Welcome ! This is a blog for people who want to be a friend of Wincobank Hill, for those who are fascinated, curious or concerned about the unique hill fort set high above Sheffield's Don Valley, encircled by ancient woodland that conceals the mysteries of history.

Who was here and why? Did they live, work or keep watch here? What part did this place play in the politics of an emerging nation? Was this the cradle of the British metal industry? And where was the water?

So many people are beginning to retell their stories, ask good questions and make suggestions that it's time to share what is happening ....

Monday, 26 July 2010

What better excuse is there to spend a day in the sunshine than the hope of uncovering a clue to the past. It's all equally interesting whether on the Scheduled Monument searching back thousands of years or ferretting about where the row of white cottages stood within living memory.
Thanks to the loan of equipment from Dearne Valley Archaeological Society and help from the University of Sheffield, not to mention some rain to soften the ground, we have now been able to complete the geophysical surveys that will indicate what lies below the surface.

Some of us measured, held markers or trampled the thistles down whilst others paced up and down with the amazing equipment. Roger and Derek tell us the results are exciting but when I look at the printout it all looks a bit blobby so I am looking forward to hearing what it all means. Nevertheless - it was a wonderful way to spend a weekend.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The second weekend of the archaeology survey: Pleased to see when I checked on Friday evening that most of the pegs and markers were still in place. I had a couple of other things to do at the other end of the country so this report comes from Dave.

"At first we laid out measuring tapes along the grid pegs to form the survey grids.
We began to do a resistivity survey at first, but even though we'd had rain on Thursday, the ground was too dry to even get any results to start with. As an alternative we did a magnetometer survey. It was very difficult to be metal-free and metal fasteners on clothing distort the results! All I could do was ranging pole impressions.

Today's rain will certainly have soaked the hill to possibly make it worth attempting a resistivity survey next weekend. I don't know, because the soil cover is so thin it might not retain sufficient moisture; that's for Roger to decide". If you are in the Wincobank area on any weekend in July 2010 come up to the hill fort and see what's going on. It easy to find - just go to Meadowhall
Shopping Centre then look for the nearest hill. Go up Jenkin Road until you get to the brow of the hill then walk along the brick track to the very top.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

If I had realised how much fun Pythagoras's Theorum could be I would have paid more attention at school.

With two giant tape measures we made triangles to find the corners of 20m squares all the way up the track and across the hill fort. We then hammered in stakes so that next weekend the real fun can begin.

I now know, and will forever remember, that the diagonal measurement across a 20m square is 28m 28cm.
I also know that to find your mark you sometimes have to crawl through trees, wade through brambles or stamp through nettles. I learnt that "spot on" is a more reassuring phrase than "that'll do" and that Wincobank Hill has far more holes in it than I had ever noticed before.

There were some new members of the team today in addition to Roger, Mick and myself - Byron and David who both played on the hill as children, also Hilary and Ken who come from the far side of Sheffield.

The site is all marked out now and Roger has captured the points by GPS. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a satellite-based navigation system made up of a network of 24 satellites orbiting the Earth. How extraordinarily amazing it is that this process of measuring with tapes and hammering stakes into a hillside in Yorkshire connects our prehistoric Celtic past, a mathematician from Ancient Greece and American space scientists. It makes me feel part of something very special.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Archaeology action

So there we were, 9 o'clock on a Saturday morning, waiting to unravel the mysteries of Wincobank Hill. Dr Roger Doonan from the University of Sheffield (looking every bit the archaeologist in his boots and shorts) and the astonishingly young Dr Kate Howell from Florida were here to initiate the Friends into the rites and rituals of Geophysics.

We were a small team, each bringing their own skills and experience to the task. I, Penny, am a project manager so I held the clipboard. Unfortunately I also lost the pen lid. Marie drew on her encyclopaedic knowledge to identify the vegetation and Dr Kate tactfully guided us along the track identifying the more do-able bits where we will have a hope of navigating the uneven ground and brambles with technical gadgetry that sounds very expensive. Dr Roger and Ken mapped the hill fort. Ken is a doctor of the medical variety and in retirement is studying towards an archaeology degree.

By lunch we had walked the terrain and noted any features making x marks the spot diagrams of holes, rocky bits and debris. So far so good. I realised that when I normally walk the hill I look at the trees, I let my imagination wander and gaze into the distance, but although I glance at the ground I rarely feel it with my feet. Today I was aware of every bump and lump, trying to sense some secret story beneath the surface.

A picnic lunch with ice-cream revived us for the challenging task of marking a straight line along the undulating route of the brick track Winco Wood Lane past tree and bush, and along the length of the hill fort. Thankfully, the afternoon shift brought Dave, himself an archaeologist and experienced at lining up yellow flagged bamboo canes, and Mick who usefully was able to produce a fresh stock of flagged and, it has to be said, slightly superior canes from his woodland management toolkit. In this technological age it was refreshing to spend time standing in a line: left a bit, right a bit, fine. A welcome relief from the hours I spend sitting at a computer.

Licensed by English Heritage, we staked at 20m intervals along the track and then endeavoured to peg 40m markers across the ancient monument but the rock almost knowingly resisted the invasion and yielded only to a squirt of yellow paint. Not a lot of digging to be done there I suspect.

And that was it for my first day as a trainee archaeologist. I hope that, in a thousand years or so, another trainee finds my pen lid.