlinson.

Megameet2015

But we weren’t the only people to brave the weather. At the far end of the West Kennet Avenue, an archaeological excavation is taking place over three weeks. The Between the Monuments Project – a collaborative research project between the University of Southampton (Dr Josh Pollard), University of Leicester (Dr Mark Gillings), Allen Environmental Archaeology (Dr Mike Allen) and the National Trust (Dr Ros Cleal & Dr Nick Snashall) – is attempting to answer the tricky question ‘Where and how did the people who built these monuments live?’.

Avenue Trench

The main Avenue trench. Faulkner’s Circle is by the dark tree in the middle background, top centre.

Two trenches have been opened up, one immediately between the stones of the Avenue, and another off to the side. Despite the weather, some of the principals and volunteers were busy mattocking the side trench, part of which has already been excavated down to the natural layer, exposing some ‘periglacial striations’ in the underlying chalk.

Periglacial Striations

The side trench, showing the ‘periglacial striations’.

Sadly, I had no time to stop and chat (and I think they wanted to get on with the dig while the weather allowed it!) as I stupidly had no coat, and a long drive home in the rain ahead of me. But it was good to see everyone again, and I’m sure we’ll do it all again next year, if not sooner!

Another year, and another highly successful Day of Archaeology, which this time round occurred on 24th July (and new posts are still appearing). I imagine the organisers must be feeling very pleased with themselves, and quite exhausted at the moment! Hearty congratulations to everyone involved, and many thanks to the organisers, behind the scenes techies, and all the contributors for telling us exactly what it is they get up to.

doa-noyear

As usual, I was watching the Twitter feed (#DayOfArch) and had the web site added to my RSS feed throughout the day, but was simply overwhelmed with the number of posts from very early in the morning, and which continued unabated throughout the day. And what posts! Every aspect of archaeology was covered, from sites around the world, in multiple languages. Many of the posts were lengthy and so detailed that I’m afraid I didn’t get much of my own work done, just trying to keep up! This is a web site of treasures that I’ll return to again and again over the coming weeks and months to see what I can unearth.

And therein lies the problem. In just 5 years, the sheer scale of the project has mushroomed to an extent where, to find an item of specific interest increases in difficulty. Yes, there is a Search facility, but this can seemingly only deal with simple searches. There is also an excellent map facility on the site, showing those posts which have been geo-referenced, but sadly many are not and the map is currently restricted to only show posts from 2011-2013.

DayOfArch2015Map

The moderators work extremely hard every year categorising each post before it appears so that related posts can be found, and it’s this work that makes the finding of a specific interest a bit easier, although the system isn’t yet perfect. By lunchtime on the day, probably 150-200 posts had appeared on my RSS feed – if not more. Yet searching for the category ‘Day of Archaeology 2015′ showed only 33 posts, of which only 5 were tagged as relating to prehistory! So a bit more work to be done for next year, by which time I may have caught up on reading the posts of interest!

I can’t help but wonder if any other professions would be able to emulate the Day of Archaeology project, let alone garner the obvious depth of public interest. Hopefully the organisers will release some stats in due course showing just how many posts have been created, how many hits the site receives, and which were the most popular posts, year by year.

Here’s to next year!!

Heritage Action member Mark Camp is an author and tour guide. Here, he relates some of his thoughts about the Colvannick stone row on Bodmin Moor.

Colvannick1

According to the Modern Antiquarian website, it’s 11 years since I ‘discovered’ this stone row. At the time I was relatively new to prehistoric sites, being more interested in industrial archaeology, and so was happy just to snap a few photos and try to trace the row through the gorse bushes.

In the years since I think I must have visited every stone row on Bodmin Moor, from the tiny row at Carneglos to the undulating row on Fox Tor. I have talked about them on guided walks and given talks about them, but in all that time I have never been able to describe to people why they are where they are. On Dartmoor rows tend to have a reason, in that they nearly always terminate at a cairn or taller stone, but not on Bodmin Moor. They don’t follow any particular direction, often they are not on the skyline, or even high enough to be seen above the grass!

