Upcoming Events

Here I am making public the dates of my forthcoming volunteer dig days! The next three days are:

Location When Summary Description
Bridge Cottage February 24, 2017 at 10:00 am – 3:00 pm WW1 & WW2 Community Event, Bridge Cottage, Uckfield A community event exploring life for Uckfield and district people during World War 1&2. Come and see personal stories, artefacts and memorabilia on display and walk in the shoes of our ancestors for an immersive experience of local life during the period. Geoff Bridger – Great War Historian – will run a help desk to…
Bridge Cottage February 25, 2017 at 10:00 am – 3:00 pm WW1 & WW2 Community Event, Bridge Cottage, Uckfield A community event exploring life for Uckfield and district people during World War 1&2. Come and see personal stories, artefacts and memorabilia on display and walk in the shoes of our ancestors for an immersive experience of local life during the period. Geoff Bridger – Great War Historian – will run a help desk to…
Central United Reformed Church, 102 Blatchington Road, Hove BN3 3YF, Brighton, United Kingdom February 25, 2017 at 2:30 pm – 5:30 pm Local History Talk - The Chalk and Lime Industry of the Arun The Chalk and Lime Industry of the Arun Speaker - Richard Howell Talk is free to Members, Non-members £3. Details: https://www.meetup.com/Brighton-and-Hove-Archaeological-Society/events/236203329/

We work on site every Friday and Sunday, 10am-4pm, from April to December 2013. Volunteers and other visitors are most welcome. We meet at the Falmer Road Car Park, Woodingdean (just N of the junction with Bexhill Rd) but please contact me beforehand in case we have to cancel for any reason.

David Cuthbertson: scienceinthegreen@yahoo.co.uk

Lots of Good News!

Another hurdle has been cleared! Smiths Gore, who manage Brighton & Hove City Council’s farmland portfolio (including Castle Hill Nature Reserve), have obtained formal permission for me to go ahead with my excavation project.

There is now only one more permission to be obtained – namely that of being able to dig on a nature reserve of European significance. Luckily the reserve manager, Malcolm Emery, is dealing with this on my behalf. Because the site used to be a residence and farmyard, it is an area of high fertility (lots of poo and pee!), and therefore has become colonised by nettles and brambles. In the early 1950’s the area was bulldozed to make the site safe. This has very much reduced the biodiversity and ecological significance of this small corner of the reserve. Therefore further digging should not threaten the nature reserve’s conservation status in any way.

I have also started receiving offers of help from volunteers interested in being involved in an archaeological dig. This is excellent news! I need to decide on a fixed day once a month for volunteer days to be able to happen – sometime in March.

I was on site yesterday and it was good to see it again – without its earlier blanket of snow! I didn’t take any photos, but I did clean up a few fragments of wall that are visible – so it is now easier to show visitors the approximate ground plan.

The next clearance day may possibly be next Thursday – though this hasn’t been confirmed yet – it depends on the forecast, and whether Malcolm Emery has any higher priority jobs that need doing.

Yesterday was a very good day!

Site Surveying in the Snow

Looking SE at Newmarket Cottage site in snow; January 21st 2013.

Looking SE at Newmarket Cottage site in snow; January 21st 2013.

I like snow – so am looking forward to helping clear the rest of the site of its brambles, etc tomorrow – in about 10cm or more of snow! Malcolm Emery, the Reserve Warden, agreed with me that we should go ahead as planned – unless it snows again in the night.

Looking N towards cottage site in brambles on right; January 21st 2013.

Looking N towards cottage site in brambles on right; January 21st 2013.

I was up on the hill today finishing off marking the major boundary wall junctions using Selbach’s 1921 plan and existing sections of wall lines as a guide. When I started this morning I had just one corner, a projected wall junction, and a half cleared site covered in snow. By the end of the day I had four corners and the two junctions of the internal garden/ farmyard wall. The northern boundary wall appeared to be a couple of meters further south than I expected – which meant it was well inside the modern fence-line. The south-west corner just kissed the modern fence-line. So the complete farm-site may well all be located within the Nature Reserve boundary.

Looking East along northern site boundary; January 21st 2013.

Looking East along northern site boundary; January 21st 2013.

And the best thing of all – after estimating the directions of each of the walls, and attempting to measure off the distances from corner to corner – the corners were only a metre out, which for me is pretty bloomin’ good!

Newmarket Farm Site Clearance

Thanks to Malcolm Emery and a couple of colleagues from Natural England, as well as a group from the South Downs Volunteer Ranger Service, at least half the site was cleared yesterday (Weds 10th January 2013), and a second day has been planned to complete the job.

View WSW from demolition rubble mound E side of the house site looking SW across back garden towards S farmyard boundary between the trees left and centre; 10th January 2013.

