A passion for community archaeology rekindled
By Kirsty Campbell, Programmes Manager
It was with more than a little trepidation that I joined the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme and South West Heritage Trust team for three days at the Cothelstone Hill dig on the Quantocks at the end of July, this year. It had been almost 20 years since I last stepped foot in a trench and I wondered if I would remember what to do, and if my back would hold out!
However, I needn’t have worried, as I couldn’t have received a warmer welcome from the archaeologists and volunteers, and it wasn’t long before I remembered what I loved about archaeology – the camaraderie, teamwork, shared interest in what can be learned from the past, and the outdoor physical activity, despite the heavy showers and strong wind! The sense of satisfaction I feel from reaching the bottom of a feature and identifying its shape, along with straight trench sides (or sections as they are known) is very rewarding, and there is also the strong feeling of being connected to the landscape and imagining it from the perspective of those who were there many years before.
Over the three days it also struck me just how interested many people are in archeology; we had numerous visits from local people including families, keen to find out about what we had discovered, to see a dig in action, and for some to share their own interests in archaeology. The skills the archaeologists had in bringing the past to life was noteworthy! I also worked with some very lovely, amazing volunteers, some who, like me, had given up a career in archaeology when children came along, and others who were totally new to it, including a grandmother who is a carer for her husband and wanted a short break and to try something different; a young man who, following mental health difficulties left a career in care for a degree in archaeology and who impressed us with the typology series he created for his dissertation; and an A-Level student who was thinking about her future and discovered a passion for archaeology along the way. There were many more volunteers of all ages that I sadly didn’t get to meet, but I know everyone involved really appreciated the opportunity the dig gave them to meet new people and work outdoors on a team project, achieving a clear goal, and discovering more about the Quantocks.
At Somerset Community Foundation we fund a vast array of projects and voluntary organisations, but actually very few in the heritage sector. We have, for some time, recognised the importance of using activities to support and improve mental health, as well as the benefits of being outdoors. Along with activities such as gardening, and art and theatre, archaeology can also play a part, using physical activity which seeks knowledge of the past to support and enrich communities today.
Also, on the theme of benefitting from the outdoors, Somerset Activity and Sports Partnership (SASP) has launched the campaign ‘Get Outside In Somerset’. Click here to check out the website and meet their ambassadors who are embracing being active outdoors, and for tips, advice, events and suggestions.
I’d like to personally thank Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme and South West Heritage Trust for running the dig with funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and SCF for the volunteering leave which enabled me to join in, and also to my fellow volunteers who helped make it so enjoyable. I’m looking forward to taking part in another dig next year – the passion has been reignited!
Photo caption: Kirsty with Dan Broadbent, Historic Heritage Officer, Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme