Gee whizz, more Geofizz!

Each year, a number of volunteers join us at Lochbrow. We asked some of them to tell us why they decided to volunteer and something about their experiences at Lochbrow. In this blog post Faith and Bob explain ….


While racking our brains for something memorable to do for the year’s birthday celebrations,  it dawned on us that we would be totally enthused by standing in a muddy, rain-sodden field, water pouring down the inside of trouser legs into boots ankle-high in mud, while measuring electricity in the slush.

Then we saw the opportunity offered by the team (Helen, Dorothy and Kirsty) at the Lochbrow site which matched this expectation: Perfect!  So off we set and there began our annual pilgrimage south to the Lochbrow site for the Geofizz study.  Unfortunately, this iconoclastic weather-pattern never repeated itself; instead, we put up with the blue skies and sunshine of subsequent years as we laid out and paced the grid. We were rewarded with the excitement of seeing the oh so numerous data points we helped to collect being translated into an understanding of what was happening here thousands of years ago, giving some idea of what my distant relatives were getting up to then! I bet they weren’t doing Resistivity in the Rain.

Even the local cows were interested, galloping up from the Annan River to watch us bemusedly, no doubt thinking we were mad to be measuring the lush grass and not eating it!!

Roll on next September!!”  Faith and Bob

Survey in progress in the North field

Survey in progress in the North field

A new kind of audience for experiential archaeology!

What’s going on here? Some of those confused local cows!

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Sound and vision – a Lochbrow playlist

Over the years we’ve kicked around ideas about a playlist for Lochbrow. I’ve tried to scribble down whenever someone mentioned a song, or whenever I’ve come across something that seemed appropriate. I’ve turned everything I could remember into a Spotify Playlist*, but if you don’t use Spotify, here are the links to YouTube. Enjoy! The list will expand….

Bring In The Archaeologists – Charles Jenkins and the Zhivagos

I don’t have the map – Idlewild

Satellite – Eddie Vedder

This Is Hardcore – Pulp

Are ‘Friends’ Electric? – Gary Numan

Radar Love – Golden Earring

Why Does It Always Rain On Me? – Travis

Are You Metal? – Helloween

Are You Experienced – The Jimi Hendrix Experience

The Size Of A Cow – The Wonder Stuff

Maps and Legends – R.E.M.

Satellite of Love – Lou Reed

Line and Length – Duckworth Lewis Method

Traffic in the sky – Jack Johnson

Have You Ever Seen The Rain – Creedence Clearwater Revival

Hole in my shoe – Traffic

I Am a Paleontologist* – They Might Be Giants (with Danny Weinkauf)

I Am A Cider Drinker – The Wurzels

I Predict A Riot – Kaiser Chiefs

Aerials – System Of A Down

Sound and Vision – David Bowie

Archaeology – Sweet Billy Pilgrim

* – where Spotify has the song available, that is. If there’s a * next to the title, it isn’t yet available on Spotify, as of the date of this post. For the TMBG song, that made me extra super sad, because it’s totally Liam’s song (thanks Hen for the heads up!).

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Exciting results as the Lochbrow 2014 season draws to a close

So that’s it for another year. The Lochbrow 2014 season came to an end yesterday afternoon after a full week of survey. Unfortunately we were plagued by instrument problems, which meant that we were forced to change our plans several times. In the end our focus for the second half of the week was targeted resistivity in the north field, attempting to get some decent kite aerial photography of both the north and south fields and experiential survey.

Probably the greatest revelation this year has been the results of resistivity survey over the location of the large timber circle to the west of the cursus. In previous years targeted resistivity over parts of the cursus has been largely unsuccessful in detecting the postholes of this monument. Therefore when we began to survey the timber circle we were hoping to pick up additional features associated with the timber circle, but not the postholes of the circle itself. Imagine our excitement, then, when we downloaded the results on Thursday evening and there on the screen was an oval of low resistance anomalies, representing postholes, and closely matching the recorded cropmarks. We had indeed detected the postholes of the timber circle! To say that we are thrilled is an understatement. The next stage is to compare our results with the recorded cropmarks to see if they add to what we already know from the cropmarks. In particular, geomorphological features obscure some of the cropmarks of the timber circle, meaning that the full circuit has never been recorded. First impressions suggest that the resistivity results are providing a more detailed picture. There also appear to be additional features within the circle, some of which are likely modern in origin, others may well be associated with the enclosing timber circle. Altogether, this is a fantastic result and one about which I (Kirsty) am very excited!

