Category Archives: Heritage

Prehistory in primary schools -Teaching resources road-test


The peaty fields around Star Carr, once the shore of a Stone Age lake, where a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer settlement has given remarkable insights into how prehistoric people interacted with their environment 11,000 years ago. 


Prehistory is on the Primary Curriculum these days, which is great news. What’s not so great is that many schools and more importantly teachers are not as well-informed about the Stone Age as they would wish and need help designing engaging programmes of study for their pupils about prehistory. Thankfully the team involved with the Star Carr Archaeology Project at York University have been putting their minds to this and designing some excellent teaching resources for schools to understand the stone age and make the Mesolithic site of Star Carr, near Scarborough relevant to children in the modern age. Please share with teachers this opportunity to get in early and preview the materials they have produced and give some constructive feedback on the resources. The following four paragraphs are reproduced from the facebook page of the Star Carr Project  (which by the way is excellent).

The Star Carr team has been busy producing resources for teachers about the site and the Mesolithic. The classroom activities have been grouped into three sets of units. Individual units can be taken from any set and taught as stand-alone activities. We are looking for teachers who would like to test these resources in the classroom and let us know what they think of them. Please contact Don Henson at

Set 1 – a skills log to develop basic archaeological skills in the
classroom: finding out information, identifying things, recording
objects, analysing how people lived and telling others about Star Carr.

Set 2 – a set of short stories, “11,000 Years Ago”, about the daily
lives of a Mesolithic family: moving home, making things, food, friends and strangers, a hint of winter, coming of age, a new life, the bad old days, boy or girl – animals or plants?

Set 3 – Lessons from the Middle Stone Age, showing how the Mesolithic can teach useful lessons to help us both live better lives today and understand the world we live in: the origins of ourselves, change is inevitable, the living environment, human diversity, healthy eating, what makes us happy.


That little lot sounds to me like a whole term’s worth of material for engaging and inspiring a generation of young scientists to think about our place in the world and what sites like Star Carr can teach us. If you think you know a teacher who would be willing to road test some of  these units in school do encourage them to email Don Henson at the University of York  ( who would be pleased to hear from them.


Flixton Digs Open Weekend

Prof. Nicky Milner with members of the public at Flixton digs in 2013

Prof. Nicky Milner with members of the public at the Flixton Island open digs open day in 2013


Get yourself down to Flixton Bridge on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th Aug for a fantastic chance to meet the archaeologists digging the Flixton Island Stone Age site. Organised by the University of York and The Star Carr Project in collaboration with the Wetland Project. Aall events are free – just turn up and join a tour on Saturday or Sunday.

Guided visits to Flixton Island archaeological dig- a rare opportunity to observe this summer’s excavations at this important Mesolithic site. Meet the archaeologists conducting the dig, observe work in progress, view the finds from this summer’s investigations and find out why this site is so important to understanding the environment in the Stone Age.

Wetlands Ancient and Modern – interpreting The Carrs landscape. Join Wetland Project Officer Tim Burkinshaw (Sat morning) for a journey of discovery about Scarborough’s wetland heritage. Learn the origin of the black peat soils at Flixton, discover the fascinating history of the drainage of The Carrs, The River Hertford and the work of local farmers to restore a modern day wetland landscape.

Artist Ruth Collett will be on site on Sunday afternoon to talk about her work interpreting the excavation in film and sculpture. There will also be a chance to buy one of the Star Carr books or pamphlets, which are excellent by the way. (£13 and £2 I’m sure correct change will be helpful) Proceeds go towards future public events by the Star Carr team.

Provisional schedule:

9.30am (Sat only) Landscape interpretation talk. “From Stone Age to Drain-age – A potted history of wetlands and land drainage in the Vale of Pickering.”  (20mins, subject to demand, for those who cannot stay after digs tour.)

10.00am, 12.30pm and 3.30pm Tours of the digs (both Sat and Sun)  – Join a member of The Star Carr Project team for a tour of the excavations and quiz the archaeologists about the Prehistoric site of Flixton Island. Tours will probably last 30-40mins.

11.00am and 1.30pm Landscape history walk (Sat only) –“ Wetlands Ancient and Modern” Join Tim Burkinshaw from Scarborough Borough Council for a short easy stroll from Flixton Bridge around adjoining fields. The walk will put the Flixton digs in a wider landscape context, including the formation of the Prehistoric wetland ‘Lake Flixton’ and its importance for studies of past climate, and to our future climate. Learn about the historic drainage act which enabled the improvement of the land for farming and how some local farmers are helping to ‘put back’ habitats for wetland wildlife through stewardship schemes today.

Getting there: Access to the site is just south of Flixton Bridge (TA 039 812) where there is off road parking by kind permission of the landowner. Access by car from Flixton village down North Street is a single track lane with limited passing and turning space. Please proceed slowly and take care of pedestrians, dog-walkers etc. Alternatively park at the top of North St and walk down the lane. Local buses eg Coastliner 843 stop at the top of North Street. Allow 20-30 minutes for the pleasant walk to Flixton Bridge. The Foxhound pub (large car park for customers) serves food from 12.00pm.

What to bring: Sturdy footwear advised. The site is very open – dress warmly and bring a waterproof coat if rain is forecast. Well behaved dogs welcome but must be on a lead in the fields.

Our thanks go again to Mr Paul Chapman on whose land the digs take place, for granting permission for the archaeological investigations and for public access for the open weekend. Please be aware that this is private land, so this is a special opportunity to view the Stone Age site. Trenches will be filled in again after the open weekend to preserve the archaeology.

