ARCHAEOLOGISTS are celebrating after unearthing a "regionally important" Romano-British site in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

An archaeological dig is currently underway at Hagg Farm, near Fremington, with the support of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority with more than 25 volunteers helping each day.

And what they have uncovered is shedding new light on life in the area, near Reeth, many centuries ago.

“It’s the civil engineering on this site that sets it apart – the quality and size of the flags, walls and door sills,” said on-site archaeologist Tony Liddell.

“We’ve found ‘high status’ artefacts – such as pottery imported from Gaul and a perfectly-smooth stone cosmetic tablet. Once everything has been documented, I’m sure that Haag Farm will come to be regarded as a regionally important Romano-British site.”

The dig is being managed by the Swaledale and Arkengarthdale Archaeology Group and spokesman Philip Bastow said he could not contain his excitement.

“I had a gut feeling that this was a really, really good site and that we’d not seen anything like this in Swaledale," he said.

"We’ve found artefacts that suggest important people lived here – my theory is that it was a second century retired Roman Army engineer.

“Whoever shut the door on this settlement or farmstead in the fourth-century abandoned it for good. The great thing is that it has lain untouched – not trashed by Saxons or Vikings – for us to discover.”

The group has been trying to work out what lies beneath the humps and bumps of Haag Farm for nearly a decade.

They have carried out geophysical surveys to get a picture of what lies beneath the ground and have dug test pits, or trenches but the only way to really find out was to undertake a large open area excavation.

So the group turned to the National Park which responded by awarding a £9,449 grant from its sustainable development fund.

Group chairman David Brooks said: “The grant has enabled us to up our game. This dig has become a community-wide project and a volunteering exercise, rather than being of interest only to a small group.”

The National park's champion for cultural heritage, Julie Martin, said: “This dig is giving us a window into Swaledale’s past. So many stories are emerging from it.

"It is looking increasingly clear, from the pottery that has been found, that there were significant trading links between this settlement and Roman Catterick. I’m really pleased that the SDF is being used to support projects that are enhancing our understanding of the Yorkshire Dales’ cultural heritage.”

The Haag Farm dig is only the second major archaeological dig to have taken place in Swaledale, the previous dig being in Healaugh in the 1970s.