I came to the conclusion that Bodmin Moor’s stone rows were rows of stones and could be where they are for many reasons. I have not even found any proof to suggest they were all erected at the same time, whatever time they were supposed to be erected. I have always taken it for granted that they date back to the Bronze Age and were built by the same people who created stone circles and erected standing stones. But I don’t make any claims to being an expert and as I say to people who walk with me, I can only give you my ideas, I may be completely wrong!

But recently, through the Heritage Journal, the thoughts of Dr Sandy Gerrard have been brought to my attention. I was lucky to meet up with Sandy on Bodmin Moor a few weeks ago when he was giving a guided walk on industrial archaeology. After looking at humps and bumps and the occasional hole for a few hours we got to talking about stone rows and his thoughts on their setting in the landscape. Sandy has put forward the idea that rows lead to viewing points, maybe of the sea or a hill or other features in the landscape. To see an example of this check out his thoughts on Leedon Tor and his other posts on the same subject.

Bearing this in mind, I recently retraced my steps to Colvannick Tor, just off the A30 in the middle of Bodmin Moor. It’s not the most visited part of the moor and looking back on The Modern Antiquarian, I was the last person to add any postings from there… and that was August 2004! Which surprises me as it is only a short walk from a layby and much easier to access than say Fernacre Circle or even the Cheesewring! Saying that, I actually approached from a southerly direction, parking beside the Millpool firing range and walking via St Bellarmins Tor.

The first stone you come across is close to one of the range marker posts (a word of warning, don’t go looking for the row on a day when the red flags are flying – you might get shot!) and is all on its own. Is this the southern end of the row? It’s difficult to say, there are no other standing stones nearby and you cannot make out the main body of the row from here, so is it part of the row or was the row longer, or is it just a stone that is standing? Working on Dr Gerrard’s idea, the only feature in the landscape that comes into view at this point is the main tumuli/cairn on top of Brown Gelly to the east. Until this point it has been hidden by other hills.

From here there is no way of working out where the other stones are, it’s just a matter of walking in a general direction northwards. Recent cutting down of gorse in the area has cleared things a little but it’s still a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. In fact I missed the next stone and had to double back to find it. This is the leaning monster that I first found back in 2004. And from here it is possible to pick up the row heading north (or to be correct NNW). There are four uprights/leaning/lying stones here, all a good size, and from them it is possible to continue on the same bearing to find the last stone further on. This stone is a good four foot high and there is another stone lying nearby on the same bearing. Like the southern stone, you ask the question, is this the end stone?

I am pretty certain there are no more stones standing between here and the A30 but that doesn’t mean there are not some lying in amongst the gorse. Like most of Bodmin Moor the area is also littered with stones, plus in the early 1900s there was a China Clay works built nearby and chances are some stone was sourced locally for building work. But let’s take it that this is the northern end of the row, what can we see?

Away to the north east are the two summits of Roughtor and Brown Willy, but we have been able to see them all the way up the row, so are they relevant to the end stone? Looking south you can see the sea, probably St Austell Bay in the distance and to the east several hills including Brown Gelly. But from here looking west we have Colvannick Tor blocking any view, its actual summit out of site and in the low evening light it is just a mass of shadow and gorse.

But then I spot something. Atop of the hill, in amongst the silhouettes of gorse there appears to be a stone. I might not have seen it in daylight, or I might have taken it for a sheep. I decided to make for it, just to check it out. It was a stone, not the tallest, only about two to three feet high, but from it the view west suddenly opens out and I can see down over the moor and out across the fields to the shining sea beyond the north Cornwall coast. Is that why the stone was put there? If I had continued northwards from the row I am not sure if I would have got the view before another hill came along, so this summit was a lookout point.

Colvannick2

What’s more, as I stood there I thought I could make out a broken circle of stones radiating out from the standing stone. Now I have ‘imagined’ stone circles on the moor before and I am not making any claims here, but there are stones there and they create a circle of a similar size to others on the moor.

Colvannick3

This is just an observation by somebody who enjoys walking the moor and has no archaeological expertise apart from what I have read in books along the way. I feel that the landscape offers much more than what a book ever can, but at the same time we need experts to decipher what we can see. Colvannick Row is there for everybody to look at and next time you hurtle down the A30 towards West Penwith, take time out and stop just past the Temple turn and have a walk across the moor, see what you can see?

