Excavator Information

Are you fit enough to excavate?

Excavation is physically demanding and if you join the excavation you need to have a good level of physical fitness and endurance to last the course. This is not age dependant, it is about how fit you are. 

The weather can be variable from hot to cold, wet and dry (sometimes in the course of a morning or one day) and we are out in the field for seven hours a day. Not all excavation involves gently trowelling a surface or a section. Sometimes it requires removing a foundation, floor packing or rubble fill. Hauling heavy buckets out of sodden fort ditches, wheeling barrows over tricky terrain can all be part of the experience. We grade the overall physical side of excavation at 7 out of 10. Excavating in the pre-Hadrianic levels of the site, often deep below the surface can be an 8 or 9 out of 10, requiring high levels of physical fitness. Post excavation is a 2- 3 out of 10, and normal work such as trowelling a feature or a surface is a 4 out of 10. 

Being able to lift your own soil into buckets and with shovels and spades, and emptying your own buckets and wheelbarrows is a minimum requirement for taking part.

If you have the stamina and fitness to work in the field for a seven hour day, and believe your fitness is a 7 out of 10 or more, then you are likely to cope with all of the aspects of the work you will be engaged with or asked to take part in. If you wish to have for more information about the activities involved with this team experience please do not hesitate to contact our staff on 01434 344 277 before you make your booking.


Excavation in Northumberland at any time of the year can be a wet experience! Warm, light-weight clothing is highly recommended. A waterproof coat, wellingtons or stout waterproof boots to work in are also essential. You will not be allowed to participate on the excavations in open sandals or other inappropriate footwear. If you are joining us on the excavations during May, June, July or August, sun lotion and a hat to protect you from the sun are also useful. Insect repellent is advisable. Although we do not suffer from the Scottish variety of midges, the Northumberland equivalent can be irritating if there is no breeze.


Lunch time is between 12noon and 1pm every day on the excavations. If you are booked into the archaeological Hedley Centre you will be provided with a fantastic packed lunch each day. If you are not booked into the Hedley Centre you are very welcome to either bring a packed lunch with you and eat your lunch at the excavation shed, or alternatively you may purchase your lunch in the museum coffee shop.

Tea Break

Tea break is daily from 2:30-3:00pm. This is when the whole team takes the opportunity to get a hot beverage from the excavation shed, or a glass of water and use the toilet facilities in the admission building. On extremely hot days the volunteers are encouraged to take as many water breaks as they require.


Because of Vindolanda's rural location, it is recommended that volunteers bring a car if they have one. There are bus services, eg: Hadrian's Wall tourist bus, but these services are infrequent, and have a limited service beyond the main tourist months of the year. The nearest towns with full bus and rail links are Haltwhistle - 7 miles away, Hexham - 12 miles, Bardon Mill - 2.5 miles, and Haydon Bridge - 6 miles. The towns are all situated in the South Tyne valley, and Vindolanda is situated upon a steep hilltop on the north side of the valley. Go to our travel information page for further details.

Parking Directions

From the A69:
Just as you pass the village of Bardon Mill you will see a brown and cream tourism sign for Vindolanda. Turn off the A69 here. At the next junction the signs for Vindolanda point to the left DO NOT follow these signs and go to the right, through Westwood and up the bank. Follow the winding road for about a mile up the bank. At the top you will come to a sign that says 'Vindolanda Museum'. Turn left down the road. Halfway down the road on the right is the East car park, the overflow car park for staff and volunteers is a further 50 meters down the hill on left hand side. Please park here and walk down the road to the museum driveway, on your left, walk down the drive to the Hedley Centre on the left hand side.

From the B6318 (Military Road):
East of Once Brewed/Twice Brewed and West of Housesteads take the turn sign posted to Bardon Mill taking you away from Hadrian's Wall. Follow this narrow road, past the lime kiln to a T junction. Turn right at the T junction and you will come to a sign that says 'Vindolanda Museum'. Turn right down the road. Halfway down the road on the left is the overflow car park. Please park here and walk down the road to the museum driveway, on your left, walk down the drive to the Hedley Centre on the left hand side.

