Digging in the Dales

This is a blog from Judy, one of YDMT’s People and the DALES community workers, who has just returned from an archaeological dig in Ingleborough…

“I’ve only ever been on an archaeological dig once before as a student in Wales – excavating a Medieval rabbit warren – and my memories are of clearing snow, tents blowing down and a farmer with a shot gun!

This dig was a proper dig though with a dedicated team of amateur archaeologists working on a complex of medieval farm buildings in the Ingleborough area. I’d never realised the amount of organisation it takes to run an archaeological dig, from getting permission to dig, to recruiting diggers, erecting tents, and putting up a port-a-loo, and that’s before you even touch one blade of grass.

My involvement came about because I work with refugees getting them out and about in the Yorkshire Dales through our project People and the DALES. We found out that one of the refugees we had been working with in Blackburn had originally been an archaeologist back in Eritrea, in Africa, but had to leave everything and flee to the UK. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could get him involved in a dig in this country and rekindle his love of all things old?

Ingleborough dig - Basil, Tesfaab., Julien, and Tinta

Digging up Ingleborough! Basil, Tesfaab, Julien, and Tinta get stuck in

David Johnson of the Ingleborough Archaeology group was organising a dig, we asked if a few of the refugees based in Darwen could be involved, he agreed;  John Asher applied for funding from through the Sustainable Development Fund, the Quakers agreed to host the refuges for four nights and so that was that! For four days our friend Sam and four others (all from Africa) began digging their own trench on the slopes of Ingleborough and unearthed a doorway that is probably over 1,000 years old.

As expected rain stopped play one day so the guys spent the day visiting the Dales Countryside museum and frolicking around in Malham. But on the other days they worked like mad, digging, surveying, photographing and finally back filling.

Having worked in Africa himself David Johnson enjoyed their company almost as much as they did the dig : “They were good fun,” he said, “Good company, full of enthusiasm, with a strong desire to learn and benefit from the experience, and jolly good workers to boot. I hope they will be able to stay safely in Britain as I am certain they will seriously enrich our culture, like so many refugees of the past.”

I certainly agree with you there David. My time on the dig with Sam, Tesfaab, Tinta, Basil and Julien was certainly the highlight of my year even though my knees hurt afterwards!”