Raking up the past at Syston U3A

The sayings are old – ‘raking up the past’ and ‘going over old ground’ – and you’d be forgiven for thinking we’re talking about past gripes, grumbles and goings-on. No, this is Archaeology in the Wreake Valley, discovering who lived where and what they left behind when they’d all scarpered or died out. Syston, Rearsby, Brooksby, Cossington and Queniborough.
Archaeology was the U3A’s monthly talk and local archaeologist Peter Liddle informed, enlightened, and engaged 140 members in equal measure.
Lots of us think discovering the past is a bit ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ – hairy blokes wearing crumpled hats sweating and digging away with picks and shovels underground. But there’s less to it than that, and all it needs is a bit of subtle scraping and scratching just under the surface to discover how our ancestors lived and what they left behind.
Of course it’s important to have a good idea of where to scrape and scratch looking for old settlements, burial grounds and the like, or we’d be digging up every field between here and Timbuktu. That’s done by using techniques like aerial photography, geo-physics, metal detection, x-ray, and something sounding very complicated called seismic reflection. That way the archaeologists pin down where to look. So just what has been found hereabouts in these parts?
Rotherby has been a rich source of Anglo-Saxon metal artefacts from burial grounds (they liked to bury their dead ‘tooled up’ with their weapons so to speak) and aerial photography during a quarry excavation at Cossington revealed the site of a Bronze Age settlement. Land around Brooksby was farmed by the Romans – what did they ever do for us? – and long before them there’s evidence of Neolithic activity dating back 5,000 years. Queniborough has houses dating back to the 14th Century, and Hamilton village – originally called Hambleton – is the site of one of the best preserved deserted villages in the county.
Not wanting to leave Rearsby out of it, Wreake Valley’s answer to Stonehenge – okay, not quite so grand – was located near to where the rivers Wreake and Soar meet.and at Rothley there have been finds of Neolithic pottery and flints, plus pits and ditches dating from Roman times, and evidence of a large Roman villa with coins, pottery, pots, and brooches.
Much of this work is done by volunteers of the Leicestershire Fieldworkers’ Group; if you’d like more information or are interested in joining, go to http://leicsfieldworkers.co.uk or write to: Leicestershire Fieldworkers, c/o ULAS, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH.