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Ford and Etal

Digging deep for ancient ideas in the North Pennines

Other posts by  |  Sheelagh Caygill on Google+ |  February 6, 2012 | 0 Comments

Archaeology volunteers digging in Westgate, Weardale last year

A community archaeology project has proved so successful it’s had the go-ahead to come up with new ideas for digging into the past.

And organisers are looking to the public to suggest ancient mysteries they would like to solve.

Last year the North Pennines AONB Partnership ran a trial stage of its Altogether Archaeology project, which attracted more than 400 volunteers from across the North East.

Now the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded the AONB Partnership a grant to develop a programme of archaeological fieldwork and other events so that the volunteers can undertake more exciting work over the next three years.

Highlights of the pilot phase included digs at Westgate Castle in Weardale; a survey of the archaeological landscape of Holwick in Upper Teesdale; a review and exploration at Muggleswick Grange near Castleside in County Durham; the investigation of a prehistoric burial site on Appleby golf course and the excavation of the Maiden Way Roman road near Alston, both in Cumbria.

The AONB Partnership’s Historic Environment Officer Paul Frodsham said: “Key to the success of the pilot project has been the fantastic commitment and enthusiasm of our community volunteers.

“Our recent day conference which was the culmination of the pilot project was one of the most enjoyable archaeological events I have ever attended.”

Paul continued: “This work has been fascinating, but has also demonstrated the potential, and in some cases the need, for more work to further our understanding while also informing future landscape management.”

Working with the volunteers and numerous partners including English Heritage, Natural England, the Northumberland National Park Authority, and the Universities of Durham and Newcastle, Paul is devising a series of ideas for the new project and looking at ways to bring the recently uncovered history of the North Pennines to a fresh audience.

These will then go forward to the Heritage Lottery Fund for consideration.

Current fieldwork proposals include surveys and excavations to investigate:

  • The first people who lived in the North Pennines after the end of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago
  • The first farmers of about 6,000 years ago
  • Relations between Romans and native communities from the 1st to the early 5th centuries AD
  • The mysterious centuries after the end of Roman rule and before the Norman Conquest of 1066
  • The great hunting forests and deer parks of medieval times
  • The origins and history of the North Pennines lead industry

Paul said: “We’d really like to hear from people who have always been curious about a place near their village or town, which perhaps has a legend attached to it or has mysterious lumps and bumps in the ground which might have been an ancient settlement of some kind.

“Wherever possible, suggestions from the public will be worked into the project programme.

“We’re also planning events specifically for children, so that they can also get involved in exploring the North Pennines’ past.”

The North Pennines lies between the National Parks of the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland, with the former West Durham Coalfield to the east and the Eden Valley to the west, and is one of the most remote and unspoilt places in England.

The project is open to everyone with an interest in the archaeology of the North Pennines, and attracts volunteers from Tyneside, Teesside and further afield as well as residents of the AONB’s towns and villages.

New volunteers are always welcome, though the new project, if it secures the necessary funding, will not actually get underway until autumn this year.

Anyone who has any ideas for work they would like to see included within the project should contact Paul Frodsham during February at the AONB Partnership office on 01388 528 801 or email:


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