NORTH-EAST youngsters will be turning back the clock next week to help map one of the largest Roman forts in the region.

Although the defensive ramparts and some of the fort at Binchester, near Bishop Auckland, County Durham, still survive, a civilian settlement is hidden beneath fields.

This year's Time Detective programme aims to uncover some of the hidden remains using magnetometry - the study of the physical properties of the earth using magentic field research.

Assistant county archaeologist Deborah Anderson said: "This county council initiative is now in its fourth year and we believe it is the perfect introduction to archaeology for young people. It is also a lot of fun."

The project concentrates on the different recording methods that archaeologists use to understand sites.

Time Detectives will learn about the Romans as well as the techniques archaeologists use for recording earthworks and buildings.

It will give them experience of techniques such as elevation drawing, planning, plane tabling, taping and offsetting, levelling, map reading and geophysics.

Binchester was one of a network of forts along Dere Street, the main Roman supply route between York and the Firth of Forth.

Although the stone was raided for nearby buildings - the Saxon church at Escomb has carved Roman stonework - the fort is now a major tourist attraction.

The excavated remains lie in the centre of the fort, and include a stretch of Dere Street itself, part of the commanding officer's house, and his private bath-house, considered by experts to be the finest example of a military bath suite in Britain.

The project is divided into a week-long programme for 13 to 15-year-olds that runs from August 9 to 13, and for 15 to 17-year-olds from August 16 to 20. Enrolment is free.

Meet at Binchester Roman Fort on the first day at 9.30am for registration, paperwork and an introduction to the project. Transport from Bishop Auckland Town Hall will be available for those who will be using public transport, which will leave every day at 9.25am and will drop off at 4.10pm.

There is a limited number of places available.

For details, contact Deborah Anderson on 0191-3834225/4212 or on 0778 8413385.