A short distance south of the scheduled cairn cemetery at Bancbryn are a pair of unscheduled cairns. These cairns survive rather better than most of the nearby scheduled ones and in September 2012 Cadw were asked why they had not been scheduled. Their response may surprise you:

“The prehistoric sites ….. were visited as part of the 2002-2003 East Carmarthenshire prehistoric funerary and ritual sites project. At this time, the condition of the sites were given as category ‘C’, on the following scale:

A = intact

B = substantially intact

C = damaged

D = substantial destruction

E = destroyed

M = moved

R = restored

U = unknown

This resulted in the sites not being recommended for scheduling – Scheduling recommendations for this project revolved around sites recorded as ‘A’ or ‘B’, or sites of a very rare nature. For barrows or cairns, which are very common throughout Wales, the likelihood of a damaged site being scheduled is greatly reduced.”

So, only intact or substantially intact barrows or cairns were being recommended for scheduling. There are not many of those around and certainly few in the Welsh Schedule of Ancient Monuments. After over 3,000 years most cairns have been seen some damage and indeed most of the sites of this type have suffered damage of one sort or another including the nearby Bancbryn scheduled cairns which bizarrely given the criteria being employed did make it onto the schedule.

Another site that appears to have been scheduled on the back of this project is Maes Y Grug round barrow at Nantgaredig which was scheduled in 2004. Remember only intact or substantially intact round barrows were being recommended for scheduling so one would assume that this must be a very fine well preserved example of the genre.

Sadly not. A detailed description of the monument together with a sketch drawing made in 1985 indicates that the southern half of the barrow had been destroyed by a railway cutting, the middle of the mound had been mutilated and the remainder was ploughed out. Whilst not mentioned in the 1985 report subsequent events indicate that a sewage main also cuts through the middle of what little remains of the barrow. Using Cadw’s own categories one would have thought this particular earthwork would scrape in for a “D” and yet it sailed into the safety of the schedule. Or at least that was the intention, but sadly according to the Dyfed Archaeological Trust, Cadw managed to plot the site in the wrong place. By contrast the cairns south of Bancbryn which survive rather better and form part of a rich prehistoric landscape were dismissed as damaged, commonplace and not worth protecting. Bizarre and inept scheduling decisions like barrows would appear to be “very common throughout Wales”.   

This cairn near Bancbryn survives comparatively well and forms part of a rich prehistoric funerary and ritual landscape. Despite this Cadw say it is not of national importance. Elsewhere in the county the severely mutilated barrow at Maes Y Grug was added to the schedule.  Weird decisions such as this must surely weaken the value of the Schedule.

This cairn near Bancbryn survives comparatively well and forms part of a rich prehistoric funerary and ritual landscape. Despite this Cadw say it is not of national importance. Elsewhere in the county the severely mutilated barrow at Maes Y Grug was added to the schedule. Weird decisions such as this must surely weaken the value of the Schedule.

Well, it happened.  See here  – Now hidden!

Weyhill Fair sorted!

Lots of good finds (wot a surprise!) but lots of complaints about too much iron on the site (that’ll be some of the History then!)
Also lots of complaints about fellow detectorists misbehaving (surely not, they are legally obliged not to aren’t they? No they aren’t. Everything is “voluntary” in Bonkers Britain!)

Oh and here’s a good one:
“unfortunately our FLO could not be with us because she was returning from her honeymoon in Italy”

Still, every one of  these 90 sensitive souls will still report everything they found, won’t they? And I’m sure PAS made every effort to send other FLOs to such an important venue, what with us writing to Dr Roger Bland in advance telling him it was happening and asking if anything could be publicly said or done!

Incidentally, if you want to read about it you’d better check out the link soon. The final irony is that soon these people will twig that just maybe they didn’t done good and the literate public can see so, and the thread will disappear, along with a chunk of the history of Weyhill Fair. Luckily we’ll all still be able to read about it in the Mayor of Casterbridge, albeit a fictionalised account!

