It’s exactly a year since PAS got the begging bowl out. They probably wish they hadn’t for only 22 people have contributed and the total is only £901. Not all of the contributors were detectorists (there’s us for a start!) and we reckon probably just 18 detectorists out of 10,000 have given anything at all.

Since the very existence of PAS is an acknowledgment that metal detecting does damage the archaeological record, the figures seem to be a particularly spectacular failure of an attempt to apply the “polluter pays” principle. Particularly so given that every detectorists at every farm gate declares their undying support for the PAS whereas 70% of them fail to report all their finds to PAS and 99.5% of their clubs don’t  make reporting to PAS compulsory.

Actually, it’s not just unacceptable, it’s a scandal. On Thursday Simon Jenkins in the Guardian called for the restoration of war damaged monuments in Syria, saying “we can redress the murder of memories”. In Britain the murder of memories caused by the mass failure to report metal detecting finds is utterly impossible to redress. Instead, ten thousand British detectorists have deigned to mitigate it at a rate of only about 8p each per year.

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Geraint Davies MP

On 13 July, Geraint Davies MP introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the Commons to make provision for the safeguarding of standards of environmental protection derived from European Union legislation after the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

The UK Environmental Protection (Maintenance of EU Standards) Bill 2016-17 expands upon those areas of environmental protection with respect to water, air, soil, flood protection, and climate change. It is expected to have its second reading debate on Friday 28 October 2016.

The heritage community will be especially keen to know whether it will include aspects of cultural heritage, as currently provided for in EU Directives on Environmental Impact Assessment.

From The Heritage Journal, 27 July 2005 :

Heritage Action welcomes the news that the A303 improvement scheme that threatened loss of archaeology and further intrusion into the surroundings of Stonehenge has been withdrawn. However, we are concerned that other options will leave the entire WHS site fragmented by expanded approach roads that will cut into the heritage landscape of the Stonehenge complex and the archaeology it contains.

ICOMOS, the International Council on Monuments and Sites, has also welcomed the news. They say: “We believe that the review announced by the Minister allows time for serious consideration to be given to alternative schemes for upgrading the A303 that do not involve cutting across the heart of the World Heritage site.”

Now, exactly 11 years later, it looks like the bloody bulldozers are back. The Government, English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust are effectively saying sod what ICOMOS said, we want new dual carriageways to be bulldozed deep and wide across at least a mile of the World Heritage Site.

If you’re outraged please sign the petition. (Incidentally, it’s to be hoped that if earth moving equipment is deployed at Stonehenge, none of it will belong to Mr Penny, the man convicted of allowing a Priddy Circle to be bulldozed. Why on earth would we think anything so crass  would be allowed? Clue: it wouldn’t be the first time!)

The Government says a 1.8 mile tunnel is all they can afford at Stonehenge. Conservation bodies English Heritage, Historic England and The National Trust have said that would be OK and they’ll support it, even though a mile of massive approach roads will have to be driven through the UNESCO protected World Heritage Site. Logic suggests they CANNOT be right to do so but now there’s something happening to suggest that their stance is not only wrong but foolish. Britain is talking about building an 18 mile long road tunnel between Manchester and Sheffield –  that’s ten times longer than at Stonehenge!

Pennine tunnel

Someone in the Government is telling porkies about what can be comfortably offered at Stonehenge. By the same token, supporting the short tunnel there on the basis that’s all that can be afforded is going along with – and aiding – a falsehood.

And here’s a funny thing: the latest rumour is that Brexit may mean major projects including Stonehenge are cancelled. If it happens it will put English Heritage, Historic England and the National Trust in a ticklish spot. Will they express regret about it, which will be ludicrous or will they welcome it, which will indicate their existing stance is ludicrous? We’ll see. They may yet come to ruefully reflect that supporting the Government is riskier than supporting what’s right – since the former may change whereas the latter never will.

For years we’ve campaigned for them to add a 4th and 5th definition of nighthawking to their Encyclopaedia. In 2012 they added the 4th (detecting with permission but concealing what you find) but they still refuse to add the 5th (lying to landowners about the value of finds).

But now, see the new Sentencing Council Guidelines on Theft. High culpability is indicated if someone: 1. abuses a position of trust, 2. deliberately targets the victim on the basis of vulnerability, 3. attempts to conceal or dispose of items and 4. there’s evidence of wider community impact. All four pointers are on show if you lie to a farmer about value and don’t insist he gets an independent valuation. That’s clear theft everywhere outside the peculiar world of PAS press releases and Glasgow’s encyclopaedia, where silence prevails.