Surveying the timber circle

Surveying the timber circle. Red flags mark the location of the postholes of the circle as interpreted from cropmarks. Excitingly, resistivity also detected these postholes

We’ve also been continuing with the experiential archaeology, piloted last year and mentioned in my blog post from Wednesday. This has been on a slightly smaller scale than hoped, but we’ve recorded a number of observations in and around the cursus and timber circle in the north field. This gives us a solid base from which to learn and to build upon in future field seasons. For now the next step will be working with the information gathered and piloting methods of depicting it, something that will be an interesting and exciting challenge for the winter! Throughout the week we were blessed with some wonderful weather and, until Friday we had hardly seen a drop of rain (in a massive contrast to previous years!). Unfortunately it began to rain just as we had begun a final experiential session. We were a much reduced team by then and thankfully the rain did not dampen our spirits. All in all, a slightly soggy end to what has been a good, though at times frustrating, week of survey. We leave with some exciting results and with much to think about.

Damp, but still smiling. My Saturday afternoon experiential helpers

Damp, but still smiling. My Saturday afternoon experiential helpers

Long shadows as the day, and Lochbrow 2014, draws to a close

Long shadows as the day, and Lochbrow 2014, draws to a close

Goodbye Lochbrow. ‘Till next time!

Goodbye Lochbrow. ‘Till next time!

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Wednesday 24th September

We’ve had another couple of good days at Lochbrow. Our numbers were increased slightly with the addition of a couple of volunteers yesterday and today, though both Liam and Robyn left today (Wednesday). We continue to be amazed by the wonderful weather we’ve been enjoying – so far sunny and warm most days without a drop of rain- by far the best weather we’ve seen while doing fieldwork at Lochbrow! A number of instrument frustrations have meant that progress has been slower than we had hoped and we’ve had to alter our plans slightly. However we’ve continued to do targeted resistivity in the north field and today surveyed a couple of grids with the magnetometer, also in the north field. Yesterday we marked out the location of the cursus and timber circle with flags and then spent most of this morning undertaking experiential survey in and around these sites. This will hopefully add a different perspective to our understanding of the sites and their location within the landscape. Much more work is required, but we’ve made a good start. We’ve also continued flying our kite (with camera attached) as often as possible. Today we were also joined by Mike Middleton who some to test out a resistivity meter he made himself. It was great to see Mike’s ingenious device, and we plan to compare results once he’s had time to download and look at the results. All in all a largely successful couple of days!

Mike and his amazing machine

Mike and his amazing machine

More kite flying

More kite flying

Evening sunshine at Lochbrow

Evening sunshine at Lochbrow

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Lots Of Lovely Filth, or The Sediments of Lochbrow

Core! Look at the size of that!

Core! Look at the size of that!

For the last however-many years I’ve been promising to write something about the geomorphology and Quaternary sedimentology of Lochbrow, and steadfastly failing to do so. It’s mainly because I’m a rocky Earth scientist, and don’t feel confident describing and interpreting glacial and post-glacial sediments.

Nonetheless, I’ve now done quite a lot of reconnaissance and data gathering. Robyn and I have brought the augers to site and cored a number of interesting localities. I cannot put off this blog post any longer.

The Lochbrow site is geomorphologically intriguing, with all sorts of elongate features: ridges and hollows, channels and hillocks. Most must be glacial or post-glacial, but underpinned by the bedrock geology.

In the north field is the palaeo-channel, a sinuous western depression that appears to run towards the Annan, but finishes with an uphill slope, at a point too high to drain into the modern river. It has to be a relict feature, although it must still affect modern drainage.

The south field has lots of lumps and bumps, but the main topographic feature is the low in the south-west corner, a marshy region described on the maps as Archwood Lake. We can’t help wondering if this is the loch that Lochbrow gets its name from.

Having done the augering with Robyn, we’ve certainly found sedimentary evidence of standing bodies of water, not just in the lake region, but also in the palaeo-channel. We just need to go and analyse the sediments under a microscope and try to figure out their exact environment (and perhaps age). And maybe then I’ll be able to finally write something properly here!

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Sun, survey and kites

Hello from what has been a very sunny and warm Lochbrow! In fact, so sunny and warm that we’ve been getting confused about what time of year it is. We’re just not used to being at Lochbrow and having really good weather! Anyway, the Lochbrow Landscape Project team are back now for another week of survey. A small group of us began yesterday by laying out the grids and starting resistivity in the South field. Today, resistivity, augering and, very excitingly, kite aerial photography were the order of the day. Robyn and Liam spent the day augering the drumlin in the north field (to help confirm that it is a natural feature) and in the lower areas in the south field. Hen and I (Kirsty) worked just in the north field today, doing resistivity. When the wind began to pick up, we decided to try out the kite and indulge in a little kite aerial photography. Not sure yet if we have any workable photographs, but it was good fun and added to the enjoyment of the day!