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UPDATE 29 September 2014:  Rather than deleting the thread, further discussion appears to have been taken into a cyber cellar where 65 million stakeholders can’t see it. The last visible words on the thread seem to be an attempt to justify a farce: “Hope the charity is grateful”….

Maybe not if they knew the official Guidance for Organisers of Metal Detecting Rallies says:
“If the FLO is unable to attend, organisers should make alternative arrangements to have adequate archaeological presence on site throughout the rally”
…. but somehow I doubt the charity has been shown that!

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UPDATE 30 September 2014: And now our prediction that “soon these people will twig that just maybe they didn’t done good and the literate public can see so, and the thread will disappear, along with a chunk of the history of Weyhill Fair” has come about. (Although another thread, not mentioning the misbehaviour etc but jubilating about wotalotwegot has been left visible!). Bonkers. Britain.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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by Nigel Swift

Just announced: “For reasons that we need not concern ourselves with, the location of our charity rally on September 28th has changed. The new location is right on the site of the famous WEYHILL FAIR….. We have been given two fields totalling 60 acres, which I am assured by the farmer to be “undetected” they are split by one of the 8 drove roads…. Sites really don’t come better than this!

If true that it’s right on the Fair site it’s surely unacceptable? I used to pass there daily and thought of it as history personified: 750 years of almost continuous gatherings including the country’s largest sheep fairs (100,000 sheep sold a day at the peak), mentioned in “The Vision of Piers Plowman” (1326) and held on land partly owned by Chaucer (it being quite possible he heard some of his tales from characters at the Fair). Thousands turned up for all sorts of other reasons including hiring workers and all manner of entertainments – probably jousting, sword fighting, dog-baiting, bear-baiting, cockfighting and strolling minstrels. There were also Mystery Plays and mummers. By the sixteenth century it was so large it had an on-site court to settle disputes and deal with lawlessness and thereafter it expanded further to include a horse fair, cheese fair and hop fair. There were even said to be cases of wife-selling there as immortalised by Thomas Hardy in the Mayor of Casterbridge.

So the announcement is spot-on if you’re one of the lucky 90 artefact hunters: “Sites really don’t come better than this!” But what if you are one of the other 65 million stakeholders? Everything dropped on those 60 acres forms an almost unique whole, a continuous record of social and commercial interaction in one small place over seven and a half centuries and crucially, “undetected”! So it’s just crying out for a comprehensive archaeological field survey one day – including, by all means, the use of metal detectors, but conducted entirely in accordance with EH’s “Our Portable Past” standards for professional investigations so as to maximise the intellectual yield for us all. How can that not be a better option?

Yet instead tomorrow (Sunday) it will be dug over by who knows whom from who know where with a propensity to report amounting to who knows what, using no survey methodology but instead a totally random approach followed by irrational selectivity. So by Monday the site’s uniqueness will be gone forever as multiple holes will have been punched in the record and an unknown number of material and abstract components of  history will have been respectively quietly pocketed or destroyed and hence put beyond the reach of science. No doubt many will bring finds to PAS if they are there but of course that “mitigation” can only ever be limited at best and then only to the unknown degree that 90 randomly selected individuals allow.

So it’s a fact, isn’t it, that tomorrow Britain will suffer major damage to a research opportunity to die for. And not moan publicly. On Britarch for instance! It’s a bloody shame really. I’m no archaeologist, just a no-account amateur, but I know when something irreplaceable is being needlessly destroyed. Weyhill Fair was more than three times as old as the United States of America and is the last place for this crass British spectacle. It’s scandalous. I’m left with two angry thoughts:

1.  How much more would we know about the past if someone had stood up to the barrow-digging vicars?

2. If PAS’s alleged millionth find had come from Weyhill would it have been trumpeted? I think not.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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Volunteers are being sought to help complete the building of a stone circle at Brockholes Nature Reserve, East Lancashire.

