The guardians of our national heritage take various forms.  In Scotland the lead body is Historic Scotland, whilst in Wales it is Cadw and in England the new Historic England (formerly English Heritage) champions all that is special about our heritage. There is a common held belief that these organisations are about protecting nationally important heritage. All three proclaim this loudly in their mission statements and it is therefore hardly surprising that most people believe that these organisations are responsible for *protecting* the best sites in their respective countries. Sadly this could not be further from the truth.

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All three organisations are actually responsible for enabling development and change within the historic environment.  All three are paid for from the public purse and rely for their very survival on keeping their paymasters happy. The results of this relationship are inevitable and from time to time we have highlighted here on the Heritage Journal some of the apparently bizarre and contradictory decisions these organisations inevitably make.

Recently we heard of a prime example from Scotland which illustrates our point admirably.

A proposal to develop a large part of a designated heritage asset (a battlefield in this case) was submitted and Historic Scotland responded as you might expect by opposing the scheme.  The result was that the proposal was withdrawn. Hurrah! – this how the system is supposed to work. The developers however subsequently tweaked their scheme and re-submitted it. Despite the fact that there were now more buildings and the area to be destroyed was exactly the same, Historic Scotland now concluded that the development “would not have a significant impact on the battlefield landscape”.

So what was so different between the two proposals to justify this meteoric change? Apparently very little and most importantly the impact on the heritage asset under both proposals was the same – a substantial proportion would be destroyed. So why did the piper change his tune? The success of this development was a high priority for the Scottish Government, which of course funds Historic Scotland.  It would be a brave piper indeed who ignored the wishes of their master…

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This story was originally covered by “The Scotsman” but we now understand that despite Historic Scotland’s acquiescence with the annihilation of a place they had identified as being of national importance that the developers themselves have since withdrawn the scheme.

A guest post by Dr George Nash, from the Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort campaign.

Most readers of this blog will be fully aware of the shenanigans of Shropshireland’s planning department, in particular the way they are handling the so-called SAMDev fiasco. As a result of their far from honest bid to develop housing around the eastern side of Old Oswestry Hillfort, Shropshireland’s reputation goes from bad to damn right bloody awful.

The campaign group Hands Off Old Oswestry Hillfort (HOOOH) has been entrenched in a battle to save the setting of one of England’s most iconic archaeological structures – Old Oswestry Hillfort.

The hillfort has been designated a Scheduled Monument (SM) along with the nearby early medieval linear defence system Wat’s Dyke. In addition to these two internationally important sites, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has identified over 100 findspots within the hinterlands including several Roman coin hoards. The landscape to the south and east (as well as within the central area of the hillfort) was an important World War I training area that belonged to the nearby Park Hall military camp.

One would think that such a cluster of sites and their mutual/shared landscape would be afforded some form of protection. However, according to Shropshireland’s planning supremos this is not the case. Indeed, without the huge condemnation from an outraged public and heritage community, Shropshireland would have sanctioned a masterplan development that would have extended eastwards from within 85m of the ramparts to the new A5 (the Bypass).

OSW004

One can almost forgive the landowner wanting to cash-in on the current ambiguous planning guidance – National Planning Policy Guidance (NPPF). What cannot be forgiven, though, is the murky relationship between Shropshireland, Historic England and the planning consultancy acting on behalf of the landowner. The fact that national guidance does consider setting as an essential factor in determining potential development (see for yourself – PDF link) seems to have been completely ignored by Shropshireland and to some extent by Historic England.

By the way Historic England (formally English Heritage) consulted on NPPF, prior to publication in March 2012 and therefore the situation should be clear-cut. Errr, well, not exactly.

When one delves back into the distant past, to those heady days of 2006 and 2007 when all this development malarkey around the hillfort kicked off, the planning process in terms of archaeology and cultural heritage appeared to recognise the importance of the surrounding landscape. So a geophysical survey and subsequent evaluation programme were duly commissioned.

