7th October 2013:
In June this year OA East evaluated the route of a new effluent pipeline in Chelmsford, Essex. The proposed route of this pipeline follows the line of the River Chelmer for 9km, passing through an area of highly significant prehistoric archaeology and encouraging aerial photographs. So we headed out to dig 50 trenches with high hopes of finding something.
The main problem was one of logistics. We were unable to use a wheeled machine, so we had to move a tracked machine around lanes just wide enough for a van. The presence along the route of three bridges, each with a 5 ton weight limit, did little to help.
Luckily the archaeology made it all worthwhile. At the western end of the route a series of pits, ditches and postholes proved to be part of an Iron Age and Roman settlement, with the presence of a ditch containing three sherds of early Saxon pottery, suggesting continued use of the area.
The most exciting area was at the eastern end of the pipeline, where trenches were put across two round barrows. These had both been ploughed flat but had been clearly visible on the aerial photographs. One of these was surrounded by a substantial V-shaped ditch, at the centre of which was a possible large feature. However tempting it was to excavate it, we left the feature undisturbed rather then risk exposing only part of a complex feature in an evaluation trench. The second barrow was even more exciting, as it was an unusual triple ditched example (see photo). At least six middle Bronze Age cremations, three of which were in pots, were present in the trench.
We hope to return to the site in the autumn to carry out mitigation excavations on the two main areas of survival.