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Fellfoot Forward Uncovering the past

Uncovering the past

The Uncovering the Past project aims to uncover, research and share new stories about the Fellfoot Forward area’s past, through community engagement with archaeology, historical research, and oral history. A programme of activity, working with the local community, will be delivered that will be of value in its own right, whilst also providing communities with the skills and confidence to develop future projects.

The online launch took place on Thursday 29 April with a virtual event exploring some of the hidden gems of this remarkable landscape and revealing the stories of some of the people who have lived here over the last 8,000 years with volunteers Bruce Bennison, Ruth Lawley and June Hill, and our partner organisation, DigVentures. Watch the video here.

A living history trail took place in Croglin on Sunday 11 July with a team of volunteers and staff from the North Pennines AONB Partnership and DigVentures uncovering the village’s past and the ‘Sacred Landscape’. Participants walked between the church and a high point on the fell, to understand how early people interacted with the landscape and its geology. Bruce Bennison demonstrated a Neolithic hand axe while walkers enjoyed the beauty of the surrounding Fellfoot landscape, re-imagining how communities have evolved over thousands of years. At the Old Pele, June Hill, the chair of Cumbria Vernacular Buildings Group, regaled everyone with the history of the old Pele Tower, a notable building in the village and now grade II* listed. It has changed its guise many times over the years; a fascinating structure, giving testimony to the village’s need for defence at one time. The church in Croglin is a beautiful building and resident historian, Ruth Lawley, gave visitors a peek into the lives of some earlier villagers who are buried in its graveyard, like Rachel Gill from Townhead Farm who sadly died in childbirth.

This project aims to uncover, research and share new stories about the Fellfoot Forward area’s past, through community engagement with archaeology, historical research and oral history recording. A programme of activity working with the local community will be delivered, while also providing them with the skills and confidence to develop future projects of their own.

There will be an historic Village Atlas approach for Roman and medieval history onwards. The historical research is already being done by local historians as part of the nationwide Victoria Counties History (VCH) project. The aim is to enhance the VCH local histories by concentrating on the survey of archaeological sites, using a range of techniques, all deliverable by local people with appropriate levels of training and supervision. From the historic village atlas work, five community archaeology fieldwork projects will be supported and will include:
• Carlatton Cairn evaluation – topographic and geophysical survey
• Kirkoswald Castle, moated site and bridge – topographic and geophysical survey
• The King’s Forest of Geltsdale – landscape survey
• Vernacular buildings survey of Croglin – research and recording

Alongside the village atlas work, oral histories of past times and current issues will be collected, shared, and lodged with Cumbria archives. Recordings will be available to listen to from the Fellfoot Forward website. The capturing of oral histories from the scheme area will be undertaken by volunteers across the scheme area, who will be provided with equipment and training to run sessions. The oral history will take the form of either a ‘Memory Maker’ style oral history, with older members of the community encouraged to share their stories relating to a specific topic such as music, farming, education or a more general recollection around a place, or a more informal ‘Capturing Conversations’ approach, bringing people together to have a conversation around an aspect of past practices, village life or more recent significant events.

In 2022 archaeological surveys of the ‘Sacred Landscape’ will begin, using a range of techniques, all delivered by local people, who will be given in the field training and support throughout. The survey information will be recorded as part of the Historic Environment Register for Cumbria and shared with North Pennines Historic Environment Working Group. Oral histories and any other relevant material will be lodged with the Cumbria Archive Services in Carlisle. The sites surveyed and recorded are not planned to be conserved or maintained but information will be shared with Cumbria Historic Environment Services as relevant. The findings will feed into the Victoria Counties local history research.

A significant legacy will be a skilled and knowledgeable group of volunteers who have worked together and can go on and carry out further survey work in the Fellfoot Forward area, either independently or as part of a local history and archaeological trust or society. Through community group and school contact with archaeology and oral history projects, those volunteers who wish will be able to go on and support local schools and community groups by delivering guided walks/events based around this and future research. Volunteers will be offered guide training during the delivery stage.

Look out for the online launch on Wednesday 13 October for the village atlas and oral histories training.

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