Tarset Archive Group (TAG) is run by volunteers in the community and was 10 years old in the autumn of 2013. Our main aim is to set up a digital archive for the area, and we have already collated and recorded a large amount of new information.
Our interests range widely from archaeology and geology to social and cultural history, as well as covering the ecology of the area and the current state of biodiversity. It was delegated Tarset 2050 CIC's remit for environment and heritage in 2010.
TAG works by setting up projects which anyone in the community is welcome to join. We also commission and produce work, like the Tarset photograph archive which Simon Fraser shot over a two year period and produced local feature card sets drawn from this.
In 2006 we published the Tarset Atlas of Archaeological and Historical sites.
In 2009 we published a set of cards, Bastles in the Upper Tarset Valley, to coincide with the Bastle Weekend. This event was the culmination of a major project on the area's many bastles (the fortified farmhouses that typify Tarset's violent reiving period).
In 2010 we opened Tarset Castle for a heritage day with an accompanying exhibition.
Exhibition boards about Tarset's bastles and Tarset Castle are available for loan on request.
In 2011 TAG was invited by the Forestry Commission to design new information boards for the Sidwood bastle trail. These were designed and produced by TAG with funding from the FC and Tarset 2050 CIC, and installed in 2012.
For the first time an information board was also installed for the Iron Age settlement in Sidwood, with funding assistance from the Northumberland National Park.
The trail was opened by Hexham M.P. Guy Opperman in August 2012, suitably equipped with an ancient sword, courtesy of The Heritage Centre, Bellingham
TAG does not undertake any conservation action itself except in very exceptional circumstances, but it does actively lobby to protect heritage under threat.
Amongst other things, it has lobbied the Forestry Commission for protection of the lichens on the sheep stells at Sidwood, and the state of bastles under their care (Shilla Hill and Boghead). Both bastles have now been conserved.
It helped raise funding to renew the old railway gates at Thorneyburn Crossing, a project with the NNPA.
It is responsible for English Heritage placing Tarset Castle on the heritage-at-risk register in 2008, which initiated conservation planning and a decision by Historic England in 2015 to ‘conserve by record’, with archaeological investigation carried out by Durham University Archaeological Services, and work to strengthen the river bank by the Tyne Rivers Trust.
This includes digitisation of all data held, and both archaeological and biodiversity site records mapping onto GIS. A site Gazetteer has been produced by Dr Michael Money identifying 600 sites with all information updated.
Further work to investigate the deterioration of Tarset Castle’s slopes is about to start, as result of a link-up between TAG and Durham and Newcastle University engineering departments. Recent recording surveys include regular Moth Trapping through the 2013 summer months, with NNPA Ranger, Shaun Hackett; Stone Lichens with Dr Janet Simkin, County Lichenologist, and a specific site Waxcap survey, again with NNPA Ranger, Shaun Hackett.
NNPA ranger, Shaun Hackett, showing moths to young enthusiasts
Opening up trenches for the Burdonside/Goften excavation