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In Willits (California) a bypass is being cut through the heart of ancestral tribal lands. In Wilts (UK) another one (comprising a “short” tunnel with massive access cuttings) is being planned to cut through the heart of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. That’s not where the similarities end.
In Willits “there were delays in funding due to the downturn in the economy.” – snap in Wilts!
In Willits: “No official consultation had ever occurred” - snap in Wilts! (lots of private meetings though!)
In Willits: “nearly 30 cultural sites not documented in the first EIS have been found” Will it be snap with a nought added in Wilts?
In Willits: “officials never created a map” – snap in Wilts – or to be precise, detailed ones haven’t been shown to the public (yet they must exist – how else could English Heritage and the National Trust have decided to support the short tunnel?)
In Willits: “they started finding things they said wouldn’t be there.” Will it be snap to that too in Wilts? (A clue: “hundreds” of previously unsuspected features have recently been found at Stonehenge. “Two thousand” have recently been found on Exmoor! Thus what might be selected as the “least damaging” route might turn out to be otherwise. Would the line of the route be diverted if that happened – like it wasn’t at Tara?)
In Willits: Tribal officials say the authorities are “not properly informing and consulting with them about new sites that are disrupted or found during construction“. It remains to be seen if the hundreds of features likely to be found, disrupted or destroyed at Stonehenge are likely to be promptly reported to the British tribe (or the World one) or whether they’ll only learn what has been lost long after it has happened.
A synopsis of the Outstanding Universal Value of Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site can be found here. For an account of the 20-year Stonehenge roads saga and the efforts of the admirable Stonehenge Alliance and others to resist damage to the Outstanding Universal Value see here.
On 3rd December 2014 the Chancellor is likely to announce funds for a short bored tunnel (2.5km to 2.9km) as a result of confidential talks between the Department for Transport, the Highways Agency, English Heritage, the National Trust, local authorities and others. If you believe a short bored tunnel would be too short to protect the World Heritage Site please consider signing the Petition here.
Above are 3 examples of the many pieces of “art” produced by just one person across 10 national parks right across the western United States. Unsurprisingly, the National Parks Service has issued a press release saying “Vandalism is a violation of the law and it also damages and sometimes destroys often irreplaceable treasures that belong to all Americans.”
On the other hand, here are some of the temporary artworks the UK’s National Trust has willingly allowed, including in a National Park:
Are both organisations right? Or just one of them? Would the US National Parks Service agree with the UK National Trust that if it’s temporary and for a good cause it’s OK and won’t invite damaging copycatting”? Or not?
English Heritage (EH) have recently made a big splash in the media on the release of their latest ‘Heritage at Risk‘ register, which lists heritage assets deemed to be in danger from deterioration, damage, development or other threats.
When I contacted EH some years ago to enquire, I was told that the vast majority of Scheduled Ancient Monuments (SAMs) in England are lucky if they are officially inspected once a decade. Some are never visited officially, and many can go 20 years or more without any official inspection. Frequently the responsible body will rely upon reports from landowners, the public or police regarding any damage that occurs to a site. The response given to a Freedom of Information request to EH earlier this year shows that what I was told nearly a decade ago still holds true today (check some of the ‘Last Visited Dates in any random spreadsheet in the reply).
But now we’d like to change all that, with your help.
We know that many of our readers visit SAMs and other heritage sites on a regular basis, be it a local site that they’re familiar with, or a site that has been selected as the target of a day trip, or holiday visit to an unfamiliar area. All we ask is that when on such visits, you keep your eyes open for any evidence of Heritage Crime. What is heritage crime? Quite simply, as stated on the EH web page on the subject, it is “any offence which harms the value of England’s heritage assets and their settings to this and future generations”.
So how can you help? Firstly by taking note of any evidence. Pictures are always helpful. If you actually witness a crime being committed, the EH web page on reporting crime suggests phoning 999, but we’d say only do this if you will not be endangering your own personal safety by doing so. The first port of call for any crime will be the police, whether via 999 if a crime is in progress, or 101 if not (see the previous EH link above). If this all sounds familiar, we’ve previously highlighted these steps, here on the Journal.
But in addition, the relevant authority should also be informed, whether that be English Heritage or the National Trust in England, Cadw in Wales or Historic Scotland north of the border – see the contact links below.
It might also be worth recording your visit and any actions taken on one of the hobbyist web sites so that others can see what has already been reported – the Megalithic Portal has a useful Visit Log facility for registered users in addition to its site comments facility.
With your help, the integrity of many of these forgotten and threatened sites can hopefully be maintained, and any damage brought to the attention of the relevant people.
Useful Contact Links:
We’ve repeatedly expressed opposition to public guardians (including the National Trust) allowing modifications to monuments, even for innocent reasons. The fear is that there could be damaging copycat behaviour either at the same place or at somewhere completely different. This week there’s news that a poem in the form of a massive rock mural that the National Trust allowed the National Theatre of Wales to paint on Snowdon hasn’t faded away but has baked on – and will now take a lot of removal. National Theatre Wales has apologised and said it will rectify the problem. A National Trust spokesman expressed the opinion it was “a small issue” as it will soon be sorted out but we don’t really agree and nor do some others.
