Back in 2006 the hill had several setts on its summit and these required a 30-metre exclusion zone around them for any trenching. Unfortunately this essentially meant the entire hilltop was out of bounds.
Fast forward to 2011 and the badgers had moved out. This time we would actually have the chance to answer the questions that had so intrigued us five years before. Was there a castle at the site? When was it built? Who built it? The Irish family, landowners of the site, were as welcoming as ever as we arrived at their diverse farm, which deals in organic crops and dairy and has recently created the Yurt Retreat' - a posh campsite with all mod cons for city types that can't do without a latte in the morning! The several striking yurts would be our home for three days as we forced John Gater and the team to drag all sorts of equipment up a very steep slope.
The practicalities of a Time Team shoot are often quite complicated and involve a number of local and national government bodies. In the case of Castle Hill, Natural England were consulted at an early stage to pin down just which areas of the farm were covered by agri-environment schemes. These schemes help farmers by supplementing a farm's income if the land is used in renewable and organic ways. Agreements with Natural England can be voided by actions such as archaeological excavations if not agreed beforehand through a detailed Project Design.
Once negotiations with the landowners, Natural England, English Heritage, the County Council and others were complete the production and research team could begin the work of setting up the programme. A typical Time Team programme involves 50 or so staff, all needing transport, accommodation and, of course, good food! Production is split between the logistics and practicalities of filming on site and the necessary historical and archaeological research prepared in advance to help in our work.
The team on site has to plan each element of the production quite carefully. There is considerable support for the archaeological team and additional needs depending on what other activities, expert guests or particular locations are required for filming. The team will have a clear idea of what the archaeological targets and research questions are. Of course Time Team is never quite as simple as the team intends. Investigating a site archaeologically is a dynamic and reactive process. Our team of experts will adapt to the story that the archaeology wants to tell. We never know what will come out of the ground.