We've only three days to find out
Recently, two young girls appeared here. They were aged about six, very articulate, and professing themselves interested in Archaeology. As is appropriate, I greeted them seriously and politely, and mentioned that we have a bronze-age barrow at the end of the garden. They expressed delight, clapping their hands in glee. I offered to show it to them and we trooped up the garden to the old meadow that has had the hand of man on it for thousands of years. We stood in reverent silence, broken only when one of the girls said "It's rather flat, isn't it?” "Ploughed-out" said the older girl, wisely. They trooped into the field where they engaged in some field walking. "Aha!" said one of them, picking up a broken fletton from the edge of the field, "We have some archaeology here". "Yes", I agreed, "we have".
It is hard to exaggerate the passion which archaeology has for the young. A whole generation, reared on 'Time Team' is now graduating and trying to get jobs in an overcrowded and underpaid profession. What was once a sleepy, relaxed, occupation is now, to use a Blairite expression 'vibrant'. With the new enthusiasm has come a new hard-nosed approach. In the old days, one could pick up a trowel, pop over to the local dig and lend a hand. A cousin of mine, a professional illustrator specialising in recording archaeological digs, used to 'keep his hand in' by doing voluntary excavation work. Not now! You have to pay to do archaeological work now. So many retired people are taking up Archaeology that the 'grey pound' is being siphoned from them in an ever-increasing torrent. Cash-strapped universities are seeing archaeology as a milch cow.
Fairly recently, I managed to get part of the frame of a former horizontal mill-race from under the water-mill here. It is of great importance to date this framework, as none to my knowledge have ever been Dendro-dated, and mediaeval wooden frames for horizontal wheels are almost unknown. The specimen is here still. I cannot get any archaeologist interested. The county Archaeologist cheerfully invited me to pay the commercial going rate to have it done (over £200). There was a time that a quiet word with the local university would result in a free service. Not now guv! We are all part of the New Labour economy.