Excavation Fees

The Vindolanda Trust is a registered charity which has the promotion of access to archaeology at its very core. As such the Vindolanda Trust consciously works hard to keep excavation fees as low as possible so that they do not become a barrier to participation on the excavations. In an ideal world participation on the excavations would be completely free, but sadly this is not possible.

The Vindolanda Trust charges a nominal fee of £150 per two weeks + membership to Friends of Vindolanda. The fee does not come anywhere close to covering the cost of the excavations - with staff costs, equipment, insurances, research and laboratory costs, etc., the Trust spends around £230,000 a year on its excavation programme.

The money each excavator contributes towards the excavations works incredibly hard to help make the place as special as it is, and all of the money goes back into supporting the work of the excavations through the above.

The Excavation Week for Volunteers

The 2016 excavations are running from Mondays to Fridays. All excavation is taking place in the same area, under the supervision of Dr Andrew Birley who will be assisted by Marta Alberti and Lauren Wilkinson. All excavators are to report to the Hedley Centre (near the Museum) for 9:30am each morning to begin the day. Directions to the Hedley Centre are with the parking directions above.

Daily Diary

9:30am - all excavators meet at the Hedley Centre
9:30am - 12noon - all excavators on their first day of their 2013 experience to undergo induction and a Museum and site tour. If this is your consecutive week or you have been before during 2013 season then Dr Birley will lead you up to the excavations from the Hedley Centre to make a start.
12 noon - 1pm - Lunch
1 pm - 2:30 pm - Excavation*
2:30 - 3:00 pm - Tea Break
3:00 - 4:30 pm - Excavation*

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday
9:30 am- meet at the Hedley Centre, once the group is assembled they will be taken to join the excavation.
9:45 - 12 noon - Excavation*
12 noon - 1 pm - Lunch
1 pm - 2:30 pm - Excavation*
2:30 - 3:00 pm - Tea Break
3:00 - 4:30 pm - Excavation*

Friday Only: 4:30 pm - Summing up talk on the weeks work by the Director of Excavations.

* Excavation sessions are a mixture of either physical excavation or archaeological related activities such as pottery washing, surveying, site illustration etc. All excavators are expected to take part in as many of the above activities as possible.

Excavation Team Photo

A photograph of the excavation team on site will be taken each period and you will be able to buy a mounted copy as a souvenir to take home at the end of your two weeks working with us!

Wet Weather Programme

In the course of the excavation season we can lose the occasional day to the elements. Excavation will take place unless the archaeologists deem the weather conditions to be either detrimental to health or a danger to the archaeology of the site and the excavation methods deployed in its recovery. If excavation cannot take place, post excavation work such as washing and marking pottery, illustration, history walks and appropriate lectures will take place. If the weather continues to cause problems then all archaeological work will be halted until such a time as it may safely resume and the volunteers will be asked to return when the rain stops. All volunteers must accept the possibility that they may lose a day of excavating to the elements.

Health and Safety

Health and Safety is a primary concern on any excavation and we take this matter very seriously at Vindolanda. All volunteers will be asked to read the excavation Health and Safety Policy, and agree to abide by its rules. The archaeologists hold the right to dismiss any volunteer from the excavations if it is believed that this person is behaving in a manner that might compromise the Vindolanda Trust's Health and Safety Policy for the excavations. Hard hats and other safety equipment will be issued to all volunteers when deemed appropriate by the health and safety officer for the excavations. Failure to wear this equipment may also result in dismissal from the excavations.

All excavators should take out travel insurance, as they would when booking any holiday. This is advisable due to the physical nature of the work done while on site.

Excavation Bookings

Costs and Entry

What's required

to volunteer

for our