I’ll have a go at anything new. The opportunity to volunteer on coring sessions in Thorne Community Wood with the ‘Reconstructing the Wildscape’ and IoAHC team was certainly different and exciting! As a Classical Archaeology MA student, my only previous encounter with coring in any sense has been a very brief undergraduate study of how the ebb and flow of Roman smelting was reflected in Greenland ice core samples. But this wasn’t ice…and it was likely to be a bit muddy. So what would be so interesting about a community woodland on the outskirts of Doncaster?
Knowing little about the process, I turned up bright and early one morning in April 2018 – and so began what has become something of a fascination with coring…huffing and puffing to drive the equipment into the ground and pulling up all sorts of exciting things!
Kim, Nika and the team were warm, welcoming and encouraging from the outset. They shared information about the aim of the project (in this case, profiling the original path of the old River Don) as well as guiding the community volunteers through the coring process and explaining the samples. It was great fun and extremely informative….the satisfaction of managing to drive a core to a 5 metre depth and seeing the beautiful layers in the samples was pretty exciting! I had no idea I could be so thrilled about different soil colours and types, and seeing the preservation of organic material such as wood and leaves from that sort of depth was staggering. Utterly brilliant. I loved it.
Since the first session in April, I’ve taken part in various other coring projects: profiling the old Thorne Mere and Messic Mere and looking for evidence of the deliberate warping of nearby watercourses. I’ve learned a huge amount about coring, sampling, and on-site recording; about assessing soil types and the different approaches to coring depending on the terrain (driving a core through sand is a lot harder and a great workout! Who needs a gym membership?!)
Also, the things I’ve discovered about the environmental history of my local area has been completely fascinating. It has been a great experience. Being a distance learner in both my undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses – volunteering on this project has provided me with valuable field experience and skills that I can take forward, as well as meeting some great people. I can’t thank the team enough for providing this opportunity.