If you’re here you probably like ancient sites and want to see them fully appreciated and preserved. The Journal is a community resource for everyone that feels that way so why not join in and add your voice or images??

We’re always looking for contributions – news, views, pictures, you name it – anything that helps raise the public profile of these places. If you’re out and about over Easter and visiting an ancient site or perhaps attending a related event (you can get some ideas from our Diary of  Prehistory and Heritage Events ) and you feel you have something worth sharing why not get in touch?

Thanks! Enjoy the break. Most of us will be away but we’ll leave someone in charge of the shop for if you’d like to get in touch, particularly if you have any news.

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In the latest installment of our series looking at ancient monuments around the UK, Katherine (Cait) Range takes us to the wilds of the Peak District, Derbyshire, to look at the enigmatic site of Arbor Low. 

Arbor Low

Arbor Low, near Bakewell in Derbyshire, is often referred to as the “Stonehenge of the North”, and like that famous monument, Arbor Low has been a place of reverence for many generations. Situated on a hill with magnificent views over the Derbyshire countryside, the site cannot fail to impart some of the power and mysticism our ancestors must have felt when looking out from where we stand. And people looking up at the limestone ridge upon which the henge sits, couldn’t fail to be awed by the place of the gods, looking down on them.

© David Wilson Clarke via Creative Commons

© David Wilson Clarke via Creative Commons

Dating from the Neolithic/Bronze Age, the oval bank and ditch, with causewayed entrances at both the northwest and southeast, were constructed first, during the 3rd millennium B.C. The stones being added later, by about 2000 B.C. There are 46 large stones of locally quarried limestone, within the bank and ditch, along with 13 smaller stones arranged as a grouping in the middle (a feature called a “cove” and found only in major sacred sites). But the most striking and unexpected feature is that all of the stones are recumbent and there is no evidence to tell whether the site had been constructed with the stones laid flat or whether they had all been toppled at a later date. Archaeologists have not, as yet, found any evidence of post holes to provide a solid conclusion. One theory suggests that the stones were knocked down by early Christians, in order to drive out the sacred nature of the site. But there is no archaeological evidence whatsoever for this.

© Des Blenkinsopp,  and  licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.

© Des Blenkinsopp,
licensed for reuse under Creative Commons.

The Bronze Age long barrow of Gib Hill lays a mere 200 meters from Arbor Low. Gib Hill’s original construction was roughly contemporary with Arbor Low. It is thought to be a Neolithic oval barrow with an Early Bronze Age round barrow superimposed at one end, and was most likely the original worship focus, with the later, 1st phase of Arbor Low being the “new” ritual site for the surrounding community. There is some evidence that the 2 sites might have once been connected by an earthen bank. However, this may be a much later and more mundane field boundary. Around Arbor Low are dozens of barrows constructed in the Late Bronze age, about 1000 years after the Arbor Low circle. One of these was even built into the bank near the southeast entrance. It was excavated by Thomas Bateman in 1845 and found to contain several burials. Bateman also found a large burial cist at Gib Hill in 1848. In 1901-02, a human burial was found near the “cove” of stones in the middle of the henge.

© Stephen Jones via Creative Commons.

© Stephen Jones via Creative Commons.

To take a more mystical view, Arbor Low is purported to have many ley lines running through it. This is a nice, romantic thought but a line can be drawn between pretty much anything, depending on the angle. And while there may very well be fissures of energy around the site, the area is too dense with archaeological features and too many lines would be pure chance. This huge complex of burial and worship sites was in use for at least 1000 years. Clearly the successive generations saw and felt the power of their ancestors and their original choice of the site. To build these massive and magnificent structures, these had to be a people who lived with a great sense of community, co-operation, and spirituality.

ArborLowMap

For more information about Arbor Low, see the Arbor Low Environs Project website.

Check back soon for the next site in our A-Z.

The CPRE has issued “a wake up call for the Government”…..
“We are saying loud and clear that whatever their original intentions, the reformed planning system is not working. Local people are being disregarded, open countryside is being developed while suitable brownfield land is left unused, and still too few homes are being built. We have evidence from across England that the effects of current policies on the countryside are devastating, with the Green Belt, protected areas and, above all, our ‘ordinary’ but hugely valued countryside, destroyed or threatened with destruction. Our latest research into adopted and emerging Local Plans shows at least 500,000 new homes planned for greenfield sites. This could result in the loss of 150sq Km of irreplaceable countryside. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. Destruction on this scale is totally unnecessary when there are enough suitable brownfield sites for around 1.5 million homes.”  More here.

