THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL surveys being carried out at Mapledurham Playing fields over the summer, as part of preparation work required for landscape improvements at the site, will now continue into October.
In June, the Mapledurham Playing Fields Trustees Sub-Committee approved a Landscape Masterplan for the site at the same time as agreeing to lease part of the playing fields to the Education and Schools Funding Agency (ESFA) for a permanent new site for the Heights School.
The Council is working closely with Berkshire Archaeology to survey and record the archaeological landscape of the fields. An initial phase of archaeological surveys took place in late July and August, as part of the pre-work needed for the landscape improvements, as agreed by the Sub-Committee.
The recently completed archaeological site investigations identified an early Roman cattle enclosure and some Roman remains at its western edge, including broken pottery and animal bones dating from the 1st-2nd Century AD.
Further deeper archaeological investigation is now required of the underlying gravels, to search for Palaeolithic remains. This work will involve key specialists who will examine the gravel for Stone Age tools and may provide new insights into this period of human prehistory. The availability of the experts has meant this work will now take place as a second separate phase starting from Monday 1st of October, with the work expected to last a week.
Visitors to the fields at the start of October may notice a series of the deeper exploratory pits; up to ten 2m x 2m, 3m deep test pits will be dug across the site. Whilst the excavations take place, these pits will be protected by 1.8m high heras fencing to ensure site safety. The location of these pits does not impact on the site’s football pitches.
The archaeological work will contribute to the archaeological understanding of the area, recording any findings and, as in standard in any pre-development work, it will inform the planning submission for the future landscape works agreed by the Sub-Committee.
Separate to the Council’s archaeological work, the ESFA is expected to begin its own archaeology investigations work on the footprint of the proposed school site in late 2018.
Cllr Debs Edwards, Chair of The Mapledurham Playing Fields Trustees Sub-Committee, said: “We are working proactively with Berkshire Archaeology, the statutory planning consultee on archaeology matters within the county, to ensure this site has a thorough archaeological survey before we move on to the next stage of preparatory landscape work. It will be fascinating to see what historical information the survey will reveal about how the land was used in the past.
“The site investigation work taking place in October and previously over the summer, forms part of the pre-work leading up to a planning submission for the landscape works on this site, as agreed by the Sub-Committee. The latest work is estimated to last around one week, with the planning application potentially submitted early 2019.”
The full report to the Mapledurham Playing Fields Trustees Sub Committee on 20th June can be viewed here: www.reading.gov.uk/media/8941/item05/pdf/item05_1.pdf