by Sandy Gerrard

Protruding from a hedge bank on a north west slope overlooking the River Towy is a large standing stone. It is described by the Royal Commission who visited the site in 1913 as “A shapely monolith, standing 122 inches clear of the soil” and they note that “Its weather-worn surface suggests slight tooling.” This stone is known as Sythfaen Llwyn Du and it stands at SN 67560 24440. In common with most standing stones no evidence currently exists to support its prehistoric origin.  Archwilio acknowledges its existence but provides no descriptive details and Coflein states accurately that its date is unknown.

This has not stopped the stone being added to the Schedule of Ancient Monuments. Despite the lack of any evidence to support a prehistoric date the stone is scheduled.

Fine, it might be prehistoric and if so it would clearly be of national importance but until we have actual evidence we and they cannot be sure.  This is important because it demonstrates that the schedule contains monuments whose importance is in doubt and in turn this must throw suspicion on the validity of the Schedule as a whole. Could this in part explain why despite hundreds of cases of reported damage over the past decades that not a single prosecution has resulted?  Indeed I imagine it would be difficult to prosecute if you could not demonstrate convincingly that what had been damaged was nationally important in the first place. Cadw’s reluctance to schedule the stone alignment at Bancbryn is even more incomprehensible when one considers that it shares one more thing with much of the scheduled archaeology – there is no definitive proof of its date but it is different in that at least there is plenty of evidence to support its prehistoric pedigree – sadly the same cannot be said for many of the so called prehistoric sites already on the Schedule.

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Question: How can you tell whether this Scottish standing stone is prehistoric?  Answer: Ask someone from Cadw – a complete lack of evidence won’t be an obstacle to their deliberations.

Question: How can you tell whether this Scottish standing stone is prehistoric?
Answer: Ask someone from Cadw – a complete lack of evidence won’t be an obstacle to their deliberations.

 

The deputy Prime Minister has just said he wants the Government to sanction plans to rebuild the A303 before the next election. Since the 3 options just published for the Stonehenge section consist of 2 versions of a short tunnel plus an unrealistic northern bypass – and no long tunnel – it seems likely that what he is effectively pressing for is a short tunnel. As for the timing, he says he very much hopes we can see “diggers in the ground” well before 2017/18.
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Hindhead

Here are a couple of questions about what’s some would see as a looming World Heritage Scandal:
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First, we previously wrote to English Heritage asking what they meant when they said they’d argue for the tunnel “with all our strength” - a long one or a short one? In April they replied:
It is not possible to comment on this, or provide documentation that supports a decision regarding which scheme English Heritage would support, for the simple reason that we have not yet been presented with scheme options to advise upon. When DfT presents us with their potential scheme options, then we will be able to advise upon their heritage impacts and relative merits.
Well, the options have now been published (sans a “long tunnel”) and the Stonehenge Alliance, for one, has made a formal response. Will English Heritage now clarify their position and will they, like the Stonehenge Alliance has done, call for the “long tunnel” option to be reinstated as an option on the grounds that the other options are hugely damaging to the World Heritage Site they are charged with protecting?
(If you’re an EH member, or just interested, you might care to ask them yourself –  http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/about/contact-us/ )
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Second, there’s a nasty rumour that the National Trust might reverse its previous opposition to a short tunnel (bearing in mind that this time it won’t involve any digging on that portion of the World Heritage Site that’s theirs.)
(If you’re an NT member, or just interested, you might care to ask them yourself – http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/contact-us/. )
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Alternatively, the Campaign for Better Transport (a member of the Stonehenge Alliance, alongside the Ancient Sacred Landscape Network, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, Friends of the Earth, and RESCUE: The British Archaeological Trust) has issued this plea:
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 If a new dual carriageway is to be built, then the Stonehenge Alliance believes that a minimum tunnel length of 4.5km is what is needed to avoid further damaging the Site. It would show that the Government is serious about looking after our heritage and what makes Britain special.
If you agree that Stonehenge is special, you might like to support our call by writing to the Secretary of State, asking that if a new road is going to be constructed, it should be in a tunnel at least 4.5km long.  Thank you.

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O Canada.

So why have we gone all Canadaphile? Well, it’s because they’re so refreshingly keen to protect Canada – see above. And they really mean it, for look at this ! Doesn’t that sound great?!  Two Americans targeting Canada’s archaeological sites for a populist, far from professional reality show and Canada’s archaeologists stepping in and saying no, you can’t do that without an archaeologist being present! Basically they’re saying Canada’s buried heritage belongs to everyone, not two people. As one of them puts it: We need accountability and we need an on-site archeologist appointed by the province and for the treasure hunters to cover the cost.