Colvannick map

Our thanks go to Mark for being inspired by Sandy’s work, getting out there to look for himself, and then submitting this article.

Afterword: Sandy Gerrard has subsequently desk-checked this row, and his findings will appear in a followup article in the near future.

It’s only a few days away now, so time for a very brief final reminder that we’ll be meeting up in Avebury this coming Sunday, from 12 noon.

We’d love to see as many of you there as possible, so why not come along, say hello and meet some friendly, like-minded people? There’ll be plenty of chat on prehistory, heritage protection and all related matters, as well as ample opportunity to explore the area.

Oh, and don’t forget to bring along a book or two for the book swap. Anything is acceptable, but Prehistoric Archaeology books will have more chance of finding a grateful recipient.

Bank and Ditch at Avebury, © Rebecca van der Putt, RIP.

Bank and Ditch at Avebury, © Rebecca van der Putt, RIP.

Update: We’ve just been reminded that there is currently an archaeological dig ongoing at Avebury, in the West Kennet Avenue that leads SW from the main circle. Full details of the dig so far can be found on the FragmeNTs web site. They’ll be digging every day except Fridays until Friday 7 August, and will have volunteer meet and greeters on site to explain what they’ve uncovered so far.

As reported on several heritage and archaeology mailing lists recently, West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village (which we visited last year) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this coming weekend, on 25 and 26 July.

To mark the occasion, members of the public are invited to visit the site throughout the weekend free of charge – giving them the opportunity to re-engage with the unique site or to experience the site for the first time and visit the reconstructed buildings.

West Stow house 'The Workshop'

The West Stow Anglo-Saxon Trust would love to welcome anyone involved with the archaeological site during the past 50 years to join in the celebrations – original archaeological diggers, reconstructors and anyone else who helped bring the village to life. However, the Trust doesn’t have contact details for everyone involved, so please spread the word through your networks. The main event will be on Saturday 25 July, from 11am until 4pm. BBC Radio Suffolk will be broadcasting live from the site between 1 and 3pm and interviewing some of those involved. In the education room, there will be a slideshow of archive images of the village and a display of the results from the Festival of Archaeology and Breaking New Grounds test pitting project.

This will be a very informal gathering (no speeches!) and a relaxed day in a wonderful setting.

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time the Sharpitor West stone alignment on Dartmoor is examined.

Sharpitor1

The Sharpitor West single stone alignment includes a 132m long line of stones leading south west from a cairn at SX 55058 70749 and incorporates at least 54 stones, some of which are now recumbent. The alignment is situated on the south west facing slope of a pronounced ridge leading west from Sharpitor. Despite being a really rather obvious alignment it is sobering to note that this alignment was first recorded as recently as 1963. This is surprising because the alignment includes a number of large uprights and the terminal pillar stands 1.2m high.

Sea views framed by the land exist, but one particular phenomenon is worth a special mention. There are three arcs of visibility and the western one which is the smallest includes a second triangle formed by the estuary of the River Plym.  The effect is one triangle sitting above another one and for this reason “stacked triangles” seems an appropriate descriptive term. Such an arrangement could have been of special interest or significance to the alignment builders and may have influenced their choice of this site.  Sea-level changes combined with the considerable alterations to the estuary caused by tinworking waste are acknowledged problems and we cannot therefore be entirely confident that the estuary triangle would have appeared as it does today. This said it is probable that a water triangle of some form would have existed at this location perhaps formed by a slow flowing river rather than the estuary we see today.  The changes in the form the Plym estuary make it is impossible to establish the precise character of the original visual treat provided by the juxtaposition of the sea and river triangles but the evidence does strongly suggest that there would have been something which in turn could been acknowledged by this alignment. Individually the visual relationships between the sea and the alignments are simply observations of fact but taken together the repetitive pattern that is emerging points to a link and it is this cumulative weight of albeit circumstantial evidence which provides the backbone to support the contention that the siting and therefore the function of the rows was in some way directly associated with the interface between water, land and sky.

