A second update from Steve, our archaeology intern, about the clearance of Fingle Mill.
Day three to five saw the final layers of overgrowth stripped away from the mill thanks to our teams of super-efficient volunteers. Uneven footing and loose rocks meant extra care had to be taken, there was a lot to think about and discuss as returning walls, collapse patterns in the rubble, and other features were revealed.
The waste products can still be useful, for example, some of the larger branches and holly trees will remain on site to be used as ‘dead hedging’, this will help direct walkers away from sensitive areas while retaining a ‘natural’ look for the site.
Later that afternoon we were joined by Tim Harrod who came to the site to help analyse and identify the stone in the various areas of the site. Acid tests and Tim’s knowledge of the local geology has helped suggest possible origins for most of the stone, some of which is revealed to have come from freeholder George Ponsford’s quarries in Drewsteignton. This may help determine which of the outbuildings belonged to which freeholder.
At the end of week it feels like we are looking at a completely different site, transformed from a series of disconnected walls among the plant-life to a coherent and recognisable milling and living complex. It is now possible to perform a full photographic survey and identify the parts of the site most in need of protection. We can see more clearly the workings of the mill and the materials used to build it. Roots, brambles, trunks and branches no longer threaten to demolish the structure. Water erosion from the overhanging vegetation has ceased, the site is visible and accessible and the mill has a much brighter future ahead of it. I can’t stress this enough, this is all down to you. Your time, efforts and interest is what made this possible and I think we should all be proud of that achievement – thank you!
Since the memory on my camera ran low and I feel it needs a whole blog entry to do it justice, the ‘before and after’ shots will follow in next week’s blog so you will all be able to see more clearly the difference this community project has made. It has been fantastic to meet and work alongside such enthusiastic volunteers, it is really encouraging to see how much people care about our communal past and heritage. I can’t wait to see what we can achieve in the next phases of the research and restoration.
By Steven Guy-Gibbens