Now at this point, one would think this initial process to understand the archaeological landscape would be straightforward. Alas, no, not in dear old Shropshireland. Of the 24 trenches commissioned, only 14 were actually excavated, all east of the old A5 – I wonder why? Of the 14, only several were actually excavated over known anomalies that were identified from the geophysical survey. One area of high archaeological activity, coincidentally within OSW004, was completely ignored. The results from the archaeological evaluation must have been music to Shropshireland’s planning supremos, the landowner and his rather expensive planning team.

But does it end there? Actually no, readers. Not exactly.

Enter stage left HOOOH, the campaign group which, playing by the rules from the start, has battled with Shropshireland’s planners for the past two years. Working with this group, we have tried to get a fair hearing concerning the many contentious issues which have clinched serial coverage in the local and national press.

One would have thought that this bad publicity would have provoked a reaction from the planners. Well, not surprisingly, there has been little, apart from a lot of misinformation mainly from a number of press statements from Shropshireland’s leader, Councillor Barrow, who appears to know very little about cultural heritage, apart from, say, the yogurt in his fridge.

In my experience, I have never encountered such an arrogant local authority that seems to think it is above the planning guidance laws of England (well, they are Shropshireland, so I suppose they can do as they please). Their shenanigans include an unbalanced approach to information uploaded on the SAMDev website that only supports the development; murky emails, exposed through Freedom of Information (FOI) between themselves, Historic England and the landowner’s planners; and the apparent selective release of the site promoter’s evidence including commissioned reports.

When one stands back and witnesses how and what information between these characters has been circulated, plus the various inadequate processes involved, one begins to realise that bigger things are afoot.

Certainly from an archaeological and cultural heritage point of view, the work so far has been shoddy at best and I suspect there is a clear intentionality to see any archaeology produce negative results (don’t take my word for it, look at the evaluation trench distribution undertaken in 2007).

As for the setting issues, this is even clearer-cut. Old Oswestry Hillfort is a Scheduled Monument, regarded as one of England’s finest Iron Age hillforts; probably second only to Maiden Castle. There is clear guidance on setting in NPPF (and recently published Historic Environment Good Practice Advice 2015) and any development within the hinterlands of the hillfort would impact on setting; severely, in fact, according to a recent LVIA study. But funnily enough, Shropshireland planners can’t seem to see this one. Thankfully and now coming to its senses, Historic England does.

Me thinks there is a wee rat scurrying around the corridors of power in Shropshireland’s planning department. We are all aware of the size of Shropshire – it’s a big place. We are also fully aware (and accept) the need for a five year housing supply. In the words of Central Government let’s build ourselves out of recession. Hey, so far I am with you, all the way.

But why build around this side of Oswestry, within close proximity of the hillfort? Surely there are many brownfield sites out there – look at the land-banking for starters? I mean, 10,000 people are against it; eminent academic and professional archaeologists are against it; Oswestry Town Council is overwhelmingly against it; in fact, everyone except Shropshireland can see it.

They have stated in SAMDev and the press that they do not accept that ‘proposed development would result in substantial harm to the significance of the hillfort.’ However, the rat within Shropshireland’s corridor of power informs me that Old Oswestry Hillfort could be an important test-case for developers to target other heritage assets. If we – the Common Sense Brigade – lose this battle, Shropshireland and other discredited authorities will see this particular potential victory as a green light for indiscriminate development bids affecting heritage assets up and down the country; in other words, NPPF would become a developer’s charter.

This sinister policy is government-led and I dare say the nods and winks are, as you read this rant, slowly trickling down into the sewer that is Shropshireland’s planning department.

Rats!

As previously used in this Blog, ‘you couldn’t make it up’.

Will it be “new PAS, new mission”? We may know soon for three  particularly awful detecting rallies are about to be re-run. Will the new PAS management act in the interests of heritage protection this time or remain as uncritical facilitators?

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First, there’s to be another rally at Weyhill, possibly once again on the site of the famous Weyhill Fair, the venue for nearly 750 years of gatherings. “Sites really don’t come better than this!” said one detectorist and we all know what he meant by that. Last time no-one from PAS criticised or even turned up (FLO on honeymoon, no-one else available) and it still went ahead, in contravention of responsible behaviour and the official Guidance for Organisers of Metal Detecting Rallies.

