So, it begins…
An air of excitement is surrounding the Croft as we move into our autumn/winter period. The pavilion renovation is reaching its final planning stages and is soon to be executed, with our contractor being in place, we hope, by mid-November. The work to prepare for the builders’ arrival has started and we have lift-off or, rather: ‘dig-down’.
Yesterday, we dug our ‘soakaway trial pit’ with an archaeological expert doing what’s called ‘a watching brief’, as this is considered to be an area of archaeological significance due to the siege of Leith and the plague burials. Phil was kind enough to share a video of his findings with us. The layers of the centuries are exposed as we move down the metre-deep hole.
The beautiful thing about dirt
‘The beautiful thing about this dirt,’ says Phil, ‘is that it can sing. It tells the story of the history of the site.’ The first layer is our own mulch. The second layer is 20th century, and relates to a dumping deposit by the council, or it could be the make-up for the old tennis court grounds. The next stratum is a ‘dark earth’ or ‘midden’ deposit, which is found all across Edinburgh. It relates to churned-up, sometimes cultivated, soils, and is the sign of a mediaeval settlement. It goes back to when Edinburgh was first settled, so could date to any time after the 12th century. Below that is the sands of Leith.
Yes, Leith Links was indeed a beach, though it’s possible for sand to blow in on top of other deposits, according to Phil, and underneath it there could be earlier mediaeval material, or even Bronze Age, Neolithic and Mesolithic deposits. He says that there were Mesolithic hunter-gatherers roaming around in the Queensferry Crossing area – that’s going back to the time of the last Ice Age. Wow!
So what was the purpose of this digging? We were digging the trial pit to test the drainage for our eventual soakaway for the refurbished building (with its wonderful kitchen facilities!) The mission was to discover how quickly the water drains so that we could determine how large the final pit would need to be. It is good news. As Leith used to be a beach and there is pure sand down there, we couldn’t even fill the trial pit up to its full capacity as it drained away so quickly. This means we are good to go. There will be no issues making our soakaway work. So, time to fill in the hole!