There may also be other information in guidebooks and local books, though be careful to record information that is supported by facts (not speculation). The books may include the Domesday Book.
By now you will know the history of your site so you may find additional information in the archives in your local County Record Office. These archives may include:
- Maps of different ages.
- Look for Placenames in and around your site; for instance Roman sites can be indicated by names which include castor or cester,eg. Gloucester or Colchester.
Look for the Fieldnames, which are archaeological indicators recording distinguishing features of fields. Details about fieldnames and how they can be used can be found on the web pages of Herefordshire Through Time : Field-Name Search.
- It may be useful to look for a picture of what the site may have looked like when new; this will help you to see what has survived and what has been lost.
Place all your information in a folder...this is your Desktop Study.
Your first step may be to ask for permission to visit your site if it is on private land. It is always preferable to write in advance explaining what you wish to do and that you are carrying out a non-destructive investigation that only involves walking, and perhaps measuring, the site. You may need to provide a reference to prove your probity. This will also help you as a farmer may remove a bull from the field prior to your visit! However, it is likely that most sites will have access allowed.
When you visit take a plan of the site if possible. You may have found one in your documentary search. This makes it easier for you to understand any earthworks that may have survived. (If you want to include hachures then check these before you visit).
Take a notebook, a camera, a scale measure and a tape measure to record everything you can about your site. This will include a full description of the site. Use a sheet with headings for the date of each visit, the weather, the conditions underfoot, the type of soil, the vegetation and topography, problems on the site, possible damage, etc. If the site was a settlement for any length of time then look for the water supply.
It is important to record the weather as you may see more in some conditions than in others. For instance, if you are fieldwalking a ploughed field after rain you will find that flints will sparkle if the sun comes out. Vegetation can denote traces in the soil; a student of mine was able to identify the magazine of an iron mine by the particular plants in the nitrogen rich soil.
Take photographs of all relevant features using a scale. If you have a ranging rod make sure it is arranged vertically or horizontally to your camera as this makes it easier to gauge size on your photographs. For small features you can use a coloured ruler; I once used my wedding ring as this is a standard size. You can use a person (standing straight) at the side of your photograph looking towards the relevant feature (dogs are hopeless...); record the person's height to write on the reverse of your photograph.
Add all this to your folder...this is your Fieldwork.