RPL walk at last takes place – but weather is no better

Paston landscape 

The Reading the Past in the Landscape walk that was postponed because of bad weather in February eventually took place on the afternoon of Saturday, April 28 under a grey sky, driven along by a vigorous, cold wind and with more than a spot of rain. So no real improvement there, but landscape archaeologist Dr Richard Hoggett put a brave face on it, and ten brave souls gathered at Paston Barn and walked from there by the back roads to Lucy's home, Dayspring, where hot refreshments awaited.

The walk was interspersed, of course, with Dr Hoggett's expert observations on the landscape and buildings, and after refreshments the party (minus one) continued down the footpath towards Mundesley, stopping at Stow Mill for a climb up the rather warmer interior. The place's original function as a place of refuge was easily appreciated. 

Onwards again towards the cliffs and past the historic Mundesley Holiday Camp. Another talk on the cliffs was almost drowned out by the strengthening wind – but not quite. In good spirits we continued on a path across the fields back to Paston village, resisting the temptation to stick to the cliff edge and find the elusive Craft Lane (glimpsed snaking across a ploughed field as we neared our destination). All in all an informative and not unexciting climax to the Reading the Past in the Landscape project.

The last library session of Reading the Past in the Landscape – part of an exciting expedition into the world of the Paston letters – took place at North Walsham on February 29, when Dr Hoggett (Coastal Heritage Officer, Norfolk County Council) introduced an amazingly large group of 18 to researching local history online. It was the last in a series of free linked workshops by Dr Hoggett, two of them held at Mundesley library and two at North Walsham.

Some of the websites used so far:

Historian W G Hoskins said: ˜To those who know how to read it aright, the English landscape is the richest historical record which we possess."

An introductory presentation in the form of an illustrated lecture took place on Wednesday 7th September at St Margaret's Church, when between 20 and 30 people enjoyed an illustrated lecture by Dr Hoggett, giving an overview of our current understanding of the rich historic environment of the Paston area, highlighting the results of recent historical and archaeological research here.

Earlier in the series, on Saturday 15th October about a dozen volunteers were introduced to fieldwalking.

Dr Rob Knee reports:

We talked, we walked and we discovered!

We met in the church, and Richard described to us what we might find when walking a field. In essence, look for anything that bears the mark of man. We were shown authentic examples of what might be there, from prehistoric flint work through to the great ages of Roman and Anglo Saxon pottery. The other key lesson for us lay in how to make sure that what is found, and the areas that yield no finds, are carefully recorded on the grid system that is used to guide the field walk.

On a glorious sunny day (apparently an unusual feature of field walking!), we moved out to the field that the farmer had kindly offered us and were shown how to set up 20-metre-square grids. Pythagorus’s Theorem suddenly became useful (after all these years) as the tape-measured right angle proved vital to ensure the accuracy of the squares.

At last we had permission for a trial walk and to hunt for any fragments left by our ancestors. To our pleasure and Richard’s approval, we did discover between us a number of interesting items, including flint finger tools and some ancient pottery shards. There was also a very large horse shoe which wasn’t taken with the other pieces back to Gressenhall for expert scrutiny!

Richard set out to provide us with the basic tools to manage our own field walking. He left us with both the knowledge to do this and the enthusiasm to consider our own programme for covering the parish. The first steps here will involve liaising with the local landowners and farmers to identify the key fields and the appropriate months when they will be suitable for walking. Do contact PHS if you would like to be involved – and watch this space!

Other events in the RPL project:

Saturday 12th November, 1-4pm
Introduction to Building Recording.
Norfolk has literally hundreds of historic buildings, and Paston is no exception, the church and the barn being two particularly fine examples. This session looked at the methods and techniques which can be employed to record the fabric, fixtures and fittings of historic buildings, and gave participants the chance to practise these techniques on the church and other surrounding buildings.

Schools Day
February – Bacton and Mundesley schools at Paston Church.
This day gave local schoolchildren the opportunity to learn about how archaeologists and historians find out about the past. Based at Paston Church, during the course of the day children had the chance to take part in a range of historical and archaeological activities, try a range of hands-on archaeological techniques and examine copies of historical documents.