I spent the Bank Holiday Monday joining in with the Woodland Heritage Festival. It’s an outreach day organised by Archaeology in the City (AitC). I’m generally more involved with the behind-the-scenes (social media and podcast) side of AitC but I really enjoy getting into big public events like the Festival. Last year, I focussed on recording presentations by archaeology PhD candidates and making them available as special episodes on the Archaeology and Ale podcast.

This year, as we decided not to run the talks programme again, I decided to create a family-friendly Landscape Archaeology activity. Almost every other research theme in the department had an activity, and as I’m the only full-time landscape archaeology PhD candidate who’s around and fool enough to volunteer for things (I think…. there may be someone in their writing-up year, but we’ve not met yet!), I thought I’d be remiss if I let my research field go unrepresented again.

Thus, the Landscape Archaeology Woodland Heritage Adventure treasure hunt was born…

I cherry-picked some interesting and accessible sites from the Ecclesall Woods Archaeology Trail (the Wood Collier’s Grave, a 200 year old oak tree, and the old trackway) and made a simple map in QGIS (using the QGIS basemaps provided), including the hands-on clay activity table and experimental Q-pit as “sites” to be found. Each site had a simple riddle as a clue to its location. On the back of the map I included a colouring-in fact sheet showing some equipment used by landscape archaeologists, with royalty-free images sourced from openclipart.org.

The aim of the trail was to send children (and their parents/guardians, for safety reasons) around on a 20-30 minute walk to check off each site by stamping their maps. Upon returning to my station with a stamped map they could claim a small packet of sweets as their prize. Candy is a great motivator – I gave away the contents of THREE bulk packets of Haribos over the day, as well as handing out flyers for longer archaeology walks in the woods, and explaining more about landscape archaeology if anyone wanted to know.

I was really pleased to have such positive feedback from parents and kids – they thought the riddles were just hard enough, and the walk just long enough, for families with primary school aged children. The Young Archaeologists’ Club also tried the activity and it worked well with splitting the large group (14 kids) into four smaller groups and going round the map in different directions.

If you’d like to take a family-friendly walk around these sites and more, you could try the Mystery of the Factory in the Woods. This is an audio-adventure walking tour – you can download the audio to listen to on your own media device, or borrow an mp3 player from the JG Graves Woodland Discovery Centre during normal opening hours.