View WSW from demolition rubble mound E side of the house site looking SW across back garden towards S farmyard boundary between the trees left and centre; 10th January 2013.

Looking slightly W of S from bulldozed mound of rubble to E of house site looking towards SE corner of the garden just under the Prunus scrub; 10th January 2013.

Looking slightly W of S from bulldozed mound of rubble to E of house site looking towards SE corner of the garden just under the Prunus scrub; 10th January 2013.

Looking S along bulldozed mound of demolition rubble partially hidden by brambles. The side of the house would have been on the right of the picture. The small elder bush to the right of the fire marks the junction of the wall dividing the garden to its left from the farmyard to its right, and the wall which bounded both to the south; 10th January 2013.

Looking S along bulldozed mound of demolition rubble partially hidden by brambles. The side of the house would have been on the right of the picture. The small elder bush to the right of the fire marks the junction of the wall dividing the garden to its left from the farmyard to its right, and the wall which bounded both to the south; 10th January 2013.

Clearing NW corner of the site, the site of a barn. Looking towards what has become an a major landmark – a television aerial marking the top of Newmarket Hill; 10th January 2013.

Clearing NW corner of the site, the site of a barn. Looking towards what has become an a major landmark – a television aerial marking the top of Newmarket Hill; 10th January 2013.

The chap on the right is raking the mowings, which were burnt. Removing the debris reduces the fertility of the soil, which reduces the vitality of the rank vegetation; 10th January 2013.

The chap on the right is raking the mowings, which were burnt. Removing the debris reduces the fertility of the soil, which reduces the vitality of the rank vegetation; 10th January 2013.

Looking W at Newmarket Farm site being cleared of brambles; 10th January 2013.

Looking W at Newmarket Farm site being cleared of brambles; 10th January 2013.

Photo taken from within the house site looking to the SW at elder bush marking site of S end of wall dividing house and garden. The chap on the right is Malcolm Emery, taking a welcome break from his desk; 10th January 2013.

Photo taken from within the house site looking to the SW at elder bush marking site of S end of wall dividing house and garden. The chap on the right is Malcolm Emery, taking a welcome break from his desk; 10th January 2013.

Taken from under the spreading hawthorn near the NE corner of the house site, looking slightly west of south, with the elder (centre back near the fire) marking the site of the back wall between garden and farmyard; 10th January 2013.

Taken from under the spreading hawthorn near the NE corner of the house site, looking slightly west of south, with the elder (centre back near the fire) marking the site of the back wall between garden and farmyard; 10th January 2013.

A view of the site looking to the NW with a piece of demolished masonry revealed from under the brambles; 10th January 2013.

A view of the site looking to the NW with a piece of demolished masonry revealed from under the brambles; 10th January 2013.

View from location of barn on NW side of site looking SE across the farmyard towards distant Prunus scrub marking SE corner of the garden; 10th January 2013

View from location of barn on NW side of site looking SE across the farmyard towards distant Prunus scrub marking SE corner of the garden; 10th January 2013

Volunteer clearing back some of the vegetation from the mound of demolition rubble, just inside the east boundary wall of the garden, looking E - upright piece of masonry is not in situ - 10th January 2013.

Volunteer clearing back some of the vegetation from the mound of demolition rubble, just inside the east boundary wall of the garden, looking E – upright piece of masonry is not in situ – 10th January 2013.

Looking N towards the NE corner of the site, just outside the garden wall, clearing the vegetation about 3m wide of the site boundary to allow for public access as well as room for spoil from any trenches; 10th January 2013

Looking N towards the NE corner of the site, just outside the garden wall, clearing the vegetation about 3m wide of the site boundary to allow for public access as well as room for spoil from any trenches; 10th January 2013

Looking S towards SE corner of the garden boundary wall just under the Prunus scrub; 10th January 2013

Looking S towards SE corner of the garden boundary wall just under the Prunus scrub; 10th January 2013

View beyond the site, towards Castle Hill to the NE, from on top of the mound of demolition rubble; 10th January 2013

View beyond the site, towards Castle Hill to the NE, from on top of the mound of demolition rubble; 10th January 2013

Looking approx WSW from SE corner of house towards distant hawthorn near SW corner of farmyard showing surface contours of site being revealed; 10th January 2013

Looking approx WSW from SE corner of house towards distant hawthorn near SW corner of farmyard showing surface contours of site being revealed; 10th January 2013

The farmyard, in the centre of the photo, was discovered to be on a terrace, with the farm buildings – stables and cow barn – at a higher level (to the right), and the garden at a lower level (to the left).

Photo taken approx SE corner of house site looking SW towards tree stump marking junction of dividing wall separating the garden on left, from the farmyard on right where it met the S property boundary; 10th January 2013.

Photo taken approx SE corner of house site looking SW towards tree stump marking junction of dividing wall separating the garden on left, from the farmyard on right where it met the S property boundary; 10th January 2013.