Sharpitor2

The terminal pillar at the south western end of the row. The flattened triangle of water formed by the Plym estuary is visible is a slither of white surrounded by land. When the alignment was erected sea levels were lower and the water may not have been visible from this point. Indeed it may have disappeared at this spot.

Views from the alignment

Two images derived from Google Earth are presented below. Up until now slightly enhanced and labelled images have been used. These views are all about the relationship between sky, water and land and I think that this new style portrays the crucial visual date more clearly. I would welcome your feedback on this change. This series of articles as well as presenting hopefully an interesting and fresh way of looking at this enigmatic form of monument is also intended to provide an insight into the archaeological research process – warts and all – and you are most welcome to contribute.

The first illustration represents the view from the lower south western end of the row and the second one from the top of the alignment.
Sharpitor3

View from the lower (south western) end of the alignment. A view to the sea and a pair of sea triangles are present.  The fourth expanse of water visible from the point is the Plym Estuary and the illusion of one triangle stacked upon another may have been of particular interest to the builders of this alignment.

Sharpitor4

Compared with some sites the difference between the views from the top and bottom of the row is very slight. More of the eastern sea view is visible from the top but otherwise there are apparently no remarkable differences. In reality the alignment may have been focussed on the triangle of estuary water. The sea levels were lower when the alignment was constructed and this may mean that originally the near water would have disappeared as one walked down along the row.

Sharpitor5

Map showing the arcs of visibility from the upper (north-eastern) end of the alignment.  Each sea triangle would have been illuminated in turn by the winter sun and may have added a temporal dimension to the ceremonies. At the mid-winter solstice the “stacked triangle” arc of visibility should form the focus of the setting sun – certainly something worth checking out. 

Sharpitor6

This obvious stone alignment was not discovered until the 1960’s.

Previous articles in this series:

Following on from her extended series of posts in 2013, and a visit last year, once again Sue Brooke has revisited Caerau hillfort in Cardiff, to report upon this year’s activities there with a much more personal view. 

Since 2007 I have been researching the local area around Caerau. You may recall that I discovered what was to be later confirmed as at least an Iron Age hillfort, right over my garden fence. Much to the amusement of family and friends I waxed lyrical about this field full of lumps and bumps, cow poo and bitey insects. Although not exactly ‘preserved in public record’ as they say, this was well hidden and completely forgotten about so I was desperately trying to keep it secret and therefore protected. Of course Time Team later came and showed it in all its wall mounted, 48 inch, HD screen beauty, then went away again.

CAER Heritage Project and Cardiff University have however been periodically running community digs and generally involving the local community in the work they have been carrying out over the last three years or so and local interest has been increased. Their website shows the work that has gone on, not only in the field but in local centres and schools. Now and then local press picks up the story and it even pops up on local news. The really lovely thing about this work is that it involves everyone who is interested. Groups of primary school children through to older people have all taken a real interest in the site and become involved at various levels.

Me? Well, I moved away from the area recently. It was really sad to leave my garden fence behind and I do miss the trees as well as the mystery of what they would tell me if they could speak. But, I’m not that far away so I am still involved in keeping a close eye on what is going on. I go to the community events up at the site and still spend time wandering around with my camera.  I still research the local history there and am still turning up really interesting information about the people who lived in the area and how it links to other sites nearby as well as a little bit further away.

On the 4th of July the project held a Big Picnic. The original idea of this was to replicate the old Christian tradition of the Whitsun Treat which used to be held in the field at Pentecost.  This is still fondly remembered by locals. I’m not sure if this is a Welsh thing but it involved local children being transported to various sites, clutching a spoon with their name taped to the handle and a bag of something that their mum or Nan (very important people are Welsh Nan’s!) had made that they would share.  It was about coming together and having fun.

As well as the Big Picnic there would be a parade today with stalls, face painting, information on finds and tours of the ongoing excavations. Now, my grandson is really ‘into’ history. He has recently visited Castell Henllys in Pembrokeshire and has, I am very proud to say, developed a really impressive (for an 11 year old) knowledge of Welsh early history.  He asks questions, reads real books and takes it all in. He came with us with promises that I’d show him all the ditches and ramparts that had set my own imagination off and started this whole thing going for me in the first place. So, off we went.

