Unearthing the hidden secrets of Strata Florida as field school prepares to open trenches

Grants officer, Peter Mojsa, recently jumped at the chance to ‘join the dig’ with a behind the scenes tour of a new archaeological field school being funded by Allchurches Trust as part of its new heritage grants programme.

The field school, which will be delivered by the Strata Florida Trust in partnership with The Prince’s Foundation, is set to launch on 21 August, 2019 at Strata Florida, Ceredigion, Mid-Wales, and will run until 16 September. The school forms part of a three-year pilot project that has received £177,400 in grant funding from Allchurches Trust and is designed to encourage people to consider and pursue careers in archaeology.

On his visit, Peter was able to experience a taster of the experience the first visitors to the field school will enjoy, although sadly, he unearthed little more than soil! He was, however, also shown artefacts from previous digs on the important historical site of the 12th Century Cistercian abbey. These included a gold coin found by a young boy, which inspired him to pursue his dream of being an archaeologist. He will graduate from Exeter University this year.

“Strata Florida is an incredibly atmospheric place and you can feel the history that permeates the walls and the land all around you,” said Peter.

“The field school will provide a unique opportunity for people of all ages, from different backgrounds, with and without experience of archaeology, to take part in all aspects of an archaeological excavation. I’m sure the archaeologists of the future will have more luck than I did!”

DSC_3759.jpg#asset:1159

Professor David Austin, Chair of the Strata Florida Trust, said: "We are absolutely delighted to have the very generous support of Allchurches Trust. Unfortunately, there are simply not enough numbers of people going into the archaeological profession fully trained and qualified these days and with so many digging projects needing them, this is going to affect our ability to discover and learn from our past. That's an absolute shame when you think about the amazing history and heritage in the UK.

"The Strata Florida Archaeology Field School is a very serious effort to address this issue before it becomes a real problem. But we also want as many other people as possible to get into a trench and simply experience the thrill of archaeological discovery. Who knows we may just spark an interest or enthusiasm and find our next generation of archaeologists to train."

The school will have a considerable impact on skills training and jobs in archaeology and heritage, raising the profile of archaeology and providing people with exposure to a potential career path that they might not otherwise have considered, and which does not necessarily require a university degree. It is being delivered by the Strata Florida Trust in partnership with The Prince’s Foundation, Allchurches Trust, University of Wales Trinity St. David, Breaking Ground Heritage and Sacred Landscapes Research Project.

Breaking Ground Heritage will work with the Strata Florida Trust to provide mentoring opportunities for both veterans and civilians suffering from isolation or mental and physical health challenges.

The wider project at Strata Florida is one of seven across the UK being undertaken by The Prince’s Foundation to coincide with HRH The Prince of Wales’s 70th birthday last year in a campaign known as 7 for 70. The projects focus on landmark buildings, whether neglected, needing a new use or requiring construction.

The conversion of The Beudy ‒ pronounced “bay-dee”, meaning a cowshed - into a meeting room, offices and kitchen area at Strata Florida, marked the completion of the first phase of this project. The Beudy restoration project was part funded by the Rural Community Development Fund (RCDF) through the Welsh Government Rural Communities - Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, which is funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the Welsh Government.

DSC_3781.jpg#asset:1160

There are still places available to sign up for a day or even a week's digging at Strata Florida from 21 August to 16 September. Taster 'Digger Days' take place every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Monday for £30 or £37 with lunch. For a very special day out, Professor David Austin will lead Walk, Talk & Dig Days on Sundays with lunch included. Alternatively, live the life of an archaeologist and come stay for a week at Strata Florida. To book any of these experiences go to www.strataflorida.org.uk If you would like to register for a place for next year's summer school, please email info@stratafloridatrust.org