The Bog Blog: Part III

The construction of the great Roman Bog is taking its toll on the slaves. This September a fresh pair were newly acquired and set to work, taking over where the previous slaves left off.

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(‘Wham bam thank you mam half a toilet constructed when we take over’, remarked one slave.)

Their first task was to mix up a gauge of lime mortar and apply this to the inside of the latrine, partly to tart up the bits that no one sees (!), but more importantly to ensure a smooth exit…

The side walls were built up to support the substantial oak seat and an attempt was made to secure the foot rest but a slave stepped on it and it came off again. More work needed! More successful was the installation of the flushing system:

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A number of unofficial tests have been carried out in recent days by the slaves and persons unknown. The flushing system was put through its paces with a slosh of water and ‘woo!’, it worked brilliantly. More circumspect was, well, see for yourself:

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The oak has now been measured and cut to the appropriate size and work has commenced on cutting out holes for the toilet seat: two 9” diameter thrones and a 6” baby seat.

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The slaves have promised they will not forget to sand down any splinters.

Mullein for Moths

This morning we were happy to escape the office and work outside on a project with Fiona Haynes, Conservation Officer from Butterfly Conservation. Butser is in the South Downs National Park, and due to the surrounding farms restricting their use of pesticides, we have lots of cool species that make their home here. One of these is the rare striped lychnis moth (Shargacucullia lychnitis) which only feeds on the flowers of dark mullein (Verbascum nigrum).

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After discovering a few striped lychnis caterpillars in the summer, Fiona asked if we wouldn’t mind distributing the mullein plants further to make the farm into a local stronghold for the moth. A nationally scarce species, they are on the UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan) priority list with declining populations, mainly due to loss of habitat. They can only be found in West Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, where dark mullein grows on disturbed, low-nutrient ground.

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We first collected seeds from the mullein flowers that already grow here. Some were still in flower, but the majority could be shaken into a bag to release their tiny children. Most were growing in our pig paddock, where the pigs spend all summer uprooting the ground, spreading seeds and trampling them into the soil to germinate. For this reason, pigs are sometimes used for woodland management, where they remove larger competitive plants and help make room for wildflowers.

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Once the seeds were collected, we found new spaces to plant them around the site. As we’re open to the public and schoolchildren, we do usually strim long patches of grass to keep the place safe and tidy. To combat this, we marked on a map where we’ve planted to ensure we leave these areas longer before cutting back, allowing them time to drop their seeds and regenerate. We used mattocks and trowels to clear little patches in the ground, drizzled the seeds over and stamped them in with our boots.

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Hopefully, this will bring a little boost to the mullein flowers that tend to pop up across the farm! Next spring I’ll be setting up a moth trap to see if we can find a striped lychnis hanging around, although they are extremely rare to find. They are also very brown and I’m terrible at moth ID, but we must all seek to improve ourselves! A lovely morning out of the office in the autumn sunshine – with Fiona’s lovely dogs! You can find more on the striped lychnis moth at Butterfly Conservation here.

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Photo by Peter Hall for Butterfly Conservation

Farewell to the Butser Roman Summer!

It’s back-to-school week! Our autumn term is already full to the brim with children coming to learn about prehistoric life, and we can’t wait!
 
For now, we’d like to thank everyone who visited Butser over the holiday and made our Roman Summer such a fantastic event. We’ve uploaded our favourite selection of photos below, all taken by our BRILLIANT volunteer Eleanor.
 
Next year’s summer is already being planned, and we have loads of other great events for half term, Christmas and next spring. See you again soon!

Mary’s Villa Blog: Villa Near Completion!

The Roman villa has been shut off all summer, cocooned within a metal fence.  The sounds of hammers, saws and working men wafted intermittently through the open windows. Now and again the sound of a concrete mixer turning, maybe the odd mechanical tool and the radio gently playing. Visitors may have witnessed deliveries of wood, sand, lime plaster and, in the middle of August, the return of the sandblaster!

The villa is undergoing awesome alterations, and will emerge transformed in September.

Duncan Morrison and his team, brothers Matt and Phil, have worked tirelessly since June.  They have built a staircase and mezzanine barrier; widened unforgiving flint doorways for wheelchair access; raised a ceiling; built all the walls up to the roof; dug out forty tonnes of mud floor and replaced this on their hands and knees with mountains of opus signinum (Roman concrete) to level the floors.  Recently they have been seen perched on the roof in the sunshine mending the ridge tiles.

Chris Allen and his team from Emsworth Plastering have laboriously lined the walls with thousands of oak lathes adorned with three coats of lime plaster of different consistencies.  The final, glassy coat creates a luxuriously cool, sophisticated air to the rooms and feels so Roman!

In the middle of August, John of Airstrip Ltd, returned to blast the front of the villa with his lethal force of sand, to remove the lime coating and make it ready for plastering.

As the summer draws to a close and autumn hovers on the skyline, children will be getting ready to return to school.  The villa will be ready and waiting for those lucky enough to be coming on a Butser trip!

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The Winners are Announced!

Yesterday we had a fantastic time at our Glorious Games & Gladiators event – thank you so much to everyone for coming! There will be more photos from this event coming soon.

We also announced the winners of our Art & Poetry Competition on the theme of ‘Roman Life’, which was held throughout August for young visitors to enter. We had such an amazing variety of entries, and our judge Caroline Lawrence (bestselling author of the Roman Mysteries series) joined us yesterday to announce the winners:

Art Category
Winner: Holly Hilditch
Runner Up: Celeste Walton

Poetry Category
Winner: Kitty Langdon
Runner Up: Felicity Eldridge

Caroline was delighted with the quality of entries and said that they all deserved to win, but the final winners really did shine above the others. Congratulations! For everyone else who entered, Caroline would love to give you each a signed copy of one of her bestselling Roman Mysteries books – we have emailed you all with details on how to claim these.

Many thanks to Caroline for spending the day with us and judging our fantastic entries, which you can find below. Enjoy!

Art Winner - Holly Hilditch

Art Winner – Holly Hilditch

Art Runner Up - Celeste Walton

Art Runner Up – Celeste Walton

Poetry Winner – Kitty Langdon

Poetry Runner Up – Felicity Eldridge

Other Entries

Alice Mae Dibb

Amrita May Singh

Callum Leamore

Daniel Poole

Dexter Wyles

Eva Fitzgerald

Finn Robarts

Isla Eldridge

Jasper Simmons

Matthew Poole

Noah Wyles

Penelope Walton

Sofia James

Theo Leonard

Thomas Mayer