I’ve had a few days to collect my thoughts – it has been so unbelievably wet I haven’t been spending as much time out in the garden as I’d have wished. But the good news is, the pond is almost half full, so I’m hoping newts will be returning there soon. Of course one of the big problems, when writing about Time Team so long before transmission, is to be informative – even interesting – yet not let the cat out of the bag. Nobody wants to watch a film when they know how it ends – although that said, I must have enjoyed watching Match of the Day hundreds of times, even though I’d just heard the results on the radio. So why’s that? Sometimes, and I think Time Team is a case in point, I suspect it isn’t so much what was scored, or discovered, as how these things happened. And this brings me to a general thought.
The programme we’ve just finished was centred on an Iron Age hillfort. Very little was known about it. It was also very large and elaborate, but somehow had never been investigated, not even by those nosey local vicars of Victorian times. So the first thing we did was call in our friends from geofizz. It struck me, as I watched John Gator’s team stride up and down their carefully surveyed gridlines, come rain or shine, that in actual fact Time Team is a geophysics show. Because by far and away our biggest legacy to the group of keen local volunteers, who’d invited us over to work on their prize local site, wasn’t the few trenches we were able to open in our three days with them. No, our biggest gift to them was the detailed map of thousands of features still lying buried beneath the soil. That map was worth more than its weight in gold to the group who’d called us in. It would fuel research for decades to come. That research would also help to bind the local community together during the years of economic down-turn that are now staring us all in the face. In some respects the hillfort would be acting much like the communal focus it had been back in the Iron Age, over two thousand years ago. And much of that would be down to those extraordinarily comprehensive geophysics plans. Somehow the term ‘geofizz’ seems to belittle such an achievement. ‘Fizz’ hints at something bubbly and transient, which that survey most certainly isn’t: no, it’s a genuine, important and long-lasting achievement – something we can be proud of.
Finally, in case you’re wondering, my next Time Team will be in two weeks. And it won’t be prehistoric. In fact it won’t be very old at all. But I suspect it’ll be extraordinarily moving, in much the same way as that remarkable rain-swept navvy camp up in the clouds atop Risehill, in the Yorkshire Dales. Our next site is also a camp, but a very, very large one. And a very different one. Your appetite whetted?