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

PRESS RELEASE 8th July 2014

01209 831718 07789600941 @giantsquoit @sustrust
see The Sustainable Trust or Carwynnen Quoit on Facebook
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IMAGE CREDIT: Jacky Nowakowski, Cornwall HES

The Sustainable Trust at Stithians Show
For anyone who missed our fabulous Solstice ‘Rock on at Carwynnen Quoit’, we are holding the last exhibition in this phase of the project next Monday.

To celebrate the Festival of Archaeology, the Council of Archaeology’s annual event, we will be showing new footage of the restoration along with a photographic exhibition of the project. Stithians Agricultural Association have kindly accepted us as one of their featured charities this year and we relish the opportunity to bring this project to a wider appreciative audience.

Visiting children will be able to make a pop up quoit card, a thaumotrope and a pocket book about the history of this 5000 year old monument, written in both Cornish and English. It will be a chance to talk about your memories of ‘The Frying Pan Field’ and the ‘Devil’s Quoit’ and hear about our re-creation of the famous 1925 picnic and future plans.

Pip Richards, director of sustrust said ‘We have been astounded at the amount of people who have shown appreciation for our work at Carwynnen. This field has now become a focal point for the community with its iconic megalithic structure. It feels symbolic that we have managed to restore one of the first man made landmarks during this time of recognition of Cornish identity. Thank you to everyone who has made this possible’.

 

As July rolls on, it’s time look again at the ‘Festival of Archaeology‘, co-ordinated once again by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA)  running this year from 12th to 27th of July, and preceded by this year’s Day of Archaeology on Friday 11th, where archaeologists from all over the world blog about what they’ve been up to, showing the sheer diversity of activitities in the archaeological world – it’s not just about digging!

DayofArch14

The CBA has been organising an annual UK-wide celebration of archaeology and heritage since 1990. The ‘Festival for British Archaeology’ grew out of ‘National Archaeology Week’ (NAW). Before that, the event took place over one weekend and was called ‘National Archaeology Days’ (NADS).

FofArch14

The Festival includes hundreds of special events individually organised and held by museums, local societies, national and countryside parks, universities, and heritage organisations across the UK. The Festival presents everyone the opportunity to learn about their local heritage, to see archaeology in action, and to get involved, from formal lecture sessions to hands-on archaeology to family fun events.

To this end, the CBA have once again updated their website for the festival, allowing searching for events across the country. The headline suggests over 1000 events are available to chose from, but the actual number from the search results seems to be down on my recollections of previous years. Running an open search on a region by region basis shows a total a little shy of 600 events, so unless the total (‘over 1000′) includes multi-day events such as museum exhibits, there is something wrong once again with the search algorithm.

The region with the biggest number of events is the SouthWest with 109 – no surprise there as I suspect it’s the biggest region – followed by the East Midlands with 73. I could find no results for Northern Ireland or the Isle of Man.

Looking at our main focus here on the Heritage Journal – Prehistory, there are 152 events listed across the country, which is a good percentage compared to previous years!

Once again, the range of events is wide, from talks, walks and excavation visits, through re-enactments, demonstrations and exhibitions to hands-on activities and family fun. So there really is something for everyone to enjoy. Why not take a look at the website and see what’s on in your area?

flintknappinga

by Dr Sandy Gerrard

On Mynydd Bach Trecastell, a pair of stone circles, at least one stone alignment and one cairn stand spectacularly on a gentle north facing slope offering extensive views over Mid Wales and the Brecon Beacons.  The stone circles stand close to each other and are very different in character.  The northern one measures 23m in diameter and includes 21 stones and five socket holes. The southern one is 7.9m in diameter and includes four uprights, three recumbent and a number of socket holes.

The Northern stone circle

The Northern stone circle

The site receives a mention in the Preliminary Statement for the Bancbryn stone alignment produced by Cotswold Archaeology in 2012. In this report  it is noted that: “An alignment of stones was also noted at Mynydd Bach Trecastell in proximity to a pair of prehistoric round cairns. This ‘stone alignment’ was interpreted as representing a former postmedieval field boundary. The reason for this interpretation is unclear, but appears to be due to the much smaller size of stones compared to the Saith Maen example cited above, and largely recumbent.”

