Between November 2009 and September 2010, Oxford Wessex Archaeology (a joint venture of Oxford Archaeology and Wessex Archaeology) undertook archaeological works associated with the East Kent Access Road on the Isle of Thanet. The work was carried out for VolkerFitzpatrick Hochtief Joint Venture on behalf of Kent County Council.

The Isle of Thanet is distinctive both in its physical setting – from perhaps the Mesolithic and certainly from the later prehistoric to medieval periods it was an island, separated from the mainland by the Wantsum Channel – and in the range and density of its archaeological remains. The area also has strong associations with history and myth, from the landing of the Roman army of Claudius at nearby Richborough, to the arrival of the invading Saxons epitomised by Hengist and Horsa, then Danish raids, and the arrival of St Augustine and his Christian mission.

OWA began a programme of strip, map, sample and other archaeological works following on from preliminary surveys, but in addition to the fieldwork, a series of outreach events was also planned. During the early stages of the project, display boards went up in local libraries, several community events took place at nearby Quex Park, and a project website, which was aimed at local people wishing to volunteer or who simply want to find out more about the project, was launched.

A community excavation was organised, and more than 100 local volunteers, ranging in age from 8 to 80, gave up their time to work at the site over the four weeks that it ran. The community excavation also allowed schools and other groups to visit the site in safety and away from the pressures and traffic of a construction site. The nearby Holiday Inn played its part, providing free coffee and croissants to our volunteers every morning!

An open weekend was held in May 2010, when more than 500 people turned out to visit two of the sites and to enjoy the displays and activities that were on offer. A second open weekend was held in the following month. The project also took a starring role in the ‘Digging for Britain’ TV series broadcast on the BBC.

It has to be said that this programme of outreach and community activities would not have been possible without the support and involvement of the client, VolkerFitzpatrick Hochtief Joint Venture, and Kent County Council.