Setting up

Setting up

Resistance is not futile!

Resistance is not futile!

Lunchtimes at Lochbrow: feeding our social media addiction

Lunchtimes at Lochbrow: feeding our social media addiction


Let’s go fly a kite

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It’s that time again! 2014 season announcement

We are pleased to announce that the Lochbrow Landscape Project will be returning for a futher season of survey at the end of September. We will be on site from the 21st of September and posting updates here as the fieldwork progresses (depending on internet connection!), so check back here for all the excitement of another survey season. We’ll be tweeting using the hashtag #Lochbrow2014. Expect the usual comments about the weather and cows, oh and of course the progress of the geophysics, auguring and experiential analysis!

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Everything is better with ice cream

It is my considered opinion that all archaeological fieldwork, regardless of location or time of year, should start off with ice cream. This goes double for blog posts. I present to you the Artist’s Palette (four scoops of ice cream plus a selection of toppings, sauce, and wafers) from Drummuir Farm Ice Cream Parlour.

2014-05-24 14.46.33

Counter clockwise from the bottom left, I indulged in Coconut, Blueberry, Mint Chocolate Chip, and Butterscotch. My favourite was the Blueberry, and altogether it was the nicest dessert ever. (The lentil soup I had beforehand was also gorgeous. I heartily recommend visiting the parlour if you’re ever in the Dumfries area. In fact, it would be a downright shame if you missed it!)


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Going for a stroll: walking the landscape at Lochbrow

After an unpromising start to the day, the sun shone for the Lochbrow Landscape Project team last weekend when we met up to walk around the wider Lochbrow landscape. All were fortified by a visit to an ice cream farm the previous day and cooked breakfasts in the morning, so we were well prepared (all fieldwork should start with a visit to an ice cream farm)!

As a project, we are concerned with the wider landscape context of the sites at Lochbrow so, as well as a time for the team to meet up between survey seasons, this was also an opportunity to explore the landscape beyond the north and south fields where our work has been focused so far, to consider the location of our sites within their wider context, familiarise ourselves better with that landscape context, expand our own experience and explore some of the additional archaeological sites in the region.

We began our walk by crossing the river Annan. The river features very strongly in the story of our sites at Lochbrow, which sit on a gravel terrace overlooking the River Annan and its wide floodplain. As a means of transport in the past, the river is likely to have been a means of access to our sites and so we need to consider people approaching from the river to the east rather than just by the road on the west of the site that we use today. So, last weekend, we crossed the little bridge below Lochbrow and then proceeded through unknown territory down the east bank of the river.

Crossing the River Annan

Crossing the river. Photo: K Millican

The River Annan. Photo: K Millican

The River Annan. Photo: K Millican

The river is wide and meandering here, and takes a broad loop away from Lochbrow; the bridge located at the part of the loop furthest away from Lochbrow. Looking back at the field in which the timber cursus has been recorded, the steep edge of the gravel terrace could be seen as a distinctive topographical feature at the other side of the floodplain. A little to the south of the cursus field, the rambling farm buildings of Lochbrow farm stood proudly above the river and floodplain. As we walked southwards, the front gable of the farmhouse came into view. The farmhouse faces south, yet the modern access is from the west and the north. Has the main route of access changed since the farmhouse was built? Certainly there are hints that routes of access are likely to have changed over time. This apparently ordinary farm has other hidden depths; it was the childhood home of Catherine the Great’s chief physician. How much more extraordinariness is hidden within the apparently mundane aspects of the landscape?!

Looking back towards the cursus field. The two trees stand on the very edge of the terrace on which the cropmarks of the cursus have been recorded. Photo: K Millican

Looking back towards the cursus field. The two trees stand on the very edge of the terrace on which the cropmarks of the cursus have been recorded. Photo: K Millican

Lochbrow farmhouse as seen from the east bank of the River Annan. So much more than an orginary farm!

