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A Stonehenge puzzle
The new Stonehenge land trains will carry a maximum of 900 visitor per hour whereas up to 35,000 people have turned up at summer solstice previously. So what’s to be done? Well presumably while most visitors will soon be asked to co-operate in the “splendid isolation” project by parking some distance away and using the land train and those who take part in the winter lantern parade happily use shanks’ pony, summer solstice attendees will be provided with a convenient, free car park close to the stones, opened up specially for them. If anyone can explain this puzzle please leave a Comment below. There’s a prize.
Government speaks out at last!
The Government of Belize has condemned the deliberate bulldozing of a 2,300 year old monument as “ignorant and unforgivable” and says that such cultural landmarks should be protected at all costs and that the “disdain for our laws and policies is incomprehensible.”
The millionaire culprit will offer to finance research into what is no longer there and be given a £4,000 fine and a slapped wrist. Oh no, sorry, that last bit applies to the bulldozing of Priddy Henges, a monument in southern England that’s twice as old!
A waste of time
Metal detectorists are running a petition against the use of contaminated green waste on fields. Quite right if it’s a health hazard. However they also complain that bits of metal in the waste is ruining their hobby. The Government isn’t likely to lose any sleep over that and Environment Minister Richard Benyon has just delivered some bad news for detectorists by pointing out that stringent limits on physical contaminants such as metals, plastics and glass “were revised down from a total of 0.5% of dry weight to 0.25% in 2011. They are now the toughest in Europe.” In other words, they’ll deal with breaches that cause health hazards but there’s no chance they’ll be changing what’s considered acceptable levels – which includes one part in 400 being metal. That’s a lot of beeps. And it’s legal innit! (To coin a phrase).
It seems that a 2006 survey of summer solstice attendees revealed that …
• 50% of those questioned were first time attendees…..
• Only 15% mentioned a spiritual or religious reason for visiting, and …
• 80% weren’t members of organisations that see Stonehenge as significant!
That’s a real shock. Everyone knows that too many people are allowed into the stone circle, creating risks of possible harm to both the public and the stones – and that £200,000 has to be spent every year to combat those two risks. And for why? Because some say they have a spiritual right to have unfettered access. Maybe they do, but it seems that for the past seven years there’s been compelling evidence that only about 3,000 out of 20,000 come for spiritual reasons, only half of those who turn up have done so before and only 4,000 out of 20,000 are even in organisations that see the place as significant!
In other words, the overcrowding, risk and expense aren’t helping anyone achieve their spiritual needs, they’re simply giving a load of non-spiritual people a bit of a laugh! Five weeks from today it will happen again. Time to re-think the whole thing maybe?
English Heritage are starting a free school bus scheme. They’ll provide up to £4 per pupil towards travel to many of their properties. It’s a great idea. However, from our point of view there’s one drawback – the list of eligible sites includes only about half a dozen prehistoric ones. Sadly, that’s consistent with how things are on the National curriculum and exactly nine years ago our colleague Tombo made a compelling plea for change in his article Reclaiming Prehistory.
He pointed out that at least three million years of ‘prehistory’ is skimmed over in only a handful of pages at the beginning of our history books and the space on any school timetable devoted to the study of pre-literate times is as nothing when compared to that spent teaching the written history of the Common Era. As Tristram Hunt has just asked in the Guardian – “How much information about Anne Boleyn can modern Britain really cope with?”
Here’s a small suggestion. Maybe EH could still help with travel costs to medieval priories and stately homes but make the subsidy conditional upon brief stops at one or two little-known prehistoric sites on the way?
As English Heritage publishes this year’s Conditions of Entry for solstice at Stonehenge and looks around for the £200,000 it is going to cost to stage it, a couple of other recent events are noteworthy:
• Here’s a different Stonehenge gathering by Amesbury Museum: “If you are a parishioner of Amesbury, we would love you to join us at Stonehenge at 10am on 4th May and help us celebrate around a May Pole near the Heal Stone”…..
• And here’s the recent May Day / Beltane celebration service being conducted by Arch Druid Rollo Maughfling on Glastonbury Tor.
In each case, no problems, no issues, no complaints, no £200,000 – in fact tuppence would probably be closer. In addition, over in Kent they’ve only raised £2,622 so far towards the £20,000 they need by June to ensure the replica of the Dover Bronze Age boat can go to sea. That’s £20,000, not £200,000. Time to re-think the Stonehenge solstice arrangements?
by Heritage Action
There’s been a fuss over who should get payouts from the “Mynydd Y Betws fund” – that’s money to compensate communities adversely affected by the wind farm. All sorts of accusations of political bias have been flying around but those arguments miss the far more profound point that ought to be causing universal concern: the Council’s officers have pointed out that “the developer decided what communities should be included, not the council”.
So imagine. A thug owns a vicious dog with rabies that he willingly allows to bite ten people …..
But it’s not the law or lawyers or officials or an independent tribunal that gets to decide which of them (if any) gets compensated and to what extent (if any). It’s the thug!
Plan to demolish Avebury ….
“It would be an irreplaceable loss” says a protestor and we wholeheartedly concur with their opinion that “Demolition is permanent, and once destroyed, a place is lost forever“.
