Acle 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)

Acle 2014 Higher Education Field Academy (HEFA)It was ACA’s fifth visit to Acle this week, bringing the total number of test-pits dug by school students in the east Norfolk village to 45.

Thirty-six Year 9 and 10 students from Aylsham High School, Taverham High School and Broadland High School dug nine test-pits, and students and staff from Sheringham Woodfields School, a school for special eductional needs, joined the HEFA for the two days in Acle to dig a tenth test-pit. The sites dug in the back gardens of local residents were recruited by our local coordinator, Brian Grint, of Acle Community Archive Group, and the aim for 2014 was to dig more pits in the north of the village, around Bridewell Lane and Old Road, where late Anglo-Saxon pottery has been found before.

This was the first HEFA for Sue Anderson of Spoilheap Archaeology, who joined ACA on the second day of digging to help identify the pottery and other finds from the test-pits. Four of the test-pits along The Street produced medieval pottery. Of these, two test-pits (2 and 3) were in the same garden and also contained late Saxon Thetford ware (850-1100 AD); these test-pits are shown in the photograph above with several of the brand new ACA yellow buckets in use. The earliest finds from the 2014 test-pits were two Neolithic flint flakes found in test pit 10, at the eastern end of Old Road. Closer to the village centre on Old Road, test-pit 8 found the wall of a 19th century cottage, shown being recorded in the photograph above, and even discovered the flint flakes which would have decorated it. A map of the test-pit sites can be viewed on the Acle 2014 webpage here, and the pottery report will be available in a couple of weeks.

On Thursday morning, an interviewer from BBC Radio Norfolk visited the HEFA to interview Carenza and some of the students about the excavations, shown right, which broadcast later that day.

The weather was a mix of sunshine and showers on Wednesday and though we had a dry Thursday morning, there was a heavy rain shower that afternoon as the groups were back-filling their pits. However, the wet conditions did not dampen their enthusiasm and all of the groups rallied fantastically to complete their excavations and restore the gardens. In feedback after the event, 100% of the students rated the HEFA overall as ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, with 67% rating it as ‘excellent’. The feedback forms included lots of exuberant comments such as “I loved it. Very good experience” (KD), “It was brilliant :-)” (CP), “I enjoyed everything” (LM), “Thank you for the opportunity, I enjoyed this a lot” (JA), “A great new experience to remember” (HC).

Following their two days in Acle, the students visited the University of Cambridge today to learn more about how the results of HEFA are changing ideas about the medieval origins and development of Currently Occupied Rural Settlements (CORS) in preparation for writing an assignment on the results of their test-pits, and to experience Higher Education at a world-renowned university. The opportunity to take part and contribute to university research was evidently appreciated by the students, with one saying “I feel I have gained some useful experience working as part of a team, contributing to important university research” (SM), and another, “I liked feeling part of the ‘bigger picture’! The experience of discovering more about university I feel was beneficial” (EF).

The host Cambridge Colleges for the group on the third day were King’s, Peterhouse and Sidney Sussex. Eleanor Thompson, the Schools Liaison Officer for King’s College, had high praise for the group that she hosted, saying “they were bubbling with enthusiasm for the Field Academy and did a great job of explaining both their methods and findings to me.” The Admissions Director at Sidney Sussex College, Kirsten Dickers, spoke to the students after their visits about A-Level and degree choices, followed by a general introduction to the University of Cambridge. Afterwards, one student said “It was a brilliant experience. I liked meeting people from the university too and being able to answer questions, and talking to experts.” (CP).

Thank you to Brian Grint and the homeowners of Acle for the test-pit sites, to Sue Anderson for lending her expertise in finds identification, the Cambridge College Schools Liaison Officers for offering lunches and tours to the HEFA students, and to the students and school staff for their perseverance and eagerness over the past three days.

The next HEFA will take place in the fen edge village of Rampton in Cambridgeshire at the end of April, after the school Easter holidays.


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