SOME of Wiltshire’s best known and oldest prehistoric monuments will this month become the subject of a new college course in Swindon.
Expert Bob Clarke, who lives in Broad Town, is keen to put archaeology back on the map for adult learners in the town.
An eight-week course called Prehistoric Wiltshire starts at New College on April 30 and will involve visits to a string of sites dating back as far as 6,000 years.
Bob, 48, wants to get students “tramping around outdoors” at important sites as well as learning about the significance of the county’s unique archaeological heritage.
He said: “Wiltshire has some of the best known prehistoric monuments in the country, and each has a story to tell in the development of the British Isles.”
Bob was a lead tutor when archaeology courses for adults were run at the now defunct Swindon Oakfield campus from 2001 to 2006. Since then, however, there has been no such provision.
He said: “A-level courses are run for 16 to 18-year-olds, but there’s nothing for anyone older who is interested in learning about archaeology.”
At New College in January, Bob launched a Beginners Guide To Archaeology course which quickly became fully booked.
He is now running a second 10-week beginners guide, which starts on April 18, as well as the inaugural prehistory sessions.
The latter will focus on two of the county’s oldest archaeological sites, the Neothlithic camp and long barrows at Knap Hill and Adam’s Grave in the Vale of Pewsey, as well the UK’s most famous prehistoric monument, Stonehenge, and various sites in its vacinity.
Students will also study the 2,500 year-old Iron Age fortress of Barbury Castle near Swindon.
Bob, a researcher at Exeter University, approached New College with the idea of archaeology courses after putting together a book, A Prehistoric Guide To Wiltshire, to raise funds for the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes.
It involved him taking aerial photographs of dozens of important monuments around the county from an assortment of aircraft.
“Basically, I was hanging out the window taking pictures,” he said.
The experience once more underlined how rich Wiltshire was in archaeology.
“We are extremely lucky living in a county with thousands of years of archaeology on our doorstep.”
Despite the collapse of the Oakfield sessions Bob felt there was a real interest in prehistory among the public – a hunch confirmed by the response to his first beginners course.
He said: “Until now, any adults in Swindon wishing to learn more about archaeology have to travel to Bristol or Oxford.”
The Prehistoric Wiltshire course will cost £60 although additional expense may be incurred on various field trips.
“It’s not just about studying these fantastic sites in a classroom. I want to get the students tramping around outdoors at these sites.”
Bob’s sessions are included in the April-July edition of New College’s part-time courses brochure. Copies can be obtained by calling 0808 1721721 or from www.newcollege.ac.uk