The trip to Butser Farm

I just found a journal Anne kept of a trip she made with the Archeology Society to England in Easter 1981. I mentioned it in an earlier post about the Evening BA she completed 1980-1984. I love this as her personality shines through. Please remember that these are rough jottings not intended for publication.


We left at 2:00. Drove to Rosslare. We stopped at Roscrea and Freshford on the way. Supposed to go at 20 to 10. Didn’t go until 10 past 11. Got a seat and never left it. A bit rough to begin with but then it calmed down. Didn’t get sick. Slept on and off. Mary slept well.

Got on bus and then went off. When we didn’t see customs we drove on. They (police) followed us and we had to go back, empty boot and go through customs. Alsthough asked to remove duty-free, George left his one bottle on bus. When searched it was found and caused hold-up for all. I think it was confiscated. 

At 4(ish) drove to Frenchman Hotel in Hollyhead. Motel. Our room fine – warm, shower, toilet, closet and 2 single beds. Didn’t notice the instructions for operating the hot water and couldn’t have shower. We got breakfast which was ample and nice and we left. 

We were a little way out of Hollyhead when we saw a sheep on its side. 3 of the MEN went to rescue. Meanwhile, George noticed that he had left his jacket at hotel so all and sundry returned to hotel, except the 3 MEN who got on with their job of “concerned sheep erectors”. Came back to spot and discovered men had walked on. On observing fields, saw many more non-erect sheep, but we left well enough alone. Drove on to St. David’s. Beautiful day. Took some photos of cross, Cathedral, and bishop’s palace – Rose window, red ochre outline of knight, romanesque doorway. 

On to Carew Cross 1033-1035. Beautiful design, seems to have been erected in two parts. Very difficult to find – off main road. Nearby Carew Castle. At one time could be reached by boat. Beautiful location. 

Bypass Cardiff and on to Severn Suspension Bridge. About 110’ up and 1 mile long. Into Bristol and reached Clifton Hotel. Unpacked and went to wine bar for drink and roll. Went walking around and finally found Pizzaland and had a meal. Returned to Hotel 11ish. Declined offer of trip to disco (in supervisory capacity, due to our advanced years). Woken up at 3am by very loud singing of “I want to go home”. The many singers seemed in some pain. Apparently someone took pity on them and dispatched them, I know not where, as it’s 7:30 now and Mary is doing her hair. 


Had an extremely greasy breakfast. So greasy that I put tissue under the egg and it soaked it and still was greasy. It was so hot we were permanently red-faced and puffing. Went off to shop. We went to Department Store and bought Easter eggs etc. Back and put cases in boot and rushed to be there at 10. Only ones there. Looked around a bit. Wrote post cards and left for Bath in bus after a few delays and detours back to hotel. Arrived in Bath at 1:00. Looked at Bath abbey. 

Built and rebuilt and added onto. It stands today in only  portion of the original area covered. Begun about 1500s. It was paid for by tithes on the Kingdom as a whole, Ireland included. It has two sets of Jacobs Ladders with angels both ascending and descending. The 12 apostles are there. Also, God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Inside the ceiling has a fine decoration in vaulting. 

We then visited the Roman Batch. The sulphur springs and Bath’s particularly impressive because of the beautiful day and steam rising from the water. 

Had a quick bowl of soup and left only to find no bus. Really pressing need to find a toilet. Followed one of the boys down underground and spotted Gents. Gratefully rushed at the other door to find Gents also. Desperation had its way and with Mary on guard outside the door I relieved myself. 

Bus eventually bore us off to Winchester. We saw the lovely Cathedral at a distance but, alas, it was not to be. We sailed on, into the fog and into the unknown as we headed for Petersfield and Butser Farm. Arrived at 6:00 approx. Tables laid out in the coldest room in a granary. Staff and elderly students seated at a top table and issued with wine. Served a passable dinner. Retired to our dorm. Mary and I lucky to get bunks. Mary determined to stay close to the floor so it was the top bunk for me. Fortunately, good sense prevailed and I removed the mattress and slept on it on the floor. 

Dorm in the process of construction with exposed beams and insulation and holes etc. One can assume it also has its own native inhabitants – rats, bats, mice, etc. Fortunately, they laid low and perhaps this was due in no small way to what happened next!

