Following the National Trust decision to publish details of trail hunts on its land, Forestry England has done the same. Now, Englands largest private landowner and England’s largest public landowner both have the same stance.

When the Trust did it the number of hunts applying for licences dropped by more than half so it’s likely the same will happen on Forestry England’s land. It may be that more than a dozen more hunts will choose not to apply for licences.


Tranquillity restored to the woods ….


Have Forestry England been reading Walter de la Mare?

Hi! handsome hunting man
Fire your little gun.
Bang! Now the animal
is dead and dumb and done.
Never more to peep again, creep again, leap again,
Eat or sleep or drink again. Oh, what fun!


It’s 16 years since, at the suggestion of our much-missed friend Rebecca van der Putt, a diverse group of ordinary people interested in prehistoric sites met at an extraordinary place for a picnic.

Site of original ritual gathering. 28 July 2003

From that first meeting grew Heritage Action which subsequently morphed into The Heritage Journal which aims to promote awareness and therefore the welfare of ancient sites. It has perhaps filled a gap as it seems to have struck a chord with many people, both professional and amateur. More than 200 archaeologists have contributed to it and it has been followed by many thousands of people on Twitter (including Nelson Mandela!).

We can’t clam the Journal always says things that everyone agrees with – that would be impossible bearing in mind how many individuals contribute content to it but we can claim two things – first, that everyone that puts it together or writes anything in it has their heart in the right place when it comes to ancient sites and second that anyone with an interest in prehistory who reads it regularly is likely to find at least something to pique their interest. At least, that’s the aim. The guiding principle is to try to make it like a magazine, frequently updated with articles that vary greatly.

You could use the search box to read about the last black bear on Salisbury Plain,  Sandy Gerrard’s new insights into stone rows, the Hillfort Glow experiment, the policeman who spotted three aliens in Aveburythat the Uffington Horse may be a dog, or The Stony Raindrops of Ketley Crag …..



It’s because of stuff like this (from the Glossary of the otherwise admirable website, Keys to the Past): “Most metal detectorists are responsible, recording the location of the objects they find and informing the local museums or the Portable Antiquities Officer.”I

It’s a falsehood, a profoundly damaging calumny that has nevertheless been seeded into hundreds of unwitting newspapers and websites. The latest evidence it’s untrue comes from a survey by Paul Barford of the British antiquities on sale on EBay by UK based people on just one day last month: there were 13,825 finds on sale and just 27 were said to have been recorded by archaeologists.

It’s no wonder that the British public (unlike people elsewhere) aren’t concerned by the fact people from all over will gather today for a large detecting rally on Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier land “a mile as the crow flies from Salisbury Cathedral.” The PAS won’t be there, nor any archaeologist, just a “trained recording volunteer”, we wonder why, .

Wnat could possibly go wrong?

Update:  Ironically, see also this tweet made yesterday:

Archaeology Wessex @CBAWessex …..

“Our Committee meets today in the beautiful cathedral City of Salisbury”


It’s no secret that builders prefer to build on open land because it’s quicker, cheaper and easier than previously-used brownfield sites and the houses will be in far greater demand and hence will command higher prices.

That’s why it was such a bad idea for the Government to have been advised on planning matters by the big builders. Every town and village has been expanded, ostensibly to solve the housing crisis, but invariably the houses built have been mainly executive units and far beyond the pockets of local first-time buyers. You’d think that was enough distortion of reality for private profit. But no, at Coventry it seems that

“swathes of green belt in the heart of England have been earmarked for new homes for people who may never exist…..based on population growth predictions that demographers warn are likely to be over-inflated.” Analysis presented at the British Society of Population Studies suggested homes earmarked for open fields were being planned for “ghosts”, because there is no wider evidence of the sharp predicted population growth.”

The question arises, if true does the scandal extend to other places, and in particular to Shropshire, where Oswestry Hill Fort’s setting is being imperilled on the grounds that Shropshire’s other 1,345 square miles are insufficient to accommodate projected population growth?.

The last bit of building land left in Shropshire?

Lest anyone fears the desecration of our national icon is proceeding like clockwork, a couple of encouraging stories have recently emerged..

First, George Freeman, Minister of State at the Department of Transport has told Parliament “The estimated cost is £1.7 billion (or £1.92 billion including VAT)”. But who believes that figure is up-to–date and that it won’t escalate far beyond that, like HS2? Will we suddenly hear “Whoops, it’s twice or three times more than we thought so we’re going to have to review the project in terms of whether it’s value for money”?

Second: According to The Yorkshire Post Grant Shapps, who has taken over from Chris Grayling as Transport Secretary, has imposed a two page limit on information sent to him about the management of Britain’s railways and has told officials that submissions to him

“should be no longer than 2 pages with no exceptions and no annexes. The submissions should set out the issue and the recommendation. The Secretary of State will come back for more information as needed. He will pay attention to the font sizes and margins of the document.”

It would appear that “Failing Grayling” has been replaced by “Quick Snaps Shapps”! Hopefully it will only be a matter of time before one of the two page submissions he receives will admit that the scheme is ill-conceived and the cost is out of control!




ICOMOS-UK has just tweeted: “where should the line be drawn when it comes to building, for example, a wind farm next to a heritage site? Comprise seems to be the key. Food for thought from @SeaChangeConf and @HistoricEngland.

