Hidden Histories

Despite expecting gale force winds and driving rain on Monday, I was lucky enough to enjoy a beautiful and fascinating afternoon at Ashley Walk. Various educators and staff from visitor information points in the New Forest were treated to a day of fantastic training, showing us how to get the best from the “New Forest Remembers”  project run by the New Forest National Park Authority.

Over the last 2 years, staff and volunteers have been seeking to gather and record all of the archaeology, history and living memory of World War 2 in the forest, painting a more holistic picture of the crucial role the Forest played in those times.

New Forest Remembers Interactive Portal- screenshot
http://www.newforestww2.org/
New Forest Remembers Interactive Portal

In the morning, we were introduced to the project and took time to explore the new fixtures at the New Forest Centre. We also had time on laptops and I pads to explore the Interactive Portal.  This website was easy to use and is an absolute treasure trove of information, including oral histories and interviews, photographs, aerial photography, war diaries, and an overlay map of all the archaeological sites in the Forest. It’s going to be a brilliant resource for history research projects, a way to encourage children in their reading through engaging with real life stories, to inspire writing, interviewing and report writing, and even a few drama opportunities spring to mind!

The raised mound on the left of the picture is not a bronze age barrow, but a huge concrete bunker for testing bombs against, now covered with earth and vegetation.
The raised mound on the left of the picture is not a bronze age barrow, but a huge concrete bunker for testing bombs against, now covered with earth and vegetation.

In the glorious afternoon sunshine, we took a minibus to the north of the forest and were set the challenge of finding the remains of buildings, bomb craters and RAF test sites hidden in the landscape. With a  little help from the experts, and some great fun navigating by Google earth with an extra layer of archaeology information layered on, it was fascinating to see what marks have been left on the landscape and puzzle out what they might once have been. A great fieldwork enquiry with a new twist! There’s a lot of room to develop new learning opportunities here.

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