Elfyn Jones, the British Mountaineering Council’s officer for Wales said “We have sympathies for the artistic endeavors involved but what is left is no more than graffiti in a semi-wild landscape in a national park. It’s unfortunate to say the least” . In addition, a warden for Natural Resources Wales said on this video “I’m concerned that this will be here for some time but more concerned about what sort of message it’s giving to the public – that it’s acceptable to do this sort of thing…“
Bravo! That last point is very important in our opinion and something that neither The National Trust nor the National Theatre of Wales seems to have considered. So come on National Trust! You can’t say that you allowing artistic events at Snowdon (on what is supposed to be a protected site) and charitable brandalising of the Uffington White Horse (on what is supposed to be another protected site) WON’T have contributed to the next case of vandalism there or elsewhere. So how about desisting?.
by Sandy Gerrard
The Planning Inspectorate in Wales has recently rejected an application to erect three wind turbines at Bedlinog on the edge of an area containing a large number of multi-period archaeological sites. Most significantly the main reason given for the decision is the impact the development would have had on the historic environment. Indeed this concern is eloquently expressed so: “the introduction of very large modern moving structures into a landscape which had not significantly changed since the pre-industrial age would cause significant and extensive harm.”
Hooray. The landscape that is going to be protected is very similar in character to the one at Mynydd y Betws. Essentially it is a multi-period palimpsest some of which is scheduled. There are however also some important differences:
> The nearest scheduled site would have been 570m from a turbine rather than the 72m at Mynydd y Betws
> Three turbines were proposed rather than fifteen.
> The turbines were to be built on enclosed land near to the moorland rather than on the moorland itself.
> The turbines were to be built to one side of the archaeology rather than in its midst.
When the Planning Inspectorate considered the Mynydd y Betws proposal, where the impact of the proposed scheme was considerably more intrusive and damaging to the historic environment than at Bedlinog they stated:
“The turbines would be large man made features of far greater scale than anything which currently exists. However they would be, if allowed, by their nature a temporary feature with a permission for 25 years.”
“the effect on the setting of those Monuments within the site, whether they are burial cairns or more recent upland farmsteads, would not be unacceptably harmful.”
Hopefully this radical change of heart means that in just a few short years and on the back of the lessons learnt at Mynydd y Betws the desecration of irreplaceable archaeological landscapes is no longer to be tolerated. Certainly this decision should help those fighting to safeguard our heritage and should be warmly welcomed by everyone with an interest in our uplands.
There’s not much doubt the graffiti at the Millenium Circle at High Ham Country Park near Yeovil was deliberate – see here – as the words “Stoner was here” were daubed on one of the stones. However, 2 days later 200 miles away there was a different sort of incident at The Nine Ladies Circle - see here.
Is dressing stones up in bright pink material and causing no physical damage an act of vandalism? Especially if you do it as an “act of love and gratitude for their eternal being”? And you leave a note saying you did it as a response to previous vandalism there and you believe the Universe must be realigned”?
It’s a moot point but this chimes with one of our bugbears. Best not to mess about with ancient monuments AT ALL lest copycats do harm at another one. “No physical harm” and “in a good cause” doesn’t make it OK (National Trust at hill figures please note!) Simple really!
Well OK it’s a false headline, she was actually fined €600 for stubbing out a cigarette on the pristine beach of Alghero in Sardinia but it reminded us that we hadn’t finished ranting about how we British allow Stonehenge to be disrespected. Compare and contrast her cigarette stub with this…..
How did we sleepwalk into a position where we tolerate treating our national icon in that way in full view of the rest of the world? On one day of the year only (no-one would dream of dropping a molecule of litter there on any of the other 364). There has to be a way to stop it and it’s clearly up to those who say they respect Stonehenge most to come up with a clear, practical proposal to achieve it. (Clue: numbers!)
Update 1 September 2014
EH has just announced the date for the next few Round Table meetings. Believe it or not there will be nine of them before next year’s summer solstice…..
Thu 2 October 2014
Thu 6 November 2014
Thu 4 December 2014
Thu 8 January 2015
Thu 5 February 2015
Thu 5 March 2015
Thu 2 April 2015
Thu 7 May 2015
Thu 4 June 2015
“Believe it or not” is an appropriate phrase because if they are like the ones held for the past decade they’ll only be concerned with minor matters or with endless, fruitless variations of “give us more access” followed by polite refusals (because agreeing to do so would conflict with EH’s statutory duty to protect). Not one of them, probably, will be concerned with the one thing that’s needed: restricting numbers so that adequate control can be maintained.
by Sandy Gerrard
A recent news feature in the Dundee Courier highlights a basic problem with the way that the destruction of heritage is viewed. The story concerns the discovery and excavation of human remains in Stirling. The cemetery is being excavated in advance of a housing and retail development with building work due to commence later in the year. The discovery is variously described as exciting and fascinating and clearly much new and potentially important information will be gleaned.
This much is not in dispute – it is excellent that the archaeology is being looked at and the remains treated with respect. At the end of the process the archaeology will inevitably have been destroyed and all that will remain is the record compiled by the archaeologists and the human remains hopefully reburied with the absolute respect mentioned in the newspaper. This is the inevitable result of progress and indeed many of our wonderful archaeological palimpsests are a direct result of our understandable need to change our surroundings. So would it not be more honest to admit that sometimes the past must be sacrificed in the interest of the present and future. In Stirling the spin put on the destruction of a small part of the city’s heritage takes some beating. According to one of their councillors:
“The development of this key city centre site is clearly important, but it is also important that we preserve and protect the city’s rich past in the way that is happening now in the excavation phase of the project.”
It is difficult to understand how the complete destruction of heritage can ever be remotely described as preservation and protection. Taking this approach to its logical conclusion Stirling’s rich past would be best served by destroying it all but making sure to place the artefacts in a museum and the records in an archive. The idea that destruction can ever be seen as a way of preserving and protecting our heritage is one that needs to be challenged at every opportunity. Our understanding can certainly be enhanced by destruction, but every time a site is destroyed tangible remains are lost and the chance to learn more using enhanced investigative techniques in future has also vanished. We need to face this reality and stop hiding behind the idea that somehow because we have made a record of what was there that is somehow miraculously preserved and protected – it is NOT, its gone and its gone for ever.