This intrigued us as we’ve often discussed the question, mostly arguing that wind farms should be built well away from heritage sites. We’ve not been alone. In 2015 Kate Mavor, when soon to be English Heritage Chief Executive, expressed similat concerns that too many wind farms were desecrating historic landscapes.
Still, as the planet warms we find the idea of compromise on wind farms persuasive. After all, they may do damage but mostly it’s not physical damage, it’s damage to the sense of place alone, and crucially it’s not permanent.
Compare the Stonehenge “short tunnel”, currently being promoted by English Heritage. There, the damage IS physical and IS permanent, yet just as the 4th Century Egyptian monks who sacked the temples proclaimed There is no such thing as robbery for those who truly possess Christ“, English Heritage is claiming “the damage is justified because we know it is.”

4th Century certainty on display in Wiltshire?

A story is going round that it’s only we who are concerned that not all of the Staffordshire hoard was recovered. It’s not and never has been. See the remarks of the proprietor of the local Brownhills Blog in 2012:

“Hmm. You’ve just bagged one of the greatest historical finds in decades – possibly ever – and you just wait until the farmer ploughs it again? For the cost of ploughing, you’d plough it repeatedly, surely? Comments below suggest plenty of willing detectorists to help out? Peculiar. Nighthawking is a real problem, BTW. I’d be quite concerned were our heritage to be purloined into private ownership and never see the light of day due to a lack of thorough searching. Cheers Bob”

And a response to him by “Warren” (probably a detectorist): “I popped over to have a chat with the detectorists, and they were not very talkative. All the one guy said to me was that they were doing a survey for English Heritage. i Noticed their detectors were of many different makes and abilities. There is no way that land is sterile yet, the latest detectors will give more depth and better results. i noticed a couple of the guys had XLT, which is a good machine but not up to the depth and recovery rates of the new machines.”

So we remain convinced that a 2009 excavation measuring 10 x 14 yards, a 2010 follow up excavation comprising 110 yards of trenches and pits and a 2012 survey using patently inadequate metal detectors will NOT have revealed all that is there. It’s not good enough, as better equipped nighthawks have known very well ever since. We shall resist suggestions we’re hysterical or ill-informed. In 2013 we wrote this, which shows who is well-informed and who isn’t:

“It has now been suggested that in 2009 archaeologists “used top-quality equipment to go over the area, which they use to find underground stuff in Afghanistan”. However, what both US and British forces were using at the time (and subsequently) were Ebex 420H machines which have little depth capability (mines are mostly at shallow depth) and are not recommended by the manufactures for use in iron contaminated soil or for finding very small targets (mines not being small targets).

So we remain of the very firm opinion that the subsequent launch of two machines with vastly superior depth capabilities and another with a much greater capacity to operate in iron contaminated soils signals a sky high probability that elements of the Staffordshire Hoard(s) have been stolen by nighthawks using equipment that is entirely superior to that which was employed in the original archaeological search.” [And “Warren” confirms the detectors used in 2012 were also inadequate.]

If you’ve ever read a detecting forum, you’ll know a huge number of detectorists say “my farmer’s not interested in seeing my finds”. It’s strange. Farming is now very demanding, surely very few hillbilly farmers are left? However, one of the Chew Valley Hoard finders may have revealed a possible explanation:



Not bothered by “a pile of old muddy coins“? Maybe. But what if he’d been told they were worth millions? We think it would be a different story and who knows, he may well have insisted they stop digging until the archaeologists arrived. In our experience, and maybe yours, dear reader, the average farmer is a lot smarter and far more cultured than the average treasure hunter else they’d be out of business, so why not?


Are there really a huge number of uncultured, irresponsible farmers? Has PAS outreach not reached them?


More Heritage Journal views on artefact collecting




Some of the inhabitants of the nearby villages, plagued by rat running, are clearly Highways England’s favourite people. Sir Humphrey can paint the short tunnel not as unjustified heritage vandalism but as a kindness to them.

To be fair, many locals see that. They understand that the rational thing to be lobbying for is a solution that helps them but DOESN’T cause massive damage to the World Heritage Site. But unfortunately the loudest local voices are not from them but from STAG, the Stonehenge Traffic Action Group, which is perfectly willing either to countenance the heritage damage or to say, Drake-like, “I see no damage!”. Their latest pronouncement says it all:

Of course! …. nothing needs to be done about the A303 past Stonehenge. At least that’s what Stonehenge Alliance and their associated groups, sycophants, and whom so ever would have us believe, in the same way that Hitler; by repeating the same lie ad infanitum, believed that people would inevitably accept it as truth.  And by the way…..the majority of their followers don’t live where we live.

To claim opponents of the short tunnel say nothing needs to be done is clearly ridiculous. But one thing they do have right is the fact that most critics of the scheme don’t live near Stonehenge. The clue’s in the name: it’s not “The Wiltshire Heritage Site” it’s “The World Heritage Site”! People everywhere have the right to call for the British Government to spend more money in order to provide a solution that doesn’t damage the Outstanding Universal Value of the World Heritage landscape. Implying they don’t, and that it’s a matter for locals, merely aids those who would deliver unforgivable damage.

A foolish stance!


September 2019
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