The NOCAG Diaries

Newquay Old Cornwall Society Archaeological Group [NOCAG]

Most of our work in and around Newquay covering seven parishes is preserving work through what is commonly known in archaeological circles as scrub bashing. This is particularly important to prevent invasive plants and their roots breaking apart historic buildings and monuments. It also helps the wider public appreciate what we have here in the Newquay and surrounding parishes of archaeological interest by making them accessible.

The group do go on educational and social trips to sites throughout Cornwall including museums and other locations of historic interest. We welcome new members and would like to set up a second group so that we can cover more sites and locations within our area. Please contact us at nocs.archive@gmail.com if you are interested in joining us in helping preserve our areas historic sites.

 

The NOCAG Diaries from the end of lockdown 2021

Old Trevemper Bridge - Oct 2021
Old Trevemper Bridge - Oct 2021
Trevemper Bridge - Tapinela atrotomentosus (Velvet Rollrim)
Trevemper Bridge - Plants growing out of the bridge
Trevemper Bridge - Ivy creeping over the down river side of the bridge
Old Trevemper Bridge - Don Scott, leaf blowing Oct 2021
Lunch at Old Trevemper Bridge - Oct 2021

Old Trevemper Bridge Wednesday 14th October 2021

by Sheila Harper – Chief Scrub Basher

The Scrub Bashers needed a break from scrub bashing at Mawgan Porth Early Medieval Village. There is still work needed to do there to get it back to scratch but we really needed a break. We hadn't visited Old Trevemper Bridge since August.

It is a lovely site to work at as the bridge overlooks the river. We always see something interesting. This time it was a fungus that had grown on the side of the path to the bridge. Luckily Don Scott could identify it - Paxillus atrotomentosus - as in my textbooks - it's since been moved to another group -Tapinela atrotomentosus and its common name is the Velvet Rollrim! Don warned us it is poisonous, so no-one took any home for tea.

As usual ivy had crept over the downriver side of the bridge. Ian Carne joined us for the first-time scrub bashing, so I got him patiently nibbling at the ivy. As mentioned before we cannot just pull it off the bridge as it removes mortar holding the bridge together so we cut the stems where we can and eventually the ivy dies. There were also various plants growing out of the walls of the bridge, so they needed cutting back. The rest of us got strimming the grass and cutting back overhanging bramble and tree branches on and around the bridge and the paths.

Steve and I had acquired a blower for clearing the paths. We got Don to try it out to see how efficient it is. It is not bad but heavy and slow and then the battery runs out so back to the brooms! We finally finished what we were doing and enjoyed lunch sitting on the bridge putting the world to rights.

Thanks to Steve Hebdige, Don Scott, Anmarie Gee, Victoria Heard, Ian Carne and myself, Sheila Harper. 

Scrub bashing at Mawgan Porth medieval village

Some of the team at Mawgan Porth early  medieval village

Scrub bashing at Mawgan Porth medieval village

Steve, Hilary, Viktoria, & Don. Working at saving one of Cornwall's heritage sites.

Scrub bashing at Mawgan Porth medieval village
Scrub bashing at Mawgan Porth medieval village
Facemasks danger to wildlife - Eaten by an animal and then excreted at Mawgan Porth Early Medieval village
Steve cleaning and preparing scrub bashers tools
Strimmer batteries on charge

Behind the Scenes with Newquay Old Cornwall Society Scrub Bashers

by Sheila Harper – Chief Scrub Basher

Mawgan Porth Early Medieval Village is a good example to show the work NOCS Scrub Bashers do.

House One, the largest, is made up of ten rooms around a courtyard. The main longhouse has a storeroom and what I call the coat cupboard behind it. Just these features have about 90 metres of walls to look after. In fact, with the other rooms around the courtyard and House Two there are in total about 285 metres of sides of wall. I live in Bay View Terrace which, courtesy of Google Earth, is about 146 meters long.  If I walk up and then down Bay View Terrace - that is equivalent to how much wall needs looking after at Mawgan Porth Early Medieval Village!

Why mention the walls? They are probably what take up most of the time of Scrub Bashers. The walls, made mostly of slate, are the same structure as are Cornwall’s dry-stone walls that ring the fields and habitations in the Duchy today. Unfortunately, slate rock is made of layers of silt and sand compressed together. Plant roots use their tenacious energy to do what they must – cling on and penetrate the area around them so they can hold fast for the growth above. Ivy probably has the quickest growing root structures and lots of them which easily penetrate slate overtime and split the rock layers asunder. Then there is blackthorn and blackberry that also have prickles that can pierce our industrial grade gloves.

The grassy floors of the houses and their courtyards are what most people see when they view the site from the distance. If we just kept the grass down the village would look neat and tidy but the walls would eventually fall apart, and the village would become at serious risk of disappearing.

