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Volunteer archaeology project in Northumberland reaches national final

Coquetdale Community Archaeology volunteers working on the exposed remains of a medieval farmhouse at Linbrig near Alwinton in the north of Northumberland National Park.

A group of volunteer archaeologists from Northumberland have reached the final of the prestigious National Parks Volunteer Awards, which recognises outstanding volunteering in the 15 UK National Parks.

Coquetdale Community Archaeology group’s ‘Border Roads’ project will compete against volunteer-led initiatives in Dartmoor National Park and Exmoor National Park to win a £1,000 bursary and the prestigious accolade of UK National Parks Volunteer Project of the Year 2018.

Based in the Upper Coquet valley, the project has involved some 90 hard-working volunteers who have spent four years investigating and documenting the history and archaeology of The Border Roads – the ancient routes through the Cheviots.

David Jones, project manager and the group’s secretary is very pleased; he said: “To be shortlisted for a national award is extremely gratifying and fantastic recognition for the project.

“Our volunteers have worked very hard with their dedication and determination making this a journey of discovery. By researching and sharing the area’s rich cultural and historical heritage, we hope to inspire more people to visit and learn about the Cheviot landscape and the people that shaped it before us.”

In 2014, Coquetdale Community Archaeology secured funding from Northumberland National Park Authority and the Heritage Lottery Fund to begin researching, documenting and communicating the archaeology along the routes through the hills.

Since then, they have published two books; ‘The Old Tracks though the Cheviots’, which is a record of the archaeology and history of the Border Roads. The second is a walking guide; ‘Walking the Old Tracks of the Cheviots’, and aims to encourage people to explore the routes for themselves.

The group is currently developing a new website which is due to launch in December and will provide an accessible source of information for volunteers and visitors alike. They have also run a number of archaeology sessions and field trips for schools and provided talks to hundreds of people from other local interest groups.

Congratulating the group on reaching the final, Tony Gates, Northumberland National Park Authority Chief Executive, said: “We are very pleased that the hard work and enthusiasm of the Coquetdale Community Archaeology group has been recognised nationally, and wish them the very best of luck for the final. The project is immensely valuable; it has enhanced our understanding of Cheviot history and its legacy will undoubtedly attract more people to the hills and help them understand what they see.”

The National Parks Volunteer Awards is an annual event that recognises, celebrates and thanks volunteers across the country for their efforts in helping to protect the special landscapes of Britain’s National Parks.

The judging panel is made up of the volunteer coordinators from all of the National Parks, a spokesperson said: “Judging the National Park Volunteer awards is a humbling experience as it gives us the opportunity to learn about so many volunteers and projects that are making an immense contribution to the 15 National Parks across the UK.

“It was a difficult choice this year as there were so many inspiring entries. We’d like to congratulate those who have been shortlisted and we would like to thank everyone who is volunteering to help our staff look after National Parks!”

This year, there are four categories and 11 nominees in the National Parks Volunteer Awards. The categories are Individual, Young Person, Group and Project. The awards are supported by Columbia Sportswear. The winners will be announced at Kendal Mountain Festival on Saturday 17 November.