AS AN archaeological dig began at a lost wartime village this week, Trevor Avery - director of the Lake District Holocaust Project - said: "The estate is not going to give up her secrets easily."

Volunteers and school children, led by a world-renowned forensic archaeologist, have been sifting for finds in the hard clay soil beneath a rugby pitch at the Lakes School, Troutbeck Bridge.

They hope to unearth artefacts giving precious clues to the lives of the 300 child Holocaust survivors who found sanctuary there in 1945 after being liberated from the camps.

The no-frills hostels of the Calgarth Estate had been built to house wartime workers from the Sunderland flying boat factory on Windermere.

In the 1960s bulldozers demolished the single-storey residences leaving barely a trace. The site is now home to the Lakes School.

Leading the two-week dig to uncover what is left of the lost estate is Caroline Sturdy Colls, professor of conflict archaeology and genocide investigation at Staffordshire University.

"It's going very well," she told the Gazette. "We are working on detecting where the hostels would have been that the children lived in.

"Yesterday we started to put some test trenches in and we've already found bricks and window glass. Some of the glass is frosted so it's probably bathroom window glass."

Prof Sturdy Colls has excavated sites such as the former death camp at Treblinka, Poland, and she said: "In a way I'm seeing both ends of the spectrum. The children suffered, so when they came here it was a story of hope and it was the first stage in their road to recovery."

Next week will see volunteers - including some of survivors' family members - scraping and sifting through a 10-square-metre trench in their search for traces of the Calgarth Estate.

"We do have to keep an open mind," said Prof Sturdy Colls, adding: "It would be incredible if we could find some personal items make that connections with the children's stories."

She said: "A lot of them stayed in Britain and went on to make amazing contributions to society. It shows the very positive aspect of welcoming refugees to the country."

Trevor Avery, director of the Lake District Holocaust Project, described the site and its mysteries as "like a jigsaw puzzle".

"People have shown me fragments of bricks, and for me it's like gold. There are so many rumours around about what was or wasn't left behind; this is going to go a long way towards nailing that."

He said students from the Lakes School were "hugely excited" to be taking part. "This is the school they go to, yet there was a village here and people living here."

As the school summer holidays begin, Mr Avery said visitors were welcome to come and watch the archaeologists next week, and there will be historical displays in the sports hall.

Next year marks 75 years since the children were liberated. Mr Avery expects to see greatly heightened interest and awareness in the Calgarth story - not least because Warner Bros are producing a film about it, featuring Game of Thrones actor Iain Glenn.

Commissioned by BBC Two, The Children is to tell the story of how, one summer's night in 1945, a coach-load of children travelled from Carlisle airport to Windermere with only a few meagre possessions.

The British government had granted up to 1,000 children the right to come to the UK, and 300 of them were brought to the Calgarth Estate for their first four months to begin their recovery.

The film has been written by Bafta-nominated screenwriter Simon Block and draws on the first-person testimony of some of these now elderly survivors, whose filmed interviews will feature in the film.

The cast also includes Romola Garai and Tim McInnerny.

The roles of the young children are being played by a young actors selected from Polish communities in Germany, London, Manchester and Belfast, as well as from Warsaw.

BBC Two controller Patrick Holland said: "The Children promises to be a beautiful and powerful drama about a little-known part of British history. The refuge given in the Lakes and determination to give children back their lives so they could begin again is both deeply moving and humbling."

Trevor Avery and Rose Smith of the Lake District Holocaust Project are advisers to the film.

Last year the Calgarth story was featured on BBC One’s Who Do You Think You Are? when TV star Judge Robert Rinder made a poignant visit to Windermere to find out more about his grandfather, Moishe Malenicky, who recuperated there after the war.