We do look after the floors though. This is to give easy access to the site for visitors and shows up rabbit burrows and other obstacles such as large stones left in situ from when the site was an archaeological dig.

Sheila Harper organises the Scrub Bashing days – seeing to permissions, record keeping, risk assessments, raising funds for new kit etc. Sheila drives a minibus which is useful for getting Scrub Bashers to and from the site and carrying kit. Most of the equipment we use is looked after by Sheila and her partner Steve and lives in a shed at their house.  On arriving back home that’s when Steve does his bit. He spends up to two hours cleaning up strimmers, checking they have enough strimmer cord,  sharpening loppers and putting batteries on to charge. 

Of course, Mawgan Porth Early Medieval is not the only site we look after. There are barrows, holy wells, Trevemper Bridge, long stones etc in the Newquay area that need either checking out or scrub bashing. We also check out archaeological sites for wear and tear in and around Newquay and Sheila will make a report that is sent to our local Historic England Officer.

NOCAG - Trevemper Bridge before Clearance
NOCAG - Trevemper Bridge Clearance work
NOCAG - IYN Judge Ian Murphy & NIB Guide Sharon Kelsey
NOCAG - Trevemper Bridge Clearance work done.

Newquay Old Cornwall Archaeology (Scrub Bashers) Group - Report 8th July 2021 by Sheila Harper

Old Trevemper Bridge

NOCAG Scrub Bashing gang were at Old Trevemper Bridge on 8th July 2021 to meet the judge for “It’s Your Neighbourhood” and do some work whilst we were there. The judge from “It’s Your Neighbourhood” was Ian Murphy and he visited in the afternoon accompanied by Sharon Kelsey of Newquay in Bloom. Ian Murphy thought the bridge and its history was really interesting and was very positive and enthusiastic about NOCAG’s work. There were other visitors, a young man and his little daughter who arrived on the bridge and did some pretend fishing whilst the group were working there.

We had a jolly good time and Old Trevemper Bridge is looking pretty good. All in all a successful day's work by the NOCAG team.

St Eval Longstone 1st July 2021 'Beginining work'
St Eval Longstone 1st July 2021 'Getting there'
St Eval Longstone 1st July 2021 'Phew, done'

Newquay Old Cornwall Archaeology (Scrub Bashers) Group - Report 1st July 2021 by Sheila Harper

St Eval Longstone

Jolly good day today. Many thanks to Anmarie, Don, Niktoria and Sheila for their hard work. I think the site for St Eval Longstone produces the longest grass for any site that NOCAG scrub bashes. Hidden amongst the stalks were also some young tree saplings, blackberry, stinging nettles and mint and there was ivy growing on the longstone. We all worked hard and tidied up the site very nicely.

Ivy growing on the longstone is the main reason we go to the site. The rock is made of silcrete -that was produced by sedimentation of silica during warmer times. It is full of little cracks and cavities. Duloe Stone Circle, the Nine Maidens Stone row and Men Gurta, the largest standing stone in Cornwall are examples of monuments in the County made of silcrete. It is the same material as the sarsens found on Salisbury Plain. It is very easy for ivy roots to penetrate the rock which then flakes off and the stone gets damaged. What we Scrub Bashers do is cut the ivy stems and roots, so it dies back. We mustn't pull the ivy off the stone as we would cause damage to the rock. Tidying up the area around the stone allows access for visitors to see it properly.

The Newquay Old Cornwall Society has had links with the longstone going back many years. It is shown as a boundary stone on OS maps. At some point lost in time, perhaps in prehistory, it was laid down and broken in two

Porth Island Barrow June 17 2021
Porth Island Barrow June 17 2021
Porth Island Barrow June 17 2021
Porth Island Barrow June 17 2021
Porth Island Barrow June 17 2021
View from the Barrow Trevelgue Head June 17 2021

Newquay Old Cornwall Archaeology (Scrub Bashers) Group - Report 17th June 2021 by Sheila Harper

Porth Island

Trevelgue Head at Porth, Newquay features two Bronze Age barrows. One is on the South side of Porth Island. Due to its exposed position it does not suffer from overgrowth of plants, the roots of which could destroy the remaining archaeology in the barrow. The other barrow, on the North side of the headland, on the mainland side of Porth Island, supports the growth of gorse. This can grow into large bushes with long roots which could damage any remaining archaeology in this burial mound.