Scottish firm “preferred bidder” to supply Stonehenge transport system.
Dunfermline’s Greenfold Systems has been named as preferred bidder to provide 15 carriages for the new Stonehenge land train.
Britain triumphs over the rest of the world!
A while back the public had to raise £3.3 million pounds to give two people a “reward” for finding and handing over national treasure that never belonged to them. Now, 4 years later a team of archaeologists has been paid to visit the site a second time to find more of it and they’ve done so. So another public appeal is having to be made in order to raise a further £57,395 to pay to the same two people. Nothing wrong with that. Nor with the fact the two new millionaires haven’t renounced their right to receive it. It’s the British way, and it’s the law innit? As is everything that is done legally in the name of metal detecting in Britain.
Be proud! It’s the rest of the world, which foolishly imposes clear, fair, rational, conservation-related statutory rules on all elements of metal detecting, that is utterly misguided.
It’s inevitable that major changes to the physical environment of Stonehenge will also involve a radical re-think of how it’s managed. Not that you’d realise that from the recent headlines – those seem to suggest managing the place involves only one thing …
Those headlines must be irksome for EH. The new Stonehenge General Manager will have massive responsibilities. (Although if the world thinks a small minority of people are the dominant stakeholders in Britain’s national icon EH have no-one to blame but themselves!). We should stress we’re not anti-Druid though – if they wish to celebrate solstice at Stonehenge good luck to them. But the trouble is the Druids say there are often only a dozen or two actual Druids there together with tens of thousands of others comprising pagans, pagans-of-convenience and party-goers in proportions unknown (but suspected). Again, we’re not anti-solstice-celebrations, but we’re anti-overcrowding, clambering on the stones and treating the place disrespectfully. So we’re pleased to note some clues below the headlines that suggest EH agree:
None of that can be achieved without changes. It will be fascinating to see what EH has in mind. Our own idea is this: http://heritageaction.wordpress.com/2013/03/20/time-to-rethink-the-annual-free-bash-at-stonehenge/ . It costs only £2 per participant (the cost of a bit of food) so it’s economical as well as respectful and maybe even authentic – what’s not to like?
by Sandy Gerrard
On a pleasant day Bodmin Moor is clearly visible from Dartmoor. Yet it was not until the 1970’s that Martin Fletcher of the Royal Commission identified the first stone row in the area. Since that time others have been discovered and recorded. It’s funny how the discovery of one site rapidly led to the identification of others. Plans of seven rows appear in “Bodmin Moor – An archaeological survey Volume 1: The human landscape to c 1800” by Nicholas Johnson and Peter Rose published in 1994. This publication makes a number of interesting comparative points between the Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor rows and would seem fairly helpful in any consideration of that “line of stones” at Mynydd y Betws.
The Bodmin Moor volume notes (green text below):
The Bodmin Moor rows, like the Dartmoor examples, are orientated in the north-east to south-west quadrants
[Mynydd Y Betws is orientated north-east to south-west]
and exhibit certain noteworthy characteristics:
a If they are on a slope, however slight, the lower end is the southerly end.
[The lower end is the southerly end at Mynydd y Betws]
b Six of the seven rows have taller stones, transverse stones, or other structures at the southern terminal.
[The largest stone at Mynydd y Betws is at the southern terminal]
c There are two distinct types of row: (1) those with small stones and small gaps between the stones and (2) those with larger stones and larger gaps between the stones.
[Mynydd y Betws has small stones and small gaps]
Four out of four is not bad. So the Mynydd y Betws stone alignment shares the broad characteristics of the Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor stone rows as identified by the Royal Commission, English Heritage and Cornwall Archaeological Unit. Any claims for a different interpretation will obviously need to explain why these characteristics are not pertinent and furthermore provide equally persuasive parallels for any alternative explanations. Simply stating that there is no dating evidence, will not suffice. Most Dartmoor rows and all of the Bodmin Moor rows would also fall at this hurdle.
For all previous and subsequent articles put Mynydd Y Betws in our Search Box.
Postcards to friends of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site
I was reminded recently of a moment, as a child, returning from a week away with my school, when the coach I was on drove past Stonehenge.
The only time I’d previously seen Stonehenge was in a book or on the television. Of course I was impressed! Surprised – strangely – at how small it seemed in relation to how my rather overactive imagination had protrayed it, but impressed nevertheless.
At the exact moment that we drove past, Concorde flew over a short distance away, posing above the stones in a photogenic way. If this were today, everybody would have had a camera with them, most likely on their phones, but this was the 70s, so nobody was prepared for this unique photo opportunity.
At the time, and at the age I was, it almost felt like Concorde was from the future. Like a rocket. Or a spaceship.
Roll on 30 years, and fantasy has been replaced by reality. A spaceship has been photographed flying over Stonehenge!
And here’s a photo from space taken by Commander Hadfield (Commander of the International Space Station) himself!
This is part of a series of short “postcards” that anyone with something to share is welcome to submit, whether that is a digital snap and a “wish you were here” or something more involved. Please do join in by sending your postcards to email@example.com
For others in the series put postcards in the search box.