Five large stones have already been moved to a view point overlooking the reserve, Two of them were moved up the hill by a dozen volunteers who also dug holes and secured them in place. Also, “The Pendle Stone” has been transported from Nick of Pendle by the County Council (can anyone supply further information on this?)

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Brockholes.

Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright said: “While we are organising the main events on specific days in the calendar, it would be good to get voluntary groups involved. It is hard work but the more people we get involved the easier it is. It is also a great sense of achievement when you get the stones upright and in the ground.”

Senior Conservation Officer John Lamb said: “We are looking to have 13 stones in place by the winter solstice on December 21. We will be moving more stones on November 2 and December 21, but we really need groups of volunteers to help us on other days.”

Anyone willing to help can contact John at 01772 324129.

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[ Image and story from Lancashire Telegraph ]

by Sandy Gerrard

Standing next to enclosed land on Mynydd Illtyd at NGR SN 97599 26513 is a small standing stone which Cadw added to the Schedule of Ancient Monuments in 1996. Both the Royal Commission and Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust consider that it is more likely to be an historic boundary stone and interestingly there is absolutely no evidence to support the purported prehistoric date.  Despite this, the stone has been scheduled as a prehistoric standing stone.  At Bancbryn the lack of consensus was seen as a reason for not scheduling the stone alignment, but here such a lack of agreement was not seen as an obstacle. The haphazard way in which monuments are added to the schedule should be a cause for concern.

One would have thought that evidence of some sort to support the identification of a monument would be needed before it was added to the Schedule. Cadw have publicly stated that sites with insufficient evidence cannot be added to the schedule, but it would appear that those with no evidence do not present such a problem. The standing stone on Mynydd Illtyd clearly stands at the intersection of four historic routeways and is situated on the edge of a holloway which appears to have been formed after the adjacent field boundary was erected.  The position of this stone relative to the hollow, the trackways and indeed nearby field boundary provides it with a clear historic context and explanation – a waymarker. Without any prehistoric evidence to contradict this obvious interpretation it is difficult to understand why Cadw felt that there was sufficient evidence to schedule this stone.

By contrast at Bancbryn Cadw were initially happy to endorse the idea that the stones were waymarkers despite the demonstrated absence of any track or road. Why was the waymarker explanation happily endorsed when no track was present but dismissed when there are four and they all lead straight to the stone? Very odd indeed.

The stone stands on the edge of an historic holloway. This relationship strongly supports an historic date. Elsewhere stones placed beside holloways or other routes are seen as historic – so why is this one seen by Cadw as prehistoric?

The stone stands on the edge of an historic holloway. This relationship strongly supports an historic date. Elsewhere stones placed beside holloways or other routes are seen as historic – so why is this one seen by Cadw as prehistoric?

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wo historic trackways converge on the stone from the south.  The stone clearly marks the intersection of four separate routes and on the basis of available evidence it is most likely to be a waymarker.

Two historic trackways converge on the stone from the south. The stone clearly marks the intersection of four separate routes and on the basis of available evidence it is most likely to be a waymarker.

The schedule is supposed to include only nationally important archaeology and clearly if dubious sites are being included this must surely undermine the value of the Schedule as a whole. An inconsistent and inaccurate schedule will clearly undermine its integrity and as a consequence render it worse than inadequate. My experiences at Bancbryn first alerted me to serious issues with the way in which nationally important heritage is safeguarded in Wales. I had hoped that perhaps this was an isolated instance, but sadly this would seem not to be so. The Schedule is so crammed full of mistakes, contradictions and inconsistencies it is a wonder that Cadw can fulfil their statutory duties at all.

Cheer up, Spring is here!