The authors of this report appear to have confused the stone circles with round cairns. The stone alignment leads from the southern stone circle and is a long way from the nearest cairn. The stone alignment includes at least five stones leading directly north eastward towards the smaller stone circle. The alignment formed by the stones is also directly orientated towards the nearby cairn situated some 175m to the south west.

Detail of the five stones forming the alignment

Detail of the five stones forming the alignment

Cairn at SN 83140 30992. The line of stones leading from the southern stone circle is aligned on this cairn.

Cairn at SN 83140 30992. The line of stones leading from the southern stone circle is aligned on this cairn.

The reason for the post-medieval field boundary interpretation is certainly unclear.  All the other boundaries in the vicinity include a ditch and bank.  It is also difficult to understand why a boundary would respect the stone circle stopping as it does a few metres short.  The idea that it may have not been accepted as a stone row because the stones were small is interesting.   If one starts from the premise that all stone rows consist only of large stones then of course those with only small stones must be something else.  This blinkered approach has obvious dangers and here the result is that a line of stones leading from a stone circle in the precise direction of a cairn has been interpreted as a post-medieval boundary despite the fact that all the other boundaries on the mountain consist of a bank and ditch.

Post medieval boundaries in the vicinity consist of a bank and ditch.

Post medieval boundaries in the vicinity consist of a bank and ditch.

It makes no sense to me to imply that the post-medieval farmers on this mountain chose to devise a completely new way of building boundaries when they arrived in the vicinity of prehistoric archaeology and instead chose to place stones in a line leading from a stone circle to a cairn. Perhaps we need to embrace the idea that stone alignments can consist entirely of small stones in order to avoid further silliness. Why do archaeologists working in the South West of England not have a problem with this idea?

A line of stones

A line of stones leading towards a stone circle is usually interpreted as a stone alignment.

by Nigel Swift

It’s usually safe to ignore anything US detectorists say about UK detecting as their lack of knowledge is obvious. However, I’d like to correct a blatant piece of misinformation just offered to them by an English detectorist as I suspect it refers partly to us. He talks of “the dictum of archaeology’s ‘Hard Left’ faction” (that’ll be us no doubt, we’re often portrayed as commies or Nazis) “who promote the notion that all land, artefacts, and collectibles should belong to the People”.

Now if you’re in Britain you’ll know that’s nonsense as neither we nor anyone else advocate nationalisation of land or artefacts or collectables, but for the avoidance of doubt: we don’t advocate nationalisation of all historic artefacts! We don’t even advocate the nationalisation of historical knowledge – for the simple reason it already belongs to the public! All we want is for detecting to be regulated so that thousands of people stop stealing the public’s knowledge by not reporting their finds. How Hard Left is that!

And, until the law changes, here’s another crazy left wing idea: let reasonable detectorists join with archaeologists to declare that just as nighthawks are artefact thieves, so non-reporting detectorists are knowledge thieves – who cause far more cultural damage – and that neither group should be allowed into detecting clubs or onto the fields. Any takers? No? (There weren’t the last time I proposed it!) So Britain will no doubt remain bonkers and history-taking will continue on an industrial scale despite both sides knowing perfectly well it’s avoidable and profoundly wrong……

.

The two types of heritage thieves. Only in Britain are the public not told they are equally contemptible.

The two types of heritage theft,  one criminal and relatively small-scale, one legal and massive …….  Communist propaganda or the plain truth?

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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Heritage Action member Sue Brooke has been peeking over the garden fence again, and gives us this update on the Caerau Hillfort excavations in Cardiff.

Well the leaflet dropped through the door about two weeks ago. At the end of last week the local community magazine arrived, both with the invitation to ‘come and join the excavations.’ So I did.

I’ve written about Caerau Hillfort in Cardiff in the past via this journal. It was, you may recall, featured on a Time Team episode – one of the last in the final series made, shown in April 2012. It was actually also featured in one of the Time Team dig books. But since all this ended and the so called glare of publicity faded away it may seem like it has all been forgotten. Not so.

