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Jim Leary, who led the recent archaeological investigations for English Heritage at nearby Silbury Hill, and is co-author of the recently published The Story of Silbury Hill, coordinated EH’s contribution to the investigation of Marlborough Mound, the initial results from which have been made public today. He says:
“This is an astonishing discovery. The Marlborough Mound has been one of the biggest mysteries in the Wessex landscape. For centuries people have wondered whether it is Silbury’s little sister; and now we have an answer. This is a very exciting time for British prehistory”
Image credit Jane Tomlinson, Heritage Action
William Stukeley’s 1723 image of Marlborough “Mount”
The Bartlow Hills in Cambridgeshire date back to early Roman times and are the largest burial mounds north of the Alps. The barrows (many now sadly destroyed) were probably built by wealthy, high status Iron Age chiefs. This is one of Bill Blake’s stunning kite aerial photographs of the Bartlow Hills – click on the link below the photo for more.
Recently the Friends of the Ridgeway gave a presentation to an open meeting of the Avebury Parish Council about the proposed Great Stones Way.
Originally concerns had been raised about the impact on the village as it was intended the route would pass close by. This has now been resolved but it seems the Council is still rather NIMBY about it and according to the minutes of the meeting it expressed four main concerns: 1. The World Heritage Site Management Plan states that the village is at maximum tourist capacity now. There is also a tacit agreement that Avebury should not be actively advertised 2. Damage to Avebury’s economy 3. The fragile balance between visitor numbers and the village’s capacity to cope and 4. Limited parking in the village.
We can’t quite see how a walking route that is now well away from the village presents a parking problem for the village or could damage its economy. (The National Trust opening another food outlet is another matter altogether though!). But the really interesting bit is this: “There is also a tacit agreement that Avebury should not be actively advertised”! Consistent with this the Chairman requested that Friends of the Ridgeway avoid promoting Avebury as a tourist destination by dropping the title ‘Great Stones Way’ and also suggested a good alternative would be “The Great Wiltshire Ridgeway” (although Mr Ritchie of the Friends of the Ridgeway made it clear that a name-change at this late stage was unlikely).
It seems a bit surprising that the “tacit agreement” made in the eighties about not actively advertising Avebury is still being talked of, what with the village being in the middle of the world’s largest stone circle and having two museums etc. and everyone now being on the net. If there’s a problem it’s not going to be solved by trying to keep quiet about the existence of Avebury – and particularly in connection with the walking route. (This is not to say there aren’t issues to be resolved about the limited capacity of the carparking alongside the route, that does seem to be a real problem).
In any case, it seems that a change to the name of the walking route is not going to happen. Which leaves only one alternative: changing the name of the village!
Stoneless on Avon, Gloucestershire
There are some cynical souls who fear that the Localism Bill, the central plank of the government’s Big Society, is less about local democratic control and more about giving big business an easier ride at the local level and enabling Central Government to abandon much of its obligation to provide financial support for local people, thus leaving poorer communities hung out to dry. In other words, yet more of the smiling crocodile syndrome that has become so familiar (wanna buy a forest anyone?). But we couldn’t possibly comment.
Except in one regard. The plans to democratise the planning system are certainly a matter of legitimate concern for those who are interested in the protection of ancient sites and their settings. Would greater local decision making power be a good thing? Local parish councils would be given the right to draw up “neighbourhood development plans” to say for instance where they think new houses should go and to grant full planning permission in areas where they most want to see new homes and businesses, making it easier and quicker for development to go ahead. Indeed, not only would local communities be given these powers, the influence of planning inspectors on those plans would be curtailed and the communities would be incentivised to say yes to developments because the government is proposing the locals are given a kick back from the profits to spend on community projects. “Bribes” would be the correct technical term but “levy” is what it says in the Bill. No matter, whatever it’s called it works like a dream – as some developers know so well!
Aside from the fact that it is pretty obvious that the main beneficiaries of making it easier and quicker for developments to go ahead are not local communities but the government’s friends, the developers (do not feed the crocodile, the smile in not sincere!) is there anything to be said for the proposal? Well, the D word (democracy) always brings the house down (or up in this case!) but of course local freedom to say where new houses are to be built is fraught with all sorts of dodgy dangers, none of which are our business to analyse here.
Except in one respect: please, please, let not increased local decision making power to say where new houses are to be built apply to villages that are within prehistoric World Heritage Sites. As has recently been so vividly illustrated that would be a very bad idea.
Localism in action: part of the Bond’s Garage development, Avebury. Every professional, official and conservation body opposed it. The Parish and District Councils didn’t…
The walk to Falkner’s Circle and back will add another 30 minutes or so to the walk from the bottom of the West Kennet Avenue. Option two however involves walking in the opposite direction from Falkener’s Circle up Waden Hill (the name Waden is derived from Woden) and will reward you with one of the most spectacular (and unexpected) views of Silbury that there is. From the top of Waden Hill look slightly to the left of Silbury – West Kennet Long barrow should just about be visible.
Wired-Gov news: NATIONAL HERITAGE LIST FOR ENGLAND AND ENGLISH HERITAGE’S CORPORATE PLAN LAUNCHED
English Heritage has launched The National Heritage List for England, a significant milestone towards achieving better understanding and protection for heritage in this country by opening up information which until now has not been easily accessible to the public.
The National Heritage List for England is a new online database of the country’s 400,000 listed buildings, registered parks, gardens and battlefields, protected shipwrecks and scheduled monuments. For the first time ever, separate registers and lists for different types of heritage are combined in one and the public can now go online to search for heritage by postcode, by date, by grade or by any category from listed building to listed lamp-post, from scheduled coal mines to castles. Read on.
A guided walk seeking out the archaeology of Exmoor’s moorlands from prehistoric times to the 19th century will be held on Thurday, 26th May. This 6km guided walk over rough moorland will be led by a National Park archaeologist.
For more information and contact details, see the Heart of Exmoor web site.