Here’s how they celebrated Spring Equinox at “The Henge”, Australia, “a Stone Circle formed as an artistic circle for the enjoyment of its admirers and passers by. Built by Robbie & Tracey Wallace”

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SPRING EQUINOX

Detectorists fear a new detecting sitcom will “belittle” what they do and portray their hobby as “dysfunctional“. Heaven help Channel 4 if it does, for just look what detectorists have said about us in the last 2 weeks:

“Sad and lonely Luddites ….second-rate, down-market, repugnant, malicious, ignorant, hare-brained nutters and psychos…..wilfully ill-informed numpties….. ill-mannered specimens of the human race, guilty of gangrenous propogandist claptrap…. like predatory homosexuals….. loathsome, vocal, single-issue culture weirdo’s using cheap drugs….the kind of souls who pull wings off flies….”

So …. if you dig stuff up for your own benefit you expect (and generally get) kid glove treatment but if you simply advocate legal regulation of the activity for the public benefit you’ll be attacked in the crudest fashion imaginable!

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Heroic artefact collector rebuffs conservationists

Bonkers Britain right now: heroic artefact collector smites wicked conservationists.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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by Sandy Gerrard

According to the Scottish Government the economic impact of the historic environment to the Scottish economy is £2.3 billion annually. I am not sure how the figure was calculated but it must have some basis in fact. Heritage is important for a whole lot of reasons but we now know that it also has a monetary value as well.

It therefore follows that any loss of heritage costs us all real money as well as opportunities. This should surely be taken into account when decisions regarding heritage are taken. The British Isles has a fantastic range of distinctive archaeological and architectural heritage which underpins our cultural identity and also helpfully ticks the money earner box.

Archaeology provides tangible economic benefits

Archaeology provides tangible economic benefits

We should take care of this golden goose and give heritage the protection it deserves. A healthy society appreciates it’s past, thrives on the present and plans sensitively for the future.

Last weekend,  a group of diverse individuals came together at the Rollright Stones, in Oxfordshire for the latest Heritage Journal Megameet. The weather stayed fine, if a little chilly at times, and a good crowd turned up from all corners of the country, including all the usual suspects. There was much discussion covering a variety of topics, many involving an appreciation of old stones, rock art, cave paintings, wildlife and the power (and use) of social media. And of course there were the stones to appreciate: The King’s Men circle, the King Stone and the Whispering Knights burial chamber.

'Emmet' gets up close and personal with the Whispering Knights.

‘Emmet’ gets up close and personal with the Whispering Knights. © Alan S.

A swirly, whirly King Stone. © Alan S.

A swirly, whirly King Stone. © Alan S.

Jane Tomlinson, the Heritage Journal’s ‘artist in residence’ created a very quick iPad ‘doodle’ of the stones, which given the light/screen glare and the time involved was considered an impressive piece of work by all who saw it on the day. For your delectation and delight, we’ve been given permission to reproduce it for the masses, below (click to embiggen).

© Jane Tomlinson

The King’s Men. © Jane Tomlinson

Some quotes from some of the participants on the day:

  • “Loved every minute of it, only wish it could have been longer”
  • “Great to meet old friends again”
  • “Such a shame we can’t do this more often”
  • “Even the kids enjoyed themselves”
  • “Such a lovely bunch of people!”

Planning for next year’s meet will begin soon – there has been talk of a possible overnight camp for those hardy souls who indulge in such things (and have a distance to travel).

We were sent these two pictures by Sandy Gerrard who is currently in Scotland ….. with the remark “Amazing the conclusions you can jump to if you don’t assess things in context….”

pic1

Not sure who or what he was getting at but they’re certainly interesting pictures. The first has all the characteristics of a prehistoric multiple stone row. However, the second complete with context shows that these stones rather than being prehistoric are grave markers within a cemetery.  We guess he is trying to say that disregarding the context can lead to all sorts of blunders. Whether it be stone rows or solitary standing stones their context has much to tell us and should never be ignored.

Grave markers and chapel (Teampull Eion) within the historic cemetery at Bragar, Isle of Lewis

Grave markers and chapel (Teampull Eion) within the historic cemetery at Bragar, Isle of Lewis

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