On the typical unpredictability of summer

It’s been impossible to ignore the hot weather over the last few weeks. Even in my clay lump office shed – which is supposed to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer - it’s been sweltering. The impact on our sites has been notable – in particular, at Caistor Roman Town. The most obvious effect is visual – the dry, scorched grass of a Mediterranean savanna, as far as the eye can see across the fields and meadows, such a contrast to the snow and floods of the spring.

Positive outcomes of the heat are the clear parch marks that have appeared across the country revealing below-ground archaeological features in spectacular aerial images – so much easier these days with the use of drones (used responsibly of course). The Roman street grid at Caistor has been particularly clear this July, as revealed by HexCam’s 3-D modelling of the town which you can see at http://norfarchtrust.org.uk/caistor

A less welcome knock-on effect of the lack of rain is the reduction in fresh grass for the sheep to graze. The shepherd has not been able to circulate the flock from field to field as usual, but has dispersed smaller groups onto all the fields instead. This combination of heat and the omnipresence of sheep appears to have discouraged our usual dog-walking visitors – last week I called in at the usual peak time of after-work-before-supper, and the car park was empty, and remained empty, for the whole hour I was there, something I’ve never seen before.

This is quite inconvenient because, as part of our Lottery-funded Onwards & Upwards project, we are currently carrying out a visitor survey to find out more about who visits our sites and why. In the end, I returned home empty-handed.

The visitor surveys will continue through to the end of October and we're hoping that our visitors will return along with our usually unreliable weather. To make up for the quiet July it would be really helpful to find a few more volunteer surveyors to help collect the data we need to plan management of the sites in the future. If this is not for you, you might know someone who would enjoy giving us a few hours of their time – a student back for the summer holidays perhaps, or a neighbour who’s just retired. We are focussing on Burgh Castle Fort, Caistor Roman Town and St Benet’s Abbey but would also be interested in information from our other sites if they are more convenient. Please do pass this opportunity on -  and we will provide the training.

For more information please get in touch with our Volunteer Co-ordinator Katie Phillips: natvolunteering@gmail.com

News in brief

Sunday 5 August: St Benet's Abbey Open-air Service led by the Bishop of Norwich: Make the most of this special annual event by travelling by river aboard the Mississippi Riverboat from Horning. Some tickets still available - only £10.00 from tfosba@gmail.com or phone 01692 631351 or buy at Horning Post Office. Boarding 1.15pm at Swan Green Horning, return by 6.15pm. Licensed bar, toilets and guides on board. Event organised by The Friends of St Benet's Abbey.