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We haven’t had a Quote of the Week for ages, but something in the Yorkshire Times prompted us to start it again.
It’s from an article that poses the question “Are there too many wind farms in East Yorkshire?”. If you’re worried about global warming, you’d probably say no. If you’re a windfarm developer you’d probably say no. If you’re a farmer wanting to make oodles you’d probably say no. And if you are a local who wants cheap local electricity and increased employment opportunities you’d probably say no.
But what if, actually, you think some (though not all) heritage sites and their settings need preserving or treating with respect so that some (but not all) can be passed to the future unscathed, what then? What if you think the pendulum has swung a bit too far in favour of people who want to make gazillions and against those who want to preserve some (but not all) such heritage assets? What if you feel that since East Yorkshire has the highest density of wind turbines in England (226 turbines over 50 metres high have been built, approved or are pending a decision), enough is now enough?
Dr Peter Halkon, an archaeologist and a lecturer at the University of Hull, has spoken for them:
“The landscape of East Yorkshire is varied and subtle. It possesses a beauty of its own. There are very few parts of our region which have not been shaped by human activity since the first farmers some 6,000 years ago. Most of these changes however were in keeping with a landscape created by centuries of settlement and agriculture. Despite intensive use many monuments still survive making this one of the most important archaeological regions in the UK, a heritage which includes the Rudston monolith, Britain’s tallest standing stone, great prehistoric burial grounds and the network of massive linear earthworks.”
He said one of the most important archaeological landscapes in the region is between Market Weighton and Sancton, containing long barrows built five and a half thousand years ago and now home to one of the area’s largest windfarms.
“The views down valleys like this are very important. Now all one sees looking down them towards the Humber are the massive blades of wind turbines. No amount of predevelopment archaeological prospection or excavation can make up for the loss of the visual and symbolic connection between the wider landscape and these significant monuments to past human activities.”
He said he has no objection to small scale, carefully sited single turbines on farms, but said any more large developments “will wreck this beautiful historic landscape”.
by Dr Sandy Gerrard
Cadw have been at pains to emphasise that without solid evidence of a prehistoric date they will not consider scheduling the Bancbryn stone alignment. The same diligence does not appear to have been afforded to other assessments. The most cursory of glances reveals that the schedule is littered with curious anomalies and during the coming months I hope to look at some of these and discuss the implications for our understanding and appreciation of the tangible remains of the past.
Does it matter that so many of our cherished sites are poorly understood, and is an inadequate and at times laughable Schedule of Ancient Monuments bad for our archaeology?
Huge numbers of monuments do not have any evidence to support their inclusion in the schedule beyond the fact that a particular feature or group of structures looks like or resemble similar sites for which there is conclusive evidence. This may sound dreadful, but in reality this is a sensible way of ensuring the protection of our heritage without the constant need to damage sites by checking their credentials. The result is that sites are assessed by looking at them and comparing them with the known resource. So a pile of stones on a hilltop is interpreted as a Bronze Age cairn and a stone standing alone in a field as a prehistoric standing stone. No evidence to support the dating is sought and the cairn and standing stone are happily added to the schedule despite the lack of conclusive evidence to support their interpretation.
Turning to a more enigmatic site type – lines of stones leading from mounds are generally interpreted as stone alignments and the case is even stronger if the line of stones in question sits comfortably within and makes sense of that prehistoric landscape. Dating evidence to support a prehistoric date for most stone alignments is entirely absent and therefore using Cadw’s “Bancbryn scheduling assessment method” they should also fail to meet the grade for protection. Sadly, the bar has clearly been set very high for the Bancbryn stone alignment. At Bancbryn proof of a prehistoric date is seen as essential pre-requisite to scheduling whereas most other “prehistoric” archaeology has been added to the schedule without the same level of scrutiny. This shocking lack of consistency must surely concern those who care passionately about our heritage and its protection.
We’re holding a Heritage Journal picnic at the Rollright Stones, Oxfordshire on Sunday 14th September. All are welcome. Just pop along from about midday and bring lots of food and chat – and some megalithic books to swap if you’d like.
