His paddling took him on to the Attingham Estate where the National Trust invited him to check on the remnants of the medieval bridge which had stood over the Tern. In doing this he found the abutment and pillar base and that the former had been repaired with carved stone. This is believed to be from Haughmond Abbey and was done by Sir Rowland Hill. He cleared a route through the side nettles and this may become a further attraction for walkers to the park.
Further up river he found the remains of a fish weir by the dam made by Repton who introduced this to hold back the water to make more picturesque the view towards the house. He was able to gain experience of this at a later date when the area was flooded and he was able to match Repton’s drawing with a photo through the 1782 bridge.
On the subject of fish weirs he says the best preserved are at Preston Boats just behind the Shire Hall where there was a trap or three operating well into 20th century.
He was asked to investigate Wroxeter Island but was not able to improve on the current knowledge however he found a row of pieces of Roman pot in the river at low water which Nigel thinks were wasters from a nearby pottery. There is a layer of fine clean clay on top of the Ice Age deposit which he thinks may have been the clay supply for this pottery. He wants to get a local potter to fire some to see if it will match his finds.
Nigel talked at some length about how the whole picture changes when the floods occur, the river going back to areas it had previously occupied. He showed a picture of the Abbey with a branch of the Severn now running in front. The Wildlife Trust building is the old Water gate, another picture showed a flooded Kings Head Passage passing over the old town ditch.
The next area he explored were some urban waterways. Shrewsbury revealed the unused Smithfield Quay built for the Meat and Cattle Traders just in time for the railways to handle the trade instead. In Norwich he spotted on the bottom of the Bishop’s Medieval Bridge decorative carved faces seen only from small shallow draft craft. Bristol, straddling the Avon, proved to be a fine source of culverted waterways. The Avon itself the Frome and the remains of the castle moat, he explored these with another kayak expert and the city’s archaeologist who was very impressed to see the underside of the medieval bridges which were sealed by the Victorian culverting.
In the 1930s there had been a crew whose job it was to clear obstructions in these tunnels they were known as the Dead Dog Boat. He told us the famous Rodgers curricle making family were often employed in the recovery of bodies and indeed he too had found the body of an elderly lady reported missing. These rather macabre facts had led him to ponder one of the mysteries of archaeology, what did the Iron Age do with its dead? He thinks like the deposits of knives, swords and other similar items offered to the water gods, they may have put their dead in the river which would account for the lack of human remains from this period. The name Sabrina for the river is apparently pre Roman and appears in several places in N.W.Europe, perhaps the Goddess as well as the river.