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Second, those nice middle Englander villagers at  Worlingworth seem to have been persuaded to run a rally again. This time they’re even more deeply implicated:  “cheques  [at £18 a head!] “should be made payable to Worlingworth Local History Group”! Could this be the  only Local History Group that has ever run a commercial metal detecting grabfest? Do they understand the downside and that saying it’s “for charity” doesn’t make it any better? Will PAS have a quiet word this time?  Incidentally, Suffolk County Council contributes to the cost of the group’s website and it has strong views about Metal Detecting rallies as fund raising events  (as does PAS). Will someone say something? Or not?

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Seriously, how many of these have the foggiest notion of the implications of them running a commercial grabfest?

Seriously, how many of these people do you think go metal detecting or really appreciate the negative impact of the event that’s being run in their names  (whether branded as “for charity” or not)? Will the new PAS “outreach” to them?

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Third, while we’re on the subject of good causes, here’s one that isn’t. Next weekend at Tisbury, Wilts, the Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles are running another of their metal detecting days.  It’s a good fit, unkind people might say – the unspeakable hosting the unthinking, a truly bizarre happening, a veritable expoiterfest, utterly unique to Britain. PAS are going – but wouldn’t it be refreshing if the new PAS management said: “Actually, no. We want absolutely nothing to do with the event”!?

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Best not get involved, PAS?

The Chilmark and Clifton Foot Beagles strutting off to have some spiffing fun. Best not get involved, even indirectly, eh New PAS? (PAS is looking for donations via a JustGiving page. Some might think attending a metal detecting event run by Beaglers won’t help with that!)

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From a distance, British Camp is just one of many peaks comprising the Malvern Hills and tends to go unnoticed amongst the others.

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Closer up it becomes clear that it’s a monument to be reckoned with, a series of two thousand year old ramparts surmounted by a Norman motte and commanding extraordinary views to Wales in one direction and the Cotswolds in the other, described by 17th Century diarist John Evelyn as “one of the godliest vistas in England”.

British Camp1

According to folklore it was the place where the ancient British chieftan Caractacus made his last stand against the Romans – although historians think it more likely to have been a few miles away on Caradoc in Shropshire. Still, it was probably built by him and was an auspicious location and home to thousands of people for a number of centuries.

A ringwork and bailey castle was built within the camp, possibly by the last Anglo Saxon monarch, the future King Harold II a few years before he met his end at Hastings. 200 years later the Earl of Gloucester (prompted by a boundary dispute with the Bishop of Hereford) built the Shire Ditch to the North and South of British Camp (possible on the line of a prehistoric trackway).

In modern times composer Elgar became closely associated with the Malverns and was inspired by the folklore to compose his cantata Caractacus. The status of Malvern as a spa town and literary centre and particularly Elgar’s friendships have meant that a host of famous figures have visited the hills and British Camp, including JRR Tolkein (who may have based the White Mountains of Gondor on the hills) and CS Lewis (who is said to have been inspired by a Malvern lampost he saw while walking back from the pub with Tolkein to write about the lampost in Narnia!) So if you want to experience “one of the godliest vistas in England” and follow in the footsteps of many famous people you’d better get up there!

By Dr Sandy Gerrard

The opportunities to be involved in the decision making process are apparently endless these days. Our opinions are sought on everything by both the private and public sectors. Sometimes we are simply asked what we think about a particular issue or perhaps how we intend to vote. The information collected is analysed and supposedly the results help to make life better for us all.

In the archaeological world sometimes a consultation is carried out to collect expert opinions on what something might be. This was the case at Bancbryn where the inept Cadw officers, perhaps hoping to shift the responsibility for deciding what “that line of stones” might be, decided to ask some “experts” what they thought. They duly sent out information on the alignment and asked the “experts” what they thought it might be. As is the Cadw way they were very selective with the information they sent, and withheld or “forgot” to send the paper which presented the prehistoric case.

Stone alignment at SN 68736 10026. View from NE.

Stone alignment at SN 68736 10026. View from NE.

Inevitably, given that the “experts” were only sent information that supported a historic context for the alignment they all responded saying they thought it must be of historic date. They helpfully all added a few comments which sadly suggested that they were rather less expert in this field than one might have hoped, as many of their remarks betrayed a total lack of knowledge of the resource being assessed.