Looking NW at site clearance by burning of the cut vegetation; 10th January 2013

Looking NW at site clearance by burning of the cut vegetation; 10th January 2013

Looking NW at burning of wet vegetation; 10th January 2013

Looking NW at burning of wet vegetation; 10th January 2013

It would have been nice if the cleared vegetation had been removed from site and composted. Better for the environment. But it would have involved a lot of work, a lot more transport, and a lot less of the site would have been cleared.

New WWII Archaeology on the Downs?

Really excited that after a walk to Castle Hill nature reserve, on the side of Newmarket Hill, I may have found some new archaeology!

At TQ36470682, just above the edge of the steep sided Newmarket Bottom, was a spread of small (about 1cm diameter) pebbles associated with a 5m diameter roughly levelled off platform. It was sited just at the point of maximum visibility down into the valley bottom.

Apparently during the Second World War there was a particular concern that paratroopers would drop down into remote downland valleys at night. Therefore big lights were stationed at suitable positions to spot them.

I have as yet no idea what they looked like, but I have been informed there was one on the corner of the Falmer Road looking down into Bevendean valley.

I guess the next thing to do is to pass these details on to the East Sussex Historic Environment Record Officer (HER), who is based in Lewes.

Most of the Downs beyond Brighton were requisitioned by the armed forces during the last war. There should certainly be lots of archaeology dating to this time. Only since I started to study the history of Newmarket Farm have I become aware of the importance of modern archaeology, and how easily it can be lost.

Some pictures of Castle Hill Nature Reserve

Just visited the picture website Geograph. It has lots of wonderful pictures people have taken of geographical locations all over the UK. I thought I would load all those that people have taken of Castle Hill Nature Reserve.

Taken in 2005…

Falmer Bottom by Simon Carey

Falmer Bottom by Simon Carey.
Looking north towards Castle Hill. (10 September, 2005)

Newmarket Bottom by Simon Carey

Newmarket Bottom by Simon Carey.
Looking east towards Castle Hill. (10 September, 2005)

Taken in 2009…

Castle Hill by Paul Gillett

Castle Hill by Paul Gillett.
(23 June, 2009)

Castle Hill looking SW by Paul Gillett

Castle Hill looking SW by Paul Gillett.
Castle Hill is located 1 mile from Woodingdean, north east of Brighton. It comprises a series of valley-side slopes and is a good example of ancient, traditionally managed chalk downland. (23 June, 2009)

Taken in 2010…

Old well - Falmer Bottom by Robin Webster

Old well – Falmer Bottom by Robin Webster.
All very knocked about, but the part on the right looks like a wellhead, the central part like a pump, and the other part like a winch. All very perplexing. Made by F.E. Myers & Bro., Ashlan…. [?] U.S.A. The pump-like part has also cast on it “Self-oiling bulldozer”. A little further research found that the two brothers Francis and Philip set up the company in 1870 in Ashland, Ohio, and the company is still there, producing pumps and trading as Myers, although now part of the Pentair group. (27 February, 2010)

Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Robin Webster

Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Robin Webster.
The public bridleway through the reserve curves round the slope to the left, although the rather hypothetical legal line is somewhat to the right at first. (27 February, 2010)

Castle Hill NNR - scrub clearance by Robin Webster

Castle Hill NNR – scrub clearance by Robin Webster.
One of two bonfire sites seen on this shoulder of the hill. (27 February, 2010)

Falmer Bottom by Robin Webster

Falmer Bottom by Robin Webster.
A good view to illustrate the vagaries of the selection of CROW public access land. The criterion should be down: unimproved grassland. The foreground fields up to the fence with the single tree are public – but certainly rather improved. The near shoulder on the right is not CROW-public but is unimproved (although possibly partly ploughed in the past). The far shoulder on the right is correctly public and unimproved. Both shoulders are in the Castle Hill NNR. The slopes on the left are correctly selected as public access unimproved downland. However, the non-CROW part of the NNR is now mapped as access land under some other non-CROW arrangement. (27 February, 2010)

Vegetation investigations, Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Robin Webster

Vegetation investigations, Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Robin Webster.
Within the enclosure are many 1 m square areas marked out with green string. Castle Hill itself is the hill straight ahead – this part of the reserve is on the slopes of Newmarket Hill. (27 February, 2010)

Welcome to Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Robin Webster

Welcome to Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Robin Webster.
The Natural England website still says “Access to the reserve is limited to public rights of way”. This is at variance both with this sign and with OS maps which show the reserve as public access land. In any case, the lower bridleway gate, just to the left of this sign, is away from the legal line which is well to the right and blocked by the fence. (27 February, 2010)

The information on the Natural England website is very out of date and, as far as I know, there are plans to update it sometime soon.