Meanwhile, back in Britain, not two but hundreds of Americans target our archaeological sites annually without archaeologists being present (they come on organised detecting holidays specifically catering for them) and other detectorists from scores of countries across the globe attend detecting rallies here, also without archaeologists present. (One wonders just how much of a United Nations gathering the recent archaeologist-free rally to remove objects from the site of Weyhill Fair was?!) And of course relentlessly, week after week, thousands and thousands of British people are out (legally) targeting (unprotected) archaeological sites either in groups or on their own without an archaeologist being involved or even informed.

But have you heard lots of British archaeologists demanding “We need accountability, we need on-site archeologists and we need treasure hunters to cover the cost”?  Nor me. Canada stands on guard for its buried heritage. Britain doesn’t.

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milton.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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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 videoI’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

Standing on the side of a narrow Carmarthenshire country lane at SN 67062 22452 is a solitary stone. It was visited by the Royal Commission on 26th June 1913 and their report notes that “It is a very shapely stone” and that it had been broken but repaired. Sadly Archwilio fails to mention this monument despite it being scheduled as CM155 “Bryngwyn Standing Stone”. This stone might well have been erected in prehistoric times, but without evidence to support this assertion it would seem unwise to ignore other possibilities. The stone stands beside a road and therefore could have been erected as a waymarker when this route was first established. Indeed either possibility would on the face of it appear to have equal credence, although the relatively unweathered nature of the stone may favour the latter.

Certainly a standing stone but what evidence do Cadw have that it was erected in prehistoric times?

Certainly a standing stone but what evidence do Cadw have that it was erected in prehistoric times?

The important thing is that we cannot be certain that this stone is prehistoric or post-medieval – we have no evidence. Despite this the stone is scheduled as a prehistoric standing stone. By contrast at Bancbryn where there is oodles of evidence of the type usually considered to support a prehistoric date Cadw have chosen to hide behind the excuse that there is “insufficient evidence”. Thank goodness Cadw are not responsible for our courts otherwise those with no evidence against them would be readily convicted whilst those with plenty would be acquitted – a frightening thought. Cadw need to accept that either evidence is needed or it is not. It seems incongruous in this age that they can sometimes insist on evidence being needed whilst on occasions they are happy to schedule with no evidence whatsoever. I wonder where they stand legally on this?

Solitary standing stones could be of any date. This standing stone looks and feels prehistoric but was recently erected as part of car park landscaping works.

Solitary standing stones could be of any date. This standing stone looks and feels prehistoric but was recently erected as part of car park landscaping works.

Regular readers will know that for years we’ve been worrying that the Government will impose a cheap short tunnel (with damaging cuttings at each end) on the Stonehenge World Heritage Site – and thus go back to the solution opposed by almost every archaeological and heritage organisation but cancelled only because of the credit crunch. Now it looks as if this highly damaging spectre has risen again with two short tunnel options being discussed, with the only other option said to be a northern bypass. (The latter sounds so impractical, disruptive, damaging and expensive it’s hard to believe anyone is serious about it. Could it be a mere “Aunt Sally” option, set up to be universally rejected to give the impression the public has been involved in a choice?)

We know there is a traffic problem and a solution has to be found to combat the misery of the A303. But here’s the thing: last time, nearly everyone said the short tunnel option was unacceptable. How then can it now be acceptable, particularly when Professor Vince Gaffney and others have now discovered hundreds of new features within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site? How would access roads to a short tunnel be fitted between those?

Here is a letter just sent to the Government by the Stonehenge Alliance:

THE STONEHENGE ALLIANCE

From the Chairman, George McDonic, MBE, BL, DIPLTP, FRTPI, DPA, FFB
To  The Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP,  Secretary of State for Transport
Sent by email on 3 October, 2014

Dear Secretary of State,

Proposals for the A303 at Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Alliance* is a group of non-Government organisations and individuals originally formed in 2001 which maintains a watch over any major new development that would adversely impact on the World Heritage Site (WHS). We are writing to request your intervention in the current process concerning proposed road improvements affecting the site.

The A303 is currently one of six identified road corridors subject to feasibility studies to examine possible improvements. It is most regrettable that this process has focused on road improvements rather than on considering more sustainable transport alternatives.  We have grave concerns about the impacts that the proposed road options might have on the WHS.