As far as I can tell no one with any real expertise in stone alignments was consulted and certainly nobody was sent the information needed to carry out an objective, balanced and impartial assessment.

How would you feel if you turned up at hospital with a broken ankle to be seen by an eye consultant who had been given notes on another patient?

Richard Hebditch the National Trust’s External Affairs Director has just said:

“We’re disappointed that the Committee [the High Speed Rail Bill Select Committee] already seems to be ruling out a long tunnel under the Chilterns. Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty have that designation because of their importance to the nation. As the nation’s biggest infrastructure project for decades, the HS2 project should have the best mitigation for its route through the AONB. In our view, that means a fully bored tunnel. We hope that the Committee will think again on this when they hear from individual petitioners in the coming months.”

Whereas at Stonehenge?

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NT red face

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Yeah, right.

They keep telling the public porkies. We keep highlighting the facts. That’s how it works in Bonkers Britain. Here are the latest 4 examples:

First, in the wake of Roger Bland’s retirement from PAS, FLO Julie Cassidy tweeted “Roger created a Scheme the envy of countries across the world”. But of the 195 other countries in the world not one has ever come within light years of setting up a PAS of its own. The world isn’t envious, it’s unconvinced.

Second, FLO Anni Byard tweeted on the same occasion: “Sad to see Roger go. He leaves a legacy of 1.1m + artefacts that public wouldn’t have known about otherwise”. But that same voluntary system has allowed 4.3m artefacts not to be reported. Not ever explaining that to the public is to the advantage of only two groups: irresponsible detectorists and PAS themselves.

Third, detectorist-blogger John Winter claimed novice detectorists not asking for permission to detect is down to “education”.  It’s not. The rest of the population have zero trouble knowing they shouldn’t go to a farm (or indeed a neighbour’s garden) and help themselves to  spuds, flowers, peas, pheasants eggs and anything else they come across. It’s stealing. Only detectorists claim it’s an honest mistake.  Diddums.  Look how false and irrational it is …..

“I'm a novice rambler/ birdwatcher/ angler/ fossil hunter and I hadn't the foggiest idea I needed permission to go on someone else's land or that taking stuff I find is stealing”.

“I’m a novice rambler/ birdwatcher/ angler/ greengrocer and haven’t been “educated” so naturally I thought I had every right to go anywhere I wanted and steal anything I found.”

Fourth, detectorist “hihosilver” reckons the authorities know if find spots are false:  “If reported and not found legally then they’d find out pretty fast as they require landowner details and a grid reference of the findspot…”  It’s not true. PAS’s database is wide open to falsification for laundering by findspot description is both child’s play and undetectable – and the incentives to do it are massive. If a findspot is changed from Jarrow to Harrow a farmer in Harrow won’t get a penny for his property.  Even worse, a Treasure reward may be paid for something “found” at a rally in Harrow that was nighthawked the previous day in Jarrow! What does this tell you about the integrity of the PAS database and the rights of landowners?

And yet, Dear Reader, you have to come here to hear about the reality behind all the myths because in Bonkers Britain neither detectorists nor PAS nor the police nor the CBA nor EH nor Glasgow’s Trafficking Culture project nor the Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage say a single word about them to farmers or the taxpaying, stakeholding public.  Incidentally, every word of this article is true and you won’t hear any of them say otherwise. Thus are myths maintained.

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By Alan S.

As mentioned in the writeup for this year’s Megameet, the very first megameet (and the origins of Heritage Action) occurred on the same date back in 2003, 12 years previously. Following that meeting, as was my custom then, I wrote up some fieldnotes of the day’s travels and the sites we’d seen. Reading them now, the notes show a level of naivety that I hope I’ve shrugged off in the intervening years, but I think it’s an interesting insight into the day as a whole, and a good indication of how thinly I used to spread myself back then.

Bear in mind that there was no such thing as ‘Heritage Action’ when I first wrote these notes, and I have had to update several of the links as the original links (and many of the pictures) are no longer available. And so I present my notes from:

TMA Picnic Day – 2003

July 26th, the day of the Modern Antiquarian (TMA) picnic.

