Operation Nightingale/Project Florence

Become a Project Florence Volunteer

This summer South Wiltshire locals can volunteer on an exciting new project, exploring the past of Salisbury Plain.  

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and run by Wessex Archaeology, Project Florence aims to involve the local community in telling the story of an ancient burial site.

The project focuses on the excavation of a 1400 year old Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Barrow Clump on Salisbury Plain.  This excavation is part of Operation Nightingale, an innovative rehabilitation programme for soldiers injured in Afghanistan.   Over 100 injured soldiers from the Rifles will be trained in excavation skills, funded by the military and supervised by Wessex Archaeology, 1st Rifles and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO).

The excavation, sited on the military training grounds, would normally be out of bounds for civilians. However, Project Florence invites local people to explore the results of the excavation and get involved in a range of volunteering opportunities, events and activities throughout 2012. 


475 Visit the site and get involved in running events, processing finds or creating an exhibition

Volunteers can visit the excavation in June and July to discover what stories it has to tell. You can gain skills and experience over the course of the year in a range of activities designed to tell a wider audience about the site.  Activities range from developing an exhibition about the project to running road show events in their local community.

In the next couple of months the project needs volunteers who can help create and run family events at the excavation to allow locals a chance to explore this amazing site.

For those interested in developing their IT skills there will be opportunities to get hands-on experience of creating and publishing blogs, podcasts and short films. 

Collaborating with Salisbury Arts Centre, Project Florence also offers 14 to 25 year olds the chance to make a film about the excavations and achieve an Arts Award certificate. The young volunteers will learn new skills in filming, sound recording and editing, and will get a say in film-making decisions and processes. Salisbury Arts Centre will premier the film in November.  

476 © Salisbury Arts Centre

Volunteers can get involved in any or all of the activities on offer. To volunteer or for more information please contact Laura Joyner, Project Florence Officer, on 07872 419331 or email l.joyner@wessexarch.co.uk.  Further information is available on the project website www.florence.opnightingale.co.uk.

Follow us on Twitter @WAFlorence

Project Florence Officer: Laura Joyner

Let me introduce myself

Hi. My name’s Laura Joyner and I am the Project Florence Officer. I thought I would use my first ever blog to tell you a bit about me and my role in the project.

I’ve always been a keen historian but did not take up the trowel until 2009 when I volunteered on a community dig at Woking Palace in Surrey. Since then I’ve been an enthusiastic archaeologist and I enjoy sharing this passion with others.

466 Me at Woking Palace

I started my new role as Project Florence Officer (PFO) on 1st June and have been settling in to the Wessex Archaeology offices nicely.


As PFO I will be responsible for coordinating volunteers and working with them to organise activities and events that will run alongside Operation Nightingale. I will be using this blog and the Project Florence Twitter feed (@WAFlorence) to keep you updated on the project and I look forward to hearing your news and views.



Project Florence gains Heritage Lottery Fund support

Local families and volunteers in south Wiltshire can discover more about their local heritage and be part of one of the most innovative archaeology projects in recent years, thanks to a grant of £46,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, awarded to Wessex Archaeology.   Project Florence will run alongside Operation Nightingale, an inspirational scheme in which injured soldiers have been working with archaeologists, using archaeology as a rehabilitation method.

This summer’s highlight for Operation Nightingale will be the excavation of a 1400 year old Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Barrow Clump on Salisbury Plain. Over 100 injured soldiers from the Rifles will take part in the excavations which are being funded by the military and supervised by Salisbury-based Wessex Archaeology.  Project Florence will complement this by involving local families and volunteers, many from the garrison communities, in the work at Barrow Clump and helping them explore their local heritage.

A key feature of Project Florence will be the involvement of Salisbury Arts Centre who will document the excavations through a film-making project, training youth volunteers aged 14 to 25 in film productions skills and providing a legacy for the project.  In addition there will be a range of different opportunities, events and activities for families and volunteers until Project Florence finishes in February 2013.

Sue Davies OBE, Chief Executive of Wessex Archaeology said ‘we are delighted to have received the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund. Project Florence will introduce the fascinating heritage of Wiltshire to new audiences and a new generation. It will be an excellent partner for the rehabilitation work of Operation Nightingale.’

Commenting on the grant award, HLF’s acting Head of South West, Richard Bellamy, said ‘We were delighted to be able to support  this exciting and innovative initiative by Wessex Archaeology working in partnership with the Armed Forces . The work of Operation Nightingale complements our involvement in previous rehabilitative projects for military personnel in the South West, focusing on art and poetry; Project Nightingale extends the opportunity to the local community, including many service families, allowing them to get involved in investigating and learning about an important  part of the past of their area.”





Operation Nightingale - using archaeology as a rehabilitation tool for injured servicemen and women

Staff in Wessex Archaeology's Salisbury office are taking part in a pilot project entitled 'Operation Nightingale' to explore the potential of using archaeology as a tool in the rehabilitation of injured servicemen and women. The project is being led by Richard Osgood of the Defence Infrastructure Organisation who Wessex regularly works for on Salisbury Plain, and Sgt Diarmaid Walshe of 1 Rifles. In the first stage of the pilot Dave Norcott helped with an environmental archaeology (auger) survey on Salisbury Plain before the 11 soldiers from the Rifles visited Portway House for some practical demonstrations.

314 Operation Nightingale: Dave Norcott explains the archaeology of Salisbury Plain

The preliminary results of the pilot have been so encouraging that further trials are planned.

315 Phil Harding with participants of Operation Nightingale


Continuing our involvement in this project, we have just hosted our first two work placements from the Rifles. James and Paul have spent two weeks with us, taking part in various activities but also following their own interests. James worked with Jackie McKinley, learning about human bone, while Paul brushed up his artistic skills in the Drawing Office. Both commented on how welcome we made them feel, and they gave us excellent feedback about their time here.

316 Illustrating finds

This is an extremely worthwhile project and all concerned have enjoyed the experience so far. Thanks must go to those who helped James and Paul, by introducing them to various aspects of our work, and working with them over the last two weeks.

317 James learning about human bone with Jackie McKinley

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