Coquetdale Community Archaeology has won the prestigious National Parks Volunteer Project of the Year Award 2018, an accolade which recognises and celebrates the contribution of outstanding volunteers working across the 15 National Parks in the UK.
The group’s pioneering ‘Border Roads’ project, which investigated and documented the history and archaeology of the ancient routes through the Cheviots, beat strong competition from volunteer-led initiatives in Dartmoor National Park and Exmoor National Park to win the title and a £1,000 bursary.
Launched in 2014, the project was funded by Northumberland National Park Authority and the Heritage Lottery Fund. Some 90 volunteers have spent four years researching, documenting and communicating the archaeology along the Border Roads – the old tracks that now connect England and Scotland.
On winning the award, Chris Butterworth, who chairs the group, said: “The Cheviots are the major landmark of the borders. The Border Roads have been used for trading, driving livestock and moving troops, as well as smuggling and raiding. They reveal how people have used and negotiated the landscape for thousands of years.”
“We are extremely pleased to have won this award,” added David Jones, who managed the project and is the group’s secretary. “As well as the recognition it brings, it delivers a valuable practical benefit. This year we started work on a three-year study of an important medieval site in the Cheviot foothills, and the bursary will support our continuing work there.”
As part of the project, the group has published two books; ‘The Old Tracks though the Cheviots’, which is a record of the archaeology and history of the Border Roads. The second is a walking guide; ‘Walking the Old Tracks of the Cheviots’, and aims to encourage people to explore the routes for themselves. They have also run archaeology sessions and field trips for schools and given talks to hundreds of people from various local interest groups.
The winners for the National Park Volunteer Awards 2018, which are sponsored by Columbia Sportswear, were announced at Kendal Mountain Festival on Saturday 17 November. There were four categories - Individual, Young Person, Group and Project.
Congratulating the group on their success, Tony Gates, Northumberland National Park Authority Chief Executive, said: “It is fitting recognition for all the Coquetdale Community Archaeology volunteers who have worked so hard on this project.
“This is an excellent example of community volunteering and the work they have done is immensely valuable. The project has enhanced our understanding of Cheviot history, and its legacy will attract more people to explore the hills and help them understand the history of the landscape they walk through. As a National Park Authority we can take inspiration from this work and are currently looking at how we can learn more about our Cheviot heritage.”
The National Parks Volunteer Awards is an annual event which recognises, celebrates and thanks volunteers from across the country for their efforts in helping to protect the special landscapes of Britain’s National Parks. The judging panel is made up of the volunteer coordinators from all of the National Parks.
Eoin Treacy, Regional Marketing Manager at Columbia Sportswear, said: “Volunteers give their time, energy, skills and enthusiasm to help care for the UK's 15 incredible National Parks. It is this inspiring contribution that Columbia Sportswear is proud to celebrate through sponsorship of these Awards, and we'd like to congratulate this year's worthy winners.”
Lord Gardiner, Minister for Rural Affairs and Biosecurity, said: “I would like to congratulate all those nominated and commend the winners on these well-deserved awards. The dedication and hard work of volunteers is what makes our National Parks the inspiring places they are today.
“National Parks play a key role in conserving exceptional parts of our beautiful countryside and enabling communities, people and businesses to prosper and grow. Through our ongoing designated landscapes review, we want to ensure these vital areas are protected and enhanced for future generations. Volunteers of all generations do so much to make a positive difference, long may that continue.”