A new brown heritage site arrow has appeared – pointing the way to the hill from the main road that runs through Caerau. Just in case you miss it there is another a little further on. This secret triangular shaped field of ‘mine’ is most certainly not such a secret any more.

Caerau Sign

There were quite a few cars parked at the entrance to the site and we were met by two lovely students who welcomed us on our way up. That walk up is getting steeper, I’m sure. I was a little surprised at the cars that were allowed up the lane, meaning I had to ensure we were safely out of the way – I tutted at one point, I admit – but at least it gave me a minute to stand and get my breath back.  The view as you round the final bend never fails to impress me and I’ve been up there many, many times.

Caerau event

The entrance to the field was set up with the promised stalls and it was all very busy with a real sense of community.   CAER’s Olly Davies (beautifully face painted by Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust artists) and Dave Wyatt were in the middle of it all so it was nice to catch up. We were able to see some of the more recent finds. What is particularly nice is that it’s possible to actually hold these in your hand, rather than peer at them through the glass of a museum case, although that’s probably where they will find a home eventually. At least I hope so, rather than end up in a box on a shelf somewhere.  The extremely knowledgeable and really friendly young women in charge there are able to tell you not just what you are holding but also where they were found, what the significance is and how they have made them look presentable. It was also good in that, for me, the star find from last year (the Neolithic flint arrow head) was also brought back home for the day.

Caerau Flint

A handout was provided to enable understanding of the objectives for this year, entitled ‘Digging Caerau’ – not exactly my most favourite phrase. Nonetheless, five areas of the field are being examined this year – four of which have been previously examined and re-opened for further investigation. One new area is being examined to ‘explore what appears on the geophysics to be a boundary probably dating to the Roman period.’ Guided tours were being given to small groups but we wandered off on our own to see what was going on. Well, it is my field, after all!

My biggest concern prior to the Time Team investigations was that my hillfort would be dug up. Mr Cadw Inspector reassured me that this would not happen. I’ve seen the finds that have come out of the ground, so to speak, and found them fascinating. From my grandsons perspective he was thrilled to wander around and to see postholes within the trench, confirming that this was an area that people had actually lived in. As you may know, for local historians like me the people are as important as the place.  But, the site itself, for me, is losing its special character. It is changing, losing its ‘feel’ underfoot and the magic of the lumps and bumps is fading along with the brown scarring of the excavated trench areas.

Since Welsh Nan’s are very important I had wandered off with the lad to show him how to interpret the various aspects of the site that had really grabbed my attention way back in 2007. But now, whilst the ramparts are still clearly visible one inner rampart now has a ditch cut through it. Please don’t misunderstand; it’s a really painstakingly created section from which the archaeologists are intending to gain dating evidence and environmental samples. But to me it’s a whacking great chunk out of the rampart that really won’t be the same once it’s refilled.

Caerau section

This is really evident in the beautiful ditch that once swept across part of the site. You couldn’t fail to see it and it was really easy to photograph. It looked like something special to me. Trouble is it looked like something special to Time Team and the other diggers too, so now it’s gone. I’ve since looked back over some of my early writing and the phrase ‘it’s quite possible to see ditches and ramparts untouched’ really jumps out. I wanted my grandson to experience that sense of standing in or on something special. Something that made a person curious and excited about what may have been there, who may have built it, why and when.  To me that sense of excitement has gone now as not all of those lumps and bumps are there any more – I feel that is really quite sad.

I completely understand that archaeology is a science. Indeed, my own first degree is a Bachelor of Science (with honours, obviously!) but my science is more social, of ordinary people and of ordinary places.  So whilst the archaeologists are looking  down into mucky holes getting dirt under their fingernails I can be found looking through dusty old books, looking up and out and, quite often across.  Both, whilst different perspectives, should complement each other in being able to tell the story of a place and understand the people who lived within it.  But, and this is a big but, I don’t think digging things up, taking them away and, as a result of this changing the really special characteristics of the site will benefit anyone in the end. Perhaps I just have an emotional attachment to this hillfort but to me it all feels really selfish.

