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2014-15 was another busy year for Access Cambridge Archaeology (ACA), directed by Dr Carenza Lewis, including a full complement of Higher Education Field Academies (HEFA), various community projects and a programme of events with HLF landscape partnership scheme, Touching the Tide.

Catherine Ranson continued in her role as archaeological supervisor with Jessica Rippengal (Division of Archaeology) providing part-time support for excavation supervision. After four years with the ACA team Clemency Cooper took up a new role with the Portable Antiquities Scheme in December 2014 and Laure Bonner joined as administrator in January 2015. Dr Jenni French (Peterhouse, Cambridge) and Dr Trish Biers (MAA) continued in assessing HEFA students’ written reports as well as delivering sessions on report writing skills during the HEFA.

Sixteen HEFAs were run in 2014-15 in Shefford, Hillington*, North Warnborough, Brundall* (x2), Rampton, Southminster*, Walberswick, Hadleigh*, Sawtry, Blo’ Norton*, Great Amwell, Long Melford, Hindringham, Riseley and Manuden (*indicates villages excavated for the first time in 2015). In 2014-15 668 learners attended HEFA from 62 schools, accompanied by 128 school staff, with the University of Cambridge Widening Participation Project funding thereby providing 2004 learner days.  84 per cent of learners attended from high priority schools with low levels of progression rates to HE, GCSE attainment and ‘Value Added’ indices. 93 per cent of all participants rated it as ‘Excellent’ or Good’ and the number intending to apply to university increased by 18 per cent, to a Russell Group university by 49 per cent and to Cambridge by 55 per cent.

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Pupils dig at Hillington, Norfolk HEFA 2015

Additionally, ACA carried out several community outreach projects in East Anglia throughout 2014/15. Under ACA supervision, in September and May, Stour Valley Community Archaeology continued excavations of the well-preserved late Anglo-Saxon manorial complex at Goldingham Hall, Bulmer (Essex). In September, encouraged by the success of their community project in 2012, residents of Nayland (Suffolk) carried out further excavations of 16 test-pits with the support of ACA, identifying a surge of 11th c. activity in this region of the Stour Valley. Funded by the Sudbury Museums Trust (Suffolk), in October ACA ran the ‘Sudbury Big Dig’ where 31 test pits were dug by more than 100 local residents and school children revealing the early Anglo-Saxon origins of the town.

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Members of Stour Valley Community Archaeology excavate at Goldingham Hall, Essex 2015

In conjunction with Touching the Tide ACA ran two community-based projects on the Suffolk Coast. The first event in January saw 36 local residents braving the cold to fieldwalk  at Covehithe, a village rapidly eroding into the North Sea. The second project was a 9-day excavation at Dunwich intent on revealing the remains of this once-thriving medieval port. Around 50 local volunteers, ranging in age from 6 to 80, uncovered a well-preserved c. 12th century street and associated house plot, original medieval harbour revetments and evidence for the original eastern boundary wall of the Greyfriar’s precinct. This excavation highlighted the previously unknown extent of medieval archaeology still surviving in Dunwich today which will hopefully lead to further coastal archaeological work before this valuable resource is lost forever to the sea.

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Excavating outside the Greyfriar's precinct as part of the Touching the Tide project, Dunwich

Touching the Tide also provided funding for a 6-week archaeological internship, specifically focused on the Dunwich dig. Nina O’Hare, a recent archaeology graduate of the University of Cambridge, was the successful candidate and her role focused on background research, liaising with the local community and post-excavation work.