You may also like to read about last year’s open days elsewhere on the blog

Stone Age Sounds at Flixton

Mesolithic Open Days at Flixton Island, Vale of Pickering
See the latest excavations and finds, experience sounds of the Mesolithic, quiz the experts, walk the landscape, volunteer to dig!

Meet the Star Carr Project Team and Tim Burkinshaw of the Carrs Wetland Project

The Star Carr Mesolithic Project Team are holding an open weekend at their excavations at Flixton Island between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 24 and Sunday 25 August. Please come along and visit them to learn more about the Late Palaeolithic and Mesolithic sites that they are digging.

  • Site tours both Saturday 24-Aug and Sunday 25-Aug:
    >> 10.00, 12.30, 15.30 | tours last about 30 minutes
  • Opportunity to see some of the recent finds
  • Experience the “Mesolithic soundscape” where you can sit in the middle of a circle of speakers and immerse yourself in reconstructed Mesolithic sounds – wild animals, flint knapping, boating across the lake
  • Visit the book stall | Star Carr booklet £2 or the book £13 | profits go towards further public events
  • On the Saturday only, guided walks around the wetland landscape with Tim Burkinshaw of The Carrs Wetland Project – join Tim to look for clues of shrinking peat soils and learn how local farmers are helping to protect the heritage of this floodplain landscape and its wildlife:
    >> 11.00 and 14.00 | walks last about an hour


The site is located down North Street in Flixton near Scarborough North Yorkshire, YO11 3UA, Grid ref: TA 039 812. You can either park in Flixton and walk down North Street or drive down North Street. North Street is a single track lane with limited passing or turning space. It is possible to drive down to the site and park off-road in the field adjacent to the dig by kind permission of the farmer.

If you choose to drive down the lane please proceed very slowly with great care for pedestrians, dogs, horses, etc.

The pub in Flixton village, The Fox Hound Inn cannot provide parking unless you intend to have lunch there and as it is bank holiday it may be worth booking in | Tel 01723 890301

How to volunteer

Anyone who would still like a chance to volunteer for excavations, please email the Project Manager, Mike Bamforth who is arranging these opportunities. Further info on

[This post reproduced with permission of Teeside Archaeological Society eNews Archive ]

HLF experts to visit the Vale

The Vale of Pickering from Sherburn BrowThe Partnership Board for ‘Yorkshire’s Hidden Vale’ met this week in Scarborough. A key item on agenda was the approaching visit on 1st Aug by staff from HLF to help them assess our Stage One lottery bid for the Landscape Partnership Scheme.

Thorny-Issue-Of-The-Day: how to showcase the ‘Hidden Vale’ landscape in an hour and a half tour…tricky when there are so many great vistas, diverse villages and interesting project proposals to choose from.

It was felt there are three essential messages to impart to the experts on this assessment visit. Firstly, what is this landscape unit that we have chosen to call ‘Yorkshire’s Hidden Vale’, and what are the special qualities and that are so overlooked? Not least by the visitors flocking to the coast who pass through the Vale of Pickering, unaware of its twelve thousand years of cultural heritage (think Star Carr, Lake Flixton, glacial lakes and moraines, drainage, peat and farming…).

If you were wondering by the way the proposed HLF project area is roughly speaking bounded by Brompton, Sherburn, Muston and Eastfield. You can read more in my earlier post Yorkshire’s Hidden Vale.

The second message we need to put across to these important visitors will be the threats or issues faced by The Carrs landscape, emphasising why it is urgent and timely to bring them to public attention and to find new ways of protecting the natural assets in ways which nurture the rural economy. I wrote about the threats to the peat soils for example in Vanishing Peat.

The third ‘message’ is to show examples of what funds from HLF, carefully deployed, might enable to happen and how this will secure long term benefits, not only for the landscape, but for the people and communities living here as well.

A tall order? Let’s hope that we can rise to the challenge and help the Vale of Pickering sell itself as a fitting candidate for the Landscape Partnerships Scheme.

Vanishing peat

At this time of year arable farmers in the Vale of Pickering can be found cultivating for spring crops. This is often on the land that sits too wet to plough it in autumn when modern cereal and oilseed crops are planted. After an exceptionally wet year many areas remain too soggy to drive machinery over without damaging the soil or getting bogged.

Let us not forget however that at critical growth stages a shortage of water can be equally damaging to crop yields. We had official drought orders in place in Yorkshire only a year ago. Lighter soils, such as sands and peats, both found in quantity in the Vale of Pickering are very prone to blowing away when dry. If strong winds coincide with dry conditions just after cultivation this can cause mass wasting of soils by wind erosion. It is not uncommon for farmers to have to re-drill crops on blow-away soils if rain fails at the critical time. Scenes like the one here near Killerby Carr, emphasise the vulnerability of peat soils not only to land drainage and subsequent shrinkage but also to wind erosion.

Soil is  a precious and limited commodity. Peat soils on The Carrs are especially precious, due to the carbon they hold, the heritage record within and their biodiversity potential. Yet how many of us give soils a second thought? Are they another aspect of our overlooked heritage in Yorkshire’s Hidden Vale?

A dust cloud of peat  tells a dramatic story of peatland erosion during a dry spring on The Carrs

A dust cloud of peat tells a dramatic story of peatland erosion during a dry spring on The Carrs