This will be our 8th public Megameet since 2003 and the first one we’ve held away from Avebury. If you haven’t been, The Rollrights are a fascinating place to visit, 3 sites within a couple of minutes walk from one another with a unique atmosphere and a host of myths and legends.
In the meantime, don’t forget the Rollrights Open Day (see below).
Saturday 26th July:
Chipping Norton Amateur Archaeology Group presents Exploring the astronomy of special places.
For years the Government has facilitated the targeting of large areas of green space (including heritage site settings) for housing development on the basis that there is insufficient usable brownfield land. (Many people suspect that the real reason has more to do with the “advice” they’ve been getting from the big builders who coincidentally can make far bigger profits by building in picturesque locations. Who knows)
Lately the Government seems to be coming round to the idea that there ARE such sites but it remains vague about how many. Now the CPRE has launched an interesting campaign to establish and demonstrate to them just how many usable yet undeveloped brownfield sites and buildings are going to waste across England. As they put it: “ever helpful, we want to show them just how much potential there is”. Accordingly they’re asking the general public to nominate suitable brownfield sites that may have been overlooked in official plans and submit them for inclusion in the CPRE’s ‘WasteOfSpace’ map of England.
If you know of one (or more!) please send them a photo, ideally with a short description and an address or postcode. You can send the image by:
- emailing email@example.com
- tweeting @CPRE with the campaign hashtag #WasteOfSpace
- posting to the Facebook group #WasteOfSpace
by Sandy Gerrard
During 2012 Cadw considered the Bancbryn stone alignment for scheduling. In October, some 9 months into the process, they were approached by the “South Wales Guardian” for an update. The people of South Wales were informed that: “No evidence was discovered to support the firm dating of the feature, but investigations concluded the most likely interpretation is that this is a relatively modern grazing boundary or route marker.”
Recently it has to come to light that at the time this statement was released the assessment process had not even started. Amazingly it would appear that Cadw published their conclusion before they had even started the assessment. Might this be the reason they appear to be unwilling to accept the prehistoric interpretation?
Sadly, as well as being somewhat premature the Cadw statement completely ignores the investigations reported in the Heritage Journal here which demonstrated that the interpretations favoured by Cadw were utterly untenable. Is Cadw in the habit of ignoring the evidence that does not suit them or is this a one off?
Either way an explanation would be appreciated.
Following our recent moan about Northumberlandia being decorated for a good cause comes another instance ….
(See the Facebook Group “Keep Wiltshire Frack Free“)
Once again it will no doubt be suggested that it’s OK as it’s a good cause but since the cause could be promoted elsewhere, please indulge those of us who feel “good cause” isn’t an excuse to do whatever comes to mind and don’t do it. In the words of Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site Friends …….
Sorry, I don’t agree with using monuments for advertising no matter how much I agree with the sentiment of the protest. It demeans the site, encouraging people to use it merely for any reason without respect for the importance of the monument. We have had incidents of individuals daubing paint on the stones themselves not that long ago. Protest about fracking, I’ll gladly stand at your side, but do it where there isn’t a monument.
As the Old Oswestry Hillfort Campaign has said…..
“The day has come, dear reader. Shropshire Council are taking the Sam Dev report to Full Council this Thursday [that's today], and have published the results of the consultation on soundness which a lot of us responded to. There is a lot to read, if you follow this link then scroll down to no. 22 the papers are all there. Interestingly enough, despite many of us asking for notification to attend this meeting I don’t know of anyone who had been contacted, and I only found this by accident last night….
You might think that because there’s a lot to read the decision will be very complicated. But no, it couldn’t be simpler. Either Shropshire Council will vote to damage the setting of the most important ancient heritage site in Central England or they won’t. Either they’ll reject the views of a whole raft of independent experts or they won’t. Either they’ll ignore the clearly-expressed views of local people (which the Government says must be taken into account) or they won’t. Fingers crossed we don’t hear phrases like “equitable compromise in all the circumstances” or “regrettable but unavoidable”. For the avoidance of doubt, damaging the setting of the hill fort is no more unavoidable than this was ….