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At the beginning of the Oswestry Hillfort saga  we mentioned the danger that it might develop along the lines perfected by Tarmac PLC at Thornborough Henges – and indeed used by almost every developer and market trader wishing to make a bob or two……

del

You ask for the earth and progressively reduce what you’re asking for until the punters agree to what you were originally hoping for and think they’ve got a bargain.  That’s exactly the track that Oswestry seems to be taking.  No way did the developers think they’d get lucky with their first or second or third demands but now …. far fewer houses… further away … you know it makes sense Rodney!

Except that it doesn’t. It’s still awful. A while back we contrasted what was going on at Oswestry with a similar situation in Malta, and it’s Malta that is still showing how things ought to be. The number of houses  that El Del Boy wants to build near the Xaghra Stone Circle there has been reduced from 10 to 2 (and further away) but the authorities are being urged…

to prohibit any development in the buffer zone to the Xaghra Stone Circle and to change the local plan to ensure that no development is ever allowed in this zone.

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For more about Xaghra see here  and here.

First a rich farmer took a bulldozer to one of the Priddy Circles….

Priddy bank destruction closeup

Then the local hunt posed on one of the nearby Priddy Nine Barrows hoping to see an animal running for its life …

priddycountryside

Now,  illegal off-roaders in 4×4 vehicles and motorbikes have caused substantial damage in the Blackmoor Reserve near Blagdon. The land is within the Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Monument.    English Heritage staff have discovered deep ruts and surface erosion on part of the former lead and silver mining complex at Charterhouse which was first used in Roman times.

bbb

The lead mines at Charterhouse [before damage by off-roaders] – Ron Strutt, Wikimedia

Mark Harrison, policing and crime adviser of English Heritage, said: “Wheeled traffic, whether bikes or off-road vehicles, can quickly erode historic earthworks and can cause very substantial harm to irreplaceable heritage sites. We call on local people to be vigilant in reporting any such activity they may encounter.” (To which we’d add – and bulldozers and large groups of horses!)

zebra

This was done on April Fool’s day. It’s not that we don’t have a sense of humour, but wouldn’t it be better if public monuments weren’t used as public canvasses – even for a short time or without causing damage or “for charity”.

As we see it, each time it happens it increases the chances of someone uncaring or unhinged copycatting elsewhere to make a political, religious or “humorous” statement of their own in a way that’s physically damaging. There have been lots of “harmless” incidents, especially at hill figures, but also harmful ones and of course there’s been the recent incident where paint was daubed on the The Nine Ladies stone circle. It’s an obvious enough proposition,  the idea that all monuments should be promoted as sacrosanct, even from apparently harmless stunts. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if all monument guardians took that line and publicised it on their websites?

The Welsh Government is holding a public consultation on whether the “ignorance defence” for damaging an ancient monument (saying the accused was unaware of its status or location) should be restricted.

Successful prosecutions are very rare. Between 2006 and 2012, Cadw received reports of 119 cases of unlawful damage to scheduled ancient monuments in Wales but there has only been one successful prosecution under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 in the last 25 years. That is surely a ridiculous state of affairs? Over the years hundreds of the most important sites have been damaged and only once has a culprit been punished! What do YOU think? Responses have been invited from any individuals or groups with an interest in the historic environment of Wales. You can submit your views here.

Of course, there are certain measures that could be taken to discourage heritage crime, certainly at the Nine Ladies. You’re welcome to suggest some of your own!

vandal2

scissorman

Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out – Oh! Oh! Oh!
Snip! Snap! Snip! They go so fast;
That both his thumbs are off at last.

Some say “The Scissorman” is a real person. Others that he is merely being used as a literary device to represent The Profit Motive. Who knows? All that is certain is that whatever anyone tells you in posh technical language what’s really happening at Oswestry is a fight between those who want to conserve History and those who want to make a personal profit, the bigger the better. Yet how can one know that’s true when it’s easy to photograph History but impossible to photograph The Profit Motive?

Or is it?

Balfarg Henge

That’s Balfarg Henge, Fife in the middle. The rest is The Profit Motive.

No, Oswestry Hill Fort isn’t going to look like that, not imminently anyway. (So no claims we’re spreading misinformation or using scare tactics please, we’re just showing how ruthless Money can be if left unopposed). What is yet to be revealed is the degree of success the Campaigners will have in preventing the Hill Fort looking anything like that. Half as bad or a tenth as bad would be an outrage. Yet The Profit Motive has given zero indication it gives a damn about History or is willing to exercise self-restraint – it would simply walk away if it did – so it all depends on the strength of those who believe the Hill Fort’s current setting should be kept entirely sacrosanct.

