Nature on the Farm April 2019

This month’s wildlife watch has revealed itself to be one of the best so far!

With the deer tracks, fox prints and owl pellets being little hints and clues to the kind of wildlife that visit the farm when we aren’t there, we decided that it was time to take a look into the secret nightlife of Butser Ancient Farm.

We made the decision to purchase a trail camera, a device that photographs and videos during the night and day whenever it sensors movement. One of the best decisions we have made as it turns out! We set the camera up for the first time and captured deer in the distance, something we are accustomed to seeing on an almost daily basis, yet always a delight to see.

The second night we fixed the camera to a wooden post in the ground in a different location and decided to up the ante a little so we put down peanut butter to lure over any fluffy guests. The peanut butter worked a treat as in the first night we were visited by badgers, foxes, deer, Heron, ducks and pheasants. Seeing animals behave in the wild is truly a magnificent thing to have the pleasure of watching. Let’s hope we will capture some rabbits, hare and hedgehogs next!


Did you know?

The earliest recorded use of the word “badger” was in 1523. Before that, it was called a “brock” or “bauson”. According to many researchers, the ancient Celts would call them “Broc”.

The Irish Gaelic for fox is Sionnach and it was believed that foxes were the dogs of the Norsemen who were supposed to have brought them to Ireland.


We were also visited by some curious ducks that decided to take a rest on the thatch of the Little Woodbury, they seemed to be enjoying the view of the farm!

duck on the roof 3 duck on the roof 4

Our Archaeologist Claire has also been busy in the Roman crop field planting flax which has already started to germinate and has also been planting in the Stone Age area Einkorn and Darnell. Einkorn is the earliest type of farmed wheat and is said to have been developed by farmers in the Middle East around 10,000 years ago!

Plans for Celtic beans and barley to be planted near the Saxon part of the farm are also underway, watch this space!

Claire also discovered a common green lizard amidst the foliage whilst planting, quite an irregular site to see on the farm!

Common green lizard

Butser mosaic update – Easter 2019

The Butser Ancient Farm Roman Villa mosaic project has reached a significant milestone – the final tessera of the geometric border has been laid!

Easter mosaic laying final tesserae

Easter mosaic laying final tesserae2Since we resumed work this month the team has made enormous progress, laying almost as much of the floor area in two weeks as we did in two months last year. In part that’s because our mosaicists are now experts in their professions, and partly because a lot of our work over the past week or two has been in the border – with much larger tesserae (tiles) and no tricky pattern to lay. But the other reason things have speeded up is that we had extra help from many, many of our visitors over the Easter break. People of all ages were down on their hands and knees helping us get the floor finished. The help was much appreciated and it seems like everyone had an absolute ball doing it – a real win-win!


As well as being a really nice, authentic floor covering for our villa, the mosaic was a piece of experimental archaeology. It has provided us with some interesting insights into the process of mosaic making, using quite authentic techniques. In keeping with that authentic experimental approach, we have also included the initials of each one of our mosaicists in the border of the design. Now, we can’t say for certain that any Roman-British mosaicist did this, but there are lots of ‘mistakes’ in mosaics around the country, which look rather obvious, even deliberate. Some people think that these are sort of ‘coded’ messages by the makers to say ‘I did this’. In keeping with this secretive approach, we have hidden the initials in plain sight – with subtle shifts of pattern which are not easy to spot. Once we have opened the mosaic fully for public view you might enjoy a game of spot the mosaicist!


We still have a little more to finish off but it is all very simple to lay from here forward, so we’re hoping to have it all done by the end of May. That means we will have a fully redecorated triclinium, ready to welcome the Emperor, and all of our visitors!

Butser Roman mosaic website launch!

To celebrate the installation of our unique, replica mosaic in the recently renovated Roman villa, we are excited to announce that we’ve developed a free, online education resource aimed at years 3 and 4 explaining all about the art of mosaic making!

Butser Ancient Farm mosaic project2small

This resource is designed to help teachers and students to better understand the process of making mosaics, and their importance as a means of display. The website is designed to guide teachers and their pupils through the mosaic making process with step-by-step guides, teacher resources, and suggested class activities.

The mosaic floor in the Butser Roman villa is a volunteer project, kindly part-funded by a grant from South Downs National Park Sustainable Communities Fund, that started last year to install a hand-laid, close reproduction of the 4th century AD mosaic floor that graced the original Sparsholt villa, that the Butser Ancient Farm villa is based on. The project is part of a larger initiative to refurbish the villa and enhance it as a living representation of 4th century Roman Britain.

Butser Ancient Farm mosaic project1small

The Butser mosaic will be completed during this coming Easter period and visitors to the site will be invited to come and help install some of the final tesserae tiles! (weekdays from Tuesday 9th April to Thursday 18th April, sessions between 11am -12pm and 1pm till 2pm)

While aimed principally at years 3 – 4,  the fun, visual resource is available as a free resource for anyone to enjoy. You can find the website here;

Butser Ancient Farm mosiac project 3small

Ancient crops, strange fungus and witchcraft.

A guest post by Dom Price, Species Recovery Trust, on the experiments at Butser Ancient Farm.

Ancient crops, strange fungus and witchcraft.

Butser ancient farm is a key site forming part of a project to re-introduce two species of now extinct plants. Darnel and upright goosefoot were both a relatively common site in ancient farming systems before the introduction of modern agriculture, including the widespread use of herbicide and improvements in seed cleaning technology which allowed all ‘weed’ species to be removed before seeds were re-sown. Both of these plants vanished from mainland Britain over two decades ago, and Darnel is now hanging on a knife edge on the Arran Isles off the west coast of Ireland. Continue reading