Weatherwatch: archaeologists dust off their tools after rains | News

UK News

While parts of the north have been deluged with rain in recent days the south continues to be extremely dry. After recent showers patches of lawn are going green again but there is still no moisture under the surface layer.

In Bedfordshire, because the baked ground is so difficult to excavate carefully, local archaeologists have waited weeks for rain so they could start what should have been a summer dig. A week ago, after 3mm of rain had at last softened the turf, they finally started work, impatient to complete the dig before the weather turned wintry.

Fortunately, although the ground was compacted below the turf, it was sandy, so careful digging was possible, although very dusty. After reaching down more than a metre, when the first signs of the ancient village they were looking for was found, the ground was still bone dry.

This so-called soil moisture deficit will be a problem over much of the south-east, where a large proportion of the water supply comes from aquifers. These are fed by winter rain soaking through sand and chalk soils to provide next summer’s drinking water. An exceptionally wet winter will be needed to make up for this year’s drought.

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