The Durham Dales are renowned for their rich heritage. So when we are out and about under those vast skies, treading over a remote corner, do we ever stop and wonder what lays beneath our feet?
That was something upon which I was drawn to ponder when I was commissioned by Altogether Archaeology to be part of Holwick Stories, a project funded by Northern Heartlands. One of the main aims of the Altogether Archaeology is to promote awareness of the archaeological heritage of the North Pennines and the surrounding area. For the past three years, its volunteers have been excavating a deserted mediaeval hamlet at Holwick in Teesdale in The Durham Dales.
Through Holwick Stories, Altogether Archeology engaged with the local community and tapped into the cultural heritage of the area to complement their excavations at the site in Holwick. As part of this, and alongside Lonely Tower Film and Media, I was engaged to deliver creative activities and to record real stories and anecdotes.
My role was to audio record and produce podcasts of the responses of visitors to the site on open days, experiences of dig participants, in addition to local people talking about their connections to Holwick. This involved spending time at the dig, out in a field for the day, conversing with a group of dedicated volunteers as they meticulously scraped away the earth, patiently waiting for the land to give up its past.
Further community engagement involved the pupils at Cotherstone Primary School . The children visited the Holwick site as ‘archaeologists for the day’. A couple of weeks later, I accompanied members of the Altogether Archaeology team when they took along the finds from the dig to the school. I chatted to the pupils and recorded their journeys of discovery as they washed and processed the finds.
I also explored these historic artefacts with the children through a creative writing session where imagination was definitely encouraged to fill in any gaps in our knowledge!
The outcome is a series of seven podcasts for Holwick Stories, available to listen online. Each one is a collection of stories and anecdotes which scratches beneath the surface to reveal the different facets of the Holwick dig and its community.