The CAER Heritage Project has been working constantly in the local areas of Caerau and Ely, (CAER is an acronym – Caerau and Ely Rediscovering). They have their own website and the usual Facebook group following as you would expect, but they are actually up there promoting their project aims of rediscovering the past.

Community excavations took place last year. Again this year, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, my triangular shaped field is the focus of activity for anyone interested either in local history or archaeology itself. I couldn’t get there myself last year but this year I found myself free for the first days of the planned dig, and since the weather has been so beautiful I accepted the invitation of ‘come and join the excavations’ and wandered along.

It’s probably best that you understand, at this point, that although I find archaeology fascinating and, having watched probably most of the Time Team episodes I viewed myself as something of an armchair expert. But I never ever wanted what I had come to think of as MY triangular shaped field to be dug up. I had researched this field, written thousands of words on it, drawn maps of it, walked up and down in it and generally did my best to keep it as a secret. Although local legend, if you like, was that there was a Roman Fort located up alongside the old church of St Mary in the ring-work, I had always believed it to be the triangular shaped field that would hold the biggest and, hopefully earliest secrets. I could bore for Wales on the subject of this field.

When Time Team visited I spent each and every day up on the hill, horrified at the goings-on. I never thought for one minute that this field would give up shiny swords or gold treasure but I felt it was important to the development of the local area in which I have always lived. This hillfort is quite literally over my garden fence. I wanted to know more about who lived there, how they lived there and why? For me it was, and still is, as much about the people as the place.

Caerau Sign

But here I am, on my way to go back up the hill to yet another excavation. It is a long and very steep walk up. Thankfully it has been reasonably dry lately so it makes it far safer underfoot. I arrived at the foot of the hill to find the excavations signposted. It’s actually a very pretty walk up and definitely worth it when you eventually reach the top. The gates were open to the triangular shaped field and just inside there were some gazebo type tents which form an information point.

Caerau finds

Some of the latest ‘finds’ are being cleaned up but they are displayed on trays and I was actually given some sherds of pottery to hold. In my hand! Cardiff University students are on hand to talk you though what they have found so far and it was really fascinating stuff. I know both project directors – Olly Davis and Dave Wyatt – from my early work with the group just prior to them forming the heritage project, and it was nice to catch up with them again. Olly walked me around the site, pointing out what they were doing and the significance of their very early discoveries. Olly explains things really well, not reverting to that dry academic way of speaking that you can often hear when the so called expert knows what he is on about but you simply end up nodding in bemused and confused agreement. Olly pointed out the various features actually in the ground, giving his early interpretation of them and setting them into a historical context that I, as a local historian with only a broad knowledge of history in general, could understand.

CAerau trench

I was shown around the various trenches that have already been put in and met some of the university students involved. It was really nice to see the whole thing being recorded on film and in pictures by a local resident. Various local people were on the site and had been included in the digging itself. Olly told me that there had been 30 visitors to the site the previous day and they were expecting many more. Local schools have been fully involved again with the project. Local children and young people will be attending the dig, in planned visits, during the duration of the excavations.

Caerau excavation

There are potentially some important discoveries to be made up at the site. Without giving away too much of the detail there are signs of some exciting possibilities in the ground that could hold importance to understanding early life in Wales. Back at the gazebo I was shown the geophysical results and the Lidar images that have been taken and these were explained clearly to me. There is also a large reconstruction drawing on display – again the work of a local resident – which gives a nice insight to how the site may have looked. There is also a booklet – free of charge – that gives lots of information on the previous work undertaken and some of the discoveries made.

Caerau booklet

I have to say that this ‘red-carpet’ treatment wasn’t exclusive to me. I spoke with Olly asking him if he ever got the chance now to get in the trench and dig – which, after all is what he trained for, and he replied saying that showing people around and interpreting the site took up an awful lot of his time. Although he did agree that not having his nose in the trench did allow him a better overview of the site as a whole. We may make a local historian out of him yet!

Having had a really good look around I was relieved that the trenches weren’t taking over the whole of the field. The trenches from the previous excavations were now barely discernible and I expect that these recent ones will fade back into the grass with time. The work that is being done will certainly help me gain a better idea not only of the place but of the people who lived within it.