Following the recent attack (see our original report here) we visited Nine Ladies last Sunday and took the opportunity to document all the damage at the site. As you can see there is paint on every stone, seemingly deliberately targeted as opposed to being flung about.

If anyone knows anything that might lead to the culprits being identified or if you wish to report any other suspected heritage crime please contact The Police/English Heritage/The Alliance to Reduce Heritage Crime using the methods indicated here .

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Nine Ladies One

Nine Ladies Two

We received awful news yesterday afternoon from Emma Alsop on the Peak District Prehistory facebook group of yet another paint attack on a stone circle. This time its the latest in a long history of vandalism on the Nine Ladies of Stanton Moor.

Copyright Emma Allsop

Copyright Emma Alsop

She reports green and yellow paint on every stone, evidence of which you can clearly see in the photos. She also said “There are also newly scattered ashes round the circle (someone’s remains I presume)”. Hopefully the person who left that there may be able to help work out when this was done.

Copyright Emma Allsop

Copyright Emma Alsop

We have passed the information on to the relevant authorities. If you have any information which may help, please comment below and we will pass it on.

Update:
We have now visited and taken pictures of the damage to all of the stones – see here

Here are the six highly pertinent questions put to Shropshire Council yesterday by the estimable John Waine on behalf of HOOOH followed by extracts (outlined in red) from the answers provided by Councillor M Price, Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning. Please read both the questions and the answers carefully. What do YOU think is going on?

Q and As

The Oswestrians

And when we are old we can tell people we remember all this when it was fields….

[ Image Credit: Huw Davies ]

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For the information of those children:
The up-to-date position is that the Town Councillors (who won’t be around when you are old) have given a bit of ground but, in the words of yesterday’s  press release from Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort …

“Although it is objecting to houses on Oldport Farm (OSW003) in their current form, the Council is not demanding they are removed, and is accepting the largest parcel of houses off Whittington Road (OSW004) unopposed. But in response to HOOOH’s objections, the Council has added a binding condition requesting that Shropshire Council follows ‘due diligence to ensure that the heritage assessment [is] compliant with NPPF [National Planning Policy Framework] through an independent evaluation.”

So not exactly a message to the future which says “we did our utmost to protect the setting for you”……

We feel the recent letter to The Times from RESCUE, The British Archaeological Trust, is worth reproducing in full:

Dear Sir,

After the report in the Times (Letters, 2nd Jan, p29) is it time to stand back and look at what we may be allowing to be done to this country in the name of development and its presumed role as the only solution to our economic woes? Those aiming to surround Old Oswestry hillfort with a housing development offer the feeble excuse that they are not building on the hill fort itself, while at the same time ignoring the impact on views both to and from the monument (a material consideration for Scheduled Monument Consent). The people of Bath are facing plans to amend green belt land around the city with housing, roads and commercial development which will severely compromise the setting of the best surviving part of the western Wansdyke, another Scheduled Ancient Monument and landscape-scale earthwork.

Against growing threats like these, the number of people employed to examine the impact of development on our heritage is diminishing as local governments across the country cut their conservation, archaeological and museum staff, leaving some regions without cover at all, while those who are left have overwhelming work-loads. At the same time changes to English Heritage appear likely to reduce its influence. As we are only on the edge of economic growth, what other ancient monuments will be threatened as the pace of development picks up? We need to call a halt and reinstate the ground rules for protection of our Historic Monuments (and Green Belt land) before it’s too late and we need to fight for the jobs of those whose task it is to mitigate the negative effects of economic development. Our national heritage is not a luxury; in 2013 alone heritage tourism contributed some £26.4 billion to the British economy. Of what lasting value is recovery if we lose some of our most evocative and irreplaceable heritage in the process?

Yours sincerely
Dr Chris Cumberpatch
Vice-chair
RESCUE – The British Archaeological Trust

ADDITIONAL COMMENT FROM DR GEORGE NASH:

Dear Heritage Team,
I would suggest that in addition to the term ‘Green Belt (which actually accounts for little statutory protection these days)’ would also include the term ‘Green Space’. This certainly applies to land that surrounds Old Oswestry Hillfort. Alas, it is not designated ‘Green Belt’ but according to earlier accounts it was considered ‘Brown field’. To me and the majority of people living in North Shropshire, the fields a clearly green.

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