Archaeology Under the Rowing Lake

[The following is the text of a letter sent from a Development Control Archaeologist at the County Archaeology Office to a parish councillor in October 2003.]

Archaeological site work [at the Rowing Lake] commenced in 1995 when an evaluation of the landscape was undertaken by Archaeological Field Unit (AFU – of Cambridgeshire County Council). A combination of techniques were employed to characterise the nature of the archaeological features and natural landscape features: fieldwalking, test pitting and trench based work followed the 1:2500 replotting of cropmark information known from aerial photographs of the area. A small amount of the available land was evaluated at this stage to limit the potential damage that intrusive evaluation would potentially cause to underlying archaeological remains. The report of this work is entitled An Archaeological Evaluation of the Proposed Site of the Cambridge Rowing Trust Rowing Lake at Milton and Waterbeach, Cambridgeshire. Robinson, B. and E. Guttmann 1996 AFU report no 120., which can be consulted at the Sites and Monuments Record Office of Cambridgeshire County Council or be obtained directly from AFU at the following address:

Archaeological Field Unit
Cambridgeshire County Council
Fulbourn Community Centre,
Haggis Gap
Cambridge CB1 5HD Tel: 01223 576201

After a long period of archaeological project planning, and time in which CRT have been accruing land, the second piece of fieldwork has been undertaken by Oxford Archaeology. Concentrating on the southern end of the
Lake system – an area entitled The Cut and The Canal – further evaluation has been undertaken to expand the results of the minimal 1995 assessment of this area. Hand dug test pits to assess the level of artefacts held within the ploughsoil have been undertaken in tandem with grid based trenching, allowing a clear view of the former land use of this southern zone. Its importance stems from its position above the Cam floodplain – a location typically favoured from prehistoric times for settlement and foraging purposes.

The combined results of the two evaluations of this area have demonstrated that the terraces here were irregular in that they had widely undulating profiles, trapping water for considerable periods of time. An area containing freshwater lakes or lagoons, the intervening areas available for established settlement do not appear to have existed. However, indication that the area had been used in the Roman period is evident by the presence of enclosure ditches containing sparse, but datable, finds. Towards the northern limit of The Canal is a small gravel island on which prehistoric postholes and a pit were found. This area will be investigated in detail at a future date prior to the main excavation works of The Canal.

Oxford Archaeology will prepare a report of the results of this phase of field work, and are to provide a digital terrain map of the early, pre-alluvial, land form. It is anticipated that this map will enable an understanding of the topographic location of archaeological sites to be made, and an attempt to identify further sites prior to the Lake excavation.

The main stretch of the rowing Lake, between Fen Road, Milton and Car Dyke Road, to the south of Waterbeach will see a very great amount of detailed archaeological fieldwork taking place prior to any lake excavation there. This area has more typical drained terraces and extensive evidence of prehistoric to Saxon settlement, funerary features, field systems and ancient roads within it. Abandonment of this area of long term settlement focus ended with rising water levels and encroaching silts in the Medieval period, displacing the settlement cores onto yet higher ground – the current historic cores of the present Cam-side villages.