Digging into coastal past

Bob Jackson from Longhirst works on the archaeological dig in the dunes at Druridge.JCMH 090713dig1
Bob Jackson from Longhirst works on the archaeological dig in the dunes at Druridge.JCMH 090713dig1

A COASTAL beauty spot is being dug up to unearth ancient remains.

Archeologists are facing a race against time to excavate the Druridge Bay site before its artefacts are lost forever through coastal erosion.

The site, near Low Hauxley, includes the remains of a hunter-gatherer settlement dating back at least 8,000 years and a prehistoric cemetery from 4,000 years ago.

Mesolithic remains have been unearthed below the cemetery from when the area was home to many families in the Middle Stone Age.

And a peat has been discovered on the foreshore, containing hundreds of animal and human footprints, wooden tools, antlers and nuts.

An eight-week archeological dig is under way, with university students, community groups, schools, youth groups and volunteers all taking part.

The Rescued From The Sea project is funded by a £285,900 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), with additional support from UK Coal and the Coast and Lowlands Leader programme.

The land is owned by Northumberland County Council and the dig is being led by Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Archeological Research Services.

Trust Chief Executive Mike Pratt said: “We are really excited about this project.

“Without the HLF funding, the site would have been lost to the sea and a part of our heritage gone before it was completely understood.

“Nowhere is the historically-intimate association between people, place and wildlife more obvious than along Druridge Bay.

“Our heritage is a cultural and natural landscape – we are all part of history and I am sure Rescued From The Sea will show us just how big a part history plays in our lives and the findings may help us plan our work in the area, which will in turn affect future generations.”

All findings from the dig will be analysed and interpreted by experts, with a scientific paper and book planned about the site. The finds and recordings will eventually be archived at the Great North Museum.

Archeological Research Services Managing Director, Dr Clive Waddington, said: “The exceptional circumstances of preservation at Low Hauxley mean that we are in a race against time to investigate and record one of the best-preserved sites of its kind in the country before more of the site is lost to the sea.

“Unearthing the past is exciting and fun and we’re looking forward to visitors coming to the site so that we can tell them all about it.”

Head of HLF North East Ivor Crowther said: “Rescued From The Sea will give people a fantastic insight into life in Northumberland through the ages.

“These exceptional finds will be carefully conserved and made accessible for everyone.

“The volunteers taking part will help us to shed light on the artefacts and piece together parts of our heritage that no one has seen before.”

The site will be restored after the dig.