Skylarks Experimental Archaeology

2015 has even the inaugural year of the Skylarks HLF project; a joint venture between Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust and the County Council to celebrate the cultural and natural heritage of the site.  The Skylarks Nature Reserve is near Holme Pierrepont and is owned by the Wildlife Trust.  It has been a focus for human occupation right from the Palaeolithic through to modern times.  Barrows and flint tools show a prehistoric landscape similar to that seen in other river valley sites in Nottinghamshire such as Attenborough.  Excavation prior to quarrying revealed part of an extensive Early Medieval cemetery, dating to between the 5th and 7th centuries, and focused on a large prehistoric ring ditch feature. A total of 118 graves were excavated here, along with a sunken floored building thought to be on the edge of an associated settlement.

The Nature Reserve has recently been extended and is being improved with new paths, signage and hides.  A corner of the site has been put aside for experimental and experiential archaeology to encourage direct involvement in the cultural heritage of the area.  Earlier this year volunteers broke ground on the first burial mound to be raised in Nottinghamshire for around 500 years.  Dubbed ‘the Rag Howe’, it will host a time capsule rather than a burial, and is based on the example excavated nearly at Great Briggs.  In July we dug a firepit and this has been used over the summer for various workshops and demonstrations.  The summer saw a series of workshops that took attendees through ancient technologies from flint-knapping to firelighting, and from spinning to dyeing with natural dyes, and this culminated in the Skylarks Festival where we put on a display of Iron Age life.

We have great plans for the site over the next two years.  A sacred grove, called the Nemeton, is being created as an outdoor education space, and plans are currently being submitted for the construction of an Anglo Saxon dwelling.  This will be built by volunteers and will include free workshops in traditional skills such as wattle and daub, hazel hurdle making, and thatching.  We are also encouraging reenactment and history groups to get in touch with us if they would like to carry out their own experiments on the site.

If you would like to get involved in the Skylarks Project just get in touch with the Community Archaeologists at communi.archaeology@nottscc.gov.uk.  For the latest updates check out our Facebook at facebook/SkylarksArchaeology.

Emily Gillott and Lorraine Horsley Oct 2015

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