Lochbrow farmhouse as seen from the east bank of the River Annan. So much more than an orginary farm! Photo: K Millican

As we walked south, the location of the Iron Age palisaded enclosures came into view on the other side of the Annan, with the meandering river taking us quite close and, a little further south, we came across a ford across the river. A couple of our party just had to check it out for themselves …

Testing out the ford ... Photo: K Millican

Testing out the ford … Photo: K Millican

Wildlife abounded as we walked. From sandmartins catching insects above the river and flying in and out of burrows in the river bank, to a briefly glimpsed kingfisher, jumping fish and a stoat or weasel running through the grass, we were treated to a wide array of wildlife. A reminder that flying, running and swimming creatures are, and were, as much a part of this landscape as the people, their monuments and settlements that we study as archaeologists.

Our path took us to the former location of Jardine Hall, the 17th century mansion of the Jardine family, demolished in the 1960s, and across the bridge built around 1884 to take the mineral railway connecting Corncockle Sandstone Quarry with the Caledonian Main Line across the Annan. We passed Spedlin’s Tower, the earlier seat of the Jardine family, abandoned in favour of the mansion across the river reputedly because the ghost of a miller left to starve to death in the dungeons of the tower drove the family out. The tower was restored in the 1960s and is now occupied. One wonders if the ghost is still in residence!

Spedlin’s Tower

Spedlin’s Tower. No ghosts were harmed in the taking of this photograph. Photo: K Millican

Turning north, we headed back towards Lochbrow, climbing up to the fort that overlooks Lochbrow at Archwood. Only the southern arc of one of the ramparts of this multivalite fort survives (the rest have been ploughed flat), though amorphous lumps and bumps indicate the survival of more features. The location of this fort gave us a good view across the Lochbrow landscape and surrounding countryside. We were able to see more clearly the wet and marshy nature of much of the landscape surrounding Lochbrow, as well as the way in which the fort overlooked the location of the palisaded enclosures (which may be broadly contemporary with the fort). Altogether, this gave us a very different view of the areas in which our attention has been focused over the last few years.

View from fort across the Lochbrow Landscape. Figure is standing on the surviving rampart. Photo: K Millican

View from fort across the Lochbrow Landscape. Figure is standing on the surviving rampart. Photo: K Millican

All too soon it was time to head home. We walked slowly back to Lochbrow, satisfied in our short walk around this interesting landscape and the different perspective it has given us on the location that has been our focus for the last few years. For by expanding our experience, we are better able to place the sites at Lochbrow within a much wider context and depth of chronology. ‘Till September then when we will return for another season of survey.

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Soggy socks and jokes about cows: a view from the field

At Lochbrow we’ve been very fortunate to have had a number of dedicated volunteers working with us, and the 2013 season was no exception. Here, archaeology student Natalia writes about her Lochbrow 2013 experience.

Day 7 group photo.

The Lochbrow team on day 7 2013. Natalia is in the bottom row, second from the left.


I am an archaeology student moving into the last year of my undergraduate degree. I learned of the Lochbrow project through one of my lecturers. Surveying is hugely relevant to my degree and as I barely had any experience in the field, I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn. Even though the project had already started two days earlier, I sent an email. Three emails later I had bought tickets, was informed of what I would need to take with me, and knew I was being picked up at the other end. It was a four hour train ride over but absolutely worth it. As soon as I got there, it was clear that the group was simply a team of people there to work but also to enjoy the time in the field. We had two cottages. I shared a room in the co-directors’ cottage. We all made dinner, talked about the project and looking at  the mapped readings for hours before going to bed at a reasonable time. Got to get up early!


The north field at Lochbrow, location of the cursus, timber circle and barrows.

Over the following four days, I learned how to set grids, effectively use ropes, and most importantly to use both a magnetometer and a resistivity meter for non-destructive study of a landscape. I learned not only to press buttons and follow instructions but to actually work these things, which I thought would be impossible. And somehow by the third day, taking 50cm steps for four hours in the wind and rain while your socks get wetter and wetter inside your wellies just doesn’t seem so bad.  Instead of complaints you make jokes about cows, and accompanying the Scottish indecisive weather you find a sense of camaraderie.

The whole experience was highly educational as well as fun. It was great to see the transparency with which a well-run project can work and succeed despite the weather troubles and rather small number of workers. Chipping in for food and paying for train tickets is a small expense, especially considering accommodation and transport to and from site (and to the station and Tesco) were provided. I met some wonderful people and genuinely enjoyed every minute working and learning from them. I even made a good friend and travel buddy back to Aberdeen. If I haven’t moved away by next year’s session, I think I’ll go for seconds. Can’t wait to see the results!


Taking a break … another student volunteer, Sophia, finds an interesting place to take a break from surveying …

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