Geophysical surveying in January is not for the faint hearted (brrrr… it’s cold)

Claire Watts provides an update on the chilly geophysical survey work undertaken by some very dedicated DAG members!

The week was spent on a site close to the ford in Kingston Deverill.  The area on the other side of the ford was surveyed last year with spectacular results and our site had had many PAS (Portable Antiquities Scheme) finds in the past, so there was much anticipation of a great discovery at our fingertips.

Arming ourselves with flasks of hot drinks and dressed in multiple layers topped off with hats and gloves, over the ford we walked and through the gate into our field.  I say field, but it felt like we had a whole county to survey, it was SO big and there were only 6 of us with some canes, pegs, tape measures etc.  However, the ace up our sleeves of course was the presence of Paul, our professional “geophyser”, who had agreed to guide this bunch of enthusiastic amateurs.

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Above: A small section of our field (at the start of the week)

The first task was to mark out accurate grids across the field. This sounds easier than it is in practice. Without a giant set square to hand and after a few false starts we resorted to our O-level maths and Pythagoras’ theory came to the rescue. So, having worked out the tricky matter of right angles we were off and there was no stopping us.


Above: Pythagoras theory was used to mark out accurate grids.

My old Maths teacher at Queen Anne Grammar School, York would have been very proud of me!

With the team now on a roll Paul was able to start the magnetometry. This is quite a speedy job which involved walking up and down the grids that have been set out.


Above: Paul demonstrates how to use the Magnetometer

It was soon time to get the big beast out – the resistance meter. Unlike the mag (speedy work- the hare) the res makes slow progress (the tortoise). You move forward just a metre at a time, plant the machine in the ground and wait for a double beep. We discovered that if you rush or try to have meaningful conversations the machine throws a wobbly. So dedicated concentration is the name of the game.  Now, you’ve seen a photo of part of the field so you might be able to understand the scale of the task we faced. We knew we wouldn’t be able to cover the whole area, but we’d do as much as we could and if our dreams that week were to be punctuated with double beeps then so be it.

matthew Derek geophys

Above: Patience grasshopper – volunteers get to grips with the resistance meter

Thus, we continued all week until ….



Above: Our field at the end of the week

All we could do was retrieve our canes and pegs, warm ourselves up and await the results of all our hard work. Villa? Henge? Who knows, but we’ve got our fingers crossed that the hare and the tortoise will reveal something amazing between them.

Blog post by Claire Watts. Photos by John Russell and Paul Durdin.

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