BUDDING archaeologists will get the chance to take part in a £76,000 excavation project next year in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group (SWAAG) has received the cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to help fund the Swaledale Big Dig - a project that aims to discover more about the Reeth, Grinton and Fremington areas of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale.

It will involve local people, parish councils, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, schools and community groups in a process of discovery leading to the digging of a large number of test pits by members of the public overseen by SWAAG members.

Analysis and interpretation of the findings will help develop a better understanding of the past history of the settlements and enhance the sense of belonging.

The project will be launched on March 13 at a public meeting in the Reeth Memorial Hall and should be completed by the end of 2015.

The launch meeting will be addressed by Dr Carenza Lewis of Cambridge University who has regularly appeared in the TV series Time Team and other archaeological programmes, and has extensive experience of community-based projects.

Two days later there will be an open day in the Reeth Memorial Hall when members of the community will be able to learn more about the project and what is currently known about the development of the local settlements.

The Swaledale Big Dig will comprise three phases. The first, beginning in the first half of 2014, will be a process of investigation, engaging the community in a wide range of archaeological techniques including initial documentary research, field walking, landscape surveying and geophysics.

Phase two, continuing into 2015, will involve digging of a number of test pits in public spaces and private gardens while phase three will involve dissemination of the project results.

Alan Mills, the SWAAG project manager, said: "We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund for this exciting project.

"We look forward to working together with a wide range of local people from differing backgrounds to not only learn more about our collective past but to also leave a lasting legacy of skills to enable this work to carry on after the Big Dig finishes."