Friends of the AMPHITHEATRE QUERNS WOOD and IV ACRE FIELD
The council are mowing the grass again, so it must be spring. At least, not as soggy underfoot as last year.
In each newsletter, we try to give a little bit of history of one of the elements of the AQIVA complex. This time round, we have volume 1 of the pre Roman and Roman history of the site. At this stage, we cannot say how many volumes there will be!
Meanwhile, to deal with the various elements in their usual order.
The pathway around and up to the obelisk has now been completed, the “Bridge over the River Kwern” is in place and open for use, as are the steps leading from the bridge up the viewing platform at the edge of the Amphitheatre by the entrance from Cotswold Avenue. There is tidying up work still to be completed around the area, although much has already been done.
The car park by the scout hut has had something of a makeover, with low fencing and shrubs planted along the back. In addition, wild flowers have been sown by the scouts between the obelisk and the drystone wall.
Work to prepare the information board continues, and funding is still being sought to do maintenance work on the obelisk itself.
To give even the most basic overview of the history of the site is a fairly mammoth task, so we are splitting it into bite sized pieces. Below, is part 1 “Before the Romans”
Back in prehistory the site was a gentle north west facing hillside that sloped down to the River Churn. Perhaps the oldest feature is the small long barrow, this being the fenced off area between the amphitheatre and the Waitrose roundabout. Generally long barrows were constructed in the Neolithic or New Stone Age period (4,500 – 2,000 BC). This barrow was excavated in the C19th when human remains were found. There have been no more recent archaeological investigations so without the application of current practice there is uncertainty about the history of this feature.
The long barrow was undisturbed by the Roman builders who constructed the Fosse Way, which ran between the long barrow and the amphitheatre. The long barrow was also not touched by the building of the amphitheatre so it appears the Romans respected the site.
At the start of the First Century Britain was inhabited by numerous Celtic tribes. This area was home to the Dobunni. These were an Iron Age tribe who lived across what we now know as North Somerset, Gloucestershire, parts of Worcestershire and Warwickshire. They were farmers who lived in small villages that tended to be concentrated in fertile valleys. By this time they had abandoned their hill forts and, instead, larger settlements, known as oppida, were growing. Locally an oppida has been excavated at Bagendon.
The Dobunni were farmers, traders and craftsman. The finds of gold and silver coins minted by the tribe are an indication of trade across the country. From about 50BC, the Roman Empire had a significant trade with Britain, with the local tribes supplying slaves, cattle, gold and hunting dogs in return for wine and olive oil.
However there is no evidence of the Iron Age on the Amphitheatre site.
In AD 43 a Roman army of 40,000 troops crossed the Channel and the history of Britain was changed dramatically.
So here endeth part 1, complete with cliffhanger. The Romans have arrived, but to find out what happens next, you will have to tune into newsletter no.6. Will Philius Mitchellius get the Roman arches chariot repair shop back from Maximus Branningus?
To repeat something from our previous newsletter, for those of you who would like more information about the vision for the whole amphitheatre complex, the final version of the 10 year Master Plan can be found on the town council website:
A lengthy document, but a summary of the various actual proposed phased projects can be found at appendix D, pages 53-70. Inevitably, as circumstances change, there may be modifications to this, and some projects are easier to achieve than others! But do have a look if you can.
The council are awaiting cost estimates and clearance from English Heritage regarding the proposed improved access from the woods into the amphitheatre.
FOUR ACRE FIELD
Wild flower sowing is now complete: for those who haven’t seen the signs around the field, a bumble bee mix has been sown along the side nearest to, and running parallel with, Cotswold Avenue. This was done on 26th March by a group of children from Chesterton Primary School. In addition, the same mix as used last year has been put down along the top of the slope on the Querns Wood side, but just a little higher up than previously. The area which was sown last year has been left to see what happens, and flowers have already started to come through. Finally, yet more seed has been sown in the corner by the walk through into Querns Wood (Cotswold Close side).
Within the next few weeks, we will have 3 benches in various positions around the field, but located in a way that will not interfere with any of the existing recreational activities that take place. We hope that everyone will enjoy them: equally, we hope that everyone will respect them. There will also be a notice board, situated by the entrance from Chesterton Lane. These are small starting steps following our consultation last year.
Communication – there is plenty of information as well as photographs on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfAmphitheatre?fref=ts If you would like any more detail, please contact Alison Horrocks (Secretary) on 01285 659628 or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org
If anyone would like to see previous newsletters, please let Alison know (sorry, but email only).
Meetings – we meet on the 4th Wednesday of every month, starting at 7 pm, at Chesterton primary school. The next meeting, which is our AGM, is on Wednesday 27 May, and you are welcome to come along if you wish.