Worcestershire Archaeology is working with volunteers on a stream-walking survey of the Dowles, Baveney and Lem Brooks within the Wyre Forest Landscape Partnership project area (resulting in approximately 17 km of watercourse surveyed). The aim of the survey is to record archaeological evidence for structures, fords, relict stream channels or prehistoric burnt mounds. The type of structures we hope to find could include, for example: mills, kilns, bridges, revetments and fish weirs, which we anticipate will be visible mainly in the form of worked stone, timbers or brickwork. We are also interested in evidence for relict stream channels and burnt mounds which are likely to be visible as organic deposits, charcoal and burnt stone in the stream bank.
Burnt mounds are something that may be unfamiliar. We find them archaeologically, usually associated with watercourses, and commonly in the West Midlands. They are prehistoric in date (Bronze Age to Iron Age) and consist of mounds of burnt, heat-cracked stone and charcoal. There is some debate about what they are, but the general consensus is that they are most likely to be the remains of sweat lodges (more explanation will be forthcoming in future posts).
This work is important as streams, and their associated archaeology, are very vulnerable to flood damage, and we've been no strangers to the affects of flooding this past winter! Increasingly our watercourses are also being affected by flood prevention engineering works, so this allows us to assess the character of the stream-bank archaeology in advance of any work taking place. This is a small pilot project designed to test and refine our survey methods.
The work is funded by the Forestry Commission, and is led by Worcestershire Archives and Archaeology Service. The project leader is Liz Pearson.
If you would like to find out more about this project and keep up-to-date with developments, you can now follow the Wyre Forest Stream-walking blog.