What makes this heritage project just that little bit different is that it includes the members of the local community; it actually encourages them in, gives them a trowel and makes them get dirty! The key objective of this project was to:

Put local people at the heart of cutting edge archeological research, to develop educational opportunities and to challenge stigmas and unfounded stereotypes ascribed to this part of Cardiff.

I think, from my visit today that CAER Heritage Project actually does what it says on the tin – even if they are digging up my triangular shaped field.

So, I now share the invitation with you. Go and join the excavations. They run from 30th June through to 25th July 2014. There is a lot going on up there that it probably wouldn’t be fair of me to share in this little article – please, go and see for yourself. I may see you there – I’m going back tomorrow only this time I’m going to dig!

There is also an article about the dig on the BBC web site.

All pictures © Sue Brooke

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…..

 

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During my recent trip to Cornwall, I managed to finally visit a site I’ve had my eye on for some time: the remains of an Iron Age hillfort near to where we stay.

In 1870-72, John Marius Wilson’s Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales included in his description of Ludgvan the following:

“A ditched camp, called Castle-an-Dinas, and measuring 436 feet in diameter, occupies the summit of the highest hill, and commands extensive views.”

Whilst this may be factually correct, the hillfort is now quite difficult to see from the surrounding countryside, due in part to the existence of the upthrow of a large quarry to the southeast. However, once access to the hillfort has been obtained (see access notes, below), there are indeed wide ranging views to the North, East and round to the Southwest. Chysauster Courtyard House settlement lies 3/4 of a mile directly west from the hillfort. The hillfort itself consists of two concentric stone ramparts. A further slight external rampart of earth and stone can also be seen.

Borlase gives us slightly more detail:

“Castle-an-Dinas consisted of two stone walls, one within the other in a circular form, surrounding the area of the hill. The ruins are now fallen on each side of the walls, and show the work to have been of great height and thickness. There was also a third or outer wall, built more than half way round. Within the walls are many little inclosures of a circular form, about seven yards in diameter, with little walls round them of two or three feet high ; they appear to have been so many huts for the shelter of the garrison. The diameter of the whole fort from east to west is 400 feet, and the principal ditch 60 feet. Towards the south the sides of the hill are marked by two large green paths about 10 feet wide.”

The approach to the NW entrance

The ditch from the NW entrance, looking SW.

The ditch from the NW entrance, looking SW.

But this hillfort, the north entrance of which is still quite well defined (if somewhat overgrown in mid-summer) holds another surprise. Near the southeast rampart is what looks to all intents and purposes to be a small castle with four turreted towers. This is Rogers’ Tower, a folly built sometime in the late 1700′s by the Rogers family, who carried much influence in the local area. They owned Treassowe Manor, situated between the hillfort and Ludgvan Churchtown, and later moved to the Penrose estate just outside Porthleven.

The tower was built largely using stone ‘robbed out’ from the ramparts of the hillfort. The precise date of construction is debatable, but there is some supposition that the tower may have been used as a lookout point over the English Channel during the political upheaval which lead to the Napoleonic wars.

Rogers' Tower

However, although used by the family as a destination for outings it seems the tower quickly fell into disuse, and by 1817 was described as ‘now in a state of decay’. By 1859 this had progressed to ‘ruined’. In the 1920s, Castle an Dinas and Rogers’ Tower were included in Cornwall’s newly established list of Scheduled Monuments, and the tower was used as a lookout by the Home Guard during the Second World War. In 1960 some repair work was carried out, and this is commemorated by a roughly scrawled carving in the replacement pointing inside the tower. Further work was carried out in 2002/3 leading to the tower we see today.

Also placed within the confines of the hillfort, near to the tower is an Ordnance Survey triangulation (trig) point. The trig point was last levelled in 1955 (Levelling is the process of measuring the relative height marks across the landscape, and ultimately to a fixed datum – Mean Sea Level at Newlyn for the British mainland). Digital mapping has largely made such trig points redundant, and no doubt they will be regarded as heritage sites in their own right (if they’re not already – some enjoy scheduled monument protection).

