Top image: Lawrence Hill, 2005, Aerial Photos of the North Walney National Nature Reserve

Fort Walney, Uncovered: The App

As discoveries from the past feed into our futures, finds from our archeological excavation have been incorporated into a digital app which, also illustrated with photographs and stories, sheds light on the military history of this site.

Art Gene have collaborated with PAN Studios to produce 5 free apps for smart phones/tablets to help you navigate selected sites around Morecambe Bay.

Click these links to download them for free:

Apple App Store
Google Play Store


A participant writes…

I volunteered to be part of the Fort Walney Project as I always wanted to be involved in archaeology project. From the initial meeting to the filling in off the trenches at the end, it was such an amazing adventure. The Team at Art Gene made us all feel very welcome, and it was apparent, very quickly, we were one big family and everyone had a voice.

I had the unbelievable opportunity to work with Professor G. Nash, one to one, for a whole day. That was an experience money could never buy and one I will remember forever.

The whole project was organized very professionally and everyone felt included. Not only were there community volunteers like myself involved but Art Gene had arranged for a number of Local organizations to be involved including Police, Fire, Army, Natural England, BAE, Schools, local historians and much more. All this takes a great deal of time and attention.  It was fantastic that the local community and school children could get involved as they are the future.

It was more than re-discovering local history (which in its-self created much local and national interest). It was talking to people, making friends, recording memories and creating new memories.

Art Gene are worthy off this nomination for their creativity, organizational skills, their dedication, professionalism, empowering the community and making everyone feel equal.

John Irving (participant), 2017
(referencing Art Gene’s nomination for Community Arts Award category of the 2017 Cumbria Life Culture Awards)


Remarkable, normal (the project background)

North, on Walney Island, buried, lie practice trenches used for training soldiers and cadets during both the First and Second World Wars. Their presence was never a contemporary secret: large bits of rusty metal poke out of the windswept grassland, the trench ridge and furrows can be seen from the air and there are not many adults native to Walney who didn’t spend a part of their school holidays digging around in the search for bullets in the sandy soil.

It is just that before the project Fort Walney, Uncovered, few people really considered how remarkable this ‘normal’ was. The Furness coastline is peppered with pillboxes and other remnants of military and naval history (including sites which build ships and weapons to this day). Not only does the area have more physical reminders of the world at war than most other places in the UK, it is correspondingly a larger part of its social history and identity too.

Through projects dedicated to mapping the local area, charting its layers of environmental, natural, built and social elements, Art Gene are in the business of turning backdrops into assets. With a little investigation they learnt that the Fort Walney trenches have been rather uniquely preserved by their location (within both a national nature reserve, and fenced off as part of a high security military site)


Image gallery bellow:
Fort Walney, Uncovered team meeting: planning the dig
Archeologists George Nash (foreground) and Tom Wellicome (rear) taking a school group around archaeological dig site and into WW1 practice trenches.
Details of One for Sorrow, as it was presented in the exhibition Stuff, before being permanently installed onsite

About the events

Fort Walney, Uncovered is a project engaging local people in discovering, excavating, recording and celebrating this site. Work was led by Art Gene and the archaeologists Dr. George Nash and Thomas Wellicome. Onsite work was overseen by Natural England Senior Reserve Manager, Steve Benn who, assisted by Kerry Netherway, provided further insights into the flora and fauna on the site. A series of workshops were developed by Art Gene, with artist in residence Jeni McConnell.

In 2014, Dr. George Nash formally opened the project Fort Walney, Uncovered to the public.

Over a period of months, Art Gene coordinated a series of volunteer training opportunities, inviting local people to take on key roles on both the dig and exploratory surveys preceding it. They even enlisted the army!

The archaeological dig took place one week in September, accompanied by a number of Design Café events.

Vickerstown Primary School and St. Columbus Junior School took part in a series of workshops, including working with artists in residence Jeni McConnell and some hands-on trench excavation.

Find out more about Jeni’s residency with us here.


“The artwork will supplement and complement the interpretation of the material which comes out of the ground”.

Dr. Nick Owen, MBE, at the Fort Walney, Uncovered launch, 2014


One for Sorrow

Art Gene’s founders and directors Maddi Nicholson and Stuart Bastik, with Research Design [architecture]’s Charlie MacKeith, are producing an artwork inspired by the historic mechanism from the Fort Walney gun range – which was on site until its unexpected and illegal removal in 2015.

One for Sorrow is a both a war memorial and working gate, leading onto the North Walney Nature Reserve. It represents both the fragile nature of wildlife and the men who were so tragically lost in battle.

You can find out more about this artwork by following the link below in further reading.

Fort Walney, Uncovered has been developed in partnership with Natural England. The project was funded by Heritage Lottery and Arts Council England.



Gallery images below:
Fort Walney 6” gun pictured in 1957, photo courtesy of Keith Wallwork
Fort Walney control tower, 1957, photo courtesy of Keith Wallwork
Images below (footer)
CGI rendering of the artwork One for Sorrow
Details of One for Sorrow, as it was presented in the exhibition Stuff, before being permanently installed onsite