Between a motorway and a Mesolithic place

Today I spent the morning with my friend Stephen Poole at Windy Hill, just above junction 22 of the M62 near Rochdale. We went to have a look at a spur just above the valley bottom, however we had a wander around first. We started out at the test pits we excavated last summer. Stephen along with Richard Blakeley and Brian Howcroft carried on after the University of Manchester dig finished. I had not been back and so Stephen updated me on their Mesolithic finds and his current thoughts. After that Windy Hill farm, or the remains of, was second on the list. This is an image of the farm from a 1925 copy of the Rochdale Observer.

This is a photograph of the farmhouse doorway today. Until recently there was a second lintel above the doorway and facing outwards with the letters WJM 1687 carved into it. That has disappeared.

I also learned a little about building terminology. For example this chamfered stone in the middle of the window is called a mullion.

Some of the windows still had evidence of how glass was cemented into the frame.

The next word I learnt was ‘quoins’. Here is a photograph of some quoins in action, holding the structure of the wall together.

Because the quoins are integrated into the stonework on the right the wall on the left seems to have been added at a later date.

After rummaging around what remains of Windy Hill Farm we headed down into the valley. The valley separates the M62 from the farmhouse, and behind the farmhouse our test-pits.

Next on the agenda was this bend in the stream. Over many millennia the stream running through the valley bottom has cut through the original land surface. The result is an amazing stratigraphic section.

Anyway, it was starting to spit and we still hadn’t got to the spur we had come to look at. Stephen has a theory that flat spurs close to the water may have been useful locations for hide processing during the Mesolithic. He has found lithic scatters on similar spurs locally, consequently we are looking at doing some surveying and test pitting in a couple of months time.

Stephen scrapped away a small section and the – peat, mineral soil, fragmented sandstone natural – sequence seems to be the same as on the ridge above. After that we legged it back to the cars and then went to a cafe.

I didn’t make anything, apart from the journey, but I did learn quite a lot from Stephen, who has literally decades of experience of the area. On that basis I feel it is ok to shoehorn my mini review into this blog