Industrial artefacts in Falmer Bottom (1) by Dave Spicer

Industrial artefacts in Falmer Bottom (1) by Dave Spicer.
Robin Webster’s explanation TQ3706 : Old well – Falmer Bottom is feasible bearing in mind there has to be water down there somewhere. (14 May, 2010)

Taken in 2012…

Newmarket Bottom by Paul Gillett

Newmarket Bottom (30 July, 2012) by Paul Gillett.
(30 July, 2012)

Newmarket Bottom by Paul Gillett

Newmarket Bottom by Paul Gillett.
(30 July, 2012)

Newmarket Bottom by Paul Gillett

Newmarket Bottom by Paul Gillett.
(30 July, 2012)

Newmarket Bottom by Paul Gillett

Newmarket Bottom by Paul Gillett.
(30 July, 2012)

Castle Hill by Paul Gillett

Castle Hill by Paul Gillett.
(30 July, 2012)

[I think Paul was thinking of the nearby Newmarket Plantation, tried writing Castle Hill and so made his mistake – for there is no plantation on Castle Hill.]

Newmarket Bottom by Simon Carey

Newmarket Bottom by Simon Carey.
Beginning at the end of Falmer Bottom before climbing Newmarket Hill to the left. (15 September, 2012)

Bridleway, Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Simon Carey

Bridleway, Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Simon Carey.
Climbing up from Falmer Bottom to meet Juggs Road to the east of Newmarket Hill. (15 September, 2012)

Remains of a Pump, Balsdean by Simon Carey

Remains of a Pump, Balsdean by Simon Carey.
The only remnant of Norton Farm which originally lay out of shot to the left. The farm was apparently vacant by the early 20th century and was commandeered by the military during the Second World War used for target practice. The machinery was used to pump water from a well. Beyond is the southern slope of Castle Hill which is largely open access as evident by the gate in the fence. (15 September, 2012)

Site of Norton Farm by Simon Carey

Site of Norton Farm by Simon Carey.
Other than TQ3706 : Remains of a Pump, Balsdean the only other clues to the site of the former farm is the depression to the left where the farmhouse was once located. Originally part of the small hamlet of Balsdean which originally included Sutton Farm which later became Balsdean Farm, the farm survived into the 20th century but had become uninhabited by the First World War. The buildings remained and were commandeered by the military during the Second who used it and the neighbouring buildings in Balsdean for target practice. Any remains were cleared after the war with the farm reborn a mile to the south and TQ3706 : Ruined Barns, Balsdean erected to service it. What was once a populous valley is now thoroughly deserted. Beyond is Falmer Bottom. (15 September, 2012)

Falmer Bottom by Simon Carey

Falmer Bottom by Simon Carey.
Running northwards from TQ3706 : Site of Norton Farm to Newmarket Hill. (15 September, 2012)

Falmer Bottom by Simon Carey

Falmer Bottom by Simon Carey.
The continuation of TQ3706 : Falmer Bottom as it rounds the corner to head towards Newmarket Bottom. (15 September, 2012)

Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Simon Carey

Castle Hill National Nature Reserve by Simon Carey.
A small nature reserve above Falmer Bottom that has been managed as chalk grassland. It was set up in 1975. (15 September, 2012)

A big thank-you to Simon Carey, Paul Gillett, Dave Spicer, and Robin Webster.

Welcome to Newmarket Hill – a South Down Blog!

Featured

Two hundred metres above the nearby English Channel, Newmarket Hill crowns that part of the South Downs which lies between the towns of Brighton to the west and Lewes to the east, and between the villages of Rottingdean to the south and Falmer to the north. It’s top is in the parish of Kingston near Lewes, the village of which is about a mile and half away. However, it is now only about a mile to the north of the relatively modern village of Woodingdean and a mile and a half to the north-west of the deserted medieval hamlet of Balsdean. Its south-eastern slopes form a part of Castle Hill National Nature Reserve which is a site of European importance. This blog is about the history and ecology of its surrounding downland.

Newmarket Farm by Douglas Holland

Newmarket Farm by Douglas Holland.

In April 2013 I managed – as a volunteer for Natural England – a community based excavation of the site of a 19th century farm labourer’s cottage and farmyard called Newmarket Farm, just inside Castle Hill NNR, near the summit of Newmarket Hill. It was built in 1830 and was the birth place of my mother in 1942, shortly before it was requisitioned for military training by the Canadian and other troops stationed in nearby Balsdean and the surrounding area.

Newmarket Farm location

Newmarket Farm location. Overlay of old and new O.S. maps and Google satellite images.

Some Recommended Blog Entries

Some post-dig updates

Talks, related projects & research

David Cuthbertson: scienceinthegreen@gmail.com

Some dates for your diary (best viewed by clicking on ‘Agenda’ tab):