M. had identified a craft shop in Calne that she wanted to visit first, so we made a relatively early start and joined the holiday traffic on the M4. It was difficult passing the turn offs, first for Uffington, then Marlborough and Avebury, before dropping south to Calne (why is there a statue of 2 pigs in Calne?)

Oh look, there’s the A4 – Avebury is just up the road! And so after a brief retail break, off we set.

As we passed Cherhill Down, I saw a sign advertising trial flights in a microlite. Now that would be a good way to see Avebury. I must enquire about prices one day… (ed. I never did.)

I’d hoped to take a look at the Beckhampton Longbarrow marked on the OS map (SU087691), but despite a trot down the Wessex Ridgeway, didn’t see it. Either I didn’t go far enough, or it was hidden beneath a copse. I got to check out the Longstone Cove again though, peeping above a quite high crop where last time I was here there was none. And so into the village, and some more retail therapy: John Michell’s ‘Sacred England’ (reduced as it was the shelf copy), ‘Discovering Hill Figures’ (Shire Books), and ‘Unusual Aspects of Avebury’ by Lamont & Hedderman. Some light reading there. M. purchased a Tree Ogham booklet.

We drove down West Kennet Avenue, and I would have stopped again, but there was a herd of dreaded COWS grazing in the field! So it was on to West Kennet Longbarrow. I recalled that I was last here some 7 or 8 years ago as I pulled myself up the hill. I was quite wary, as I’d barely been able to park in the layby and was anticipating a crowd, but by some miracle I managed to have the place to myself for at least 10 minutes after a small group left. I’ve been away from here too long, and must resolve to visit more often.

Back to the car, and the weather started to close in. I was already late for the arranged start time for the meet at Uffington, and the question now was: hill or pub?

I’d tentatively planned to stop on the way at Ogbourne St Andrew, but put that plan to one side, and diverted via Liddington Castle as we made our way up towards White Horse Hill. The weather still couldn’t decide whether to convert to a full-on downpour, so I decided the hill was the place to meet, on the basis that “it’s only a few spots of rain”.

And I proved to be right. We parked above the Manger, hoping that M. would be able to make it rest of the way on foot, but to save her energy, I did a scouting trip first. Some scout! I’d completely lost my bearings, and instead of aiming for the head of the white horse, I ended up in Uffington Fort! Correcting myself, I found the head, but no other TMAers were to be seen. Or was that Treaclechops? Unsure of approaching a possible stranger myself, someone approached the two women on the groundsheet, obviously having just returned from Dragon Hill. I heard the magical incantation “TMA” spoken, and dove in. Yes, it was Treaclechops with Miriam, I just hadn’t recognised her from behind at first, and the absence of Jane had confused me. Moth was introduced, being the one having just returned, then Jimit, Baza and Jane also returned from their wanderings, introductions were made and the group for the day was complete.

The Horse's Head

I returned to the car, but M. felt it was a hill too far for her to manage, and she decided to wait there while I returned to socialise with the group.

A couple of young tourists (for want of a better phrase) had decided to walk the horse, until Treaclechops raced down the hill, screaming in her best RSM voice “Hey! Get off, that’s a scheduled ancient monument you’re walking on!!” Boy, did they get off quick!

An hour later, we made a collective decision to move over to Wayland’s Smithy, where hopefully M. would be able to walk on the flat to join us. And so, a convoy of five cars made their way up to the Ridgeway and Wayland’s.

The last time I was here, the fields were cropless, and I’d gotten very angry upon finding the remnants of a rave party were packing up and leaving. Throbbing music and (to me), a total desecration of the site, right next to the sign that says ‘No Camping, No Fires’.

I’m pleased to report that today’s visit was the total opposite, bar the evidence of a camp fire right in front of the monument. The crops were high, and we had the site pretty much to ourselves for most of the afternoon. Jane started sketching whilst photos were taken, and the ‘entasis phenomenon’ of the mound was investigated. I’d had to have this explained to me, but the visual effect is quite outstanding once you know what you’re looking at!

