More ancient history unearthed on beach

Barry Mead at the newly revealed site at Druridge Bay.
Barry Mead at the newly revealed site at Druridge Bay.

New ‘secrets of the sands’ dating back thousands of years have been discovered on a county beach.

The fresh find was discovered by archaeologist Barry Mead at Druridge Bay, just a stone’s throw from those unearthed during last year’s ‘Rescued from the Sea’ dig on the Northumberland coast at Low Hauxley.

He came across a whole series of footprints preserved in a newly exposed inter-tidal peat bed on his daily walk along the beach near his Cresswell home with his dog Peedie.

Some have been made by animals, others perhaps by human beings, and could date back 7,000 years and are thought to be the first to be found near the southern end of the bay.

Archaeological experts have described the find as ‘fantastic’ after viewing photographs of the prints.

Barry, Greater Morpeth Development Trust’s heritage officer, said: “I walk the beach regularly but have never seen this peat bed until now.

“When I looked more closely you can clearly see lots of footprints along with some large tree trunks, one of which is still attached to its root system.”

The discoveries lie about four miles south of the excavation site at Low Hauxley, which for many years had been known to contain incredible but vulnerable, archaeological remains where they had been buried on the dunes for thousands of years.

An ancient peat-bed, Mesolithic and Neolithic remains, a 4,000-year-old Bronze Age burial cairn and an Iron Age round house about 2,000-years-old, were excavated during the dig.

Barry added: “My discovery of these latest footprints adds to the picture that has been built up of what life may have been like thousands of years ago on this stretch of the Northumberland coast.

“Around the time these prints would have been made, Mesolithic period hunter-gatherers who had followed migrating animals as they moved around the country were beginning to form settled communities.

“It is quite incredible to stand on the beach and look at footprints that may have been left by animals passing this very way perhaps thousands of years ago.”

Both adult and child footprints were identified during the dig as well as those of wild boar, large deer and cattle similar to the current Highland variety.

Radiocarbon dating confirmed that the footprints were more than 7,000-years-old.

Barry said: “It is reasonable to assume that the footprints I discovered may have been made by these same animals – and perhaps humans – around the same time because of their proximity to Low Hauxley.”

The remains of the 100-metre long peat bed will now be recorded to add to what is known about the Low Hauxley site.