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Following our recent moan about Northumberlandia being decorated for a good cause comes another instance ….

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keep wilts(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 ….

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Whoever did this should be ashamed ..... but at least he didn't claim expenses for doing it!

Whoever did this should be ashamed. But at least he didn’t claim  expenses for doing it.

naff

There are some who think Northumberlandia is a pretty naff monument, a way in which a mining group avoided the expense of putting their slag back in the hole, and there are those who think decorating it in a particularly naff fashion (see A Landmark puts on a Bra for Charity) is no more than it deserves.

However, as our headline indicates (borrowed from here, with thanks), there are those (including us) who think it’s a bad idea. While 99% of people can see there’s a clear difference between using a public monument to make a point in a harmless way and doing the same thing in a damaging way…  there are some who can’t.

F4J

Most people will be pleased to hear that the recommended maximum fines for fly tipping have been greatly increased. However, it’s interesting to compare the new fines for temporary and reversible damage to the physical environment with fines recently imposed for permanent and irreversible damage to the historic environment…..

 

chart1

Summer solstice in Cornwall was an occasion of glorious weather, and a large degree of celebration, with the completion of the raising of Carwynnen Quoit (full story to follow).

Sadly, elsewhere the summer sun obviously went to someone’s head, as they decided to dig a hole, approximately 2-3 inches deep and some 4 inches across, directly below the central stone at Boscawen-Un, near St Buryan in West Penwith.

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Despite the best efforts of the CASPN monitoring team, it seems as if this wonderful site, one of my personal favourites, is the target of an attack every summer. A few years ago, a wax ‘talisman’ was found buried in the same spot, under the stone which leans at an acute angle. Wooden stakes with Christian slogans were also buried around the stone in an attack.

This time, the apparent intent seems to have been to dig a receptacle for a posey of flowers, and some crystals – an ‘offering’ of some sort? Certainly none of the Pagans of my acquaintance would endorse such a move! Maybe these were ‘wannabe’ pagans (small ‘p’), or someone looking to discredit Paganism? Either way, it’s a crass thing to do, as it harms our heritage in more than just a physical way, sending out signals that this kind of damage is in some way ‘acceptable’.

CASPN are aware of the damage and mitigating measures will shortly be undertaken by their team of volunteers.

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Update 27/06/14:

Although I’m no longer in the area to personally verify, there has been a report on our Facebook page -

Visited today. Someone has dug under one of the recumbent stones which may been part of a cist or a dolman. They placed a tatty necklace with a childlike fairy on the stone. To make matters worse someone had pitched a tent between the circle and the surrounding wall. I waited, but owner did not return while I was there.

So I’ll repeat the question I added in the comments a couple of days ago. “How much damage is acceptable?”  When do we say enough is enough?

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naxos

Looks familiar? This time it’s not in Britain or Ireland,  it’s on the Greek Island of Naxos. It is the sacred path of  Za, created thousands of years ago by the inhabitants of Naxos in order to reach the top of the sacred mountain of the ancient Axots, Za which was dedicated to the god Zeus. Thousands of tourists walk the ancient path every year but in early May an individual with a bulldozer destroyed much of the trail for about 600 meters, in order to facilitate access to his fields.

The incident triggered strong reactions from the local community and foreign clubs, while the Naxos Environmental Movement accused the police and the Forest Service of negligence.

There however the similarity ends. Unlike at Priddy and Offa’s Dyke the culprit will have to pay the full cost of restoration!

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http://www.thetoc.gr/eng/news/article/ancient-path-vandalized-on-naxos

Actually, as has just been demonstrated, it can’t be done. If you’re in a state of ignorance and have a bulldozer you’re always liable to wreck things. But what the Welsh Government is looking for are ways to ensure that ignorant acts don’t go unpunished. See here.