The National Trust concurs…..
“Councils are being “hustled” into allowing development on greenfield land by central Government” (their Director) and “the green belt is no longer sacrosanct …. At the present moment 150,000 applications are in for the green belt…. This should be absolutely inconceivable.” (their Chairman).  More here .

In stark contrast, the Government’s says:
“This Government values and protects the countryside” (Planning Minister Nick Boles).

That’s very similar to what they said way back at the time of the introduction of Section 79 of the Planning Practice Guidance …..

.

Lest

Depending on who you believe you may wish to sign the CPRE’s Charter to Save our Countryside HERE

,,,,,,

Wiltshire does a Shropshire!              [Image Credit: Montage: NSE 2014]

The above of course is a fantasy. But it’s interesting because the distance from the monument to the houses, about 150 m, is similar to the first proposal for the development around Oswestry Hill Fort. What would be regarded as utterly ludicrous and unacceptable worldwide in Wiltshire is being pushed for in Shropshire.  And yes, Shropshire County Council, “pushed for”. No-one should imagine it’s not obvious that for some people this isn’t a process, it’s a plan.

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Anyway, those campaigning to keep Oswestry Hill Fort’s setting development-free may enjoy Section 7.2 of the November minutes of the English Heritage Advisory Committee, just released. It was a presentation on “setting” and how EH’s guidance on the subject has been “woven into government guidance”. Their key points on setting are:

  • There is always a degree of subjectivity in assessing setting but EH guidance provides a standard framework and means of analysis. The Department for Communities and Local Government has accepted the approach.
  • A line to define setting cannot be mapped in advance of development proposals coming forward. It is not fixed spatially.
  • Appreciation of setting will change over time.
  • While visual impacts, especially views, are likely to be the most important factors, other elements may well affect setting.
  • Setting is not dependent upon public accessibility (but especially ‘popular’ views etc may be particularly important).
  • Designed settings may well be more important than ‘fortuitous’ settings but the latter, e.g. in many conservation areas, may be a major part of the significance of the heritage asset.
  • Setting has no significance in its own right: setting is not a heritage asset; it is not a designation.
  • The interest in the setting of a heritage asset lies in what it adds to (or detracts from) the significance of the asset.
  • Only some elements of the setting may have a bearing on that significance; others may be neutral.
  • Buried archaeology can have a setting.

We suspect it is good news for the campaigners in 3 ways….
1. Nearly all of those points can be cited to suggest development would be inappropriate, not the reverse.
2. EH have formulated a standard framework and means of analysis for assessing setting which the Government has accepted. Nothing could be more sensible. It means there should be no purely subjective, inexplicable or unclear decisions, whether by officials, councillors or Inspectors.
3. EH has already said the Hillfort is “one of the greatest archaeological monuments of the nation” and yet, as everyone can see, it’s setting on the Town side has been reduced so much  that it’s now derisory. So it would be SOME “standard framework and means of analysis” that enabled any official or councillor to successfully argue it ought to be even smaller! So bravo to EH for constructing a bulwark against impenetrable or idiosyncratic decisions.

That’s all the Campaigners have ever asked for or been owed, a fair assessment on the merits of the case. Nothing else.

Dear Fellow Landowners,

Farmer Brown and colleague randomly and selectively truffle hunting entirely for their own personal benefit.  (A renewable resource so a morally defensible pastime.)

Farmer Brown and colleague randomly and selectively truffle hunting entirely for their own personal benefit.
(A renewable resource so a morally defensible pastime.)

You’d expect a TV series showing detectorists incompetently digging up dead bodies(as one termed it) would be universally condemned. Yet many detectorists still haven’t done so and the overall hobby “verdict” seems to be settling down to a comforting “they were stitched up by National Geographic”. But the question is: “would bus drivers or bank clerks have been?”  It seems unlikely. Anyway, one of them is also excused on the grounds he’s well respected and has “many Youtube videos showing how to detect properly”. However, that’s not what his website reveals.

It recommends a  letter to send to farmers which contains not a word about reporting finds or the code of conduct together with a contract to get him to sign which also says nothing about those subjects, Tellingly, he also advises people to talk to the farmer “about history not treasure” and not to show him the contract straight away “in case it scares him”. Friends, they are YOUR artefacts. The ONLY “contract” you need is to assert that fact and that access must be on YOUR terms. The authorities have no right to have damaged your interest by advising you to sign anything else.