Moving on…

All in all my grandson enjoyed his day. He was able to get an idea of the hillfort from the Lidar images and the visual representations on show, ask questions about how a roof was put on the roundhouses, look into trenches and to see the burial mounds clearly visible on the mountain opposite. He took photos and met with ‘real’ archaeologists. He was (reasonably) impressed with his Nan’s knowledge and perhaps gained a different perspective of the site from that. I just have this nagging feeling that he would have enjoyed it quite a bit more if he could have felt what I did when I first went into that field. It was only eight years ago.

As we left Olly came to chat and asked what I was doing now – I explained I had moved house recently but that I had a found a new site of interest that I felt linked in to the Caerau site. His eyes lit up and he asked where, I told him to b*gger off, there is no way he is digging this one up…

Many thanks to Sue for this report of her day out to revisit an old favourite. Have you recently revisited a favourite site? Or are you planning to do so during this year’s Festival of Archaeology? If so, why not submit a short article and share your visit with others on the Heritage Journal?

Stonehenge a mere 115 years ago was obviously a very different place from what we see today. No fences, no visitor centre, no interpretation signs, no caravans or campers on the by-ways.

The British Film Institute have a new web site, Britain on Film, which allows browsing and searching on a map for old films, from the mid-1800’s (if you’re lucky!) through to the present day. Many are free to view, for others there is a modest cost.

So far, there’s only one film showing Stonehenge, dated from 1900. It shows a brief panorama across the stones, where a solitary self-concious policeman is on ‘guard’ duty for a single visitor.

StonehengeCop

Imagine if that ratio of police to visitors were to be in place today!

of course, the BFI don’t have a monopoly on old films. The British Pathe News web site also has a selection of films showing Stonehenge throughout the last 100 years.

Why not take a look at the BFI and Pathe News sites and see if your favourite Scheduled Ancient Monument is represented by an old film? Let us know what you find!

A guest post by Dr Sandy Gerrard.

Our understanding of the past relies on carefully collecting information and piecing together the fragments to provide an insight into what happened in the distant or not too distant past. The process of converting the data from whatever source into explanations is called interpretation.  We all do this countless times every day. We see something and in order to understand what it is we interpret it and react accordingly. Our reactions are likely to be based on experience and so it is with archaeological interpretation. The better one understands a subject the better are the chances of coming to a fully justified explanation which consequently has more chance of being right or at least being close to the mark.

Sometimes there is very little data to go on, whilst on other occasions there may be loads and often it can be contradictory.  Interpreting archaeological data can therefore be very difficult and challenging and at the end of the process one may simply not be able to provide any answers and instead the reward maybe further questions. This I find an appealing aspect of archaeology and relish the opportunity to examine and re-examine ideas, theories and hypothesis.

Fundamental to the proper interpretative process is to embrace all the available evidence and to assess it comprehensively. Often much evidence still remains to be found and some may be hidden out of sight, but it is of paramount importance to ensure that at least the information that is readily available is used and used objectively.

A while back I was asked by Cadw if I would like to meet with them to discuss the situation at Mynydd y Betws. I responded positively saying:

“an on-site meeting would be most appropriate as some of the issues can only be properly considered there and we could then re-convene somewhere indoors to deal with the paperwork issues that are best dealt with out of the elements.” 

Pretty clear I would have thought. Cadw have offered a meeting and I have accepted.  Sadly in the perverse universe inhabited by Cadw, senior management were inexplicably informed that I had been:

offered a face-to-face meeting, which Dr Gerrard has refused”.

Several interpretations of this situation are possible and most of them should concern anyone interested in the management of our past.

SGCairn

Is this a pile of stones or a Bronze Age burial cairn? Clearly sometimes the evidence is far from obvious and mistakes are understandably made. But surely we should expect the guardians of our heritage to understand the difference between Yes and No?

We have written in the past about ways to enhance your field trip visits and what equipment to take with you. But what if you don’t want to be lumbered with all that clutter? Could a simple smartphone come to your rescue?