CONSULTATION

The loophole written into the 1979 Act is this:
“it shall be a defence for the accused to prove that he did not know and had no reason to believe that the monument was within the area affected by the works or (as the case may be) that it was a scheduled monument. “

The Consultation has recently ended. It’s a shame the culprit didn’t do his flattening while it was on, they’d have got a much bigger response, albeit many of them calling for some cruel and unusual measures. Maybe the Welsh Government could re-open it for a short period? In the meantime, if anyone has any suggestions to make we’ll be glad to print them here. (Here’s one we made earlier)

Following the interview under caution of a local man and a nine-month inquiry, North Wales Police have announced that no further action will be taken over the flattening of a 50 yard stretch of Offa’s Dyke as “there was insufficient evidence to prove any criminal offence and the matter is no longer being investigated”.

The announcement may come as a surprise to readers of Wales on Line, 16 August 2013 :

“….. people living nearby have reported seeing men with a large digger clearing scrub and weeds along the dyke, close to the A5 between Chirk and Llangollen. Over several hours, they flattened the embankment and filled in the ditch to level it. Jim Saunders of the Offa’s Dyke Association said: “We had a report that quite a well-preserved part of the dyke had been damaged by the new landowner….. One witness said: ‘I don’t think the men who cleared the hedge and weeds realised the significance of what they were doing. ‘ A Cadw official who came to inspect it said what they had done was like driving a road through Stonehenge.’ The owner of the field, who claims to have bought the site last month, told the Daily Mail he had ‘no idea’ the area was of historic importance. The man, who gave his name only as ‘Danny’, claimed: ‘I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve never heard of Offa’s Dyke. ‘We bought this from a bloke next door and want to put stables on it. Nobody said anything to us about a historic monument, it wasn’t mentioned.’ “

The fifty yard downward spiral: first Priddy, where the culprit was fined a fraction of the value of one of his string of racehorses, then Offa's, where the perpetrator was fined nothing ... next, Avebury, above? Will they be given a lottery grant?

The fifty yard downward spiral: first Priddy, where the culprit was fined a fraction of the value of one of his string of racehorses, then Offa’s, where the perpetrator was fined nothing … next, Avebury, above? Will they be given a lottery grant?

As you may recall, we’ve grumbled very many times about the exploitation of the Uffington White Horse  and other monuments for commercial purposes on the grounds that eroding respect for them creates a risk of damage to all monuments. So we were pleased to see similar sentiments last Sunday by Stewart Lee in the Observer …..

Last weekend, the world woke to find Morrisons had projected an image of a cut-price baguette on to the outstretched wings of Antony Gormley’s iconic public artwork The Angel of the North. The stick of bread was the perfect shape to occupy the Angel’s wingspan, and one wonders what other products Morrisons might have filled Gormley’s emotionally resonant secular sacred space with next. A toilet brush perhaps?

In March 2012, the stupid bookmakers Paddy Power celebrated the Cheltenham horse murdering festival by drawing a jockey overnight on to the 3,000-year-old chalky flanks of White Horse of Uffington. Paddy Power claim to have done no damage and instead their own blog invited us to think of them as “lovable scamps” and “mischief makers”, the Horrid Henrys of wilful cultural vandalism.

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Our last culture minister suggested that public art’s only value was commercial, and our new culture minister supports ticket touts, suggesting culture’s value is merely whatever the market wants to pay for it. In receipt of such mixed messages, is it any wonder Morrisons looked at the aching wingspan of Gormley’s Angel and saw only an empty space that wasn’t being maximally monetised?

And that’s where we are now. Ancient forests can be destroyed, if equal amounts of trees are planted somewhere else, an inherent sense of place and historical resonance translated into the worth of its mere weight in wood. It’s me that’s out of step, I am sure.

You’re not alone Stewart!

In the light of the succession of all the heritage harm and exploitation stories we’ve been publicising lately and the fact that today is the AGM of RESCUE (we’ll be there, so say hello), their remark above is a timely reminder. If there’s an opportunity to make a buck or annex public assets for private benefit someone will try to take it. And the corollary is, unless someone says no, they’ll succeed.

Logo: RESCUE, the British Archaeology Trust

Logo: RESCUE, the British Archaeology Trust

See Rescue’s latest efforts against the budget cuts, and their excellent guide to ‘Fighting Back‘ for what you can do to help.

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