Mary went to the bus. Out of the darkness loomed the bulk of Noel. Approaching her, arms outstretched. Panic seized Mary. She saw the “predator”, and behind him lurked the watchful but dulled eyes of Seamus. Panic stricken, Mary stood. Arms surrounded her. Anger overcame her and triumphed. “Get away, I’m a lesbian!” “Wisha, we all feel like that sometimes,” said Noel. Seamus’s eyes sparked and died, watchful. Mary returned very angry to the dorm. We debated about the pub and decided to go. After a few attempts into utter darkness, and a few retreats, we finally reached the bar. Entered to a bar overcrowded with UCG and a few retiring local couples. UCG singing and roaring. Noel takes over, even to the extent of going behind the bar. To get accepted by local hards he drinks three double whiskeys straight down. After many nationalistic, sexist, racist songs etc. we decided to go. Prof wants to get to know Mary better. I squirt soda water to area near his crotch (two events unrelated) and we leave. 

Back at Butser Farm Mary opts for bed and I decide to bide my time, act socially, and see what happens. 11:00 I go to bed too. Very cold. Doze until loud laughing, singing etc. wake me up. Masses of women come to bed amid loud voices etc. Mary wakeful. I doze. I awaken slowly to the disgruntled sounds of Declan R., objecting to being put in a particular position and the soothing tones of Lois “It’s alright, I understand. I have four sons. It’s alright. I have children myself. Go to sleep dear.” “Grunt, grunt.” Guffaw, etc. Lois goes to bed, not before making sure that everyone is in bed and happy. She goes in, out, in, out. Tucks Declan in, turns off light, takes off dressing gown and climbs into sleeping bag. At last, sleep, or so she thought. 

“Ha ha ha George ha ha.” Declan is not asleep. “I’ll kill that child in the morning,” says Michelle. “I’ll do it now,” I said, raising my clog. Declan like a dog raises his big face, one eye open and looks in at us. “Lie Down,” I shout and he obeys. “We can sleep now.” Lois is heard above loud bellows, shouts and laughter from downstairs. They are extremely drunk. Declan is still awake. “Shut up Declan.” It’s no good. Lois is utterly surprised and disappointed, leaves her bed and opens door. Declan immediately lays his head on bed and closes his eyes. “He’s asleep,” whispers Lois, “Good boy.” She puts a bag to the door to keep it open and returns to room, removes dressing gown and climbs yet again into sleeping bag. A large face raises itself. Eye looks in and stubby finger pushes the door closed. He then starts, “Ha ha ha George ha ha ha.” Lois jumps from bed, puts on dressing gown. “Declan dear, you must get to sleep. I understand. I have four boys…” Lois returns to bed. It is pitch dark. Suddenly a voice “No, Lois, this is not your bed.” “Sorry” and Lois goes from bed to bed. 

We get up. Breakfast is mounds of cold, burnt toast, tea/coffee and cereal. We eat and are in the bus shortly after 9 for a tour of the South Downs. We stop and climb up from road to inland promontory fort. It is massive with deep bank. It is in the care of government. 

Experiments are under way to test how long the trees will take to grow to such a state as to be an impenetrable jungle. These trees start as bushes which grow from seeds dropped by birds. They grow quickly but are useless because they grow so close together that the trunk cannot get big. Sections of trees of varying ages are kept to see how long they take to get to different stages. The fort is iron age and some bronze age dates. There are many shards of pottery, some flints. There are three round barrows within the fort. These were undisturbed by the fort inhabitants but disturbed by a few vicars in nineteenth century. These antiques dig into the top of the barrow. The view from the fort is breathtaking high up in the Downs. 

There is a dew pond, which appears to be a stupid thing to have done as material underneath is unavailable for discovery (easily). 

We left the fort and made our way to Little Butser Ancient Farm. The walk up is arduous but when you reach the top you look down on the farm and down to one side on a steep V shaped valley. The underlying geology is chalk. Thus the soil is very poor. We walk down to the farm taking one of the three pathways that have been identified as (1) medieval (2) Roman (3) Prehistoric. They converge at a crossroads which is visible to the eye. 

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