Big Dig launch seeks test-pit volunteers

Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology GroupArchaeology enthusiasts in Swaledale are finalising plans for their biggest challenge to date – a two-year community project to help dales folk search for clues to medieval and ancient history in their own back yards.

The lottery-backed Swaledale Big Dig is being organised by the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group (SWAAG) and will be launched with two free events in Reeth, the first being a presentation by TV archaeologist and ‘Time Team’ expert Dr Carenza Lewis, of Cambridge University.

Residents in and around Reeth and the neighbouring communities of Fremington and Grinton who want to get involved in the project will be able to register their interest at the launch presentation or at a follow-up Heritage Day exhibition. They will also be able to enrol for any of a range of short educational courses being organised as part of the project’s commitment to stimulate wider interest and engagement in archaeology.

Project manager Alan Mills, from SWAAG, said: “The Big Dig is primarily about archaeologists working with residents to dig test pits on their own and public land. The pits will be a metre square and up to a metre deep, and will help us to see snapshots of what lies beneath our feet over a wide area of the landscape.

“Hopefully we will have lots of pits so that collectively they will help us to formulate views about the ages and development of settlement areas and to gain a better and broader understanding of our local history. For the project to have value it has to be very carefully organised and managed, which is why we are especially keen for interested people to come to the launch events when Dr Lewis and others will explain the significance of the project and show how it will work.”

The launch event is at Reeth Memorial Hall on Thursday 13 March, starting at 7pm with presentations running until about 8.30pm. The Heritage Day is at the same venue on Saturday 15 March from 10.30am to 3pm, and will include displays and information by SWAAG, the Swaledale Museum and other local heritage organisations.

The Swaledale Big Dig has received funding of £76,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and is supported by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA). The project will run for the rest of 2014 and throughout 2015. Further information is available at

Robert White, YDNPA’s Senior Historic Environment Officer, said: “The National Park Authority is pleased to be working with SWAAG. We hope the project will help provide answers to lots of questions about the historic development of Reeth and Grinton , particularly why Reeth has such a large village green or market place.”

Photo courtesy of SWAAG



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