Beside the seaside: Our YAC Leaders' Weekend
May 2017, and Formby and Southport on the Lancashire coast are about to be invaded by ... more than 30 YAC leaders!
For our annual Leaders' Weekend, YAC was thrilled to work with the team from the Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeological Network (CITiZAN) to share inspiration for running practical sessions with their YAC members based on seaside archaeology.
Megan Clement from CITiZAN encouraged our leaders to explore the archaeology of the foreshore and coastline using a mix and match game, and various timelines that challenged them to identify and date different archaeological features.
Do you know your fishtrap from your submerged forest?
Could you spot a fish hully?!
Formby lifeboat station
The first lifeboat station in the UK was built in 1777 at Formby, near Liverpool. You can still see its remains on the beach. Our YAC leaders were taught how to create an offset plan drawing of the remaining structure by Andy Sherman from CITiZAN.
The group laid out a long tape measure to act as a baseline, and measurements were taken off this at right angles to significant points. The measurements were then added to a scale drawing, which showed the lifeboat station in plan.
Image: Creating a plan drawing of the Formby lifeboat station
Industry and recreation
Our leaders learnt about different industries that used the resources available on the coast.
The alum industry has been described as “the first chemical industry”. Alum is a chemical made up of aluminium sulphate with either ammonia or potassium sulphate. We recereated an experiment to create alum crystals, which were used to fix dyes to cloth and in tanning leather.
Sea water was used as a source of salt; it was extracted by evaporating the water from a strong solution of brine (salty water). There are salt pans still visible around the coast. To test whether a brine solution was salty enough for the final evaporation stage of the process, people used to try to float an egg in it. If the water was salty enough, the egg would float!
After a packed day of activities, our leaders enjoyed a private tour of Southport pier, which is the second longest in the UK. The sea was so far out we could barely see it!
John Dempsey from the Sefton Coast Landscape Project then gave a great lecture about the shipwrecks along this dangerous stretch of coast, and described some of the other archaeological highlights too.
SOS (Save our Soup!)
Our second day of activities looked at the history of lifesaving. Our leaders were challenged to create a lifesaving device for a can of tomato soup. Would they float or sink?! Our groups created imaginative life rafts and cork lifejackets, and most of them were successful too.
Other activities included making wooden spoon figureheads and creating (and drawing) prehistoric footprints.
Our final port of call, on a gloriously sunny afternoon, was Hightown beach, where Andy from CITiZAN showed us the remains of a prehistoric forest. We found tree stumps and trunks that had been submerged under the sea due to sea level changes, but which are now revealed once again. The remains are around 10,000 years old and give an incredible glimpse back to the landscape of our prehistoric ancestors.
Our leaders said...
"Interesting and informative."
"I thoroughly enjoyed it! We’ve got so many great ideas to take back to do with our members now, I'm really looking forward to putting it into practice. I really loved the practical way the weekend was organised, it really got us enthused about the archaeology!"
Many thanks indeed to the CITiZAN team for all of their help and financial support in ensuring that the weekend was a great success.
The resources from the Leaders' Weekend are now available to download for free from the YAC website.