WAFA – the future

As those who have been involved in WAFA over the last couple of years may know, it was established through the generosity of the Somerville-Ford family and the Institute of Commercial management (ICM), who had previously supported the ‘What’s Under Your School’ project through CBA Wessex. The support of ICM allowed us to convert an old milking parlour into ‘Mick’s Barn’, where courses are taught and post-excavation work is carried out, and to develop the range of courses that we have been offering since 2014. The aim was that within a couple of years WAFA would be self-funding and sustainable, generating enough income from course fees to pay for its running costs and not requiring any further external funding. We were confident that our market research had identified a real need for a place where people of all ages and abilities could come and learn the techniques of field archaeology in the context of a genuine landscape study. But what has become clear to us is that we were perhaps over-optimistic in our assessment of this need.
At the end of 2015, we had to make a decision about the direction that WAFA would go in and decided that we would continue as we had done in the previous year. So, in 2016 we offered a range of day schools and the two week summer training excavation at Lazerton Chapel. Unfortunately, due to low bookings, we were forced to cancel a number of the day schools and, most unfortunately, the summer excavation. With the day schools, low numbers made them economically unviable and the excavation did not receive enough bookings to make it both economically and, more importantly, archaeologically viable.
However, during 2016, our volunteers, who meet on Tuesday’s (late pm and evening) have moved on from carrying out post-excavation work on our Lazerton Chapel finds and are now working on some major Verwood kiln assemblages in support of a Dorset student who has just started a PhD at Bournemouth University. This is allowing our volunteers to develop an understanding of pottery analysis under expert guidance as well as contributing to a major study. This work will continue in 2017.
The experimental coppicing project that is being run by the Cranborne Ancient Technology Centre in the woods at Ash Farm is also continuing.

So where do we go from here?

In 2017…
Day Schools

We have decided that we will not be offering a range of courses in 2017. Instead we are inviting any archaeological or historical group, or other group such as U3A, to contact us if they would like us to set up and deliver a course for them. We will require a minimum of 12 firm bookings in order to deliver a course. The range of subjects will include those delivered over the last two years: air photography, earthwork survey, geophysics, fieldwalking, snails and soils and excavation recording. Additional courses can be set up on request.

Training excavation
There will be no training excavation in 2017.

Experimental coppicing
The ATC will continue to run this project which gives participants the opportunity to work with replica prehistoric tools of stone, copper, bronze and iron as part of a genuine experiment. Dates and details will be posted on the website (this is obviously an autumn/winter activity).

Volunteer finds processing
This will continue at Mick’s barn on a Tuesday from 3.00 – 8.30pm) re-starting on the 10th January. Please check the website before coming over as there may be some Tuesdays where it is not possible to start until later (4.30 pm).

Wider projects
We are in the process of developing a community archaeology project, based at WAFA (a registered charity) and located in East Dorset. Discussions are being held with partner organisations and funding bodies and we will announce further details through the website when appropriate.
As you will have been able to gather, this is a time of change for WAFA. It has not established itself in the way in which we thought it would but we now have a firm foundation on which to build and a core of loyal and friendly volunteers to support us so we are looking forward to developing new ideas and moving on in new directions.

Watch this space!

Julian Richards
WAFA lead archaeologist
December 2016