A view SE from near the entrance, showing the trig point, the tower, and St Michael's Mount

A view SE from near the entrance, showing the trig point, the tower, and St Michael’s Mount

Access Notes:
The 6″ OS map of 1888 clearly shows a south eastern approach from the road at Inch’s Castle (now Castle Gate), but this has long been gobbled up by the quarry. A road 300 yards to the west now passes through into the quarry, but is marked as private property (and could be considered dangerous for pedestrians). There is a footpath on the road from Badgers Cross to Chysauster to the southwest, near to Little Chysauster farm but when I tried this route, the footpath was marked as closed ‘due to erosion’. Instead, I therefore elected to take a path from a farm shop to the east (just off the B3311 at Grid Ref SW491350), following the track northwest and skirting Trenowin Downs. At the first cottage, do not be tempted to cut across left, but continue on the track until a gate across the track. Go through the gate, and immediate left (now heading southwest and uphill) where the track dog-legs across Noon Digery. Continue uphill, crossing a stile where the track reduces to a footpath. Still heading uphill, look out for a stile on the left (approx SW482352), onto Tonkins Downs. This heads directly southeast again, and leads directly to the hillfort and the northwest entrance. Once through the causeway entrance, Rogers Tower can be easily seen almost directly ahead, beyond the trig point.

map courtesy of Bing Maps/Ordnance Survey.

map courtesy of Bing Maps/Ordnance Survey.

Sources:
Archaeology Report describing the remedial work of 2002/3

West Penwith Resources

The Megalithic Portal

All photos © Alan S. 2014

The Government’s Autumn statement will take place in early December. It will contain the results of the current feasibility study into ways in which congestion on the A303, including the section around Stonehenge, can be eased. It appears that there is a real determination to resolve the issue – perhaps because it has been calculated that many votes will be lost by not doing so – and it can therefore be anticipated that unlike previous studies this one will be speedily acted upon.

Hence it’s likely that a tunnel is well and truly back on the agenda and could actually be built, not just talked about.  So will it be the “short tunnel” rather than a long one? It’s a fair bet it will be for if the question was “will it be an expensive or less expensive one” no-one would be in any doubt about the answer. Yet no clues are being given. Indeed, English Heritage who are pushing for a tunnel “with all our strength” won’t tell us which tunnel they favour.

We’ve been repeatedly banging on about this for some time  – see here – but at the risk of repeating ourselves ad nauseam and for the avoidance of all possible doubt, a short tunnel will be massively damaging – so said not us but almost every archaeological and heritage organisation the last time it was proposed. It would be nice if they all started banging on about it NOW, and didn’t wait until December when the die is cast and the chances of changing anything will have all but disappeared.

Oh, and just in case the subject should suddenly be on everyone’s lips in early December (as we have a sinking feeling it may be) a tunnel that is slightly longer than a short one is still a short one, and is still massively damaging…..!

The heritage group who want to protect Liverpool’s famous “Welsh Streets” area has been accused by the City Council’s barrister of triggering a public inquiry by exaggerating evidence!

Yes, you read it right, a lawyer made the accusation.  A member of the profession whose whole raison d’être is to present a case in the best possible light on behalf of anyone that will pay them – in other words, exaggerate, understate or spin it in whichever direction is desired.  Not through conviction but for money! Faking it for cash, like a certain older profession.

Still, if the Law Society has decreed that the adversarial system is no longer appropriate and their members must now speak the unspun truth then hurrah, planning matters will be a lot simpler to decide  and there’ll be no need for pesky members of the public to get involved as justice will invariably be well served. Suddenly…. the noise from wind farms will no longer be always represented as somewhere between “minimal” and “acceptable”, housing developments will no longer be presented as attempts to bring unalloyed joy to the locals, developers will cease to be characterised as selfless community workers or patriots, nimbies will cease to be reviled as selfish, petty and anti-British and buffer zones will no longer be seen as too large however tiny they are. And heritage groups won’t be painted as somehow irresponsible for triggering something as unnecessary and awful as a public inquiry into a city council’s plan to demolish 271 homes!

And of course, lawyers will work for nothing and on the basis of sincere conviction. Like members of heritage groups!

Ambrose Bierce: Litigation is a machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

Ambrose Bierce: Litigation is a machine which you go into as a pig and come out of as a sausage.

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