Archive News for 27th June 2008
For week ending, 27th June 2008: While the rest of Britain was deluged with rain, we were waiting for rain that really never came. Haymaking hasn't started yet, so farmers and gardeners were hoping for some rain to boost the last stages of growth - there were some light showers, mainly at night, but no good, tank-filling, plant-feeding wet weather. The skies were cloudy, but pleasantly so and it was warm, so the visitors taking carriage trips round the island had ideal weather for it, and made the most of it. Sarah La Trobe-Bateman's little governess cart, with Victor in the shafts, went round at a civilised pace enjoying the quiet lanes and the early summer flowers - these banks have not been cut back too far. While some people were ending carriage tours, others were coming home from medical trips to Guernsey, and had the ambulance to meet the boat and bring them up the hill, to deliver them to their doors. The ambulance has to be hired for this service, but it is well worth it after visits to specialist doctors, or even dentists and opticians if the patient is not too well and tired from the journey. The ambulance, when its job is done, is put away into what was the billiard room in the Old Hall, now the ambulance station.
People are finding time to drop into the Visitors' Centre, just past the Post Office, to have a look at the Exhibition of Sark Arts and Crafts. In this corner, under the poster advertising the Midsummer Flower Show, which was on this week, there are Monika Komla's hessian dolls, which are very clever and pleasing, made completely of hessian, and Heather Baker's amazing display of spring flowers and a spider's web, all in icing (except the spider's web, which was a translucent gel!). It doesn't show up very well with a light background, so there is another picture with a dark backdrop. In the opposite corner, under the knitting, Lorraine Nicolle's pottery shared the display with her delicate silver jewellery, with flowers and shells - tiny ormers, oysters and cockles as earrings and on chains. There are photographs as well as the paintings and drawings - plenty to browse round and examine.
The Visitors' Centre is geared to the hours that visitors need it, so it is not easy for the working residents to get to the very interesting exhibitions put on there; the Sunday evening opening of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition made that possible, and locals took advantage of it. Several of the local spectators bought paintings, sketches and prints that were on sale. Jamie Cook's paintings of la Coupee, L'Eperquerie and the Bon Marin off the north east coast are under scrutiny here, with Martin Remphrey's cartoons of the toastrack going up the hill alongside a fisherman with a mermaid in his link box, of witches having a van ride by the mill and of a fishing boat catching mermaids can be seen on the board behind them. Martin's drawings are not exactly portraits, but the characters in them are recognisable! There was more to look at and to listen to in the week following, when Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe gave a talk at the site of his teams latest excavations, as he had promised on his previous visit to Sark, in May. They opened new trenches to continue studying the structures they unearthed last year, and they found more evidence of mid Bronze Age, late Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman building - all very exciting.
Professor Cunliffe then took the group to the larger trench and showed the line of a mid Bronze Age palisade, a storage jar hole with shards of a storage pot in it, the top sheared off by Mediaeval ploughing of the rich, wind-blown loess soil that had covered the site and several post holes showing that a dwelling had been on that site. He showed the original ground level and pointed out that the ground on one side of the palisade had been trampled by animals into mud, while the other side had not - it could have been part of an animal enclosure. The smaller trench had similar structures in it, but that yielded even more interesting evidence at one end - a large number of Iron Age coins. The Professor said that he had been excavating similar sites for the past thirty years or so and in all that time had found perhaps four Iron Age coins - he had found over 100 on Sark, scattered in a way that suggested a religious offering. Sark had been a centre for making ceremonial stone axes as well - he would be able to tell us more when the things that had been found were examined by experts.
Meanwhile, back on the Seigneurie Farm, there was more excavation taking place, but on a larger scale. Professor Cunliffe had said that the archaeological site had to be dug by hand as a machine could have destroyed evidence of the past, but the past being removed from round the old farm buildings was of more recent origin - there had been two fires on the farm relatively recently; a big one in 1989 and another on 7th September 2005 - so the debris could be removed with a digger! The plants had moved in and covered quite a bit in the intervening time! Peter Byrne, down from his ladder now that the walls have been cleared, had the means of shifting larger amounts this time - with the digger. The area is just behind the Victorian walls north of the main gate, where there are mock gothic arrow slits through the stonework - an interesting view of the work!