With the plethora of apps available these days, the answer is invariably ‘yes’. But of course, safety must always be a major consideration on any trip, so standard caveats apply: we would always recommend keeping a good paper map (and other ‘survival aids’ as appropriate) to hand when travelling across open country. Despite the government’s best intentions, signal availability in remote areas is not always optimal, so when looking at available apps, offline working must always be a consideration. Battery power is also important. Most smartphones are notorious for ‘poor’ (8–10 hours at best, much shorter if hunting for a signal) battery performance, so a fully-charged back-up battery pack is a must when considering a phone-based trip.

So, with the above in mind, which apps will be useful for your field trip? Here are some of our recommendations, most of which are available for both iOS and Android:

Planning, information and reference

It’s always useful to be able to find out information about prospective sites, and so most preparation will be done at home, prior to departure. But there are always occasions when plans change and more ‘on the spot’ information is needed. Of course, in these situations a signal is usually essential. There are myriad apps that provide information about various heritage sites but in our experience these are usually quite limited in scope: for instance the National Trust, English Heritage  and CADW all have apps, for Gardens, Stately Homes etc. but the content tends to be quite selective or limited in such apps. We have previously reviewed the Heritage app from Little Polar (IOS only), which appears to be going from strength to strength. Another app which has recently come to our notice is TiCL, which whilst not strictly heritage-related looks quite promising (check out the Trails functionality). Sadly Wikihood, an app which displayed Wikipedia items based upon your location, is no longer available.

Maps and Route Tracking

When it comes to mapping and route recording, the options are quite staggering. But to our minds, the king of the hill is Viewranger. Plan trips, calculate distances, and view elevation profiles. Use maps offline – Premium topographic maps (can get expensive for larger areas!!) and free global maps are available. Use ViewRanger to record your track as you go and create a mapped trace of your trip, complete with stats and photos. There’s also an active community with downloadable routes to try out, and support (when I’ve needed it) has always been first-class.

Photography and Video

Most smartphones come with photo software that ís more than adequate, and will do for most shots, including panoramas once you’re at the site.

For more technical (surveying) images, Theodolite or TheodoliteHD (IOS only) are useful. Theodolite is a multi-function augmented reality app that combines a compass, GPS, map, photo/movie camera, rangefinder, and two-axis inclinometer into one indispensable app. Theodolite overlays real time information about position, altitude, bearing, range, and inclination on the iPhone’s live camera image, like an electronic viewfinder. A possible alternative for Android users is ThÈodolite Droid, but I have no personal experience of this app.

For image editing, SnapSeed is quite useful, and comes in both iOS and Android flavours. But image editing is a very personal thing, so you may have your own favourites. Please let us know in the comments if this is the case.

For video, we’d recommend Horizon. There’s nothing more embarrassing than finding that viewers have to tilt their heads to see your carefully framed (portrait) shot, and Horizon takes care of this for you by automatically keeping the shot horizontal regardless of the orientation of the phone itself.

If 360 degree panoramas are your thing, PhotoSphere from Google for iOS and Android is quite useful, and hooks into Google Maps for sharing the resulting views.

And don’t forget to set your device to backup up your photographs automatically to the cloud (once in signal range)!

Finds Recording

For those lucky enough to stumble upon any interesting finds, the Find Plotter app (iOS only?) may be helpful. The developer’s web site appears to be no longer available, but the iPhone app is still available in the Apple Store. Although aimed mainly at detectorists, it could prove useful for the casual fieldworkers among us to record basic details to pass onto the PAS.

For wider data collection, the Edina Field Trip GB app will be a much better option. This allows collection of data by a group using customised forms (designed via the web), can track GPS points, collect photos and fieldnotes. Data is saved to a DropBox account.

Damage Reporting

As we’ve reported previously, there is a serious gap in the market for an app which would allow for discovery of heritage crime to be reported to the appropriate authorities. We’d still be happy to share our ideas for such an app with any budding developers out there, and if anyone is willing to provide funding (CBA, Rescue, University Research Depts?) for such a project, please contact us!

Field Notes

For writing up your trip after the event, again the choice is almost limitless. Select your favourite text editor, and away you go! But in terms of organisation, ease of searching, syncing across devices, inclusion of photos etc, Evernote is pretty hard to beat.

That finishes our brief roundup of possible apps that could be used before, during and after a field trip. Have we missed out anything crucial, or a better alternative to one of our choices? Let us know in the comments.

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