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Walton Court ring ditch excavation 2009


Walton Court circular ring ditch (the thin dark circular line in the centre of the photograph). The straight cropmarks that can also be seen are those of two Roman marching camps built over the site, from photo 96-C-0021 © CPAT

A small-scale evaluation was undertaken in September 2009 to determine the nature and dating of an unusually large ring ditch near Walton Court Farm, in Radnorshire’s Walton Basin (SO 25235996). The ring ditch, which was identified as a cropmark from aerial photography, measures around 100m diameter and is defined by a relatively narrow ditch. Part of the site underlies two Roman marching camps and the excavation was designed to test their relationship to the ring ditch.

The Walton Court ring ditch is by far the largest such site in mid and north-east Wales, although there are a further 18 ring ditches over 30m in diameter, of which 11 measure more than 40m, all of which are considered to be under threat from ploughing. There are distinct clusters of these large monuments in the Walton Basin and around the Severn-Vyrnwy confluence. These enigmatic sites, (reminiscent of the 110m-diameter pre-stone circle at Stonehenge) appear to fall within a recently-recognised category of so-called ‘formative henges’ dating to the Middle Neolithic period.

Walton & Stonehenge © CPAT

Comparison of the Walton Court ring ditch with an early phase of Stonehenge

The evaluation consisted of two trenches, one located to investigate the intersection of the ring ditch with the ditch surrounding the marching camp, and the other positioned to provide an undisturbed section of the ring ditch.

Two sections were excavated across the ring ditch revealing a steep-sided, V-shaped profile, around 1.85m wide at the top and up to 1.3m deep. The excavation proved that the ring ditch pre-dated the marching camp, although no artefactual evidence was recovered to indicate the likely date. However, charcoal was recovered from the base of the ditch which produced a date of 2570-2300 cal. BC. A series of bulk samples were also taken from different levels within the fill which it is hoped will provide important environmental evidence.

A single section was also excavated across the marching camp ditch, which was 2.25m wide and 1.4m deep with a V-shaped profile. A single sherd of Roman pottery was recovered from the upper fill.

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