Stonehenge is an iconic symbol of Britain’s past people and culture.  It is a significant draw both nationally and internationally and important culturally and economically. Yet as important as the Stones are, it is their context, the surrounding landscape, which helps make them so special. This is recognised in the designation of the Stonehenge WHS which covers nearly 27 square kilometres. The importance of the surrounding landscape was highlighted in the recent BBC TV Operation Stonehenge series which identified numerous new sites in the wider WHS area.

At the last Corridor Feasibility Study Reference Group, a bored tunnel between 2.5 and 2.9km long as well as a northern trunk road diversion, were proposed for the A303 at Stonehenge for further investigation, while a request for a long bored tunnel of at least 4.5km to be costed was dismissed outright. All of the options now under consideration for the A303 at Stonehenge could inflict severe and irreversible damage upon the WHS and its setting and might well lead to the WHS being considered for the World Heritage in Danger List.  A longer tunnel would avoid this.

The current approach appears to be pursuing options contrary to the National Planning Policy Framework and at odds with advice from UNESCO and, notably, the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) in its Guidance on Heritage Impact Assessments for Cultural World Heritage Properties (2011).

We urge you to intervene in the study to ensure that a long bored tunnel of at least 4.5km (for which Highways Agency drawings were done c.2001) be examined and costed alongside the shorter tunnel option already put forward by the Corridor Feasibility Study Reference Group. There is real concern about the haste in which the study is being progressed and we request that greater time for consultation and engagement is taken in order to safeguard this iconic cultural asset.

I look forward to your reply.
Yours sincerely,
George McDonic, Chairman, the Stonehenge Alliance

Copies to:  Baroness Kramer, Minister of State for Transport,
Rt. Hon. John Hayes MP, Minister for Roads,
Julian Glover, Special Adviser,
Mary Creagh MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport,
Richard Burden MP, Shadow Minister for Roads,
John Glen, MP for Salisbury,
Claire Perry, MP for Devizes,
Sir Simon Jenkins, Chairman, The National Trust,
Dame Helen Ghosh, Director General,The National Trust,
Simon Thurley, Chief Executive, English Heritage,
Susan Denyer, Secretary, ICOMOS-UK,
Petya Totcharova, Head of Europe and North America Unit, UNESCO World Heritage Centre,
Dr Mike Heyworth, Director, Council for British Archaeology,
Alistair Sommerlad, Chairman, Stonehenge and Avebury WHS Partnership Panel

Last Sunday the archaeological record of Weyhill Fair was damaged (legally) by an unstructured detecting rally (sans archaeological input or presence). See here.  Prompted by that, this week we submitted a formal proposal to English Heritage for the site to be scheduled. For them to do that it would need to be a place which includes deliberately created elements, which it is, and be at risk of damage which it is. It also would have to be of national importance according to set DCMS criteria. So is it of national importance? Well, here’s how it measures up to the criteria:

  • Extent of survival – partial building survival above ground, extensive artefact survival below ground.
  • Current condition – pretty good, evidently.
  • Rarity – extreme – because it’s the best of its type.
  • Representivity, either through its range of features or because of its exemplary importance – inarguably excellent on both counts
  • Importance of the period to which the monument dates – it extends over the whole of English history and probably into prehistory so the “period” is extremely important.
  • Fragility – Extreme - if  further artefact hunting rallies are allowed.
  • Connection to other monuments, or group value – as said above, it’s the very best of its type.
  • Potential to contribute to our information, understanding and appreciation – massive. Who could possibly deny it?
  • Extent of documentation enhancing the monument’s significance, whether through related archival material or through the fruits of subsequent research – what makes this place so precious  is the massive potential for future documentation and research.

We recall that a few years ago two fields near the Roman site of Durobrivae (Water Newton) were subject to emergency scheduling a few days in advance of a detecting rally. Unlike Weyhill those fields didn’t conform with many of the above criteria so the case for scheduling Weyhill seems mighty strong. This is a really important issue. A major asset is in need of protection and we hope support for that is forthcoming from both the public and professionals.

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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Have you been keeping an eye on our Events Diary (see the link on the left)? You should. Here are a couple of things you could have missed this month if you haven’t ….

Tuesday, October 7   8:00pm

 Talk: Excavations in the Iron Age and Roman town of Silchester and the origins of towns in Britain
When Tue, October 7, 8:00pm – 9:30pm
Where Letchworth Free Church, Gernon Road, Letchworth, Herts (map)
Description ‘Excavations in the Iron Age and Roman town of Silchester and the origins of towns in Britain’, by Professor Michael Fulford, CBE, FBA, FSA, Department of Archaeology, University of Reading. This will be a public lecture for which an admission charge will be made, with a reduced rate for NHAS members. http://www.nharchsoc.org/?p=467

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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