SLIDESHOW: Appetite for Elwick picnic was huge

A VILLAGE stepped back in time to celebrate a project that delved into its rich history.

Hundreds enjoyed the Picnic on the Green in Elwick Village, on the outskirts of Hartlepool, to celebrate the completion of the Village Atlas project.

Elwick Village held its annual May Fair in the village yesterday (Monday). Dancing round the Maypole.

Elwick Village held its annual May Fair in the village yesterday (Monday). Dancing round the Maypole.

People enjoyed traditional activities such as maypole dancing by village children, Morris dancing, tug-of-war, quoits, hook a duck, a coconut shy and target football, along with an exhibition of the findings of the project.

Preston’s of Potto’s famous fairground organ Ruth provided a musical background and a cake baking competition and there was a chance to make lavender bags, peg dolls and coasters.

The Elwick Village Atlas is one of a series of studies of villages along the Limestone Escarpment of County Durham, facilitated by the Limestone Landscapes Partnership and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Local volunteers have been researching many aspects of what makes the village the place it is and have discovered previously unknown information.

Elwick Village held its annual May Fair in the village yesterday (Monday).

Elwick Village held its annual May Fair in the village yesterday (Monday).

One of the volunteers from the village, Minna West, said “We had no idea that we had water voles living on Char Beck, nor that there are rare wild orchids among the several hundred species of wildflowers growing in the parish. We had a Time Team-style, three-day archaeological dig on the Green last summer, and uncovered the remains of a World War Two air raid shelter and what looks to be an 18th or 19th Century forge, diagonally opposite what is known to have been the village blacksmith’s, and route ways either side of the green.

“It is clear that the village has, until very recently, always been an agricultural settlement, with the green just part of the working environment.

“We knew that the village had been originally laid out by the Normans, probably on the site of an earlier Saxon settlement, but our research has shown how the village grew and expanded over time, and we think we may have uncovered at least two previously unknown medieval settlements.

“We’ve learned that we had our own secret army, and how tough life was before the last war, with no power or mains water. Amazingly, we have also discovered why water runs across the roads in the village – it’s to do with the geology, not a high water table at all.”

A group of interested villagers formed the Elwick Village Atlas group and its chairman, Professor Brian Footitt, has led the research supported and advised by professionals, including archaeologists, ecologists, a geologist and an hydrologist.

The project has involved villagers of all ages, with the schoolchildren learning about the local streams and wildlife through practical outdoor sessions and even having their own ‘dig’ on the school playing field.

Alongside the Village Atlas, Elwick Parish Council also participated in the Limestone Landscape Partnership’s ‘Leg it across the Limestone Landscape’ project, successfully bidding to Natural England’s Paths for Communities Fund for two new public footpaths to link other paths to the south of the village.