Ever watched Time Team and wondered how to get involved in archaeology? As part of Callander’s Landscape, North Light Heritage and Callander Heritage Society recently ran a series of training sessions to give local volunteers skills in archaeological surveying.

Callander’s Landscape is an exciting project that focuses on the dramatic landscapes that surround Callander, improving the area’s natural and cultural heritage and ensuring that more people can access this awe-inspiring place.

Our Community Heritage Adviser, Ross, explains what the team got up to at the first of our archaeological activities …

What did the training involve?

Training began with guidance on undertaking desk-based assessments, which help you identify potential archaeological sites and get to the really fun stuff! Before long our hardy group of volunteers ventured out to Dalvey Farm to the east of Callander to find a series of Neolithic chambered cairns (burial monuments usually constructed from stone).

View of Ben Ledi from Callander Hostel, location for the indoor portion of the training

We were first tasked with an orienteering exercise, which took me back to my childhood as a Cub Scout. We used GPS to locate these elusive cairns, which were then described, sketched, and photographed. See below our attempts at sketching one of the cairns. I discovered that I’m hopeless at drawing a slope with hachures, but if you need someone to pace out a site with metered strides then I’m your man!

The group’s sketches of one of the cairns at Dalvey

On the second day, the group made the exciting discovery of a previously unidentified stone circle and a possible saddle quern, an ancient tool used for grinding grain.

We moved further east for our October sessions and surveyed Balvorist, a ruined farmstead in Ballachraggan. It was quite the adventure – we tiptoed across a wooden plank over the burn and then clambered over a fence – but everyone made it safe and sound!

North Light Heritage leading the group to Balvorist

The surroundings were starkly beautiful with an old ash tree commanding the landscape. The ruined farmstead buildings probably date to 1800s, whereas the Dalvey cairns are Neolithic (4,000 – 2,500 BC). This shows the amazing diversity of historic sites in the Callander area.

View of Balvorist View of Balvorist

Once again we surveyed the area to build up a clearer picture of the settlement’s history. Just like last time we made new discoveries! For example, on the outskirts of the site we found the remains of a lime-kiln. These were mainly used to make lime for building mortars, but the vapours produced were highly toxic and sometimes used in warfare.

By the end of the training, all of our volunteers came away with new skills and the confidence to begin their own archaeological research. We’ll no doubt see them out on a dig soon!

For allowing access to their farms, our thanks to Cambusmore Estates and tenant farmers Mr and Mrs Meikle at Dalvey, and Murray Estates and tenant farmer Campbell Miller at Ballachraggan.

What’s next?

We have more archaeological activities planned as part of Callander’s Landscape, including some exciting excavation opportunities. Keep an eye out on our volunteering page for upcoming opportunities and follow us on Twitter  and Facebook to stay updated.

In the meantime, you may be interested in the activities of Callander Heritage Society who have a programme running through the winter period.