© Jane Tomlinson "Sitting in the shade of the Wayland's beech trees after a hot, dusty walk from Uffington Castle, I stopped to admire the sketch I'd made of the Wayland's site from further up the hill..."

© Jane Tomlinson
“Sitting in the shade of the Wayland’s beech trees after a hot, dusty walk from Uffington Castle, I stopped to admire the sketch I’d made of the Wayland’s site from further up the hill…”

The rain started. We’d sheltered under the trees, so avoided the worst of it, but the afternoon was getting on and a call for beer went up. So, after a couple of silly group photos, we decamped and made our way back to the cars.

Jane (the local) led the procession, twice getting lost and turning us all round, before TC leapt out of the car, running towards me (that RSM voice again) “Give me your bloody map!” Needless to say, I complied, and we duly arrived at the designated hostelry in question. Which was shut. Twenty minutes standing in the rain, and the doors finally opened, whereupon we were suitably refreshed whilst browsing through Moth’s copious photograph albums. He has some quite stunning shots there.

An hour later, M. and I decided to head home, but I couldn’t resist one last stop for the day at the Blowing Stone where, in the teeming rain, my camera jammed and refused to recognise the memory card with the day’s photo’s on it. Thankfully, all were ok once I got home (nearly 10pm), but I’ll have to return for a shot of the stone another day.

Afterword

A truly memorable day. Sadly, Treaclechops is no longer with us, but on a happier note, after meeting for the first time on that day, Jane and Moth were happily married the following year, as were myself and M. Back then, M. still had a degree of mobility although she tired very easily. She now has to use a wheelchair and I currently can’t envisage undertaking such a busy day as that again with her.

If you have your own fieldnotes from a truly memorable day, why not share them with us here? Just tell us why the day was particularly memorable for you, which sites were visited, and maybe share a photo or two too?

 

 

 

We continue our series looking at Dr Sandy Gerrard’s research into stone row monuments of the South West. This time we are looking at one of a pair of alignments north west of Sharpitor on Dartmoor and next time we shall examine its neighbour.

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The two stone alignments are situated close to each other on a spur of high ground leading north west from Sharpitor. This time we shall look at the northern row which is of the double variety and next time we shall consider the associated single row.  Both rows stand immediately next to the public highway (B3212) leading from Yelverton to Princetown to a car park next to Goatstone Pool. They have seen considerable damage but despite this their form is still discernible. The double row measures 113m long and includes at least 42 stones leading north east from a cairn at SX 55664 70619 to a fallen blocking stone at SX 55776 70655. Despite its battered appearance this row in common with so many on the moor provides a whole series of visual treats of which the spectacular “sea triangle” reveal is but one. I have been able to visit this site since starting to research the landscape setting of the stone rows and as well as the obvious visual relationship with the sea another one with South Hessary Tor is apparent.

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Idealised sketch plan of the Sharpitor stone alignments showing what they may once have looked like based on Google Earth and field observations.

The row in common with many on Dartmoor includes a “blind summit” which means that either ends are not intervisible. A sketch profile along the length of the rows illustrates this characteristic which of course creates the “sea view” reveal.

Sketch profile showing the position of stones along the row. The sea is slowly revealed as you proceed along the row from the blocking stone.  If one thinks of the stones as marking a special route then the dramatic “sea view” revelation is unlikely to be a coincidence.

Sketch profile showing the position of stones along the row. The sea is slowly revealed as you proceed along the row from the blocking stone.  If one thinks of the stones as marking a special route then the dramatic “sea view” revelation is unlikely to be a coincidence.

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Sharpitor row was not built to be an obvious feature in the landscape. The row comprises only very small stones of which these three are among the biggest. Whilst rows sometimes did make architectural statements many did not and instead include only small or indeed tiny stones. These rows can best be seen as accurately denoting the position of a special route. It was important to their builders that people walked from point A to point B along a precise pathway and what better way to ensure that this happened than to erect waymarkers which would of course have also denoted specific points along the route. Over time or perhaps from the very start these waymarkers could have had a significance of their own but it is the route itself that must have been of greatest significance and therefore it we are ever to understand at least the context in which they were built it is the route that we should be studying.

