We had an excellent turn-out on a cold but bright morning, and we welcomed some new faces too.
We continued our exploration of the brick wall foundations in the dell at the North end of the site. We extended our discoveries further, adding to the excitement of it all, but we do not have any greater understanding of what we are actually uncovering, whether they be bases of structures, paths or steps.
However, we have agreed that we need to prioritise the mechanical removal of all the spoil at the north end of the dell between the path and the Pulhamite rock ‘outcrop’ so that we can more speedily discover what lies underneath. Speculation is rife!
The Northern Top Slope
Related to the work in the dell we spent more time uncovering the brick wall footings/foundations immediately above, but at the top of the slope. This area too will benefit from some mechanical soil moving as we believe we are gradually uncovering both the route of the original perimeter path and, possibly, steps leading from the top of the slope down to the base of the dell.
Steps on the South side of the dell
The journal Garden Memoranda circa 1881 describes how, on entering the Danesbury Fernery, ‘we proceed a few yards, …………..Here are steps to descend to the level below, formed, as it were, out of hard rock by time itself’.
Hard as we apply our imagination to this description, we do not believe we have yet found the steps referred to in 1881.
But that is not without trying – a start was made in August 2017 excavating what looked like steps, (see Report of Work Party of 17th August 2017) at about the only place thought to be possible. This morning Ann and Becca carried on that earlier work. It was fun exposing more rockwork, but none of us is yet convinced that the rockwork discovered could have been the steps that would have allowed our 1881 Victorian ladies to descend safely to the dell to see the grotto.
The Lime Tree above this point, we know, has disturbed some of the Pulhamite rockwork at the Southern end of the site, and it is possible that the Lime, (a small tree in 1860 but now a giant) could well have dislodged, or even buried the original steps.
The Garden Designer
We are delighted to announce that Sarah Marsh has volunteered to be our Fernery Garden Designer. (This is now reported separately under the Garden Restoration tab).
Weeding, Composting and Mulch generation
Selected planting beds were further weeded – the nettle roots having to be carefully removed. Plans will now be made to regularise our previous composting practices, with the intention of producing quality mulch for the new plants.
We all enjoyed seeing Tony Rook, the famed local archaeologist, on site looking very sprightly and fit.
Tony has already written since his visit to record his admiration of our achievements so far, and we are all invited round to tea and cakes and a chat, to compare maps and records!
Tony properly impresses upon us that we should try to adopt the disciplines of measuring and recording our excavation work. He recommends that we try hard to find a volunteer with archaelogical or surveying skills to join our team. If anybody knows of such a person, please let us know!
Dates of Next Meetings
(Please go to our Calendar for details of all meetings).
Fernery Gardening Group
Saturday 3rd February 10 a.m.
Thursday 8th February 10 a.m
Thursday 15th February 10 a.m. The Fernery