For part of the summer, I, along with another course mate, am taking part in an 8-week work-placement with the National Trust. During the placement, we will work/have worked with GIS and site monitoring and will also draw up a conservation management plan and conduct geophysical survey.
My name is Austin Apple, and I am currently volunteering for the National Trust as part of my MA Landscape Archaeology programme at the University of Sheffield. I chose the work-placement option instead of a formal dissertation as I plan on going into commercial archaeology once my programme ends in September. I also thought this would be a great way to learn skills that I will use later once I have a job (hopefully here and not in the US 🙂 ).
The specific region I volunteer for has their office located on the Hardwick Estate in Derbyshire. The surrounding park consists of countryside and woodland which culminate in several picturesque views of the surrounding Derbyshire countryside. The Hall itself was constructed in the 1590s ordered by Elizabeth Talbot, also known as ‘Bess of Hardwick.’ The park is also home to several tenant farmers, whose livestock can be seen throughout the park.
Today my work has consisted of taking photographs of a handful of sites which are in poor to bad condition, leading me to different areas of the park. One area was a former dog kennel, believed to be post medieval. It is mostly demolished, although some parts of the building are still visible such as that in the photograph below. Besides most of the structure being gone, the presence of cattle and water erosion are major factors impacting the site.
This work placement has been perfect. We’ve been able to put just about everything we learned in our lectures over the past year into practice. We learned about how to write a conservation management plan, how to use GIS to perform complex analyses and how to distinguish the lumps and bumps between natural and cultural features. Having completed both the GIS and site monitoring projects, it was the site monitoring that appeared most daunting. With over 300 sites listed on the HBSMR, it took a few weeks for us to assess the condition of all the known sites. These listings covered everything on the estate except the Old and New Hall. Broken down into rectangular sections, we were able to efficiently plan out our route. Many of the sites were located within current grazing and footpath areas, however they still remain in good condition with the exception of a very few.
I am excited to move on to the conservation plan and the geophysical survey. The conservation plan is for a nearby site and the survey is a continuation of a 2010 survey done by one of the professors at the University of Sheffield. I will no doubt continue to learn and practice new skills which I will use once I begin working in commercial archaeology.
Scenic view from Hardwick Parkland