But keeping farmers informed really matters, and the new Home Office Crime Prevention Strategy shows why: “There is conclusive evidence that crime increases when there are more opportunities to offend and falls when the number of opportunities is reduced”. Glasgow has ignored us on this matter (which has severe consequences for both landowners and heritage) for years but from now on they’ll have to ignore both the Sentencing Council and the Home Office. Maybe they’ll think again? We suspect they will, for they exhibit a willingness to tell the truth without fear in other areas, as shown by their recent superb site update:

“Collectors of rare and precious orchids and antiquities valorize their participation in markets that are known to be in quite considerable degree illicit, appealing to ‘higher loyalties’ such as preservation, appreciation of aesthetic beauty and cultural edification. ”

A blind spot regarding metal detecting theft sits very uncomfortably with that!

 

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Dear English Heritage,

I hear you’re looking for a Conservation Maintenance Manager at £38,000.

I’ve been reading about your policies, particularly your support for a short tunnel at Stonehenge. I think my previous experience makes me an ideal candidate for this vacancy.

Here’s me at The Great Wall of China.

eh recruit

If I’m unsuccessful could you forward this letter to the other organisations which share your conservation standards? I’m interested in The National Trust’s current vacancy for a Project Conservator or even Historic England’s vacancy for an Assistant Inspector of Ancient Monuments.

Regards,

Kung Fu Ken

Forget what you’ve heard, it is said that King Arthur, (the real one!), was born, lived and died in Shropshire!  There are King Arthur trails to real sites connected to stories surrounding him and one historian even believes he may have found Arthur’s actual grave in Shropshire  and wants English Heritage to investigate it.

No chance, we suspect. Inter alia, Shropshire being the “Arthurian County” would clash with EH’s promotion of a zero-evidence but money-spinning Arthurian myth at Tintagel! Dr Tehmina Goskar highlights the Tintagel issue perfectly: “Why were monumental artistic interventions chosen as a method of interpretation? Would EH countenance similar interventions at Stonehenge or at other multiple-designated sites they manage? If not, why at Tintagel?” Why indeed! And here’s a funny thing: they’ve erected a statue of Arthur at Tintagel based on a myth that he was born there, but at Oswestry Hillfort, (which is also in their guardianship) they haven’t erected a statue of Guinevere – who WAS born there!

Not that we advocate cheap tourist-trapping at Oswestry Hillfort, but we can’t help wondering …. if they had a bigger financial interest in it would they have been keener to protect its setting from housing developments? Incidentally, if they did go for brandalising at Oswestry, here’s a thought for them: being public guardians doesn’t give anyone a license to impose tat on the public’s assets.

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statue

On that day Historic England is sponsoring a conference celebrating 30 years since Stonehenge was added to the World Heritage List. Very nice. Except that it will include an examination of “developments in conservation”. Why?

Well, Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust are all making presentations. All three have been pushing hard for a short tunnel with entrances and new road infrastructure inside the World Heritage Site even though it  simply can’t happen unless the meaning of the wording of the World Heritage Convention can somehow be morphed to say that construction of massive entrance trenches inside the World Heritage Site is OK!

It’s to be hoped that a conference billed as a celebration of the WHS and the protection it has enjoyed won’t be used as a platform to suggest that profoundly damaging it is valid. It isn’t!

Dear Fellow Landowners,

Last Sunday a bloke offered me £500 to allow a detecting rally in my top field! I asked  him what he thought they might find. “Nothing probably” he said, “we’re only interested in history – but if any treasure comes up you’ll get half”.

Talk like that should trigger alarm bells for any farmer. The truth is that 99.95% of the saleable artefacts they find aren’t treasure items so I was being offered only 0.025% of what they found and they were going to keep 99.975%. In MY bloody field! Think I’m making it up? Look at the Southern Detectorists Group pitch to landowners. It’s the same!

I sent my little “history lover” packing. It’s ironic that he came last Sunday, Hen Harrier Day when lots of selfless conservation-minded people (including my grandson Simon) were out demonstrating against their persecution. Bonkers Britain’s countryside is full of contrasting groups.

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silas share

Silas Brown
Grunters Hollow Farm
Worfield
Salop

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VC Award.

“Unlike the ‘International Style’ of modernism, today’s International Architecture considers much broader issues: pedagogic requirements, topographical conditions, climatic-sensitive design, the size and needs of real communities, multiculturalism, genuine respect for the cultural concerns of city and world inhabitants, the respect for the world’s limited resources, and an advanced thinking toward a real Green Design and ecological sustainability.”

More here 

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