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Looking north eastward along the row. The black arrow shows the alignment of the row which along its northern length points directly at the only skyline tor visible on the northern horizon. The other features visible on the horizon are modern forestry plantations.

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The northern part of the alignment is orientated directly on the prominent South Hessary Tor.

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The cairn at the south western end of the row is far from obvious. Many terminal cairns are slight in character.

The blocking stone (behind the ranging rod) which is now recumbent was the largest stone in the row. 

The blocking stone (behind the ranging rod) which is now recumbent was the largest stone in the row.

Views from the alignment

Three images derived from Google Earth are presented to illustrate the “reveal” that is attained as you walk along the row starting from the blocking stone at the north eastern end. The first one is from the blocking stone, the second at the point where the sea first becomes visible and the final one is from the small cairn at the south western end. This reveal is real but is it significant?  Over the past few months, similar examples have been presented and certainly the picture that is building up is one of consistence. All of the rows we have looked at have an observable link to the sea and the precision of that relationship is often remarkable. The sea of course is but one (although important) element in a landscape and the work at Sharpitor has shown that other features within the natural landscape may have been acknowledged. Detailed fieldwork will be required to assess other visual links, but it should really not come as a surprise to find that the alignments were built to take full cognisance of their surroundings. The builders of the stone alignments would have a sense of place and it would therefore be more remarkable if their monuments ignored the world in which they lived. The stone rows therefore probably provide an insight into these people’s sense of place and it would be unwise to ignore the clues they have left behind.

snw9View looking south west from the blocking stone. From here everything is hidden by the rising ground.

snw10

As one walks up along the row a small closed sea triangle appears on the horizon. The land forming the top of the triangle is provided by the Lizard in Cornwall. This view is visible only when the lighting conditions are perfect and its consequent rarity may have made it doubly special, worth denoting and even celebrating.

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Arrival at the cairn brings a particularly fine grouping of sea views.  On the right is the closed sea triangle, in the middle a pair of stacked triangles and on the left a narrow slither which under certain lighting conditions looks like a beam of bright light emanating out of the ground. It is hard to believe that this remarkable sight is a coincidence particularly given that the row itself leads you to this point opening up this vista as you proceed along their waymarked route. It feels as if these people are showing us what was important to them.

snw12

Map showing the arcs of visibility from the cairn at the south western end of the alignment. The eastern arc would have been illuminated by the winter sun for two hours from about 2 o’clock in the afternoon. The spectacular light show as the sun moves over the sea during this time is noteworthy and it would surely not be too fanciful to suggest that a people with a known interest in the movement of the sun might wish to celebrate this and perhaps in the process formalise the event.

One can’t help but notice the similarities between the movement of the sun and the movement of people implied by the rows. This is an idea that needs further thought but the reveal identified at many rows may in some way be connected with sunset and sunrise.

A final point worth making is that around 12th January the sun sets into the closed sea triangle to the west. Certainly the rows we have looked at so far have all implied winter use and this too may point us in a profitable research direction.

Previous articles in this series:

Sunday.

Each day this week the Heritage Journal has been asking English Heritage for transparency in relation to their management of Stonehenge. Today we send the following memo to English Heritage’s new Chief Executive, Kate Mavor :

Customer facing staff at Stonehenge have a difficult job made harder by the frustrations of the public. Despite this English Heritage always had some excellent operational staff at Stonehenge. It is then telling to compare staff directories of five years ago and today to reveal a sea change of key staff connected with Stonehenge. One does not expect such a change to take place without impact. Hence from what you have been quoted as saying Kate about the “impact of change and development on heritage”, it is to be hoped you can make time to take a hands-on detailed interest in what has been happening at Stonehenge!

It is very clear that the public and media have deep misgivings about a number of issues. They are entitled to expect better in the management of the nation’s most famous state owned monument, and we feel that a change of course would be widely welcomed along with the restoration of some dignity to the site, would it not?

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If you have a question you would like English Heritage to answer about their management of Stonehenge or any other site, you can still send it in to the Journal, if publishable we will see what we can do!
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For other questions put Stonehenge Questions in our search bar.

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