Preliminary surveys are being carried out by the Environment Agency (EA), along the proposed route of the River Thames Scheme (RTS), the new flood relief channel from Datchet to Teddington. Under current plans, the channel will run through the prehistoric settlement site at Southlea Farm, which is of great interest and concern to the DVS.
From 1996, a DVS group investigated cropmarks seen in aerial photos of Southlea, with exceptional results. Finds ranged from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages to the Roman period; from 6000 years ago to 1600 years ago. No excavation was done, just searching for flint and pottery brought up to the surface by ploughing. This is called field walking, and the EA will be using it to assess whether archaeological material is still to be found, and if excavation should take place. The EA will bring in its own team of field walkers, but a few of our experienced walkers will be able to take part too.
In September, DVS members were invited to visit Southlea by the kind invitation of the farmer, Nigel Berryman, and we were able to see where the RTS channel will branch off from the Thames, and roughly where the prehistoric settlement lies in its path. (Click here for photos of our visit.) The RTS will obliterate much of this landscape and the farm, and our best hope is that rescue excavation will be carried out, but that depends on what is found by field walking.
The EA team and the archaeologists who will be working at Southlea are very keen to make sure that the community is kept informed of what’s happening, especially if the archaeology proves to be as interesting as is hoped. So if there is any news to report later this year there will probably be a presentation to the Society, perhaps with new finds to be shown. (Before we get too excited, it may be that ploughing has already brought up what was there and nothing is left below.) You can click here to read more about the EA archaeological surveys.
For more information
There is a full-colour leaflet about the original project available at Datchet library, or click here to view the leaflet online. You can also find much more about the project on Janet’s Datchet History website: www.datchethistory.org.uk/general-articles/southlea-archaeology