Friends, professionals clearly enjoyed a few days of fury over a telly programme but why aren’t they shouting permanently about the misbehaviour in your fields by huge numbers of people who fail to report finds and get you to sign contracts that benefit them, not you or history. You’re on your own about controlling that, the expendable victims of a failure to tell it how it is. Terrible, innit? If you doubt it, write and ask the Culture Secretary or PAS why they recommend you to sign a finds agreement and how it won’t damage your interest and that of the country. They won’t have an answer and won’t admit who  insisted on it being said as the price of their reluctant signature on the official Code but I think I know. In fact even my pig Tanya knows that. “Cui Bono?” she seems to ask with her come-to-bed eyes every time she finds a truffle.

Regards,

Silas Brown
Grunters Hollow Farm,
Worfield,
Salop

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More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting

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Junction Earthworks, Ohio [Photo by kind permission of Jarrod Burks]

Junction Earthworks, Ohio [Photo by kind permission of Jarrod Burks]

Last month many people in Ohio were understandably scandalised that their local Hopewell Culture monuments and their surroundings were up for auction and that some of the setting was being targeted by developers. So they launched a campaign, raised $375,000 from the public, obtained various grants and successfully bid for the land at the auction.

In total they bought the 89 acre earthworks tract, two separate tracts of forest (for which they were bidding against developers), and a third tract of river corridor along Paint Creek. The total cost was about $1.1 million at an average of $5751 per acre. They now intend to create a park and preserve and will be raising more funds for land restoration and stewardship, a hikng trail, and interpretive signs. See more here.

SOLD to the nice people who care for Heritage!

SOLD to the nice people who care for Heritage!

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If only the same could happen in Oswestry, but unfortunately the price tag there, just for the bit of the setting that’s being targeted by developers, would be more than 10 million pounds. Which explains a lot!

So, you’ve done the planning, taken your Go-Bag and had a wonderful time out and about exploring some ancient sites. If you’re anything like me, you take plenty of digital photos when visiting our ancient heritage sites. But what do you do with those images once you get home?

After a trip, a large majority of people will just hand around their camera, tablet or phone and let people view the pictures that way. Some selected pictures may get uploaded to social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. Most people will download the photos to their PC (often into the ‘My Pictures’ folder on Windows) and look through them that way. Many will take the camera card into a shop and print off selected pictures – the larger supermarkets offer this service these days.

But what if you want to review the pictures a month, six months or a year or more down the line? Could you easily find the relevant batch of photos? Could you identify a shot of e.g. a particular cairn, barrow, megalith or dolmen from all the others? With a little post-trip preparation you can organise the images from your visits, making them simple to identify and review.

Where was that? When did I go there?

Where was that? When did I go there?

First of all, a warning for the unwary: There are a plethora of applications available to organise a digital image library, for Windows, Mac and Linux systems at various pricing levels, which provide facilities for import, renaming, tagging, geotagging and other facilities, including full EXIF data editing. Some of these systems are aimed at the professional end of the market, with pricing and complexity to match. Others are free, but with a hidden ‘price’. I personally like Picasa from Google, but be aware that the licensing means that any images uploaded to their online web libraries will become available for Google’s use as they see fit. See section 11 of the Picasa EULA as an example. Other services such as Flickr have similar terms, so if control of your image content is commercially important to you, be aware of what you’re signing up for!

But assuming you have no immediate need of an online image library or cloud backup services, let’s go through what you can do to get minimally organised.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it's place.

A portion of my images folder tree. Everything in it’s place.

Location – First of all, decide where to keep the photos on your system. If your default ‘My Pictures’ folder is not too untidy already, this is as good a place as any to get started, but be aware that an image library can grow large, particularly if you take lots of pictures over a long period (I personally have digital images going back to 1995, nearly 20 years worth!)

Folders – there are lots of ways to organise the folders for your photos. I tend to a ‘tree’ approach. A folder for each year, then sub folders for each trip I take. The sub folders are named by yymm and dd if necessary, followed by an indicator for the trip – in my case the main county. Multi-day trips may be split by further sub folders for each day, or each site if it’s an image-heavy trip!

Downloading – transfer the photos from your camera/tablet/phone to the PC as soon as you can. There are various ways of achieving this depending upon your device, but one rule of thumb: Once the photos have been transferred, clear them off the device! There’s nothing worse than after the next trip having to sort out which photos belong to which trip, or downloading duplicates. So drop them from the camera once you’re sure they’ve been copied safely.

