Dry summer reveals new archaeological sites, a rising village, python takes shower, a perfect tweet

9 September 2018

During that hot bit of the summer (anybody else remember it? seems a long time ago now as the leaves are starting to fall and autumn is approaching, meaning that I have once again left it too late to get somebody in to get the gates painted), the ground got so dry that crops shrivelled in different ways in places where the soil had been previously disturbed or they were growing over the remains of buried walls and foundations and ditches from long ago.

From the resultant patterns in crop discolouration, aerial surveys have identified scores of hitherto unrecognised archaeological sites across the UK which are likely to indicate millennia of human activity from neolithic cursus monuments laid out more than 5,000 years ago to the outline of a long-demolished Tudor hall and its intended replacement.  One new site, believed to be a Roman farm with buildings, fields and paddocks, appeared at Bicton in East Devon so keep an eye open for reports on excavations.

I wonder what they found in Willand, near Tiverton, which is going up in the world.  More than 2,000 radar images acquired by the European Union’s Sentinel-1 satellites were studied between 2015 and 2017 and scientists have discovered that the land on which the village stands is rising by 0.7” (2cm) a year, or 6’ every decade, more than anywhere else in Britain.  The scientists claim to be baffled by the reason for this but are presumably hoping that the land is rising at the same rate throughout the village – it’d be a bit embarrassing to pop out for 10 years and find your front door almost 2 metres off the ground than it was when you left, and that it now opened straight into the spare bedroom.

A company called Geomatic Ventures Limited has been set up by the University of Nottingham to commercialise the technology that measures rises and falls in ground levels. Its chief technical officer, Dr Andy Sowter, whose PhD is in satellite orbital dynamics (more impressive than accountancy eh?), describes Willand as “probably the weirdest example we’ve come across” and said that, after talking to the Environment Agency and the British Geological Survey, “right now we can’t explain it. We don’t know why it’s going up”.

However, Prof Tim Wright from the University of Leeds has commented that “While this initial map shows the potential power of Sentinel-1 for deformation monitoring on a nationwide-scale, many in the community have legitimate concerns about the reliability of these particular results, especially outside urban areas.”  Hmmm.

Warning:  herpetophobes should skip the next paragraph.

About a month ago, an 8’ (2.4-metre) python was discovered in a bathroom in Exeter after the owner, Stuart Saunders, heard toiletries and his toothbrush crashing to the floor (would you recognise the sound of your toothbrush crashing to the floor?).  Saunders, who is visually impaired, tried to pick up what he thought was a strange tubular shape before he realised it was a snake trying to turn the shower on.  It’s thought it escaped from a nearby pet shop and travelled to Saunders’ flat through what was described in the report I read as ‘the plumbing’, which is a polite way of saying it went down somebody else’s lavatory and came up through his, which is probably why it wanted a shower after it arrived.  The pet shop subsequently rescued the snake and gave it next door’s cat as a reward.  I made up the bit about the cat.

And finally, the Daily Mail reported that Keeley Hawes, who is playing the Home Secretary in ‘Bodyguard’ (which all the crits say is pretty good), had lost a stone in weight to get her part in the series.  In support of their claim, the article quoted an unnamed source who had said “This is a really sexy role for her, she wanted to get in character and look amazing”.  Hawes replied “Um, no, I didn’t. #whowritesthisshite?”  Perfect.

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