Dr Chris Smart in the excavation at Calstock Roman Fort, Cornwall.

Visiting the past at Calstock Roman Fort

The opportunity for the public to learn more about Calstock Roman Fort in Cornwall will be possible on Saturday 8 and 15 October in the form of special open days. 

The Tamar Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is organising the event which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Dr Chris Smart of the University of Exeter is leading the dig as is part of the Calstock Parish Heritage Project. He will train local volunteers in excavation and recording. Visitors to the open days will see the archaeologists in action, find out more about the site and handle artefacts. There will also be the opportunity for children to have a go at making Roman pots. The project was originally going to look at a suspected Iron Age settlement in the area, but after a geophysical survey showed a lack of archaeological evidence the decision was taken to shift the focus back to the Roman Fort.

Archaeologist Dr Smart said: “This excavation provides a wonderful opportunity to understand the sequence of construction of the Roman fort at Calstock, the road that led from its rear gate, and a massive enigmatic enclosure that surrounds it. Although we undertook a small investigation of this enclosure ditch last year, its date was not certain. By looking at whether it cuts through, or is built over, by the Roman road, we will be able to understand whether it relates to the fort, or not.”

He added, “There is the potential that it is associated with Roman use of the hilltop, or is medieval in date. Of equal importance is that we can give the local community an opportunity to be hands-on with their own heritage, which has not been previously possible here. It is exciting to be taking my research in a new direction, by working in association with the Tamar Valley AONB and the HLF”.

Eloise Kane,Tamar Valley AONB Project Officer said: “We were overwhelmed by the response from the public who wanted to be involved in the dig, which got booked up within two weeks in June! The open days will provide an opportunity for those who missed out to join us on site to get a taste for the archaeology and see what we find. We’re very grateful to the landowners and tenants for allowing us to expand on work at the Roman Fort and find out more about this important site.”

Nerys Watts, HLF’s Head of South West commented: “The Calstock Parish Heritage project is continuing to provide fantastic opportunities for local people and visitors alike to gain hands on experience of their heritage, and to contribute to our better understanding of some of the most important eras in our past.”

To attend the open day events the public is advised to go to the Tamar Valley Centre in Drakewalls between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 8 or 15 October. There will be displays about the dig in the Centre, and a free shuttle bus will take people to and from the archaeological site.

For more information call the Tamar Valley AONB on 01822835030 or e-mail AONB Project Officer Eloise Kane on ekane@tamarvalley.org.uk.

Date: 26 September 2011

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