Available members of Newquay Old Cornwall Society Scrub Bashers visited the barrow on June 17th lead by Chief Scrub Basher Sheila Harper. In lovely warm weather Denise Marshall, Don Scott, Steve Hebdige and Sheila trudged up the hill carrying all their kit and lunch to the site of the Barrow. Hilary Borkett joined us a little later. Normally Sheila parks her bus up Trevelgue Road and the group takes the coastal footpath to the site. Due to rock falls the path is closed so the only way to get on to the headland at the moment is from the car park in the valley at Porth Beach Holiday Park. On first glances the barrow didn’t look too overgrown considering this was our first visit to it since lockdown started. We were fooled. Amidst the tall grasses and greater plantain were low wide dense patches of gorse.  There are hazards to the site. The most serious is that the barrow is on the cliff edge and nearly half of it has eroded away so we must stay away from the edge and the barrow has been excavated the surface is uneven.  Denise, Don, Steve, and Hilary attacked the gorse and Sheila strimmed and talked to people passing by as many have no idea what the headland is about. After nearly two hours lunch time was declared. We hadn’t finished clearing the barrow, still a lot of gorse to be dealt with so all being well Sheila, Steve and Don go back next Sunday and finish the work.

Trevemper Bridge June 3 2021 Work Done 033
Trevemper Bridge June 3 2021
Trevemper Bridge June 3 2021
Trevemper Bridge June 3 2021
Trevemper Bridge June 3 2021
Trevemper Bridge June 3 2021

Newquay Old Cornwall Archaeology (Scrub Bashers) Group - Report 3rd June 2021 by Sheila Harper

Old Trevemper Bridge

Many thanks to Denise, Don, Anmarie on her Birthday, Viktoria and Steve who joined me at Trevemper  on Thursday 3rd June to scrub bash the old bridge and paths.

Anmarie, Denise, Don and Viktoira cleared the pathways and cut back overhanging branches to make the walk to the bridge safer for pedestrians - keeping the wildflowers and the enormous primrose plants (what are they eating?) that Hilary provided way back when the world was normal. Steve trimmed the top of the bridge and Sheila snipped the ivy and swept the old broom.

I confess I forgot to take a photo at the end of the session showing all the good work we did. I will go back to the bridge and take some more pictures. You all did a grand job hopefully you have all recovered from the hard work you did. I finally got back to the bridge on Saturday, and I am impressed by what was achieved.

It was lovely to see everybody. I would have liked to hug you all.

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I was thinking of scrub bashing the little barrow on Porth Island next week as I know not everyone will be available. I will send out an email early next week with the usual details once I get a weather forecast nearer to next Thursday's date.

We have been asked to join in with Newquay in Bloom's 'In Your Neighbourhood' judging day - again like last year. I have accepted the invite. The event will be on Thursday July 8th 2021. Sharon Kelsey contacted me in May - this is an extract from her email - ' We would like to thank Newquay Old Cornwall Society Scrub Bashers for being part of the IYN scheme in previous years.  The judges have always been impressed with all the work that you do and how the community is involved'.

As I mentioned - on Thursday evening the tin crushing mortar stone, in the carpark opposite the Kings Head at Lane, was going to be moved to Dairyland that evening. Unfortunately, the farmer who was going to move it had trouble with his sheep dip.

The team had to give the 10th a miss due to the road closures etc., relating to the G7 visit. They were back to normal on 17th June

Mawgan Porth Medieval Village - Starting clearance work. Again
St Mawgan Porth Excavation 1950-1953
St Mawgan Porth Medieval Village - Before any work by NOCAG in 2014
NOCAG at Mawgan Porth Medieval Village 12th Oct 2017
Mawgan Porth Medieval Village - Pre-lockdown 2019
Mawgan Porth Medieval Village - Post-lockdown 2021

Mawgan Porth Early Medieval Village

Newquay Old Cornwall Archaeology Group (NOCAG) have been working at the Mawgan Porth early medieval village since 2014. It is important to carryout clearance work on archaeological sites to ensure that invasive plants don’t destroy the fabric  of historic monuments. The original heavy work by NOCAG ensured that this site was taken off the in-danger list by Historic England. The team managed to keep the site in very good condition until lockdown in 2020 stopped all work, it will now take many weeks work to bring it up to scratch again.

We've added some other images to show a brief history of the site since first excavated in the 1950's when this site became recognised as an important archaeological location.

There are many other sites throughout the seven parishes our society covers that need monitoring and work done on them as well. Once again we put out a call for volunteers to assist NOCAG and with the societies other heritage work. We look forward to hearing from those interested in helping preserve our local heritage.

Newquay Old Cornwall Archaeology (Scrub Bashers) Group - Report 22nd July 2021 by Sheila Harper

Just to thank the Farmers for giving Newquay Old Cornwall Society Scrub Bashers free parking yesterday so we could start tidying up Mawgan Porth Early Medieval Village. Three of us went early for an hour or so as the weather is so hot. We got a start on the site. It is going to take a time to get the site back to scratch but at least we have started - big clumpy thick grasses and various tough weeds and sneaky blackthorn and brambles. The last photo taken in 2019 is what the village should look like!!!! As a lot of our work such as clearing the walls has to be done carefully with secateurs it is going to take a lot of visits! On normal years in the summer, we work at the village every other week or so just keeping the grass down.