Image Re-Naming – Most photos are downloaded from the camera with meaningless numeric names – DSCNnnnn, or IMGnnnn or similar nonsense. A handy trick is to multi-select the files you wish to rename (Tile view is useful for identifying simlar photos) and rename them en-masse. Doing this, the files will all have the same name, but with a sequential number appended. A word on naming conventions – I like at all times to have the date that the image was taken in the file name. So for instance, three pictures of Stonehenge taken at midsummer may be named ’130621 Stonehenge (1)’, ’130621 Stonehenge (2)’ and ’130621 Stonehenge (3)’. If you’re working on older images, and aren’t sure where/when they were taken, the EXIF data held within each image will hold clues, and may even have the geotagging information to give you a precise location.

Tidying up – Finally, remove (read DELETE!) any photos that aren’t up to snuff. Out of focus, poor composition, or even just ‘uninteresting’ photos should be removed from your library unless there are *very* good reasons for retaining them. When showing your photos, or organising them into a photo-book as a permanent record to show people, you want them to think kindly of your photographic skills, so dump the rubbish shots!

Backup! – Now you’re organised, the final step is to make sure you have backups of your photos. Whilst cloud-based storage is currently flavour of the month, don’t forget to check the terms and conditions and make sure you’re not giving away any rights to your images that you’re not happy about. Also, be aware that online companies may withdraw services at any time, or change their conditions with very little warning, so make sure you have an offline back too if you go the online route. I like the Western Digital Passport USB drives. They’re small, draw power from the USB lead (so no mains lead needed), come in various capacities and are relatively inexpensive.

I hope this brief guide has been useful. If you have a different strategy for organising your own digital images, let us know in the comments.

The remains of a two thousand years old Roman wall (yes, Roman – we’re thinking of extending our remit beyond the prehistoric) in Winchester has been removed and “turned to rubble” to make way for new houses. “It’s desperately sad” said Colin Cook, of the Winchester Area Tourist Guides Association. “As far as I can see it’s gone away on a lorry. There is no possibility of rebuilding it anywhere else.” 

A Council spokesman said “preservation of part of the surviving remains of the city wall within the site is not possible” and earlier Professor Martin Biddle, a world-renowned archaeologist had said that so long as the site was fully excavated and recorded, he did not feel the wall was necessarily worth preserving. “Cities are living things” he added.

Indeed, but a 2000 year old wall? Couldn’t the 14 new houses have been built further out where perhaps a 1950′s toilet block or a wooden bus shelter could have been sacrificed to progress? Was there nowhere else where Winchester’s housing stock could have been expanded by 14 except in the heart of the city where houses  prices (and profits) are sky high? Was preservation of part of the surviving remains of the city wall truly “not possible”? It all seems a bit Oddwestry.

First a rich farmer took a bulldozer to one of the Priddy Circles….

Priddy bank destruction closeup

Then the local hunt posed on one of the nearby Priddy Nine Barrows hoping to see an animal running for its life …

priddycountryside

Now,  illegal off-roaders in 4×4 vehicles and motorbikes have caused substantial damage in the Blackmoor Reserve near Blagdon. The land is within the Mendip Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is both a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Scheduled Monument.    English Heritage staff have discovered deep ruts and surface erosion on part of the former lead and silver mining complex at Charterhouse which was first used in Roman times.

bbb

The lead mines at Charterhouse [before damage by off-roaders] – Ron Strutt, Wikimedia

Mark Harrison, policing and crime adviser of English Heritage, said: “Wheeled traffic, whether bikes or off-road vehicles, can quickly erode historic earthworks and can cause very substantial harm to irreplaceable heritage sites. We call on local people to be vigilant in reporting any such activity they may encounter.” (To which we’d add – and bulldozers and large groups of horses!)

zebra

This was done on April Fool’s day. It’s not that we don’t have a sense of humour, but wouldn’t it be better if public monuments weren’t used as public canvasses – even for a short time or without causing damage or “for charity”.

As we see it, each time it happens it increases the chances of someone uncaring or unhinged copycatting elsewhere to make a political, religious or “humorous” statement of their own in a way that’s physically damaging. There have been lots of “harmless” incidents, especially at hill figures, but also harmful ones and of course there’s been the recent incident where paint was daubed on the The Nine Ladies stone circle. It’s an obvious enough proposition,  the idea that all monuments should be promoted as sacrosanct, even from apparently harmless stunts. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if all monument guardians took that line and publicised it on their websites?

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